The Wyoming Heir - Page 43

Chapter Ten

“Sir, I’m afraid your sister is missing.”

Luke turned from where he stood in his bedroom, threading a tie around his neck. “What do you mean, ‘missing’?”

The butler handed him an envelope. “Well, sir, she wasn’t in her room this morning, but this letter was resting on her bed.”

Luke knotted his tie and tore open the letter. Sam had gone straight back to the school he’d told her to stay away from. Stubborn girl. He looked out the north-facing window toward town. Morning sunlight danced off the frosted grass and painted the maple trees an even brighter red, while silhouettes of whitewashed houses darkened the horizon. “What time does Hayes Academy start?”

“In about half an hour.”

Confound it. He had a half hour to catch the train to Albany as well, and he needed to make that appointment with Jackson.

“Did she go to the academy, sir? Would you like someone to bring her home?”

Luke set his jaw and stared out the window again, in the direction Sam would have walked. He’d embarrassed her on Friday by pulling her out of class, and he didn’t cotton to doing it a second time. Maybe he’d talk to her when he got home later and set some boundaries. Calm, reasonable boundaries. Like she couldn’t leave her room again until they headed West, or see any friends, or study any mathematics books.

Hang it all, he may as well beat the girl for smiling—not that she’d done much smiling since he showed up.

Luke sighed. Maybe Miss Wells was right, and he just needed to tell Sam about Ma. Perhaps Sam would hate him for doing so, perhaps Ma would hate him even more for not keeping his promise, but things were getting ridiculous. Sam was already close to detesting him, and leaving Valley Falls was going to break her heart. Ma thought she’d been doing Sam a favor by hiding the truth, but didn’t Sam deserve to know what was going on?

And somehow he’d gotten himself stuck smack-dab in the middle of the mess. “Sam wants another chance to see her friends. She can attend the academy for the day.”

“Yes, sir.” Stevens dipped his head and left.

Luke slid into his suit coat and glanced in the mirror. Had Grandpa liked always getting duded up? Because Luke looked like a corpse in the rigid black and white garments. But he couldn’t help pausing, lingering an extra moment at the too-familiar face in the mirror.

If only he and Blake hadn’t looked so similar, hadn’t shared the same bright blue eyes and sun-streaked hair. If only he could change his face and replace it with another. Black hair. Gray eyes. Less prominent cheekbones. A softer chin. Anything so he didn’t have to stare at his brother’s face whenever he looked in the mirror.

“I’m sorry, Blake,” he whispered into the empty room. And indeed he was. Sorry for Blake’s death, for the sudden way Pa had sent Sam out East afterward, sorry for not trying harder to keep his family together. Something had shattered the day of Blake’s death, and the pieces of that tragedy still lay like splintered shards on the hot Wyoming ground.

He straightened his tie and suit coat as best he could without looking back at the mirror. He didn’t have time to think about Blake or the way his family had been torn apart after his twin’s death. He had a train to catch, more meetings scheduled than he wanted to think about and a scoundrel to scare away from his sister.

* * *

Luke’s boots hit the wooden platform as the train that had returned him to Valley Falls hissed and steamed behind him.

“Mr. Hayes, sir, your carriage is ready.” A young coachman instantly appeared by his side.

“Thank you.” He spoke absently, then followed the boy to the conveyance.

A certain part of him, the part that loved the Teton Valley, wanted to say he’d hated his day and found the meetings dull and stifling. But while sitting round a table with a bunch of other suits wasn’t near as fun as riding the range, it wasn’t terrible. He’d never been slow at ciphering, and the columns of numbers he’d glanced over made sense. The businessmen he’d conferenced with hadn’t been half bad, either. They were, after all, still men underneath their fancy getup. And the meetings weren’t much different than managing a crew of cowhands around a campfire.

In fact, sitting in those meeting rooms, making decisions that would affect other people’s lives, was almost kind of nice. Like how to offer a home insurance plan that was affordable and yet would provide adequate coverage in case of a fire or flood. Or sending a corporation-wide memorandum out to all Great Northern Accounting and Insurance employees explaining that there would be no change in operations or job layoffs at present. A lot of his workers would return to their homes happy after getting news like that.