“Landry said you knew the admiral.”
“All our lives.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t make his own arrangements.” She intended to email her parents this evening about the wonderful world of preplanned burial services. It’s your eternity. Be happy in it.
“Don’t think I didn’t suggest it a time or two. But he intended to live forever. We believed him, too. He was more active than people half his age, still sharp as a tack. He was a good man.” DeVille hesitated a moment, then more quietly added, “A tough man.”
Tough. Strict. Rigid. Behaviors that could get a man killed.
Before Alia could say anything else, a woman stuck her head out of the nearest office—the only other sign of life they’d seen since they had walked into the building. “Miss Regina’s on the phone.”
“I have to take this,” DeVille said. “Remind Landry that if he needs anything...”
* * *
Standing beneath a live oak in the garden, hands in pockets, Landry watched Alia burst out of the funeral home as if the building was too small to contain her natural energy. Her gaze went straight to the car, then swept around until it located him, and she angled in his direction.
Instead of watching her approach, he gazed into the fountain and wondered whose job it was to pick out every leaf, pine needle and acorn every single day of the year. Jeremiah had had his own term for such people—the others. In his world, there were people with money, power, social status, and there were the others.
Had it bothered him that his only son was just an other? God, Landry hoped so. The bastard had likely blamed Camilla for it, though maybe, just once in his life, maybe he had considered that it had been his own doing. When you deliberately broke someone, you had to accept some of the responsibility.
Unless you were Admiral Jeremiah Roy Jackson Junior.
Alia came along the path toward him, fingers linked together as if she was enjoying a midmorning stroll. “You do know you just opened your wallet in there and said, ‘Here, take however much you want.’”
He looked up, his brow quirked. “Actually, I opened Scott’s wallet. The expenses will be paid once the estate’s settled. Scott’s covering them until then.”
“I take it you, your sister and your mother are the primary heirs.”
Landry considered moving the conversation to the bench at the base of the tree, but a growl from his stomach sent him back toward the main path. “Probably just Mary Ellen and our mother. The old man liked the idea of disinheritance.”
“So whatever happened between you was unforgivable enough that he would disinherit you.”
He only shrugged. It could be easy at times to forget who she was and just answer, if he hadn’t spent most of his years keeping his life to himself. Other kids said, When Dad and I... Not him. His best friend from school had thought Jeremiah was dead, had been dead forever. It had puzzled the kid when he found out otherwise, filling him with questions.
“Does the disinheritance possibility bother you?” Alia asked as he opened the passenger door for her.
“Nah, ten million bucks would just make my taxes more difficult.” Could he even live with that money knowing where it came from? How much of it would he have to give to charity to cleanse it enough that he could let himself benefit from the rest?
A whole freaking bunch. Jeremiah had worshipped at the altar of everything wrong and sinful in the world.
“It’s family money,” Alia pointed out as they reached the car. “Not the admiral’s. He was just the steward of it for his generation. You’re as entitled to it as your sister is.”
“Except she didn’t cut him out of the last half of her life. She was a dutiful daughter—visited him regularly, called him Daddy, walked down the aisle on his arm when she married, included him in every part of the girls’ lives.” He truly didn’t understand any of that. Mary Ellen had had as much reason to hate him as Landry, but instead she’d welcomed him into her life. She’d done a lot of forgiving and a whole lot of forgetting.
Landry never forgot a thing.
“I’m going to lunch,” he announced as they settled in the car. “You interested in some good food, or does duty call your name?”
He’d swear her ears pricked at the mention of food. “No, I’ve got to meet Jim—What kind of food?”
“You name it, Huong can make it.”
“Huong?” A glance showed her interest was definitely piqued. “What’s the name of the place?”
“Mama’s Table. Huong took it over when her mama got too old, but Mama Trahn still helps with lunch.”