West Coast Happily-Ever-After – Book IV  

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You can’t go home again.

When Casey Kent was banished from Willow Creek Ranch at age fifteen, she swore off all things California: the Central Valley, her old friends, her first love…and, especially Red Buchanan, her father–the first man to break her heart. Newly moved to San Francisco, nothing feels right to Casey. She should be pregnant and nesting, building a family of her own with husband Nathan, not answering her estranged father’s plea for help while worrying that her marriage is being torn apart by a power hungry barracuda.

There are two sides to every story…in court.

For Nathan, a fresh start on the West Coast puts all of his goals within reach: a partnership, a chance to get to know his father-in-law, and the time he needs to reconnect with Casey. She gave up a lot to move west with him and he owes her a baby. Too bad whipping his law firm’s dysfunctional San Francisco office into shape is taking all his time; and the sudden arrival of a coworker who makes it clear she wants Nathan–or his job–has added another layer of discord between husband and wife.

FIRST KISS: A Baby After All ©Loner Llama Press

“Our deal was kids and animals once we left the city.”

Nathan gave her a look she called his “How could anyone as stupid as you still remember to breathe?” look. He seldom turned it on her, but Nathan wasn’t a patient man and this move had sucked up what little tolerance he had. He walked to the bow window to pull back the sheer curtain that the former tenants had left behind. “Blocks and blocks of apartments. Thousands of cars spewing noxious exhaust fumes. Even more thousands of people—rapists, child molesters, carjackers living around every corner. This is still a city, Casey. Only the zip code has changed.”

“That isn’t fair and you know it. But I refuse to discuss this issue when I’m in my robe and you’re in a suit.”

“You opened the subject.”

“Without expecting a verbal onslaught by a lawyer dressed for work. Go. I’m not prepared to do battle.” She tried to keep her tone light. There had been too much heavy talk between them lately—or rather, too much skirting of heavy talk. “I won’t be here when you return, you know.”

“Coward,” he said with a hint of the old humor and charm that had won her heart.

“Ha,” she countered, waving the spoon she’d just picked up. “Anyone who is brave enough to face down my misogynistic father can’t be labeled a coward.”

“Quit casting aspersions on my father-in-law. Red is misguided. Misunderstood. The product of a generation that didn’t know women were strong warriors who only pretended to give men power.”

She stabbed the half a grapefruit Nathan had left in a bowl on the counter. Thoughtful or too lazy to put it away? How shrewish to even think that. “Well, as long as you agree with me, then we’re okay.”

“Call me when you get over the Altamont. Mom says the traffic through Pleasanton is truly hideous.”

“During the commute,” Casey qualified. “I’ll be fine. If anything goes amiss, I’ll ask the car to call you. I’ve seen the commercials. These cars do everything for you but steer.”

“I’m sure it’s not quite that simple, but you’ll be fine. You just haven’t been behind the wheel for a while, and Californians take their driving seriously. I don’t want them to run you over.”

He walked to her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. Casey closed her eyes and leaned in for something longer, but he’d already moved on, collecting his briefcase.

He looks so damn handsome. And single, she thought for one impossible moment. Oh, god, no. Let it be my overactive imagination.

I won’t worry if he says, “I love you.’

But he didn’t. He didn’t even pause to wish her a safe trip or give her a smile. He was already deep into work mode, switching the rest of his life to another channel.

Casey locked the door behind him. As Nathan said, this was still a city. Last night, she’d watched a man urinating on a light pole, like a dog—except he didn’t lift his leg. Casey wasn’t looking forward to seeing her father, but she was anxious for a little fresh air and countryside. She hadn’t been home to Willow Creek in far too long.

Start reading Chapter 1

“I need you, Casey T.”

Casey Kent knew of only one person in the world who called her by that nickname. Her father. A man who’d always gone out of his way to make it abundantly clear he didn’t need anyone. Especially not a daughter, who should have been a son. A son worthy of taking over Willow Creek Ranch.

Casey took a calming breath and maneuvered her chair closer to her desk. She nudged aside the brief she’d been studying and rested her elbow on the smooth surface. A neat desk was part of her trademark as an organizational wizard. “Hello, Red, what’s up?”

“We’re under attack.” His voice resonated with the same gruff bass she’d heard her whole life. But something was different.

A twang of fear?

No, couldn’t be. Roderick James Buchanan or, Red as he preferred, wasn’t afraid of anything or anybody. Her Aunt Meg used to say the only person her father feared was Casey’s mother, but since Abigail had died when Casey was six, she had no real memory of her parents’ relationship. She only knew her father. A man she’d worshipped and adored until he’d washed his hands of her.

“What kind of attack?” she asked to be polite. Her father’s troubles really didn’t concern her. He’d sent her away when she was fifteen. Banished her from the world she knew and loved and shipped her off to Boston to live with her maternal aunt.

Margaret Dawson-Merryweather had been quick to admit that she wasn’t the motherly type. Smart, savvy, and socially ambitious, Meg’s life had revolved around her politician husband, their A-list friends, and her charitable foundations. But when Senator Merryweather, who was nearly twenty years Meg’s senior, had passed away after a brief illness, Red had been all too happy to send his daughter back east to fill the empty spot in Meg’s life.

After a few months of thinking she might die of homesickness, Casey had accepted her fate and grudgingly allowed Meg, who had never been around teenagers in her life, to turn her tomboy niece into a refined woman of the world.

Did Casey still miss the fifteen-hundred-acre ranch in the Central Valley of California where she’d spent her formative years? On occasion. Like whenever she heard her father’s voice.

“You’re still running cattle, right?” she asked before he could reply. “It’s not Mad Cow, is it?” As an environmental lawyer working with one of the largest nonprofit land protection consortia in the country, anything that affected the herd population in California would have repercussions.

“No, nothing like that,” Red said impatiently. “It’s those goldang turkeys. We’re gonna be overrun with ’em, if you don’t git your behind out here and do something about it.”

Turkeys? Casey bit down on her lip. Could Red’s mind be slipping? The first signs of dementia, perhaps? It’s only April—half a year away from Thanksgiving.

“You’ve lost me. What about turkeys?”

He made a huffing sound that seemed to imply she was the slowest thinker on the planet. A surge of acid in her belly made her reach for the roll of antacids tucked unobtrusively in her paper-clip tray. Rocking back in her chair, she peeled away the wrapper and worked one free. Good for my calcium. Another voice worried about the possibility of an ulcer. That practical Boston twang sounded a lot like Meg, who had been gone almost three years now. Casey still missed her.

“Some big turkey outfit bought the Booth Ranch. Word has it they’re going to build the biggest turkey holding pen in the state right across the road from me. Can you picture the smell?”

How does one picture smell?

She shook her head to focus on what he meant. Lately, she’d developed a bad habit of making light of serious subjects—or so her husband claimed. “Is everything a joke with you, Casey?” Nathan had griped last night. “This is our life we’re trying to plan.”

Ours? Or yours? she’d been tempted to ask. Nathan Kent was on a professional roll. His latest win in court, which had made national news and posted Nathan’s young-Richard-Gere-in-glasses photo all over the place, was well deserved. She could firmly attest to the number of hours he’d logged on his client’s behalf. And the payoff, it appeared, was a golden ticket west.

Despite the fact Casey had made it abundantly clear from the day they’d started dating that she didn’t want to return to California to live, Nathan had accepted his law firm’s offer to run their San Francisco branch. “It’s the only way I’ll make partner, Casey. We’ll be closer to Oregon and Washington. Didn’t you say you were interested in looking there to live if we left the east coast? And the salary increase means you’ll be able to stay home and nest for as long as you want,” he’d argued. Nathan was a masterful debater.

Returning to the conversation at hand, she asked, “How do you know this?”

“How does anybody know anything around here? Someone blabbed. But in this case, it’s not just a rumor. I saw the paperwork myself. They have an application in with the county. Somebody showed me a picture of one of their operations down south. The hatcheries are big enough to be seen from space. They process something like half a million birds per cycle.”

He said the last as if they were talking nuclear weapon production. “That does sound like a lot of turkeys, but turkeys are a legitimate agricultural product. People have a right to build on land that’s zoned agricultural. Sometimes, that stinks.”

“That’s the best you can do, Miss Fancypants College Educated Lawyer?” her father shouted. “Ag stinks. Live with it? I don’t think so. I was here first. I just planted a quarter section of nut trees. I’m not going to watch my investment get ruined by the smell created from half a million turkeys. I’ll fight them with my dying breath.”

His impassioned speech forced Casey to hold the receiver a good six inches away from her ear. When she thought it was safe, she tried again. “I can tell you’re upset about this and I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you expect me to do about it. I’m in the middle of a move. Life is chaotic around here.”

“You’re headed back to California, aren’t you?”

An uneasy feeling crept through her bones. “San Francisco. Is that still considered part of the state?”

“Close enough. And last I heard your husband is going to be the breadwinner while you sit twiddling your thumbs.”

Casey sat upright indignantly. “I’ve never twiddled in my life.”

She hadn’t told her father about hers and Nathan’s ongoing efforts to get pregnant. For several reasons. One, she and Red weren’t close, and even if they were she would have held off sharing the news for as long as possible so he wouldn’t worry.

But after a year and a half of working with a prominent group of fertility specialists, their efforts had been a bust—sperm and eggwise. “You’re both operating under too much tension,” one counselor had suggested.

Nathan’s promotion meant Casey didn’t have to work. Unfortunately, the downside could well offset that small gain. Although closer to his quest of making partner, Nathan’s job came with no guarantees. He’d need to put in long hours—hours that might further impede his sluggish sperm’s swimming abilities.

Plus, there was the whole question of family. His and hers.

Nathan’s mother, a widow since shortly before Nathan had graduated from high school, lived in Granite Bay, an affluent suburb of Sacramento. His younger brother, Kirby, was a graduate student at UC-Davis and sister, Christine, was married and lived close by. All three relied on Nathan for free legal advice, monetary support and emotional comfort. Casey shuddered to think how much more dependent his family would become once Nathan was within driving distance.

Casey had felt rather smug that her father was self-sufficient enough never to ask for advice—legal or otherwise. But that was before the turkeys came to roost.

When Casey had argued that returning to California meant she and Nathan would be in their family’s respective backyards, her husband had tried to point out the positives. “You and Mother have never been able to build a real relationship, and it’s time you healed the rift between you and Red. They’re going to be our baby’s grandparents, you know.”

Casey put a hand to her much-too-flat belly as her father complained about her unenthusiastic response to his call to arms. “I tried you first, since you’re my daughter, and this is your heritage we’re talking about. But if that’s the best you can give me, I’ll call your husband instead.”

Casey groaned. “No. Don’t do that. Nathan is swamped with last-minute details. His company is throwing him a going-away party tonight and the movers come in the morning. We’re staying at a hotel this weekend then fly out Tuesday.”

“Fine, then. The planning department hearing isn’t until the twenty-fourth of May. That gives you plenty of time to unpack and read up on my case. Where should I send the paperwork?”

To your real lawyer, she almost said, but she knew the joke would be lost on him. Casey was a girl. She might have graduated at the top of her class and passed the bar the first time out, but girls didn’t have the same gravitas guys did. Her father was a misogynistic fool, and she knew better than to let his bias get to her.

“I doubt if there’s anything Nathan or I can do, but I’ll look it over for you. Fax whatever you have to this number. Mark it to my attention.”

“Okay. I gotta run. Mother’s giving birth.”

“Mother?” Casey squawked. “Mother the Pig?”


It took her a few seconds to realize this couldn’t be the same sow she remembered from her youth. “I thought you gave up raising pigs years ago.”

Red made a snuffling sound that told her she’d called him on a subject he didn’t want to talk about. “Man’s gotta have a hobby, right? I started a breeding program a few years back. Get ’em through the wean-to-feed stage then give ’em to local 4-H and FFA kids to show. I think we’re up to Mother number ten. Jimmy would know for sure. This girl is a Yorkshire-Hampshire-Duroc cross. The Hamp makes her a good mother, but I got nine students hoping for a fair project this year, and you know how tricky birthin’ is. I can’t afford to lose a single little weaner.”

You know how tricky birthing is. Just the kind of reminder a woman who was trying to get pregnant didn’t need to hear. But since Red wasn’t privy to hers and Nathan’s baby-making efforts, she really couldn’t hold the reference against him.

Casey knew the story of her mother’s death verbatim. Seven months along. A blood clot in her leg traveled to her lungs and wreaked havoc before Red could get her to a hospital. The family had been in the mountains checking on Red’s small herd of cattle when Abigail had become stricken. The family’s leisurely spring picnic went from happy to heartbreaking when both Abigail and the baby boy she’d been carrying died.

Casey glanced out the window at the buds that were just starting to unfurl on her tree. Mother’s Day was coming up. This year Casey wouldn’t have any excuse not to visit the grave where her mother and infant brother were buried.

Clearing her throat, she forced her mind back to the present. “Okay, then, I’ll let you go. Fax that information when you can and I promise to take a look at it. I’ll give you a call when we get into the new apartment. Good luck with the pigs.”

She stared at the phone a minute after hanging up. Red was a good man, and he’d tried to be a good father after Casey’s mother had died. He and Casey had been a team. They’d done everything together—the way a father and son would have. Over time, they’d healed from their staggering loss and had gotten on with life, but in the process, Casey had focused all her love on her dad. Which meant, when he sent her away, her heart had broken into too many pieces to ever put back together.

* * *

Nathan Kent looked at the stack of legal briefs on his desk and sighed wearily. Too much work and not enough time. The story of his life, lately.

The red hatch marks on his calendar stopped today—his last day in the office—but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t have to lug at least half of these files home with him tonight. After the party.

While the movers were filling boxes and carefully wrapping up Casey’s antiques, the majority of which would be headed into storage, Nathan would be down the street at Starbucks e-mailing notes to his secretary and colleagues about what needed to be done next week.

He didn’t know why he cared. After today, what happened in the Boston office of Silver, Reisbecht and Lane was not his concern. He would still be closely associated with the firm, of course, but he had to transfer his focus and energy to the satellite office that would soon become his private domain.

This was his chance to lead, to prove his worth in more than billable hours and PR opportunities. Reinvigorating the San Francisco branch was the key to making partner, and Nathan lay awake at night fantasizing about that. His friend and mentor Nolan Reisbecht, a senior partner in the firm, had been instrumental in giving Nathan this shot, but he’d been clear about what was expected in return.

“We need you to go in there with both guns blasting, Nate.” Nolan was the only person allowed to use the nickname Nathan hated. “The place is a mess. Bunch of lazy-ass freethinkers who probably smoke dope on their lunch breaks.”

Nolan was eighty. He no longer kept set hours in the office, but he could be counted on to know what was happening in all four branches of the firm. The San Francisco office, by far, had the worst performance rating, dollar-wise. Nathan’s job would be to turn that around. Hopefully, without the use of firearms or explosive metaphors.

His cell phone rang, but since it was in the pocket of his coat, which was hanging over the back of a chair across the room, he let it ring. Whoever was calling would either try his office number or leave a message. Probably, the caller was his wife.

Casey wouldn’t let him carry the phone on his person because she said the radio waves and low-frequency emissions might adversely affect his sperm production. And since she still wasn’t pregnant after a year and a half of trying, he couldn’t very well argue with her.

They’d seen a bevy of specialists. They’d both been tested, probed, X-rayed and generally humiliated. For all practical purposes, the blame appeared to be resting on his sperm. “We call them sluggish swimmers,” one doctor had stated. “They eventually get to the egg but don’t have the motivation to dig in and fertilize her.”

Nathan Kent—top of his class, editor of the law review, darling of the media—had lazy, unmotivated sperm. Who knew?

Or cared. But he did care. He loved his wife and wanted her to be happy. He loved the life they’d created together—nothing like his parents’ contentious relationship. The only time he remembered his mother and father getting along well was before the births of his siblings, Christine, who was five years Nathan’s junior, and Kirby, who came along six and a half years after her.

Nathan and Casey didn’t fight. They got along great, but beneath the calm outward appearance they showed the world, he had a sense that Casey was miserable. Her aunt had been the first to suggest a baby.

“Don’t do what I did, Casey,” Meg had chided shortly before her death. “Don’t wait to love someone else’s child. You might not be as lucky as I was. Have your own family while you and Nathan are young and healthy. What happened to your mother was a fluke. She wouldn’t want you to make important decisions based on fear.”

Nathan hadn’t gotten to know Meg for long, but he’d admired and respected her as an outspoken woman who didn’t mince words. Casey had been emotionally devastated by her aunt’s death. He was pretty sure that loss had somehow prompted Casey’s decision to get pregnant.

Nathan had greeted the suggestion with a certain amount of ambivalence. Casey’s mother and unborn sibling had died from a pregnancy-related embolism. Not something that was hereditary, of course. But what if? He couldn’t imagine a life without Casey, but eventually he’d acquiesced to her argument. “We’re established professionals with good health insurance and a lot to offer a child,” she’d pleaded. “Let’s do it.”

And they’d given it a good shot. They’d even involved medical specialists, but each month Casey’s period had appeared she’d go quiet for a few days. No drama queen fit of depression for his wife, but he couldn’t help thinking her outwardly positive demeanor was for his sake.

Then this job offer had come up after a sudden, very hush-hush scandal in the San Francisco office that had resulted in two lawyers being disbarred.

Secretly, Nathan couldn’t help but feel relieved that he wasn’t going to be moving a pregnant wife—or wife and infant–to a new city. Keeping up with the demands of his job were quite enough, thank you. “At this point, I don’t have time for sex,” he muttered. Which was not something he ever thought he’d hear himself say.

The sound of his office door opening broke into his thoughts. Jannelle Norris, his secretary of five years, poked her head in. “Excuse me, Nathan, Casey is on line one. I buzzed you, but you must not have seen the light.”

Fifty-five. Dependable. Unflappable. Nathan was going to miss her. They made a good team. Unfortunately, she wasn’t free to move with him. Jan’s husband was nearing retirement but couldn’t leave his Public Works job for another few years.

“I was wool-gathering, as my wife would say. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. And don’t get so busy thinking about the things you have to do that you forget about the party. The company went all out. Should be lovely.”

“Not a problem. We’ll be there.” A second later, he hit the white flashing light. “Casey?”

“Hi. How’s your day going?”

“Hectic. I have to bring three other associates up to speed on cases that have been ongoing for months.”

Her “Hmm” sounded completely disinterested. Or was he projecting? They worked on mirror opposite projects. The people she tried to help were usually battling his clients who wanted to build a shopping mall on the wetlands she hoped to save. The one law in their marriage that seemed to work was: no shop talk at home. He hated to think how screwed up they’d be if they actually knew what the other person did during business hours.

“What’s up? You’re still coming tonight, aren’t you?”

“Of course. I bought a new dress. Well, vintage, but new to me.”

Nathan smiled indulgently. Together they made an obscene amount of money, but Casey refused to shop at conventional retail outlets. “I won’t support sweat-shops and brutal working conditions just so I can wear some designer label. That’s what secondhand stores are for,” she told anyone who’d listen.

“We’ll meet at the restaurant, right? I don’t think I’m going to have time to go home and change. You know how crowded the train is this time of night.” Which was why he kept several changes of clothing in his office.

“Got it. I just called to give you a heads-up. Red is on the warpath. He’s gunning for a turkey consortium that wants to move in across the road from him. He thinks that since we’re going to be in the neighborhood and we happen to have credentials, we should get behind him.”

“Oh, Lord,” Nathan said, his head beginning to pound. Bad enough his mother and siblings would soon be in his pockets, but now it appeared his father-in-law was going to seek free legal advice, too.

“Don’t worry. I should be able to keep him off your back for a few days. At least enough time to let you get settled.”

Casey often referred to her father by his nickname. When they’d first started dating, Nathan had assumed the man was a deadbeat dad, instead of the person who forked over huge gobs of money to send his daughter to several of the best schools in the country.


She laughed. “Sorry. That’s what comes from having a Y chromosome. Red trusts you to do him proud. I’m just a girl with a law degree, but for once, I’m kinda glad. He needs a gladiator, and since Russell Crowe is busy, you’re the man.”

Nathan loved his wife’s laugh. He’d once called the sound a sprinkling of fairy dust. But not when she tried to be flippant about anything associated with her father. Despite his financial backing, Red Buchanan had a lot to answer for in Casey’s book.

“I’m going to be in meetings right up to the minute we break for the party, so if he tries today, he’ll miss me.”

“Don’t sweat it. He’s faxing the paperwork here. I’ll bring it home with me and pray it doesn’t get lost in the move. But, hey, if it does, it does. Turkeys can’t fly, so how fast will this happen?”

Nathan almost smiled at that one. She covered her pain well. Of course, she’d had a lot of practice where Red was concerned. Less when their marriage was at issue, but she masked that hurt, too. Most of the time. Tonight would prove a challenge to them both. He was leaving a place that felt like home and saying goodbye to the people he felt closest to, which, he knew was a hell of a thing to say when his wife was going with him.

* * *

Red Buchanan stomped into the barn that was his second home. Hell, for the most part he lived here. If it weren’t for the kitchen, which is where he wisely kept his bottle of Maker’s Mark, he’d probably never spend any time at the ranch house across the field. This barn, which was an original structure he’d upgraded over the years, was the heart and soul of Willow Creek. Two new buildings had been added in recent years. A metal-sided retail sales office that doubled as a packing warehouse for the product his pistachio trees were putting out and a cozy little two-bedroom house he’d built the year Casey had graduated from college—just in case his daughter decided to return home once she finished school.

Instead, she’d married another damn lawyer. As if the world didn’t have more than enough as it was. Maybe one of these days, they’d spawn a few more little legal bastards. Although, technically, he didn’t suppose they’d be bastards. They’d be his grandchildren. Abby would have loved grandchildren.

“Red,” a voice called.

Jimmy Mills, Red’s right-hand man, was standing beside a hog pen that had been erected inside the barn to accommodate Mother’s delicate condition. Red’s prize hog got first-class treatment when it was time to deliver a new crop of piglets.

“Hey, Jim, how’s our girl doing?”

The dust-colored canvas of Jimmy’s jacket lifted and fell with his shrug. March and April had been unusually cool this year, with winds that seemed to suggest an iceberg was parked right off San Francisco Bay. “It’s hard to tell with pigs. She seems bored, if anything. I put in some fresh straw, and fixed the lights for the babies, but heck if I know. You’re closer to her than me, you ask.”

Red chuckled. Animals were his hobby. They sure as hell weren’t making him money. He’d phased out of the cattle business when land in the valley had become so expensive he couldn’t afford to take a loss every year on his beef herd. But he’d stubbornly retained the pasture between the house and the barn for his critters. Over the years, he’d tried a few novel varieties including llamas and emus, but cows and pigs were his sentimental favorites. Nut trees had made him rich, but they weren’t nearly as interesting.

“Just got off the phone with Casey T.,” Red said, angling sideways to squeeze past his new loader. The bucket was tipped down, but the arm was raised five feet off the ground. A dangerous height. He needed to remember to lower that arm before someone ran into it.

“You did, huh? She excited about the move?”

Red glanced at his helper. If there was any justice in this world, Jimmy would have been his son-in-law instead of the prissy suit Casey married. But, no, she’d saddled herself with Nathan Kent, who may be an okay fellow, but he wasn’t no Jimmy. And, dammit, Red knew he had no one but himself to blame for the way things had turned out. He’d overreacted—by far his worst trait, although he had quite a few to pick from—the summer afternoon when he’d discovered his daughter half-naked in the arms of the young cowboy he’d only recently hired.

Jimmy had been seventeen. He’d had a Sundance Kid look to him, and Casey and her best friend, Sarah, had mooned over him like he was a movie star. But when doodling little hearts with the words Mrs. Casey Mills in it had changed to rolling around in the hay, Red had called his sister-in-law in a panic.

“Casey is experimenting with her sexuality,” Meg had said. “She’s a young girl without a mother, Red. She’s got to find out this stuff some way.”

Red had finally understood that Casey was not now and never would be the son she’d pretended to be. Her genes weren’t made to play that role, no matter how much the two of them wanted to think otherwise. She was a suntanned beauty with no feminine wiles. Defenseless. That’s what he’d made her, and Red had hated himself for letting his late wife down.

He’d immediately shipped Casey off to Boston to live with Meg—to learn “girl stuff,” he’d told his daughter. Casey had wept, thrown a tantrum and even tried to run away, but in the end, Red had prevailed. And she’d never forgiven him. Ever. And that bitterness would not be assuaged when she discovered Jimmy was currently living in the house Red had built for Casey. For reasons Jimmy chose not to share with his employer—even though he publicly claimed Red was like a father to him, Jimmy’s wife, Sarah, Casey’s former best friend—had kicked him out of their home in town two months earlier. Sarah, who was one of the sweetest women Red had ever known, was also pretty darn pregnant.

“I just had Becky fax those papers to her and that fellow she’s married to. Maybe between the two of them, they can figure out what we gotta do to block this damn turkey business.”

Jimmy let out a troubled sigh. “I stopped by the café this morning. Fred Reed was there shooting his mouth off about what a good thing this is going to be for the county’s economy. He’s just crowing because he made a healthy commission on the land.”

Red reached through the metal wire to scratch Mother’s ear. The five-year-old sow was showing her age. Her ears were tattered from the occasional skirmish. Pecking orders existed in pigpens, too. “Fred’s an opportunist, but I never thought he’d turn on us like this. Hell, if he’d given me a chance, I’d have bought the land. I’ve been thinking I might like to plant Fuji apples. Or maybe I could talk Joe Marchini into showing me how to grow radicchio. He’s the biggest grower in the country right now.”

Jimmy stood back and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He was still a good-looking fellow. Red had yet to figure out why Sarah had kicked him out, especially with a baby coming. But Red knew less about women than he did about growing radicchio. What he did know was that his daughter was coming home soon, and even if she couldn’t stop the turkeys from going in next door, he was one happy man.

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