“Oh no. You’re not getting out of this.” Christian carefully placed the dispenser back on the mantle and clapped his hands, briskly rubbing them together. “I thought Vlad had destroyed my entire collection, right after Francesca left him. Thank you for returning it to me.”
Sebastian remembered the day well, though he chose to keep the memory locked away, but his damned brother had a way of making him remember all those things best left in the past.
All of twelve, Sebastian hadn’t shown a lick of emotion when Lady Francesca had tearfully kissed and hugged her sons good-bye. He hadn’t hugged her back, merely stood there in his Eton uniform and had told her to take an umbrella for the storm on its way.
Utter drivel he’d spouted. As for the events that had eventually followed…
“Jesus,” Christian said, pulling Sebastian out of his bitter memories. “Can’t you be human for once?” He slammed his fist on the mantle. Crystal fairies clinked together and Pez dispensers toppled over. “Stop pretending nothing bothers you.”
“I’m not pretending.” He couldn’t to let anything bother him. Hell, he’d been trained from birth to be the perfect, non-temperamental golden child.
“Fuck it.” Slashing his hand in the air, his brother’s jaw clenched. “Are congratulations in order for you and Daisy?”
“They will be.” Sebastian would fly to New York City tomorrow just for the hell of it. Just to make anyone who was tailing him think that he was shopping for jewelry. Only he didn’t need to shop for a ring. He’d already purchased it, before he’d left England, with Daisy in mind.
“I can’t believe you went through with it and talked her into your mad plan as well.” Christian shook his head. “God help Daisy Barnes, and God help you if you hurt her.”
“She’s an adult, fully aware of the lack of emotions I possess.” Gazing into the fireplace, he said, “It’s a business transaction, nothing more.”
“Good to know Vladimir Romanov’s legacy lives.”
“What makes you so bloody different? You married Zoe to improve your image,” he snapped, without thinking. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. His twin had fallen in love with Zoe and married her—in Vegas of all places.
Though they’d gotten off to a dreadful start, with Christian and Sebastian’s father’s interference in the marriage, his brother and Zoe had gotten through it.
And because his brother was so enamored with his wife, he was giving her a real wedding, with all the pomp and ceremony she could ever want.
Firelight and disgust highlighted Christian’s face. “I should kick your arse out, but—and it pains me greatly to say it—you are more than welcome to sleep in our guest room.”
It might have pained his brother to say it, but it shocked the hell out of Sebastian to hear it. “Thank you, and I apologize for my thoughtless words. It’s been a rather trying few months.”
His brother gave him a look, as if he had expected him to say something different, which in the past would have been the truth. Finally, he said, “I’m going to bed.” Christian strode out of the room and down a hallway.
Sebastian heard a door opening, and then laughter as the door closed.
Sinking back in the chair, he crossed one leg at the ankle and rubbed the back of his neck. He supposed he could have admitted that he had given his brother the candy dispenser, but then he’d have to explain how it wasn’t actually Christian’s, but his—the one that hadn’t been tossed out with the rubbish.
Both of them used to collect the silly dispensers, but Sebastian hadn’t been the one to anger their father enough to ransack a room and throw away everything he held dear.
In any other circumstances, twins should have found solace in one another, bulwarks against the madness of Vladimir and his schemes. Unfortunately for both of them, that hadn’t happened.
At least he had Romanov Industries. Or he used to have Romanov Industries.
The floor creaked and he glanced up.
His brother’s wife stood in front of him, with a small smile on her face. “Thank you for giving his owl whistle back. It’s the only one I hadn’t been able to find.”
Damn, his twin was a lucky bloke. “Something the two of you do for fun?”
“I know you care about your brother.”
Perceptive woman, but he wasn’t inclined to agree with her out in the open. “I’m here to make nice so I can be President of Romanov Industries.”
“So you say.” Zoe’s eyes were dark, darker than Daisy’s, but their hair color and build were nearly identical.
“How exactly are you related to Daisy Barnes? She said your dad’s her uncle.”
She blinked at his change in subject. “My dad and her mother are…were brother and sister. Aunt Kaye died of stomach cancer a few years back. I’m surprised you haven’t done a background check on her yet.”
Trust Christian to spill all Sebastian’s secrets to his wife, but he couldn’t really blame him. Pulling out his iPhone, he waved it at Zoe. “Waiting and ready to be read,” he said dismissively, and then slipped it back in his pocket. There was no reason for a background check on a woman he already knew everything about. Besides, he wanted to be left alone at his pity-party for one. “Riveting information, I’m sure.”
A thick sigh left Zoe. “Well, good night.”
“Night,” he said, but she didn’t leave. For God’s sake, what would he have to say to get her to leave him in peace? “Yes?”
“Would you have donated the money if Christian had said no?”
He already donated money to B.T.S., but no one knew and he intended for it to stay that way. “It’s worthwhile organization, despite being headed by him.”
“That’s not an answer.” Shaking her head, she sighed again. How in the hell did his brother put up with her sighs? “I hope it’s worth it, in the end, when you’re all alone.”
“Thank you for that very heart-warming platitude.” Rising to his feet, he nodded. “I’ll be off to bed.”
“Night,” she said as he left the room.
He grabbed his overnight bag and climbed the stairs. Opening the door to the guest room, he went inside and placed his bag on the dresser, then pulled out his phone and texted Liam.
Staying at Christian’s. Daisy has all but agreed.
Liam’s response was swift and to the point, something Sebastian had admired about his friend for years.