RHIANN SAT IN FRONT of a sprawling cherry desk and watched the judge as he reviewed the documents in front of him. The silver-haired and mustached magistrate raked his gaze between two piles of paper: those from her hand and those obtained from the county assessor’s office. His hazel eyes darted from page to page. His face crinkled, and he drummed his index finger on the desk.
“Most of us in Colter and Jefferson County knew George. I don’t think anyone except the county clerk knew he was behind on his taxes,” the judge stated. “This surprises me.”
“Seemed to surprise a few other people, too,” she responded. She noticed the man studying her. “I had a visitor at the ranch earlier today.”
Surprised, she asked, “How did you know?”
“Good guess.” The judge once again reviewed the papers. “Everything looks legal.”
“Why wouldn’t it be? And why does Levi Butler think he has claim to the property?”
The judge sighed and readjusted his glasses. “George died suddenly, but I know he had a will, and I know he had a person in mind he’d leave his ranch to.”
“Obviously, that person wasn’t me,” said Rhiann.
“No. No, it certainly wasn’t.”
“Let me guess—Levi Butler.”
The judge sighed and nodded. “Levi expected to inherit the ranch; everyone in Colter expected it, too. He and George were quite close, so this is coming as a shock. To him, to everyone, I’d guess. Apparently, George kept the back taxes a secret.”
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