His sister-in-law was correct, of course. Earl’s were never addressed as Your Grace. Sebastian wished he were never addressed that way at all, and not because the newness of being an earl hadn’t worn off. The whole damn title was tainted, because of his father’s unstoppable greed.
“Thought it was a lovely ‘Welcome to America’ gesture,” Sebastian said, shifting his weight to one side. “Better than the one I received earlier.”
Christian made a face.
“Did you say mother of the bride?” Sebastian asked, fully realizing what Leah had said.
Leah moved to Christian, patting his shoulder and flashing a proud smile. “My son-in-law is giving my daughter the wedding she deserves. Finally.”
“Momma,” Zoe said with an edge to her voice.
“All I’m saying—”
“Stop saying anything.”
“Is that the way to talk to your mother in front of royalty?”
Zoe groaned, covering her eyes with a hand and peering through the slits between her fingers. “He’s not royalty.”
It had to be a trick of the light, because his brother practically had help me written all over his face and his eyes were pleading for Sebastian to do the rescuing.
“I assume my lack of invitation was an oversight.” Sebastian plucked an imaginary bit of lint off his coat sleeve as the two women quit arguing.
“Well, you know what they say about assumptions,” Christian said.
Sebastian’s heart sank a little, not that he should really care about a stupid piece of stationary, but he did. Enormously. “I see.”
His mother-in-law gasped. “You are certainly invited to their wedding,” she cried, placing a dramatic hand on her chest.
At least Zoe’s mother seemed to be on his side. “I don’t need an invitation, Mrs. Ambrose.”
“Call me Leah.”
“Leah, I’d consider it an honor to assist in any capacity.” He sliced his gaze at Christian, whose help-me face had given way to what-the-hell-are-you-about face. “But I’d like to propose something along the lines of best man.”
“You can shove your proposition up your arse,” Christian growled. “Sit in the audience, on my side, if you like, but I’ll be damned if you make a mockery of—”
“I’ll donate five million pounds to your Back to School organization. Surely there are loads of unfortunates around the world that could use B.T.S’s services.”
“You can’t buy your way into being the best man,” Zoe said, her disdain apparent.
“The hell he can’t.” Christian strode to him and thrust out his hand. “Welcome aboard, best man.” A mischievous gleam entered his brother’s eyes as they shook hands. “As such, it’s your job to take care of the things I don’t have the inclination to endure, like the menu for the reception.”
“Seriously, Christian?” Zoe crossed her arms. “That’s so not funny.”
“You were my favorite son-in-law,” Leah said, adopting the same pose.
“I’m your only one.”
“For God’s sake, hire a French chef and be done with it.” There. That should help.
Two pairs of eyes glared at Sebastian, one green and the other blue. “I’m not firing Daisy Barnes,” his sister-in-law said.
“Daisy the baker, owns The Sweet Spot?” he asked, the words slipping out before he could stop them. The trio blinked at him. “Makes dreadful cupcakes.” When lightening didn’t strike him for that very awful lie, he relaxed a little.
“Actually, it’s Daisy the caterer.” A speculative look entered his brother’s eyes. “When did you sample her cupcakes?”
Sebastian’s memories of his only two face-to-face meetings with Daisy washed over him, drowning him in her taste and scent. He cleared his throat. “Last year, at Christmas time. Anything else?”
Christian grunted, completely and transparently unconvinced.
“I agree with my daughter, especially with the latest round of insurance bills that girl has to pay.” Leah patted her hair and smoothed out her wrinkle-free dress. “Bless her heart—I don’t know how she’ll manage to keep the business Kaye started. Stubborn little thing won’t take any money to help.”
“Anyway, the two of you,” Zoe pointed to him and Christian, “can discuss other things while we’re gone. We’re supposed to be at her place in fifteen minutes.”
A plan unfolded in his mind. Maybe he could help out Daisy with her insurance bills and she could help him out in return by posing as his fiancée while he worked out how best to tell her who he was. “Actually, I’ll take care of it.”
Christian stopped him in the hallway, while the women were chatting about bridesmaids’ dresses. “What’s in that head of yours?”
“What do you think?”
His brother’s jaw clenched. “Daisy’s family. You can’t just go in there and proposition her. She won’t take your offer anyway. Zoe and I tried to give her money, but she wouldn’t take it. Daisy actually thinks she’ll find a way out.”
That’s because Daisy had pride and determination. Only Jules knew her weaknesses. Only Jules knew she was actually worried. He could read through her texts and emails.
Sebastian adjusted his cufflinks, bowing his head a little so his brother couldn’t read his face and discover all his secrets. Christian had a knack for that. “She’s not my family. As for the other—I can and I shall.” Then he brushed past his brother, headed out the door, and got into the waiting limo.
Nothing could have prepared Daisy for the sight of him walking into her office. She blinked a couple of time to make sure she wasn’t seeing things, or wishing that it were him and not his brother.
“Sebastian?” Her heart thankfully waited until after she said his name to leap in her throat. He was here! He was back!
His chin ticked up as he drawled, “I’m here to sample the menu in lieu of the bride and groom, and make sure it’s up to their standards.”
He was a jerk! Her heart tumbled back to her chest, and then further to her toes. “Don’t get too excited,” she said with a little twist to her lips.
Pale blue eyes narrowed. “There’s nothing exciting about food.”
“Obviously, you’ve been eating the wrong food.”
“Doubtful.” He unbuttoned his coat slowly, one dark button at a time. The very non-sexual act made her hot all over. Wearing a dark grey three-piece suit with a black shirt and tie underneath, there wasn’t a strand of short blond hair out of place. “Take care of this, will you?”