“That would be really hard.”

“It would be,” Nic agreed, popping a piece of the buttery bread into her mouth. “But getting out there and doing the job sounds more enticing than grad school.”

“No doubt.” Lucian rocked back on his chair as he toyed with a strand of Julia’s hair. “Did you know that Gabe isn’t the only one good with his hands when it comes to woodwork?”

Julia looked over at Nic. “You?”

“Um.” She took a rather long sip of her wine. “I used to be able to create like these stupid little charm bracelets and figurines—”

“They weren’t stupid.” Gabe straightened in his chair, frowning. “Nic has a talent.”

“I wouldn’t call it a talent,” Nic began.

“I’m not going to sit here while you’re being all modest and shit. The little pieces of jewelry she used to make were amazing.” Gabe was speaking the truth. “So were the figurines. You’re still doing that, right?”

She avoided his gaze. “With school and everything, I didn’t have a lot of time to mess around with that stuff.” She lifted a shoulder. “It’s not something I really do anymore.”

“Really?” Surprise flickered through him. “I thought you wanted to open up a little shop and sell your work. It was all you talked about—”

“People change. I’m just not into the same things I was when I was a kid.”

A kid? She’d been into it right up until that night, and she sure as fuck hadn’t been a kid that night.

Nic turned to Julia. “How did you and Lucian meet? You’re from Pennsylvania, right?”

His eyes narrowed as Nic changed the subject. She obviously didn’t like the focus being on her, which was new. The younger Nic loved to be the center of attention—the center of his attention.

Julia glanced at Lucian. “Well, I was . . .”

“She was hired to care for Madeline,” Lucian finished for her since it was obvious Julia didn’t know how much she could share. “Did you know she returned?”

Since she was chewing on a piece of bread, Nic only nodded at first. “I was told that she had returned, but nothing beyond that. How . . . is she doing?”

Gabe raised a brow, letting Lucian take the lead on this since anything he had to say about Madeline would most likely upset his younger brother. Lucian now knew just how messed up Madeline had been, but she was still his twin. That biological connection was hard to get over.

“Not well,” Lucian said after a moment. “She’s dead.”

“What?” Nic gasped, and he’d swear a tiny piece of garlic bread fell out her mouth. Her wide gaze swung to his before darting back to Lucian. “Oh my God, I’m sorry.”

“Thank you, but don’t feel sorry. Not for Maddie.” Lucian sat back with a sigh. “How much do you know about what’s been happening here?”

Nic had lost the pretty flush in her cheeks. “I knew that Madeline had come back and something happened with Daniel? He threatened you and Julia?”

“That’s the watered-down version, but Madeline did show up. Found her one night floating in the pool outside,” Lucian explained. “She was virtually comatose and we had to hire someone.”

“Which was me.” Julia’s arm moved under the table, and Gabe knew she was comforting Lucian. Most likely placing a hand on the tapping leg of his. “We believed she was in some sort of locked-in state of consciousness, but that wasn’t the case.”

“Remember the night our mother died?” Lucian asked.

Nic nodded. “How could I forget? I was young, but that kind of stuff sticks with you.”

Gabe remembered Nic crying when she heard the news, not because she really knew their mother, but because she was so upset for them—the brothers.

“Turned out Mom didn’t kill herself. She and Maddie had been up on the rooftop arguing.” His brother’s voice sounded detached, but Gabe knew better. That whole mess still cut him deep. “Fighting over our cousin Daniel. Maddie had been with him, and yeah, as in having relations with him.”

“Oh my,” whispered Nic.

“The argument escalated and—” Lucian drew in a deep breath—“Maddie pushed her off the roof.”

Nic jolted. “Oh my God.”

“It gets worse.” Gabe reached for the water, wishing it was liquor. “She’d spent the last ten years hiding out with Daniel. They ran out of money, concocted some wild-ass plan for getting ahold of the de Vincent fortune.”

“Almost worked,” Lucian said quietly. “She had me fooled, right up until the night Daniel threatened Julia.”

Surprised that Lucian was opening up, he sat back and said nothing, glad that his brother was talking about it.

“I . . . I don’t know what to say.” Nic reached for her wine again, then stopped herself. “How did she even think that she could get the money?”

Julia sipped her wine while Lucian seemed to choose his words wisely. “Her plan was ridiculous, but well, you know it’s never been a secret that Maddie and I weren’t the offspring of dear old dad.”

If Nic hadn’t heard that rumor, she didn’t show it.

“Come to find out, Maddie knew the truth about who father’s true heirs were.” Lucian smiled but there was no humor to it. “Maddie and I were Lawrence’s children. Dev and Gabe were not.”

Nic’s lips parted as her gaze darted to Gabe. Her face had paled considerably, so much so that he was a bit concerned. “I . . . I really have no idea what to say.”

“It is what it is.” Lucian picked up his fork, lazily dragging it through what was left of his spaghetti. “Not much has changed. Dev is still the heir. Gabe is still the spare.”

Gabe raised his hand.

“And I’m still Lucian and I don’t have to worry about business meetings or deal with Senator Dickhead. And honest? Maddie was a true sociopath, but in a way, I’m thankful.” Lucian looked at Julia. “If she hadn’t come back, I would’ve never met Julia.”

“That’s . . . sweet,” Nic murmured, blinking rapidly.

Gabe grinned as her gaze connected with his. “It’s a lot to process. Besides your parents and our doctor, no one outside of the family knew that Madeline was back.”

“It has to stay that way.” Nic picked up her wine glass and finished it off. “I understand.”

“Well, that was a bit of a conversation killer, wasn’t it?” Julia laughed nervously. “I think we need to stop telling the truth.”

“We did meet at a bar first.” Lucian grinned at her. “We should just go with that version.”

“Yeah, I think you should most definitely go with that version,” Nic said, eyes widening. “It’s a lot less intense.”

Julia kissed Lucian’s cheek and then turned to Gabe. “Are you heading up to Baton Rouge this week?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“What do you have going on in Baton Rouge?” Nic asked.

The question was innocent enough. Gabe knew damn well neither Livie nor Richard would’ve said a single thing about his now-frequent trips.

“A few personal things,” he said.

“Oh.” Disappointment flashed across her face, and he felt like an ass. He could’ve come up with a better answer, but that was just something he wasn’t ready to talk to her about.

Or talk to her at all about it.

Lucian came to the rescue. Sort of. “So, are you seeing anyone, Nikki?”

Gabe’s hand stilled along the arm of the chair. This was an interesting question.

Nic’s brows flew up. “Um, no. No. Single.” Her nose scrunched. “Well, I was seeing this guy in college.”

“And that didn’t last?” Gabe asked before he could stop himself.

Her gaze darted to him. “We broke up a bit ago.”

“Interesting,” he murmured.

She started to frown.

Lucian stared at him.

And then he realized that his response was a bit odd. “It’s interesting because . . . most college relationships don’t work out.”

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