Jules: Like I said, I can wait. And I’m positive. But seriously, Daisy, is there anything that can be done?
Daisy: Don’t worry. It will all work out for the best.
After typing out their goodbyes, she leaned back in her office chair. The smile evaporated from her face as she closed her eyes.
“What am I going to do?” she whispered.
“Consider hiring a butler,” Sebastian said as he stepped inside his twin’s home and followed Christian down the hall. “I had to wait an inordinate amount of time for you to answer the door.”
His brother stopped mid-stride and turned to face him. “Do you actually mean the things that come out of your mouth?”
He didn’t in fact, but a lifetime of habits was hard to break. A lifetime of being on the defensive and striking first lay like a minefield between Sebastian and his goal.
At the moment, his goal was to be reinstated as President so life could resume as normal, with work that defined who he was. Or so he reminded himself before he had boarded one of Romanov Industries jets last night. Again, during his brief stay in New York City while he drank alone and stared out at the skyline, wishing he had Daisy with him, sharing the view. And yet again on the limo ride over and then a fourth time before knocking on his brother’s front door and waiting.
Affecting a bored tone, he said, “Merely trying to help.”
“Next time, try starting out with, ‘Hullo, Christian.’ or ‘A’right mate?’ Things of that nature.” Christian moved to the living room and sat down. “You know, but for the occasional text, I haven’t heard from you since our father’s timely death. Thought you’d forgotten about me.”
Never. Despite Vladimir’s best effort to teach Sebastian that he ought not miss Christian, or to even think about his twin. Their father was truly the most evil man to have roamed the planet.
“Missed me, have you?” Sebastian asked, glancing around. The room was quite cozy and warm, with pictures of family members everywhere. Surprisingly enough, several included him, though they weren’t recent. In fact, they were of when he and Christian had been little, two or three years old at the most.
“Like a toothache,” his brother said in a cheerful tone that set Sebastian’s teeth on edge.
Sebastian wandered to the fireplace, picked up a pirate-themed PEZ dispenser, and examined it. How long would his brother go on collecting these? With a shake of his head, he replaced the candy dispenser.
“See anything you like?”
“Only if I were eight and female.” Oh, that was bleeding brilliant. Here to make nice and he not only complained about time frames, but insults his brother’s wife in the process.
Sebastian thrust his hands into his coat pockets and palmed the gift he’d brought for Christian in one of them. He really should apologize to his brother.
As he was about to do just that, Christian shot him two fingers. “Sod off, Sebastian.”
“Wit at its finest,” he snapped, falling into their normal routine of bickering. “You are bloody brilliant.”
Christian tapped his fingers on his thigh, a sign he was irritated as hell. “Why are you here?”
Sebastian smirked. Some things, like irritating one’s little brother, actually came naturally to him. “Wanted to make sure the in-laws hadn’t carted you off to the middle of nowhere and left you for dead…y’all.”
“You sound like a blithering idiot.”
“I was pretending to be you,” Sebastian murmured. Casually, he placed an arm on the mantle and leaned against it, letting the Pez dispenser slide off his palm and onto the mantle.
“English, successful, handsome, and adored by millions? Don’t kid yourself, because right now you’re batting one for four,” Christian shot back, sounding more American than ever. “I’ve read the London papers. The Board voted you out as President, because of—and I quote—your unpredictable behavior and unsettling financial schemes were making shareholders nervous. So you’re here to make nice with me, look like a bloke who wants to sort out things with his family, all the while hoping the Board votes you back in. Predictable.”
“Are you suggesting I be more like you? Perhaps a quickie Vegas wedding to make them forget my unpredictable behavior and unsettling financial schemes?” Sebastian mocked.
Sebastian rubbed his chin. “Have you anyone in mind? Liam suggested Kate, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Ever,” he said. “Maybe a relative of your wife’s is in desperate financial trouble.” Give me the excuse I need, he silently commanded, though I don’t deserve it.
“Holy shit!” His brother’s pale blue eyes widened. “You’re serious?”
“Quite.” He wouldn’t be here if he weren’t.
Before he could reply, his brother’s wife, Zoe, rushed into the room. Coins jingled on the hem of her skirt. “I’m ready to go.” Brows furrowing, she glanced from Christian to Sebastian, then back at Christian again. “Ah…”
“Can’t tell us apart, love?” Christian asked as he rose to his feet and crossed the room, pressing a kiss to her cheek. “I’m wounded.”
“Poor thing.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed him back.
Feeling a bit awkward standing there, Sebastian adjusted his cufflinks. Though truth be told, he was massively happy for his brother.
After being the black sheep of the family for as long as their father was alive, Christian deserved someone who loved him unconditionally. Something Sebastian had failed to do. Weren’t brothers supposed to support each other? He hadn’t a clue, because once their mother left, Vladimir did everything in his power to pit Christian and Sebastian against each other. Successfully.
It was, in Sebastian’s opinion, shameful.
Another woman walked in the room, dressed the opposite of his brother’s wife in a conservative dress with sensible heels.
“Oh my word, Christian, you didn’t tell us that your brother was visiting.” She smiled and held out her hand, palm dropping. “Leah Ambrose, mother of the bride.”
Staring at the woman, he raised his brows. “Charmed.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Leah let her hand fall and curtsied. “I’m Leah Ambrose, mother of the bride, Your Grace.”
“Stand up, Momma.” Zoe rushed forward and tugged on her mother’s arm. “He’s a ‘my lord’, not a ‘Your Grace’, and you don’t have to curtsy.”