Justin sat forward. “You said that constantly last night . . . sober, drunk. What if she did, Vic? No one put a gun to Corrie’s head and told her to flake. In the end, she did that all on her own.”
“Still . . .”
“Do you remember what you were saying seconds before you realized Corrie wasn’t walking down that aisle?”
His back teeth met and didn’t let go. “That was nerves.”
Justin fixed him with a look. “That was second thoughts. We both know it. So what if Shannon nudged Corrie to walk away? What if her best friends drug her away? It doesn’t matter. Her second thoughts stopped her. Why didn’t yours?”
“Nerves, not second thoughts.”
Justin shook his head. “I call bullshit. If Corrie was the end all, be all, you would have run after her and begged her to come back. But you didn’t do that. Did you?”
Victor swallowed. The thought had never occurred to him.
“You’re getting a do-over, Vic . . . a new start without going through all the crap that happens when you marry the wrong person for the wrong reasons and end up giving up half your shit for the effort. Trust me on this. Count your blessings.” Justin had married in his late twenties and was divorced by thirty-four. No kids, thankfully. His ex did take half.
Victor turned his gaze to the beach outside the open doors of the restaurant. Maybe his brother had a point. “I should just go back to work and forget all this happened.”
Justin blew out a frustrated breath. “Or maybe you should take the two weeks you were supposed to be on your honeymoon and figure out why your priorities are all messed up.”
He snapped his eyes to his brother. “My priorities are just fine, thank you.”
“The hell. You didn’t fly in with Corrie like you planned. Why?”
“I had a meeting.”
“Did anyone die at this meeting?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not being anything. You blew off your fiancée the day before your wedding for a meeting. I don’t care what was going on . . . a gazillion-dollar deal, a peace offering between the Israelis and the—”
“It was important.” Tensions in China were messing with his future.
Justin sat back. “I don’t get it. I just don’t. You’re so damn smart when it comes to finance and futures. You saw Dad working his ass off day and night at the shop, always struggling. When we were old enough to jump in and learn the trade, you were like, ‘Hell, no. There’s a way to make money on the scraps.’ But you’re so damn ignorant when it comes to personal relationships.”
Their father was a machinist. A master at twisting raw pieces of metal into something that ended up in airplanes flying at thirty thousand feet or rocketing into outer space. With every part he created, there were shavings all over the shop floor.
Shavings of valuable metal that needed to be recycled.
His father had a company come in to pick up the shavings for a price. Only Victor wanted the cut for himself. By the time he graduated from high school, he’d laughingly started Vic Corp. His father and several of his friends gave Vic their shavings . . . for a price, and Victor negotiated contracts with recycling companies to turn a significant profit. Where Justin joined his father at Brooks Incorporated, making parts and working long hours, Victor took a different direction.
He accepted his two-year associate’s degree in business from his local community college and went into business for himself full-time. Taking two more years out of his life to accomplish what he was already doing didn’t fit his schedule. Vic Corp started with him in his childhood bedroom, he moved to an apartment before he was old enough to drink a beer legally, and by the time he was thirty, he’d stretched his shavings into recycling boats full of garbage to countries that needed the resources.
He was greener than any Prius-driving tree hugger out there.
At least when it came to his business. He knew business. He understood the politics of the game. He negotiated contracts better than anyone on his team. So when there was a last-minute meeting that would mean an annual profit bottom line of five million, he delayed his flight by a few hours.
Victor didn’t see the problem.
Only now, his wedding called off and fiancée gone AWOL, he blinked out over the blinding sun just beyond the doors of the restaurant and questioned his own behavior.
“What the hell is wrong with me?” he asked more to himself than his brother.
“Is that a rhetorical question, or do you want me to answer it?”
Victor met his brother’s laughing eyes. “I don’t have the time to hear your laundry list of answers.”
Justin sighed. “Take a break, brother. Enjoy the beach. Maybe find some cute someone to erase Corrie. Or find a cute someone that makes you realize Corrie wasn’t the one.”
A cute someone.
Yeah . . . he could do that.
Shannon blinked her eyes open and found Justin standing over her.
“Someone is hitting the beach early,” he said, smiling.
“Might as well be me.” She scooted up on the lounger and pulled her cover-up across her lap. “How is everyone this morning?”
She’d been thinking about Victor, Corrie, and the whole mess from the minute the light penetrated her room.
“If by everyone you mean Victor, he’s fine. Annoyingly unhungover.”
“That’s too bad.” The man deserved to be cursing liquor all day after the binge the previous night.
Justin shook his head, laughed, and pulled up a seat in a chaise next to hers. “You have an unassuming sadistic side.”
“Says the man laying bets on how long his brother’s marriage would last.”
“Yes, but he’s my brother. It’s expected. You hardly know him.”
“I know his type.”
Justin sat back and stared out at the sea. “He’s really not that bad. Misguided right now, but not bad.”
Shannon wasn’t about to debate that with him. She changed the subject. “So when are you pulling out?”
“Tomorrow morning. What about you?”
“A friend of mine is flying in, and we’re staying for almost a week.”
“Here? Or are you going to Cancun?”
“Here . . . well, not this hotel, but one up the way a bit. I haven’t had a beach vacation in a while.” She glanced toward the ocean. “You can’t beat the view.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There could be more women walking around topless. That would beat it.”
Shannon rolled her eyes and leaned back. “Men.”
They were quiet for a few seconds.
“I owe you fifty bucks.”
Shannon waved him off. “Keep it.”
“No, no . . . I won’t welch on a bet. But tell me, did you say anything to Corrie?”
Shannon kept her eyes on two kids playing at the water’s edge. “If by anything you mean did I tell Corrie to leave, the answer is no.”
“So she did say something to you.”
Shannon paused, unsure of what she should reveal. “She was beside herself the night of the rehearsal dinner. Between the rain and Victor taking a later flight, Corrie didn’t see the silver lining. She was having second thoughts.”
Justin kicked his feet up and leaned back. “At least one of them was smart enough to call it off.”
She considered him from the corner of her eye. “Was Victor questioning his decision?”
“He called it nerves. I called bullshit.”
She settled her sunglasses more comfortably on the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. “Well, at least he can make his Tuesday meeting without skipping out on his honeymoon.”
“Every passenger in first class had the pleasure of hearing Victor tell someone that he’d be at his meeting on Tuesday. And no, before you ask . . . I didn’t tell Corrie about the meeting. Although I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when he explained his need to leave his honeymoon early. Betting the marriage wouldn’t last the week was a little like insider trading. Hence why you don’t need to pay up.”
“In that case . . .”
A few minutes later, after she thought the conversation had dried up, Justin’s sigh grabbed her attention. She looked over, found him staring at her.
“I’ve recently started seeing someone,” he told her.
Where had that come from? “That’s nice.”
“What I meant to say was, I’m seeing someone, but if I wasn’t, I would have asked you out. Learned what kind of idiot let you slip away.”
The weight of his stare met with a hint of her insecurity. “Well, thank you. I’m flattered. I’m in a strange place right now and probably would have said no.” Because starting a relationship while attempting to get pregnant might kill both deals.
She attempted a smile. “Sorry.”
“No, no . . . it’s okay.”
Shannon returned to the study of the underside of her eyelids.
When Justin remained quiet, she glanced his way. His eyes were closed, his frame stretched out. Team Victor won on the attractive scale, but the man needed a neurorectologist to remove his head from his butt . . . where Team Justin, while still attractive, skipped out on a certain something that she couldn’t put a finger to.
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