Terms of Surrender(5)

By: Shirley Rogers

David shook his head. "I'm not throwing—"

"You heartless bastard. Now I know exactly why you and your father didn't get along."

Anger flashed in his eyes. "You don't know anything about me."

"I know you broke his heart when you left." She snatched a photo of David when he'd graduated from college off a nearby table. "I know that some days he sat in this very room and stared at your picture. I know that rarely a week went by that he didn't mention you in some way." Replacing the picture, she confronted him. "And now I know just how coldhearted you are."

Tanya started around him, then stopped. "Let me ask you something, David. In all honesty, what do you know about this plantation? You haven't been back for years. For that matter, what do you know about growing soybeans?" Her eyes stayed on his, watching his expression change to confusion.


"Yes, soybeans. Your father changed the main crop from peanuts to soybeans several years ago." She gave a bitter laugh. "You didn't know? Well, of course not. Because you didn't care enough about this plantation to keep up with the changes. I know a lot more about this farm than you do."

As much as David hated to admit it, she was right. He hadn't been back since the summer he'd graduated from college. He'd barely stayed in touch by telephone. "Why did my father stop growing peanuts?" Unable to believe what she was saying, he looked out the window as if he could tell with a glance that she was speaking the truth.

"What difference does that make? Right now you need me."

David gave his head a shake, trying to make sense of what she'd said. "All right, if what you say is true, I'll admit you have a point." But that didn't mean he trusted her. "We'll try this on a trial basis. You stay for, say, three months. If you can't run the place, you'll agree I'm right and leave. At that time, my offer to send you to college will still stand." It seemed like the perfect solution. No matter what she said, there was no way that Tanya could run this place.

Tanya's gaze never left his. If he thought she was going to fail, he'd be sadly mistaken. "I'll take you up on that." With that, she turned to walk away, but was drawn up short when David's hand clamped around her arm. "Take your hand off me."

He complied immediately. "We're not finished."

"For now, we are. If you don't mind, I've had all I can take of you today." She continued to the door and yanked it open.

"Tanya—" he called, but she stormed out. The door slammed behind her.

Well, great. Now look what you've done.

And soybeans? What was that about? Why had his father changed from peanuts, a crop he'd grown all of his life, to soybeans? It didn't make sense.

David walked over and poured himself a bourbon. He stared at the amber liquid, then threw it down his throat, savoring the burn. Maybe he was a bastard. He hadn't meant to make Tanya feel as if she had to leave Cottonwood immediately. The strange thing was, a foolish part of him wanted her to stay. But if she stayed, David knew she'd get under his skin.

For the sake of his heart, he could never let that happen.

* * *

A cold chill swept over her, but Tanya knew it had nothing to do with the temperature of the November morning. Out of the corner of her eye she watched David, who sat across the room. His father's attorney was seated behind the large, antique desk across from them in Edward's study. He'd only been gone a few days, and here they were, waiting for the reading of his will.

Oh, how she missed him. Tears formed in her eyes as she thought of never seeing Edward again. Fear gripped her. Once again, she was all alone in the world.

Though David had remained at the plantation, she'd managed to avoid being alone with him. Their earlier confrontation had cemented her opinion that he had been cold and unfeeling when it came to his father. As for his opinion of her, he'd pretty much made it clear that he didn't want her at Cottonwood. To his credit, he had tried to apologize, but nothing he said could have erased his hurtful words.

"If I could have your attention," Clifford Danson said as he looked up from the papers in his hand. He waited until both David and Tanya met his gaze. "David, your father asked that you both be present because the terms of the will affect each of you."

Uneasy, Tanya glanced at David. She hadn't expected to be mentioned in the will. Her eyes began to sting with fresh tears.

"As his only son, you stand to inherit this entire estate," the lawyer continued. "I'm aware that the two of you didn't get along, but your father believed that Cottonwood is your birthright. He felt deeply that you should receive it."

David nodded. If he was surprised or pleased, he didn't show it. He should be happy, Tanya thought. He was getting what he wanted. She was the one who was going to have to leave.

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