The last five days had been a fucking blur.
The call from the cops, identifying Val and Jack's bodies. Telling the kids.
As long as he lived, Brad didn't think he'd ever do anything as hard as telling those six children their mother and father had been killed in a car accident and weren't coming back.
The wake, the funeral, people coming and going, leaving a metric fuckton of food behind. Funny how quiet the house seemed now that most of them were gone.
He winced at his mother's voice. "In the drawing room, Mother."
"Mr. Radcliffe is here. He wants to see you and Cash McCord in the kitchen. I'm going to help Melanie Swanson put the kids to bed and then I'm going home." She put her hands on his cheeks and tugged him down, kissing his forehead. "Call me on my cell when you've finished with the lawyer."
"Yes, Mother." Fuck, he wanted a shot of whiskey.
He found his way to the kitchen, Radcliffe and McCord already at the table.
He nodded to the lawyer, then to the cowboy. McCord, Jack's brother, was a good-looking man. Better than he remembered from the wedding. Of course he'd been a little wasted at the time. McCord was sucking back coffee at a fierce rate, weathered face looking all the better for being haggard.
He poured out a cup of his own, promising himself something stronger when this was over. He sat across from McCord and gave the lawyer a sharp look. "This about my sister's will?"
"Either that or it's about my brother's." Was that wit or sarcasm? You never knew with Southerners.
Either way Radcliffe didn't react to it in the least, his face not cracking the smallest smile. "Jack and Val McCord had a joint will in the event their deaths coincided. You are both named in the will, which is why I asked to meet with you together."
"Just us?" Brad asked.
"Yes. As well as the children, but under your guardianship."
"I don't want nothing of Jackie's, man. Nothing. Anything he left me, give to them babies."
"I don't think you understand, Mr. McCord. You and Mr. Rafferty have been named as the children's guardians."
Brad leaned in, elbows on the table. "What?"
"Excuse me?" The brim of that cowboy hat went back, the cowboy's blue eyes going wide. "You can't be serious."
"Jack and Valerie named you both as joint custodians of the children. The house, the money, everything is in your hands. Once Branson is twenty-one, the children will have access to generous trust funds, and you both will split whatever is left of the rest, including the proceeds on the sale of the house. Providing, of course, that you've raised the children together."
Brad knew his mouth was open, but he couldn't make any sounds come out.
"I can't deal with this right now. I can't. I. Shit. I just lost the last of my fucking family." Cash stood, whirling around and slamming the coffee cup into the sink, the mug shattering.
"Can't deal? Can't deal?" Brad shook his head. "You think those kids upstairs can deal?"
He got a look, and then he got the finger. Selfish son of a bitch.
He stood up himself, chair going flying behind him. "Why don't you just go back where you came from?"
"Fine. I'll go. You have somebody pack the kids enough for a few weeks and I'll get them out of this godforsaken place."
"I don't think so -- this is their home. And I'm not letting any backwater hick take them out of it."
"Jesus, you know I loved Val to death, but Jack was fucking crazy for letting her convince him to move up here."
Radcliffe cleared his throat. "Gentlemen. Please. I know this is a trying time for everyone, but trading insults isn't going to solve anything. Jack and Valerie made it very clear that they wanted the children to be kept together. They also made it very clear that they wanted the two of you to look after them together. That it would keep the children in touch with both sides of their heritage."
Brad sat back down, the enormity of it hitting him again. Val and Jack were dead, leaving six kids behind.
The cowboy hat dipped, Cash staring into the sink. "What the hell were they thinking?"
Right, like either of them were really thinking about dying. Honestly dying and leaving those kids behind. Brad decided he needed that whiskey pretty damned badly now and he was done waiting. "Was there anything else?" he asked the lawyer.
"There are papers to be drawn up and signed, and it will likely take several weeks before you have access to any money, but no, there isn't anything else."
"Money's not a problem." He wasn’t loaded like Jack and Val had been, but he could certainly cover living costs for a while.
It was the being guardian -- excuse him, co-guardian -- to six of the thirteen-and-under set that had him worried.
Cash turned on his heel, heading out into the chilly night, the door slamming behind him.
"I'll see myself out, shall I?"
He nodded at Radcliffe and said, "Thank you," not even watching the man as he started looking through cabinets. There had to be booze in here somewhere.
He was going to find it and get drunk off his ass.