master, she considered how many peopleâs happiness were in his guardianship!âHow much of pleasure or of pain it was in his power to bestow!âHow much of good or evil must be done by him!
â Pride and Prejudice The office of Wade Evans, CPA, occupied one corner of an unassuming building on Tillamookâs main street. Evans had suggested ten thirty when Emily called for an appointment, and she was right on time. She opened the outer door onto a reception room empty of receptionist. A bare, somewhat battered wooden desk took up one side of the room. Across from it, under the windows, stood a row of chairs that looked like refugees from a farm kitchen. The door to the inner office stood ajar. Emily clicked across the linoleum floor, but just as she raised her hand to knock, a deep voice called out, âCome on in!â She pushed the door open and found herself face-to-face with a white-haired man who, judging by the length of the jean-clad legs and the size of the cowboy boots slung up on his desk, must be well over six feet tall. He was leaning back in his wooden desk chair and aiming a balled-up sheet of paper at a point above her head. She dodged to the side and looked up to see a wire wastebasket suspended above the door. The paper ball found its target with inches to spare. He smiledânot at herâthen swung his legs off the desk and stepped around it to shake her hand. His spare frame must have had several inches on Luke, who was six foot two. Emily had to crane her neck to look at him. âWade Evans. You must be the niece.â âEmily Cavanaugh.â His grip would have done justice to a blacksmithâa comparison no doubt inspired by the dozens of photographs of horses that jockeyed for wall space with bookcases and framed certificates. Most of the photos included Evans himself. âTake a load off.â He gestured to the wooden armchair, twin of his own but without the wheels, which stood in front of the desk. So far Emily had not glimpsed a square inch of fabric or upholstery in the entire place. âSo what can I do you for?â She blinked at the colloquialism but decided that if he really meant to swindle her, he probably wouldnât advertise the fact. âIâd like to get a general idea of the state of Beatriceâs possessions. Well, mine now, or as soon as probate goes through. I have a list of the properties and their market value, but Iâd like more detailâwhat condition are they in, are they profitable, and so on.â Evans shot her a shrewd glance. âHow wellâd you know your aunt?â âWe were pretty close years ago. I hadnât seen her for a long time.â âWell, you should know Beatrice only dealt with the best. When she bought a place, she had it fixed up and kept up, and everything she owned brought top dollar. If a place couldnât pull its own weightâ¦â He slashed his forefinger across his throat and made a pffft sound through his teeth. âThat would certainly be my expectation. Windy Corner is in excellent shape. I just thought it possible that with so many properties and her getting older, things might have started to slip a little.â âNo way. She didnât do it all herself, mind. She used a property management firm here in Tillamook. Practically kept them in business single-handed. But she made sure they did their job right.â âI see.â Emily didnât know how to ask her most pressing question, which was why Aunt Beatrice had chosen to employ Evans, who was now leaning back in his chair again and trying to balance a pencil eraser-down on the tip of his finger. Neither he nor his surroundings exuded professional efficiency. But on the other hand, he did seem straightforwardânot the type to try siphoning Beatriceâs money into a cozy retreat in the Caymans. âI can give you a thumb drive with all Beatriceâs records if you want