A Legacy Is Born
by AC Arthur
Part of the Donovan Dynasty, Donovans Series
The Donovans: Sizzling. Suspenseful. Sophisticated.
For lovers of the award-winning Donovans and Donovan Dynasty Series, comes this glimpse into the beginning of a legacy built on faith, love and drama.
As Gertrude “Gran” Donovan celebrates her eighty-first birthday and a day later takes her last breath, her sons, Rowan and Charleston, must split their time between grieving and dealing with remnants of a deal they made with the devil.
Isaiah “Ike” Donovan and his wife are raising six sons they plan to usher into the family oil business one day. But two of their college-age sons have other ideas: Henry’s in love and Bernard’s chasing every woman who looks his way.
But no one pays attention to Bridgette “Birdie” Donovan. Not beyond giving the spoiled and entitled youngest daughter whatever she wants. Until what Birdie wants is what the Donovans fear the most.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a prequel to the Donovans and Donovan Dynasty Series. It is a short story that was previously published in the Donovans Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide. It is not necessary to read this before starting the Donovans or Donovan Dynasty series. However, this prequel SHOULD be read before reading SURI, the next book in the Donovan Dynasty series.
A Legacy Is Born
The D Ranch in Oldendridge
Gillespie County, Texas
Henry lay on the bottom bunk bed staring up at the picture he’d slipped through the metal slats that held the bed securely above. It was hot as Hades outside, somewhere close to a hundred degrees with that choking type of humidity.
He’d tried to be sociable especially since the whole Donovan clan had gathered at the ranch his great-grandparents had moved into when they first came to Texas. Elias and Gertrude Donovan probably had no idea their family would grow as big as it had. At this very moment there were about twenty-five people in or sitting around the large pool in the backyard. It was a great day for a swim—sweltering temperatures worked best for diving into chilly chlorine cured water. Even though Henry could swim, it wasn’t his favorite summertime hobby. In fact, outdoor events weren’t high on Henry’s list, not these days anyway.
“Man, what are you doing in here? You’re missing all the fun,” Gabe said as he came into the room.
There were two rooms for the boy grandkids and two for the girls, even though the boys outnumbered the girls. Henry and Gabe were in the older bunch so they, along with Bernard and Al claimed the biggest room. Gabe was Uncle Aaron and Aunt Sondra’s only child.
“Bernard just dunked Reggie in the water and Margo and the twins went bonkers! They jumped on Bernard and started whaling on him like psychos. Your dad and my dad jumped up and ran to the edge of the pool to stop the madness but somehow they both slipped and fell in. My mama started screaming. Aunt Kay just got up and carried some towels over to the pool. And all the while Gran’s sitting in her chair laughing and laughing so hard Aunt Ming Lee and Aunt Joanna got scared and rushed over to her thinking they might need to call an ambulance.” Gabe finished with a shake of his head.
He had sat on the bottom bunk of the other set of beds and was taking off his tennis shoes and socks, both of which were wet.
“Did you jump in to try and save somebody too?” Henry asked him, only slightly amused by the scene Gabe just described.
“Heck naw, I sure didn’t,” was Gabe’s immediate response. “Chucky and MJ dared me to go down to the creek and catch a fish with my bare hands.”
His cousin Chucky was Uncle Cephus’ only son and MJ was Chucky’s best friend whose parents didn’t give a crap about him so Aunt Joanna kept him with her most of the time. That all meant Chucky and MJ spent a lot of time here on the “D” Ranch because all of Uncle Charleston’s children were born here in Oldenridge and still lived here. Uncle Charleston and his wife Cora had left Beaumont, Texas so they could help take care of Gran and the ranch Elias Donovan had spent years building.
Henry’s grandparents were Charleston’s older brother, Rowan and Adeline who still lived in Beaumont where the brothers had started the Donovan Oilwell in 1946. All of Rowan’s children and their children still lived in Beaumont.
This year was the first time all of Elias and Gertrude’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were able to meet at the same time and in the same place. Unfortunately, the reunion came many years after Elias’s death. In two days they would be celebrating Gran’s eighty-first birthday.
Henry rolled over onto his side, propping his elbow up on the pillow. “You know him and MJ are better at that stuff than you are. They live out here in ranchville while we’re in the city all year long,” he told Gabe.
After tossing the wet shoes and socks into a corner, Gabe stood. He was tall and skinny, his mocha complexion, already a shade or two darker from being out in the sun so much in the last couple of days.
“Yeah, I know,” Gabe said with a nod. “But that doesn’t mean they’re better than us. I had to prove a point, you know what I mean?”
Henry nodded. “I know what you mean.”
“You plan on leaving this room anytime this week?” Gabe asked while he searched his bag for clean socks, Henry supposed.
“I’ve left this room plenty.”
Gabe smirked. “You’re a terrible liar. Bernard says you’re lovesick and delusional.”
Henry lay back on the bed to stare up at the ceiling. “Bernard’s a jackass.”
“Yeah, he can be,” Gabe added with a chuckle. “But Al agreed. They said you’re all crazy about this girl you met over spring break.”
She wasn’t just a girl, Henry thought. Beverly Pembrook was much more than that. For starters she was the older of two Pembrook daughters, born to Council Member Russel Pembrook and the former Miss Black Beaumont Beauty, Sara-Ann Pembrook. She could have easily been a beauty queen herself, he figured as he recalled her golden-hued skin and silky black hair. Her smile made him want to smile, but Henry remembered he wasn’t alone, so he refrained.
“They’re both jerks,” he said and jumped down from the bed. “And I’m sick of being out in that heat. It’s air-conditioned in here and quiet.”
Gabe, who was now wearing fresh white socks and another pair of tennis shoes that he’d just finished tying, stood straight and gave Henry a shrug. “Whatever you say, man. But they’re eating all the food while they’re out there and the moms are already declaring they won’t be cooking anything else until tomorrow’s breakfast. So if this girl you’re thinking about is more important than a growling stomach, feel free to stay in here. Me, I’m going to get some more to eat.”
In seconds Henry was alone once more and yeah, his mind did immediately drift back to Beverly. He wanted to call her but his parents would surely freak if they found out he was serious about a girl he’d just met a couple months ago. Especially his father, Isaiah, whose biggest concern was that all of his sons graduate from college and take their place in Donovan Oilwell. His mother, Dorethea, worried about them all falling in love and having a family, but like his father, wanted education and the family business to come first. Henry had two more years to go in college before he’d be free of his parents’ watchful eyes. That meant he had a good while to wonder if Beverly Pembrook was the one for him.
Dorethea “Dot” Donovan
“I don’t know how you do it, Dot. All those little hooligans running around every day. I’d lose my mind,” Birdie said as she crossed her slim legs and held a cigarette between equally thin fingers.
Bridgette “Birdie” Donovan was Ike’s baby sister. Ike was what they called her husband Isaiah, just like they called her Dot, instead of Dorethea. Nicknames and such came with families, just as differences of opinions did. Dot and Birdie had an entirely different way of thinking regarding just about everything. Still, Dot tried to be as cordial and patient as she could with her spoiled and self-centered sister-in-law.
“My children bring me great joy, Birdie. Ike and I always knew we wanted a big family and now we have one,” Dot continued as she washed the last of the dishes and reached for the towel so she could dry them.
It would’ve been too much like right to think Birdie would’ve gotten up off her highly privileged behind to help.
“Weren’t there enough big headed Donovan guys strutting around this family? You had to go and bring six more into the fold,” Birdie continued.
She wore a white dress with big red flowers that hugged her tall and slender frame like a glove. Her shoes were red, high heels and patent leather. Her earrings, bracelet and necklace all matched in what looked like red marbles turned into jewelry. Her hair was curled tight and glossed with more hair grease than Dot thought it was necessary to use. None of which was appropriate attire for a laid back summer evening on a Texas ranch. But that was Birdie, flashy to the point of being gaudy most times, mouthy on the verge of being rude and opinionated. The latter, Dot hated to admit, was a trait that came directly from the Donovan family members.
“Your parents had four children and Uncle Charleston had four. Gran said it was always her dream to have a big family,” Dot stated.
“So you and Ike thought you had to do your part by spitting out six kids. Hmph, nobody else had a goal that high. Then again, Ike always had to be the biggest and the best,” Birdie clucked.
Dot continued to dry and put away the dishes, refusing to turn around and look at Birdie. That would be giving her too much attention and that woman craved attention like a baby did a bottle. Dot also kept her mouth shut because her husband was the biggest of the second generation of Donovan men. At six feet three and a half inches, Ike weighed almost two hundred and eighty pounds and had a booming voice to go with his domineering stature. He accepted no nonsense on the job and spent a good amount of his time at the office. But when he came home to Dot and the boys, he was much calmer, even though her boys might beg to differ. Ike took raising his boys very seriously, just as his father had with him.
“All of them are a pain in the butt if you ask me. I guess Della and I were the only ones that had enough sense not to procreate. Hell, Abe couldn’t land himself a wife but you see that little girl he’s toting around saying she’s he’s daughter?”
Dot shook her head at Birdie’s question and moved across the kitchen to another set of cabinets. It was a nice set-up here, she thought as she moved. Aunt Cora had done an excellent job with the decorating. The old wood planks glistened like they were coated with honey.
“Margo is his daughter and he’s not toting her around. She’s fourteen and looks like she can walk just fine on her own,” she told Birdie.
“Fourteen and we’re just meeting her. Don’t you think that’s weird?”
“No,” Dot answered immediately. “Not weird. It’s life. Things happen and we can’t always control them. The point is they’ve found each other now.”
“But how does he know she’s really his kid? How do we know? And should we just let her into our family, our inheritance, because he says so?”
Of course Birdie was always thinking about the Donovan inheritance. As Donovan Oilwell had been an overwhelming success for Rowan and Charleston, they both made no secret out of sharing the legacy with their children—fortunately, for Birdie, this extended even to the children that, didn’t work for the company. Birdie didn’t work anywhere.
As for the issue of Abe’s daughter Margo, well, Dot wasn’t going to judge. How could she when Ike’s mother had kept his birth a secret from Rowan for the first three years of his life? If Adeline hadn’t decided to pack up her son and hitch-hike her way to this very cabin in search of Rowan, Ike might’ve never known his father or his true lineage. Luckily, Gran had seen the love in Adeline’s eyes and the look of her son in Ike’s smile. She knew immediately that Adeline was telling the truth and that Ike was Rowan’s son, so she’d told Adeline where to find Rowan and the rest was family history. More like a family secret since nobody knew that story except for Ike, Rowan, Adeline and Charleston. Elias had taken it to his grave with him years ago and Gran never spoke of it.
“You don’t need to know,” came the soft, but still edgy voice of the Donovan family matriarch, Gertrude “Gran” Donovan.
She was walking today, with the help of the cane Cephus had carved for her using branches from that old oak tree in the backyard—the one where Elias had carved his and Gran’s names when they first moved to the ranch. Her five foot four-inch frame was bent over now, her back looking painfully arched as a result of osteoporosis. She wore a lavender dress with tiny green flowers and her wide-brimmed straw hat. On her shoulder was her pocketbook—a black leather box design with tortoise shell handles—because Gran never went anywhere without her pocketbook.
“She ain’t your daughter, she’s his.” Gran continued talking as Dot moved further into the kitchen to pull out a chair at the table for Gran to sit.
Birdie stared down to the other end of the table at her grandmother. “It could be a ploy to get our money,” she continued.
After Gran sat she slammed her cane over the table until it landed only a couple inches away from where Birdie’s arm rested on the Formica top. “You ain’t got no money, chile!” Gran attempted to yell. “All you out here wearing and spending was made by somebody else. You stealing just like you blaming that chile for tryin’ to do.”
Dot wisely kept her mouth shut, even though she wanted to burst into laughter at the startled and embarrassed look on Birdie’s face.
“I’ll get your tea, Gran,” Dot said and moved away from the table.
This conversation was not going to end well, she knew that already and while she wanted to hear every word of the dressing down Birdie was about to get, Dot didn’t want to be too close to Gran’s wrath.
“My daddy takes good care of me,” Birdie chided.
“You ain’t no youngun no more,” was Gran’s retort. “It’s been past time for you to find a husband to take care of you or get out there and work to care for yourself. Your daddy’s time of taking care of you is long over.”
Birdie was not about to go out like that, even though she’d be hitting fifty in three more years. “Daddy says I’ll always be his baby.”
“Your daddy don’t know what to say to you. None of them know how to deal with their daughters. Rowan’s as in love with you as your brother is in love with his daughter. So you can’t blame him for giving her the world when you’ve been gettin’ the same treatment since Adeline pushed you out screaming and hollering. I swear I never heard a baby cry as much as you.”
Birdie huffed and Dot had to bite her lip to keep the laughter at bay. She dunked that tea bag into the steaming water and continued to wait because she knew Gran wasn’t finished.
“And you still cryin’ and complainin’. But I tell you what, this is my time, my celebration and I won’t have it!” This time Gran slammed her small hand on the table top. Her fingers were gnarled from years of working on this ranch alongside her husband, her skin still the flawless light complexion as shown in the old black and white pictures that lined the walls of the great room. Today her thin gray hair was pulled up beneath her hat, but usually it was curled tightly just the way Gran liked it.
“You’re gonna shut your trap and act like you love this family as much as you love its money or I’m gonna whip you, just like I did when you was a youngun, you hear me?”
Dot had made her way back to the table by then because she had to see Birdie’s expression up close and personal.
Birdie turned up her glossy red painted lips. The color was too stark for Birdie’s copper complexion, but nobody bothered to tell her that.
“I said do you hear me?” Gran continued as she nodded a thanks to Dot for the tea.
“Yes ma’am,” Birdie replied in a voice that took Dot back to the first time she’d met her sister-in-law more than twenty years ago.
“Ain’t got time for no foolishness,” Gran muttered. “Time’s a wastin and y’all ain’t got sense to see that. This family’s got lots to learn and more to do. I told Elias when I looked down at him in that coffin that I’d see it through and I never lied to my husband. Not since that first day he offered me a cup of lemonade at the church social. I was fourteen you know.”
She lifted the teacup by its dainty handle and sipped it slowly. “Fourteen years old when I met the love of my life. Oh, I remember it like it was yesterday. How I loved that man.”
Gran’s story ended abruptly with another sip of tea. That’s when she sat back in the chair and stared out the windows to the backyard. Dot knew she was looking at her family and remembering the past. She was remembering the good times and while Dot loved to hear Gran tell stories about how she fell in love with Elias Donovan and started this great family, she knew it was better to let her sit with the memories. Because Gran was right, time was wasting.