His Son, Her Secret

By: Sarah M. Anderson

One

“This place is a dump,” Byron Beaumont announced. His words echoed off the stone walls, making the submerged space sound haunted.

“Don’t see it as it is,” his older brother Matthew said through the speaker in Byron’s phone. It was much easier for Matthew to call this one in, rather than make the long journey to Denver from California, where he was happily living in sin. “See it as what it will be.”

Byron did another slow turn, inspecting the extent of the neglect as he tried not to think about Matthew—or any of his older brothers—being happily engaged or married. The Beaumonts hadn’t been, until recently, the marrying kind.

Yet it hadn’t been so long ago that he’d thought he was the marrying kind. And then it had all blown up in his face. And while he’d been licking his wounds, his brothers—normally workaholics and playboys—had been pairing off with women who were, by all accounts, great for them.

Once again, Byron was the one who didn’t conform to Beaumont expectations.

Forcibly, he turned his attention back to the space before him. The vaulted ceiling was arched, but the parts that weren’t arched were quite low. Cobwebs dangled from everything, including the single bare lightbulb in the middle of the room, which cast deep shadows into the corners. The giant pillars supporting the arches were evenly spaced, taking up a huge amount of the floor. Inches of dust coated the low half-moon windows at eye level. What Byron could see of the outside looked to be weeds. And the whole space smelled of mold.

“And what will it be? Razed, I hope.”

“No,” Byron’s oldest half brother, Chadwick Beaumont, said. The word was crisp and authoritative, which was normal for Chadwick. However, the part where he lifted his daughter out of his wife’s arms and onto his shoulders so she could see better was not. “This is underneath the brewery. It was originally a warehouse but we think you can do something better with it.”

Byron snorted. Yeah, right.

Serena Beaumont, Chadwick’s wife, stepped next to Byron so that Matthew could see her on the phone. “Percheron Drafts has had a great launch, thanks to Matthew’s hard work. But we want this brewery to be more than just a craft beer.”

“We want to hit the old company where it counts,” Matthew said. “A large number of our former customers continue to be unhappy about how the Beaumont Brewery was sold away from our family. The bigger we can make Percheron Drafts, the better we can siphon off our old customers.”

“And to do that,” Serena went on in a sweet voice at direct odds with a discussion about corporate politics, “we need to offer our customers something they cannot get from Beaumont Brewery.”

“Phillip is working with our graphic designer on incorporating his team of Percherons into all of the Percheron Draft marketing, but we have to be sensitive to trademark issues,” Chadwick added.

“Exactly,” Matthew agreed. “So our distinctive element can’t be the horses, not yet.”

Byron rolled his eyes. He should have brought his twin sister, Frances, so he would have someone to back him up. He was being steamrollered into something that seemed doomed from the start.

“You three have got to be kidding me. You want me to open a restaurant in this dungeon?” He looked around at the dust and the mildew. “No. It’s not going to happen. This place is a dump. I can’t cook in this environment and there’s no way in hell I would expect anyone to eat here, either.” He eyed the baby gurgling on Chadwick’s shoulder. “In fact, I’m not sure any of us should be breathing this air without HazMat masks. When was the last time the doors were even opened?”

Matthew looked at Serena. “Did you show him the workroom?”

“No. I’ll do that now.” She walked toward a set of doors in the far back of the room. They were heavy wooden things on rusting hinges, wide enough a pair of Percheron horses could pull a wagon through them.

“I’ve got it, babe,” Chadwick said as Serena struggled to get the huge latch lifted. “Here, hold Catherine,” he said to Byron.

Suddenly, Byron had a baby in his arms. He almost dropped the phone as Catherine leaned back to look up at her uncle.

“Um, hey,” Byron said nervously. He didn’t know much of anything about babies in general or this baby in particular. All he knew was that she was Serena’s daughter from a previous relationship and Chadwick had formally adopted her.

Catherine’s face wrinkled in doubt at this new development. Byron didn’t even know how old the little girl was. Six months? A year? He had no idea. He couldn’t be sure he was even holding her right. However, he was becoming reasonably confident that this small human was about to start crying. Her face screwed up and she started to turn red.

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