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CREIGHTON WHEELER STORMED ACROSS THE BLUESTONE TERRACE, whipping off his sun visor and making a swipe at the sweat streaming down his face, then without breaking stride, angrily tossed the damp towel and visor onto a chaise. "This better be damn important. I was about to break his serve."
The housekeeper who'd summoned him from the tennis court was unfazed by his temper. "Don't you take that tone with me. It's your daddy wants to see you."
Her name was Ruby. Creighton didn't know her last name and had never bothered to ask, although she'd been in the family's employ since before he was born. Any time he got out of sorts with her, she reminded him that she'd wiped his butt and his nose, that both had been nasty, and that she hadn't enjoyed doing either. It rankled to think of her being that familiar with his person, even when he was a baby.
He brushed past her three-hundred-pound bulk and crossed the industrial-size kitchen to one of several refrigerators, yanking open the door.
"Right now, he said."
Ignoring her, Creighton got a can of Coke from the Sub-Zero, ripped off the tab, and took a long drink. He rolled the cold can across his forehead. "Take one of these out to Scott."
"Your tennis coach's legs ain't broke." She turned back to the counter and slapped her large hand on the hunk of beef she was preparing to go into the roasting pan.
Something ought to be done about her sass, Creighton thought as he pushed through the swinging door and made his way toward the front of the house, where his father had a study. The door was ajar. He paused outside it, thenknocked once on the doorjamb with his Coke can, nudged the door open, and strolled in, twirling the tennis racquet against his shoulder. He looked every inch the aristocrat called away from a session of healthy exercise. It was a role he was perfectly suited to play.
Doug Wheeler was seated behind his desk, which was presidential in proportion but much more pretentious than anything inside the Oval Office. The desk was flanked by mahogany flagpoles, one for the Georgia state flag, the other for Old Glory. Ancestors glared from oil portraits hanging on opposite walls, which were paneled in stained cypress meant to last till the Second Coming.
"Scott's time is money, and the clock is ticking," Creighton said.
"I'm afraid this can't wait. Please sit down."
Creighton took a seat in one of the cordovan leather chairs facing his father's desk and propped his tennis racquet against it. "I didn't know you were here. Weren't you scheduled to play golf this afternoon?" He leaned forward and set his Coke can on the polished surface of the desk.
Frowning, Doug placed a coaster beneath the can so it wouldn't leave a moisture ring. "I dropped by here to change before going to the club," he said. "But something urgent - "
"Don't tell me," Creighton interrupted. "The paper clip audit exposed an embezzlement. Damn those sneaky secretaries."
"Paul is dead."
Creighton's heart gave a bump. His smile collapsed. "What?"
Doug cleared his throat. "Your uncle was shot and killed in the Hotel Moultrie about an hour ago."
Creighton continued to stare at him, then finally released his breath. "Well, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump. Actually his mother. 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.' "
His father lurched to his feet. "Is that all you can say?"
"I think that says it fairly well."
Creighton had never seen his father cry. He wasn't crying now, but his eyes looked suspiciously moist and he was swallowing too often and too hard. In an attempt to hide...