Darryl ignored Mason and marched right past him, pulling up short in front of Eden. “Where is she?”
“Who?” The three voices chimed as one.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Eden Damask. I know your grandson has been meeting with Martha. I warned her not to see him again, but did she listen? Of course not. So I’m warning you instead. Tell that good-for-nothing grandson of yours to stay away from my cousin’s girl.”
The unspoken ‘or else’ hung in the air.
Rose glanced at Eden and was alarmed by the older woman’s sudden pallor. “Eden, sit down. Mason, will you get her a glass of water?”
Once Mason left the room, Rose turned on Darryl. “You, Sir, were not invited into my house. You will leave, now.”
Hands fisted on her hips, she stood her ground, staring up at the big bully. He didn’t scare her. Well, really he did, but she needed to convince herself he didn’t if she was going to convince him.
Despite her show of bravado, he didn’t move. He laughed instead. It was not a pleasant sound.
“Look at you, Miss High and Mighty. Won’t you be singing a different song when you have to come begging me to buy this sorry excuse of a town from you to pay your bills.”
His words vanquished her nerves and goaded her into action. She whipped out her phone and put in a search for the Lovelace Sheriff. “We have a trespasser.”
“I’m going. I’m going.”
Apparently Mr. Darryl DeFoliate had no desire to cross paths with the sheriff. Interesting. Rose stored that knowledge away in case she ever had need of it.
“See that you stay gone.”
He paused on the doorstep. “You enjoy this lovely home while you can, Rose.” He sneered. “You may want to take some photos. For the memories.”
He scooted through the doorway as if he thought she might slam it on him. Instead, she closed it behind herself and followed him out onto the porch.
“Wait, I have a question for you.”
He turned and stared at her. “Second thoughts about selling?”
She wanted to wipe that sneer off his face. But she recalled grandfather’s advice.
Always remember your goal. Don’t let anyone make you forget what matters most.
Kindness mattered, to her as it had to her grandfather. And caring for the people of Lovelace. She could swallow her pride and ignore his taunts for the sake of the people who had meant the world to her grandfather.
“Why? Why do you want it so badly?”
“This.” She gestured broadly. “This house, this land. It can’t be for money. You could buy plenty of land for far less than I would sell this for.”
“You really don’t know?”
When he asked the question, Darryl looked almost human.
She shook her head. “I don’t know any reason you would want it.” Other than greed or sheer meanness. She kept those last thoughts to herself.
“This should have been ours.”
The viciousness in his voice had her taking a step backwards.
“Your great-grandfather bankrupted my family with his mining schemes. Our family paid a high price to earn our fortune back. Now it’s payback time. With interest.”
Rose was still shaking when she turned back to the door. She rested her hand on the antique doorknob and paused to get her emotions under control. It probably hadn’t been a good idea to antagonize him.
All Rose’s worries about Darryl fled when she stepped back into the parlor and saw her dear friend still huddled in the corner of the chair. Eden suddenly looked so frail and frightened.
Rose hurried over and knelt beside her. “What is it? Eden, what’s wrong? The man is just a bully. He won’t hurt Johnny. I’ll be sure—”
Eden halted her outburst with a gentle hand on Rose’s arm. “It’s not him, Rose. That’s not what shocked me. It’s something I remembered.”
Eden was looking over Rose’s shoulder as she spoke. Rose turned to see Mason standing in the doorway looking equally grim.
He nodded at Eden. “I remembered too.” He walked over and handed her the glass. She accepted it and took a grateful sip.
“What is it?” Rose looked from one to the other. “You two are scaring me!”
Eden took another deliberate sip of water, and hesitated. Rose feared she would faint before she could speak, but the liquid seemed to fortify her. When she spoke, her voice was strong.
“There was another DeFoliate.”
Mason rested a hand on Eden’s shoulder, and added what he knew. “He was the brother of Darryl and Deke’s father. He was a history buff, a military historian.” Mason paused and smiled down at Eden.
She picked up the story thread. “He died so long ago that I’d forgotten there was a good side of the family. But he was a good man. And a good friend to your great-grandfather.” Eden sighed. “I remembered him when Darryl made the comment about Martha. She’s such a sweet girl, I forget she’s a DeFoliate.”
“Okay.” Rose smiled, trying to lighten the air. “I believe you. If one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch, maybe one good apple can—”
“Rose,” Eden interrupted. “This DeFoliate. His name was Mark.”