Sebastian leaned forward in his chair. “Just the fact you’re worried means you’ll be a better father than the one we had. Just the fact you’re faithful to your wife and put her above everything means you’ve already given the finger to Vladimir’s legacy.”
“You’re so full of shit,” Christian said, letting his hands fall from his face.
“Forgive me for making an effort to reassure my brother,” Sebastian snapped.
“Reassure me? More like lie to me.” Christian’s jaw worked. “You think you’re just like him.”
“As you have reminded me often over the years, so do you,” Sebastian said, his hands automatically fisting. “Can we ever have a civil conversation?”
“Sure we can—as soon as you’re willing to be honest.” The color had returned to his twin’s cheeks and for that, Sebastian was thankful. He hated to see Christian in pain—emotional or physical.
Sebastian flicked his hands out. “Fine.”
“Give me your word that no matter what, you’ll be completely truthful.”
Jaw flexing, Sebastian bit out, “You have my word.”
“Excellent.” Christian grinned, and then his face turned serious. “Did you really only set out to repair our relationship in order to become President again?”
Sebastian exhaled. “I’ve wanted to fix things between us for years now, but my pride wouldn’t allow it. The whole improve-your-image scheme was the excuse I needed.”
“Damn your pride,” Christian said with a shake of his head. “And damn mine as well. Final question.”
“Best not to overwhelm you.”
A sort of odd tension left Sebastian’s heart, replaced by the burgeoning relationship with his brother. “Go on then.”
“It’s a two-part question.” Christian flashed a smile. “The first part—do you love Daisy Barnes?”
Sebastian stared at him. Love, not loved. Or even were you in love.
“Remember: The Truth will set you free,” Christian added.
“Yes, I love Daisy,” he admitted.
“Good job,” Christian said softly. “The second part—why in the hell did you send her away?”
Glancing down at his hands, Sebastian sorted through his lists of reasons why he’d sent her away from him, then, “Because I thought Francesca was right about me. I thought Daisy deserved better than some bloke who couldn’t put her before everything else in his life. Not even when it counted.”
“You listened to our egg donor?” Christian snapped and Sebastian jerked up his head. “She’s a self-righteous witch who’s been playing the poor-pitiful-me act for years. Once a month Zoe gets a phone call from the woman and talks to her for hours, because I refuse to give Francesca the time of day. She made her decision, Sebastian.”
“She was a woman who suffered through an abusive marriage.”
“And that gives her the right to be abusive to you how?”
Sebastian shook his head, trying to make his twin understand. “It doesn’t but she loves you, though. Maybe you should see her. She wants to have a relationship with you.”
“Whatever. She’s low on cash, since Vladimir died and left her out of his will. The duke refuses to give her anymore than her weekly stipend, despite her claims that he cut her off years ago.” Christian stretched out his legs. “Besides, any relationship that comes with strings attached, isn’t the kind I’m interested in having. I’ve got all the family I need.” He tilted his head to one side and bit his lip. “Well, my family will grow a bit in about six months, but you know what I mean.”
Now wasn’t the time to tell his brother that he wouldn’t be far behind in expanding his own. Instead, Sebastian cleared his throat. “Am I a part of that family?”
“What do you think?”
“I wouldn’t have asked, you bloody git, if I knew,” Sebastian grumbled.
His brother stood, holding out his arms. “Come give us a hug.”
“I’m not the hugging type.” But he stood anyway and kind of lurched toward his brother.
“Luckily for you I am.” Then Christian grabbed him and nearly squeezed his internal organs out of his body. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you as well,” Sebastian said softly, his voice breaking over the last word.
Christian stepped back, releasing him from his hold. “Now, about Daisy. You will be at the wedding, yes? It’s actually next weekend. Will that be a problem?”
Sebastian straightened his tie, adjusted his cuff links, and smoothed his jacket before answering. He needed every extra second he could get to compose himself, before he blurted everything to his brother. “Of course it’s not a problem. I’ve best man duties, but I’m not sure if Daisy can forgive me.”
“But you do plan on trying?”
“I thought question and answer time were over?”
“Yes, I bloody plan on trying and winning.” Sebastian flashed an easy grin, though on the inside he wasn’t quite so confident. “I’m a Romanov, for God’s sake.”
Christian held thumb and forefinger out, almost pressing them together. “Just a little.” He clapped Sebastian on the back. “No worries though. I shall assist you in wooing your lady back into your arms.”
Sebastian made a face. “Think I’ll pass.”
“But we’re brothers.”
“Suit yourself.” His twin shrugged. “See you on Thursday? You’re welcome to stay with us. Although, I think my mother-in-law is making Zoe move out until after the ceremony, for good luck or something that goes along with weddings.”
“I’ll be there.”
“Brilliant.” Christian strode to the door, calling out over his shoulder, “Cheers.”
“Hang on a minute,” Sebastian said and Christian paused. “Zoe isn’t pregnant, is she? This was some big scheme of yours to…to…” He didn’t know what exactly, but his brother was an actor—a brilliant one at that—and had gone from scared shitless to overconfident arse in a matter of minutes.