The Billion Heirs: Scarred
© Bridger Media & Helen Hardt LLC
“Who’d you piss off?”
I glance up at Ed, the dock guy helping me to load the coolers of fresh oysters into the cargo area of the plane. My back is to the shore and I don’t dare turn around. Not yet.
Ed looks down the length of the dock to someone I assume is heading our way. It’s probably Cara—or Tara—from Saturday. After our night together, she somehow found out about my business—because we didn’t do much talking—and has been calling around the clock. Showing up takes stalker to a new level because I am always straight with a woman. One night. No strings. All the orgasms she can take.
“Fuck,” I say under my breath and take a second to close my eyes. Just what I need. Baggage besides the seafood I am about to shuttle to the resort up in the San Juans. “Redhead? Legs for miles?” I ask.
Ed’s bushy eyebrows head north. “I wish. How about male, fifty and balding. I’d peg him as IRS except the guy’s wearing a bolo tie.”
I turn on the worn dock, the water lapping at the side. I catch a whiff of the briny tang of the outgoing tide. The man, who does appear to be in his fifties, is headed our way and he’s definitely not Cara. Or Tara. Ed’s guess is pretty good, but as far as I know, the tax man is the one guy who doesn’t have an issue with me.
“Mr. Bridger!” The man raises his hand as if to hail a cab. He does have on a string tie along with a white shirt and crisp jeans. And he holds a square leather briefcase. Definitely a creditor.
Just what I need. I have enough issues dealing with the healthcare system and my mother’s bills on the phone. In person is a whole new level of pressure I don’t want.
I set my hands on my hips and prepare for a battle. “If you want money, it’ll only happen if I get these oysters in the air. They’re not the paying customers you probably want to see, but they are alive. For now.”
He stops in front of me and wipes his brow. For the Northwest, the weather is warm. Almost hot. Another reason to get the plane in the air instead of lingering. Oysters and heat aren’t a good combo.
He glances at the plane and then back to me. “I’m not here to take money from you, Mr. Bridger. I’m Tom Shankle, lawyer from Shankle, Smith, and Brazee.”
Great. A lawyer. “I’m being sued.” I turn my back on him, grab another cooler, and pass it to Ed. “Even better.”
“You’re not being sued,” Shankle assures me.
With a quick glance, I see him smile.
“You make visits to everyone who owes you money?” I stop mid-reach and stand upright. At six-two, I have five inches or more on the man. “If you bothered my mother with your money-grubbing shit—”
He holds up a hand. “I assure you I didn’t bother her. She’s not the reason for this visit. I hope her current treatments for multiple sclerosis are going well.”
I frown. What’s his angle?
“You know a lot about the health of a woman who’s not the reason for your visit.”
Mom’s latest meds are part of a trial and aren’t covered by insurance. Expensive. But working. She currently only has mild symptoms and I want it to stay that way, although she can no longer pilot trips for the business she founded. Shankle pulling the plug on the treatment was a no-fucking-go.
Shankle rubs his jawline. “I’ve kept tabs on you.”
Ed loads the last cooler and shuts the cargo door with a hearty slam that shakes the plane. He nods and ducks around the two of us as best he can for a guy of his size. I can’t blame him for steering clear of my shit, whatever the hell it is. Going to the back rope line, he waits for me to climb in and do my pre-flight checks. That’s right, time to go. He’ll help other planes that use this dock.
“Why the hell would you do that?” I growl, not liking anyone to keep tabs on me. Especially a lawyer.
“I’ve tried to reach you for the past three weeks.” Shankle follows me to the front of the plane.
“Sorry, been busy running a business here. But you know that since you’re keeping those tabs and all.” I climb onto the runner and reach to open the door, ready to get the hell out of here.
“I represent your father. Jonathan Bridger.”
I freeze for a second and then turn, bobbing up and down along with the plane on the water.
“I’m not sure which is worse. Creditors or my fucking sperm donor,” I grumble and glare. “Or a lawyer representing him.”
“I assure you, I bear good news,” Shankle replies with a shaky smile.
“I don’t give a shit about the man just as he’s never given one about me. Good news? The only thing you can tell me that I’d consider positive is that he’s dead.”
He huffs out a laugh. “It seems that I may have made your day then. He is, in fact, dead.”
I blink, processing what he just said. “Holy shit.” Then I grin.
The fucker married my mother and then divorced her before I was even born. Left her with nothing. Sure, required child support, but that wasn’t what she wanted from him. She expected love from a spouse. Not to be abandoned and for him to move on to another woman. Or two. Or fucking more.
My father was never a part of my life. Hell, I never even met him. Just hated his guts for what he did to my mom.
“How?” Yeah, I want to know what finally brought the man down.
So instant and without any pain. Too bad.
“Thanks for letting me know.” I open the cockpit door, ready to climb in and leave the bastard behind, just like always.
“There’s more,” Shankle adds.
I glance up at the sky. “That’s enough for me. He’s dead. Thanks for letting me know.”
“I need fifteen minutes of your time.”
“So do those oysters in the back.” I point to the rear of the plane.
“Fine. I’ll ride with you.”
I glare again. Not what I expected. He steps down onto the runner behind me and opens the rear door, the one for passengers. The plane bobs from the shift in weight.
Lovering Seaplane usually takes passengers, but for supplemental income, we run supplies and various cargo. Like oysters. I’m used to customers, but not ones who climb aboard last minute for a chat. In Shankle’s case, it’s to talk to me and most likely piss me off. Especially if it has to do with my father.
He can go along for the ride, but I don’t have to make it easy on him.
I hold the door open as graciously as I possibly can. He tosses in his briefcase and awkwardly climbs up and into the back seat.
“Ever flown in a seaplane before?” I ask casually.
“Nothing smaller than the commuter jet from Missoula,” he replies.
I smirk and glance at Ed, who shrugs. I climb into the pilot’s seat and begin my pre-flight checklist.
“Mr. Bridger. Jonathan Bridger had a sizeable estate in Montana and—”
I hold up a hand to stop him. “I need to complete my checks, Shankle. In silence, unless you want me to miss something and risk us taking a two thousand-foot-swan dive into the Sound.”
Shankle remains silent as I strap in and work through the list I have memorized, getting the engines on. I give Ed a thumbs up, and we’re untied and in the air quickly, headed north. I adjust the yoke as we’re buffeted by the high-level winds. Nothing too strong, but I don’t fight them.
“As I was saying,” Shankle shouts over the noise of the engines.
Out of the corner of my eye I can see him trying to get his balance. I can barely hear him with my headset on so I tap my ear and glance back at him.
He grabs the headset in the back for passengers and puts it on. “Can you hear me now?”
His voice comes through all too clearly, annoying me, so I tip the yoke, dipping the right wing. The plane plunges a hundred feet or so and I pull up. When the guy has to reach out to keep from flying across the cabin, I can’t help a slight smile.
“Might want to strap in,” I say. “Could get bumpy up here with choppy air and all.”
It isn’t all that rough. Low wind, clear visibility. A little bit of chop, just like the water below, but doable, if you’re not prone to motion sickness.
His seatbelt clinks. “You have two half brothers.”
My smile slips. I know about them. Both younger and from the women who took my mom’s place. I turn the yoke again, dropping the right wing once more. Shankle gasps.
“The three of us aren’t going to make a fort in the backyard and take blood oaths, Shankle. Get to the point.”
I tap my sunglasses up my nose and straighten the plane. There is no autopilot so I keep my gaze on the horizon and the tree-covered rolling hills of the Pacific Northwest.
“You and your brothers are heirs to his estate.”
The man—our father—was rich. Obscenely so, and since I turned eighteen, I haven’t seen a dime of it. Before then, I didn’t get much. Enough for clothes and extra food. He moved on and so did my mom. She started the seaplane company from the ground—or in her case, the Puget Sound—up.
“Great. Mail the china and stamp collection to the company address. You didn’t need to come all the way to Seattle.” I don’t raise my voice. I don’t have to. I’m sure he can tell how much I hate my father through the headset loud and clear.
His laugh comes through just as clearly. “I assure you, Mr. Bridger, you received more than a stamp collection. That’s why I’ve been trying to reach you. Jonathan Bridger’s fortune is estimated at over three billion dollars. You, along with your half brothers, Miles and Chance, are the sole inheritors.”
The plane takes a nosedive. I’m not fucking with Shankle this time. I just can’t believe what I’m hearing. The engine noise changes and my seat rattles.
“I’m a…what? A fucking billionaire?” I ask, righting the plane.
We’re now a few hundred feet lower and Shankle’s stomach is probably in his throat. Mine is too, for a completely different reason.
Money like that means no more oyster runs to ensure Mom’s medicine is paid for this month. Mom can go to that specialist we read up on in Chile. Hell, she can buy Chile. No more creditors or business problems because she’s sick. It means a second… or even a third seaplane. The charter business she started thirty years ago won’t fold.
I pull back on the yoke and aim for the stars. I can’t help the grin and a whoop of happiness. Dear old Dad can rot in hell while Mom gets well and flies again.
“I’ll give you my bank account information when we land. You’re right, Shankle. You do have good news.” I strum the yoke with my fingers, feeling fucking great for the first time in months.
Shankle is quiet, and I glance over my shoulder at him. He has his briefcase in his lap and a small stack of papers in his hands. “There is a catch.”
I glance out the front window again and adjust course slightly. I’ve flown the area enough to recognize the sea and land below. Which island is which. There’s no radar. No complex instrumentation.
“A catch,” I echo. Of course there is.
“You must return to Bridger Ranch in Montana.”
Hmm. A few days away may impact flights. But if I have a billion dollars, what does it matter?
“I can swing a week off.”
“You’ll need a little more than a week.” Shankle clears his throat. “The will clearly stipulates that all three Bridger sons must live at Bridger Ranch for the duration of one year to receive a dime.”
“What the fuck?” I shout. “A year? I can’t live in Montana for a year. As you’re aware, my mother is sick and on special trial drugs. If I don’t get the money for a year, I can’t stop working. The company will go under, and Mom—”
“It was your father’s last wish.”
“That I live in bumfuck Montana for a year? Give up my life, my business, risk my mother’s health all because some asshole is making me jump through hoops?”
As punishment, I dip the plane again, feel the pull against my harness.
A father who I never met and is dead—dead—is fucking with me and will continue to do so for an entire year. I have to go to Montana to get the money that will help my mother and save the company. But going will most likely make my mother’s symptoms worse and will definitely hurt the business since I won’t be able to fly.
“If it makes you feel any better, your brothers—”
“—aren’t any happier. However, I was on land when I shared the news with them.”
The cove where I will land appears in the distance. I adjust the flaps to begin our descent.
“We’ll be on the ground soon, Shankle.”
Really soon since I decide to come in hot. If I’m headed to Montana, I might as well have a little fun before I’m grounded. And landlocked. And stuck with two men who share tainted blood.
“We’re the billion heirs,” I mutter.
Only a deadbeat—and dead—father would ruin it all.
PRE-ORDER NOW! Live October 11!