Death by the River
Beau strolled down the elegant curved mahogany staircase of his parents’ plantation home. He stepped onto the hardwood floors and caressed the newel post at the end of the steps. Shaped like the head of a horse, the bit pulled taut in its mouth, he admired the pain carved into the creature’s bulging eyes.
He headed along the hallway, tugging his book bag over his shoulder, the occasional moan of the floor echoing around him. He glanced at a massive gold painting of New Orleans he liked, bought by some dead relative a century ago. Family portraits of other deceased members of the Devereaux clan littered the white wainscoting covered walls. He passed the tall cypress door to his father’s office, not bothering to check inside. His old man was an early riser and probably on his way to the brewery.
At the end of the hall, he turned down a slender corridor to the kitchen and the entrance to the five-car garage. He enjoyed the quiet in the morning after his father went to work and before his mother crawled out of bed. It made him feel like it was all his, for a little while anyway.
His father appeared, holding a coffee mug.
Beau froze, almost afraid to move when he spotted him.
Gage Devereaux rested his hip against the black granite countertop. Tilting his head slightly, he inspected his son. In his usual attire—a long-sleeved shirt and slacks—he came across more like a casual businessman than a ruthless capitalist. Except for their height and physical prowess, Beau felt he had nothing in common with his father.
He attempted to relax by shifting his book bag on his shoulder. “Didn’t expect to find you still home.”
Gage set his mug on the counter. “I wanted to speak to you before you left for school.”
The hint of condescension in his father’s voice tightened his chest—it usually signaled a lecture.
“I got a call from Ms. Greenbriar yesterday afternoon. She said you visited her office after a run-in you had with Carol Foster’s boy.”
Beau’s fingers twitched, the way they did when his aggravation got the better of him. Great. The idiot woman had called his father. The last thing he needed was Gage Devereaux up his ass.
“Derek is dating Dawn’s sister, so I often see him at school.” He tempered the irritation in his voice, not wanting to annoy his father. “I was talking to Leslie when Derek walked up. I accidentally caught him with my elbow when I turned around. I apologized and everything is fine.”
He waited, analyzing every move his father made, searching his hard eyes for an inkling of his mindset.
“I’ve spoken to you before about this.” Gage came around the breakfast bar. “This family is in a precarious position with everyone in town. I don’t want your actions threatening our business or our good name.” He gripped Beau’s shoulder. “What have I always told you? What is our rule?”
Beau cringed as the words he’d spent a lifetime dreading screamed through his head. He faced his father, standing at attention. “Self-control in all things. Never let anyone see who you really are.”
Gage leaned closer. “No matter what anyone says, no matter what they do, you walk away. This includes your girlfriend. Do you understand?”
Beau stiffened at the low, menacing tone in his father’s voice. “Yes, sir.”
Gage lifted the left side of his mouth ever so slightly. “Go to school.”
Beau stood by the breakfast bar, not moving a muscle as his father headed to the garage. The door clicked shut and a trickle of sweat ran down his temple. His jaw muscles cramped from clenching, his heart rate slowed, and he glanced at his fists. His father’s warning spinning in his head, Beau slammed his hand down on the copper bar.
Anger like molten lead ran through him. Beau sucked in deep breaths to calm himself—something he remembered from a long-ago therapy session. Then he relaxed his hand on the bar, checking the indent he’d left in the copper. He wiped the smudge away, stepped back, and raised his head.
I am the master of control.