It was getting late. The pub’s swinging kitchen doors flapped on their hinges as Leila and her father moved back and forth, filling the salt and pepper shakers and wiping down tables, sending a signal they were ready to close.
Dallas rubbed the back of his neck as if tormenting a crick. “But the rest of the money—billions of dollars—came from Giaco Cienetti. Your grandfather.”
Ryan lifted his palms. “I didn’t choose him for my grandfather. That was a cruel twist of fate. The money is legal, though. All of it. The judge made sure of that.”
“You should have told us the whole story,” Dan said. His lazy, good-humored exterior cracked, exposing the practical sheriff underneath—and the sheriff was unsurprised, meaning he’d had his suspicions.
“If I had, you wouldn’t have accepted the money.” Ryan had worried about that the most. It was no secret that neither one of his friends had slid easily into their new tax bracket.
“No,” Dan said, direct, as usual. “We probably wouldn’t. But not because we ever thought it was dirty. You said from the start that it was a legal bequest and we chose to trust you. We do trust you. We would have turned it down because that money is rightfully yours, not ours.”
“I didn’t want it either. The judge talked me into it. He was also the one who said I should bring you both into it, too. He figured you’d help me stay honest.”
“You’re honest enough. Sort of. From a global perspective, and if we discount your uncanny ability to manipulate the truth. It’s your trust issues that could use the most work,” Dan said.
“You’ve made sure the money’s being put to good use,” Dallas, who never failed to see a bright side, threw in. “And if Adriana manages to piece the whole story together, that’s what she’ll find out—that the money supports three good causes—and it was all drawn up nice and legal by a retired judge who gave it his full support.” He slapped Ryan on the back. “Well done, evil genius. We always said you should use your powers for good.”
“We said, ‘If onlyhe’d use his powers for good,’” Dan corrected him. “We never expected it to happen.”
An enormous weight lifted off Ryan. He’d always dreaded what might happen if his friends found out where the money came from and his role in maneuvering them onto the ranch. He should have given them more credit.
“Which brings us back to our original reason for taking you out for dinner,” Dallas added. “Since you’re on a roll, you might as well tell us what went wrong with Elizabeth, too. We already know you’re the one who screwed that relationship up.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
Dallas’s right eyebrow vanished under a forelock of black curly hair. “Who here at the table told a four-billion-dollar lie and covered up the story of having a mafia grandpa?”
“Not me,” Dan said, raising his hands in a warding-off gesture.
Ryan was too relieved that his friends hadn’t demanded to be let out of the ranch and the money to take issue. “You guys are jealous because my life is so much more worldly.”
“Sure. That’s got to be it.” Dan folded his arms and leaned on the table, getting cozy. “Spill. Does it have anything to do with Elizabeth being pregnant?”
“How did you know that?”
“Dallas told me.”
That left Ryan speechless.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Dallas said hastily, seeing exactly where Ryan’s thoughts went. “No, I did not play doctor with her. We bumped into each other in the lounge and the pregnancy tests fell out of the bag.” He looked thoughtful. “That’s kind of ironic, don’t you think? Since the cat’s out of the bag too?”
They knew she was pregnant. There seemed little reason to keep the rest of the story a secret from them, although this secret was unlikely to make him feel as good to unload. “I asked her to have an abortion.”
“Du-u-u-de,” Dallas said. His face shone with reproof. “That’s not cool.”
Dan, for his part, usually liked to get all the facts straight before he passed judgment. If he disapproved of any of this, he wasn’t letting on yet. “What did she say to that?”
“She said it’s her body and she’s the only person who gets to make that decision.”
“She’s right,” Dallas said.
“It gets worse.” Ryan might as well unload everything. “I told her it’s either the baby or me.”
Dallas went back to worrying the crick in his neck. “Way to set yourself up for rejection. Need me to explain pregnancy hormones to you?”
“No thanks, I got to see them in action firsthand.”
“I bet.” Dan shook his head. “You’re going to have to work extra hard to fix this one, my moronic friend.”