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Home > Shopping for a Billionaire's Fiancee (Shopping for a Billionaire #6)(11)

Shopping for a Billionaire's Fiancee (Shopping for a Billionaire #6)(11)
Author: Julia Kent

I bend down and open my arms.

He screeches, “I will not! I will not!” Carol comes rushing to my rescue as Tyler offers himself to Shannon for an embrace.

“Let me guess,” I say slowly, puzzling through the intricacies of Tyler’s language disorder. “He was really saying ‘I need a hug’ and he was saying it to Shannon.’”

“Good! You’re becoming increasingly fluent in Tylerish!” Carol chirps. She looks so much like a young Marie that I worry about Dad meeting her one day.

Which would be, most likely, at our wedding rehearsal dinner.

Wedding.

Proposal.

“He’s actually fluent in Russian. Remember?” Shannon winks at me.

“Chuckles smells like a pickled egg shoved inside a rotting gerbil,” I say in Russian.

Carol freezes and slowly looks at Shannon. Chuckles walks out of the room in a huff. He loves me. I know he’ll forgive me, but I’ll check my shoes before I slip them on when I’m here.

“You get the hot billionaire and he speaks Russian? All I got was a tattoo’d musician Internet Marketer wannabe with an entitlement complex who left me in credit card debt hell.”

Shannon shrugs.

“He has two brothers!” Marie calls out from the back room. “Isn’t that perfect? You have two sisters, Shannon, and Declan has two brothers.”

“If you and my dad married, Shannon and I would be stepsiblings,” I say.

Marie turns pale as Jason walks into the room. Do these parents ever spend time in their own homes?

“What’s this about Marie marrying your father?” Jason asks, the corner of his mouth twitching. At first, I think he’s trying not to smile, but then I see the clenched jaw. The tight fists. He’s angry.

“Declan was making a joke. It’s not funny,” Shannon says. I, on the contrary, think the look on Marie’s face is hilarious.

“Why are we babysitting when Marie and Jason are here to help out?”

“I have to go to work, and Marie’s scheduled for the mystery shop with Carol,” Jason explains. “Otherwise I’d invite you over to my place for a brew.” He’s wearing a paint-streaked t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops. At his house, he doesn’t even bother with the flip flops most of the time. Jason’s as casual as my father is formal. They’re a study in contrasts.

Marie looks at me with a pained expression in those bright blue eyes. “Declan? A word in private?”

My hands are in my pants pockets, fingers touching the phone I paid $700 to get out of that kid’s hands in the moment. I offered $300 but he countered with a grand. Negotiating with my naked front covered by a Strawberry Shortcake pillow from Shannon’s childhood left me in a woefully weak bargaining position.

“Private?” I say quietly to her. “Is there such a thing as privacy with you?”

The barb makes her flinch. Jason’s watching us carefully, and I see his shoulders tense. I’m treading on very unstable ground here, but I don’t give a shit.

Then again, I do. I should. With a pending proposal and a commitment to be a member of this family for the rest of my natural life, the part of me that defaults to sarcastic zingers might need to pull back. In the McCormick family, fluency in Sarcasmish is a requirement.

While Shannon’s family is full of one-liners and witty jokes, there’s no razor edge to the words. Feelings are easily hurt. People here actually have real emotional reactions to painful words.

There’s no wall like the one I was taught to build, brick by brick.

Sting by sting.

Marie nods toward a small bedroom to the right. It must be Carol’s, and I realize that in a year and a half of dating Shannon I’ve never been in this room before. The walls are covered with giant maps, beautiful, textured, nuanced maps of each continent. No country names—no words at all. Just a visual, the oceans made of a very pale seawater green, the continents a muted rainbow of varying shades of beige, green and brown.

I’m staring, and Marie’s watching me, a proud smile on her face. “Carol’s a mixed-media artist in her spare time.”

“She has two kids and a job and has spare time?” I ask. “According to Shannon, Carol doesn’t have time to shower most days.”

Marie laughs, but it’s a restrained sound. Marie isn’t a restrained person, so it’s telling. “Carol majored in art in college until her ex convinced her to drop out so she could make enough money to support them during his ‘career’ as an Internet Marketer.”

“Ah. Todd,” I say. It’s hard to keep the acid out of my voice. Jeffrey worshipped his father and begged Santa—me, in disguise—to bring his dad home for Christmas last year. Despite every call, text, and email outreach possible by Carol, no dice. The guy didn’t even bother to send a Christmas card to his own kids.

Loser.

“Carol was always my wild child,” Marie says with a loving sigh. “She’s had a hard life.”

Who hasn’t?

“What is this?” I ask, changing the subject, touching the odd pebbles that appear to be meticulously glued together to make the maps.

“Coffee.”

“Coffee?”

“Coffee beans,” Marie elaborates. “Carol buys green coffee beans in bulk. Roasts them different colors. Then she makes her art.”

Terry would have a field day with this. He’s the creative one in the family and while Dad hates it, he’s—

“I’m sorry about your ass,” Marie blurts out.

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