The auctioneer held up a hand and rang a brass bell. “Please take your seats.”
Blake returned to the table, but he did not look pleased.
“What’s wrong?” Brody asked.
“Nothing.” Blake grabbed his brochure and didn’t elaborate.
“Oh my God!” Francesca said then clapped her hand over her mouth. “Look.”
Rafe leaned forward and stared at the brochure then went pale. “No way!”
“No way what?” Brody asked.
“Item number thirteen,” Rafe answered.
Jade read it aloud before Brody could get to the page. “Authentic Frederick Remington sculpture, from the collection of Charles Hayden Ryann. Starting bid, $300,000.”
“It was his prized possession,” Francesca said. “We bought it at this very auction before Rafe was born. He displayed it on the shelf in his office. I hadn’t even missed it.”
“No way Dad would have sold that unless he really needed money,” Rafe said. “He loved it. Said looking at it calmed his nerves.”
“I’m sure his nerves needed calming given the three lives and keeping them separate,” Blake said.
“Yeah, well he managed quite nicely.” Brody said.
Rafe stood. “Excuse me a minute, please.”
Watching Rafe and the way he carried himself gave Brody a lump in his throat. His youngest half-brother looked so much like their father. Tall, dark hair, and he had inherited the Hayden walk.
Rafe exchanged a few words with Elizabeth Schumacher, and though the woman smiled, she shook her head negatively.
Returning to the table, Rafe set his jaw and let out a deep sigh. “The auction has started so we can’t pull the Remington.”
The auctioneer began with the first item and Brody half-heartedly followed along. Why would Hayden sell a treasured sculpture? Either he was somehow hurting for cash or, more likely there was something he wanted more. Something expensive. And it wasn’t another restaurant as he’d have gotten a business loan and gone through the proper channels. He had plenty of business contacts and a proven track record.
“Item thirteen,” the auctioneer announced.
Brody turned his attention to the woman and adjusted his position, wrapping his hand around the auction paddle. When she asked if she had $300,000 for an opening bid, Brody raised his paddle.
Francesca and Rafe both frowned at him, but neither entered the bidding.
Blake however quickly topped his bid by $25,000. Was he kidding? He was going to drive the price higher within the family.
Brody pulled his vibrating phone out of his pocket. Jade had texted him. “Let me handle this. Sit tight and back me if I top his bid by $10,000?”
The woman could read his mind. Brody texted her, “I got your back, Babe.”
A couple more people bid and then it seemed to stall. Without Brody in the game, Blake wasn’t playing.
Holding up her paddle, Jade upped the prior bid by $5,000.
Blake’s head jerked around. “I didn’t know you were a Remington fan?”
Smiling sweetly, Jade shrugged. “I’ve always admired his work. Exquisite.”
Would Blake buy her explanation? Someone else bid and Jade looked uncertain. Brody texted, “Another $1,000.”
Jade lifted her paddle and they all waited. Not Blake or anyone else raised the bid. “Where are you getting this kind of money?” she texted.
The auctioneer slowly surveyed the room. “Going once. Going twice. The Remington is sold to guest number twenty-eight.”