But how would they look for other jobs if they were working here? Perhaps he should give them each a month’s salary and then release them.
And where would they sleep and eat for the coming month? The servants all lived on the estate, and kicking them out meant they had no home, even if he sent each of them off with a heap of money. Would his former employees even be able to find other jobs? He didn’t need to live out East to know that many of the country’s wealthy had lost money since the panic had hit. People were cutting back and getting rid of extra staff, not hiring more.
“Have you ever fired a person before, Mr. Hayes?” Byron leaned over the opposite side of the desk, his brown eyes extra large behind his glasses.
Luke bristled. “Of course.” Cowhands who were lazy or dishonest or lousy with cattle. But he’d never before fired a good, honest worker. It seemed a shame for decent people to lose their jobs because of a business decision. His business decision.
This whole affair was too complicated by half. Why had Grandpa left everything to him in the first place? He’d made a big enough mess of his own family. What made Grandpa think he could run an estate, and one of the largest insurance and accounting corporations in the East? He needed to get Sam, take her back home and see Ma through until she passed. Surely Grandpa would have understood that he didn’t have time for servants and accounting companies and whatever else.
“You could look for a manager,” the lawyer supplied. “Someone who would run the companies in your absence and report back to you in Wyoming. Then you could travel here every two or three years to see that things are being managed properly.”
Luke rubbed the back of his neck. The manager idea wasn’t half bad. It made more sense than anything else at the moment.
“You would continue to make a profit off the companies, as well.” The lawyer pounced on Luke’s moment of deliberation like a cougar on an unsuspecting rabbit. “Think of it as an extra source of income. It’s a rather sound business decision to make. Of course, you’ll have to interview potential managers while you’re here. But once you’ve found a man, you’d be free to return to Wyoming.”
“I don’t want to commit to anything like that just yet.”
“Why don’t you ponder the decision over the weekend?”
Yes, he’d better think it through. He didn’t want a lot of strings tying him to the East. And yet... “Then the employees would be able to keep their jobs?”
“All but the ones on the estate.”
“I’ll give you an answer next week.”
“Excellent.” A smile curved at the edges of Mr. Byron’s pudgy lips. “Let’s move on to your sister-in-law’s inheritance then, shall we?”
The world seemed to freeze around him, his blood turning frigid at the mere mention of her. “My grandfather left money to Cynthia?”
“Yes, a tidy sum of—”
“I don’t want to know.” Luke turned away and crossed his arms, but the image came back to him like hot, glowing embers buried beneath layers of ash. Cynthia with her pregnant belly cradled between her body and legs while she kneeled on the ground. Her fiery hair tangling in the mountain breeze, her eyes shining with tears, her voice pleading with him. And lying beside her, his dead, blood-soaked twin.
“Your sister also stands to inherit a nice amount,” the lawyer continued.
Luke walked to the French doors and pushed them open, then sucked in a breath of cool outside air.
“Samantha will receive ten thousand dollars either when she marries or turns twenty-five.”
Luke drew in another deep breath and tried to wrap his mind around the lawyer’s words. Samantha. They were talking about his sister now, weren’t they? Not the woman who’d let his brother die. “Has Sam been told?”
He stared out into the darkening valley, rife with the music of insect sounds and toads and the faint rustle of the breeze. Returning to Wyoming beautiful and single, Sam would have been the talk of the Teton Valley. But with a ten-thousand-dollar inheritance, she’d attract every bachelor west of the Mississippi.
“In addition to her inheritance, your sister also has a separate fund to pay for the rest of her schooling.”
“What?” The calming air he’d just inhaled deserted his lungs.
“The remainder of Samantha’s year at Hayes Academy is, of course, already paid for. But this fund contains money for further education. College—not just a bachelor’s degree but a master’s program, even a doctorate, if your sister so desires.”
Luke turned back toward the lawyer and stalked to the desk. Grandpa’s will just kept getting better and better. “That’s ridiculous. She needs to go home to her family. Not chase some dream she has little hope of achieving.”