Notorious in the West(9)

By: Lisa Plumley

 For now, that was exactly the way Griffin liked it. He’d chosen this rusticated town with a drunken dart toss at a map of his acquisitions and holdings. From the looks of the place, he’d chosen correctly. No one would bother him here. No one would look at his face and laugh, the way she had.

 You thought I would actually marry you? Oh, Griffin...

 At least she’d called him Griffin, he reflected dourly as he shouldered his rucksack and adjusted his single valise. She could have called him much worse. She could have rejected his proposal with one of those detestable nicknames the press had bestowed on him—the ones they used in their scandalous stories.

 The Tycoon Terror. The Business Brute. The Boston Beast.

 He’d earned those nicknames, Griffin guessed. He’d earned them through years of scraping and fighting and doing his utmost to raise himself from his hardscrabble beginnings to his current position of success. His only mistake had been in believing that not everyone trusted what they read in the tabloids—in believing that she, most of all, wouldn’t swallow his legend whole.

 It was ironic, really, Griffin decided as he surveyed the sleepy, shuttered town below through gritty-feeling eyes. Part of his fortune was based in publishing—in printing stories about disreputable figures just like himself. He’d recognized early on that people loved mudslinging. They loved gawking at strangeness. They loved feeling people like him.

 To people like Hook Turner.

 With the publishing arm of his business interests, Griffin gave them that. He gave them supremacy and entertainment and a break from tedium. In return, the press had given him a notoriety that bothered him not a whit. Griffin liked being notorious. He liked being hard. He like being intimidating. He liked knowing that—even though he’d assembled a profitable empire in manufacturing, real estate, publishing and various entrepreneurial ventures—his competitors still saw him as an eye-blackening scrapper from the a man who’d give his all to win, because he didn’t have anything to lose.

 The punch of it was, Griffin had had something to lose. Finally, he’d had something to lose, and he’d lost it. He’d lost it when he’d arrived on Mary’s doorstep and proposed to her in her family’s humble parlor and seen his longtime dreams dashed.

 Oh, Griffin...

 The pity in her voice had gutted him. He’d thought he’d finally had enough—enough to impress Mary with, enough to make up for his shortcomings with, enough to prove himself with.

 Instead, he’d learned that he could never have enough. He’d gotten it through his thick Hook Turner head that he could never be enough, despite all he’d accomplished. So he’d drowned himself in whiskey. He’d thrown that fateful dart. He’d boarded a train westward with not much more than the clothes on his back, and he’d escaped from a life of hoping for more.

 From here on, all Griffin wanted was to be left alone.

 Alone to brood. Alone to forget. Alone to enjoy the luxuries he’d worked so hard to attain...and now had no one to share with. Not that he needed anyone to share them with, Griffin told himself. He did better alone. He always had.

 He crossed the platform with his boots ringing against the lonesome sound of wind whooshing through the pines, then stopped at the crest of the hill leading to the single road to town. Morrow Creek lay before him, forewarned of his arrival with a telegram but nothing else, ready to welcome him with open arms.

 At that sap-headed thought, Griffin gave a wry headshake. He’d never been welcomed by anyone except Mary and her family—and later, more grudgingly, his father—so he had no idea why such a sentimental notion would pop into his mind.

 If given the chance, he knew, the people of Morrow Creek would turn their backs on him. Assuredly, they’d first find the wherewithal to point and snigger, but they’d turn on him all the same. The trick was, Griffin understood now, to not care.

 Here, he’d be left alone. If he wasn’t, he swore as he strode toward town, he’d use his considerable leverage to change that. After all, he owned at least half the property that Morrow Creek’s citizens had built their saloons and shops and stables and houses on. Until now, Griffin had been a genial absentee landlord, but that could change overnight. His new neighbors would give him what he wanted. He intended to make sure of that.

 The Boston Beast had arrived. Soon everyone would know it—beginning with the staff of The Lorndorff Hotel, his first and last destination, where Griffin meant to make his home for the foreseeable future. If he had to, he’d take over the place.

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