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Home > Shopping for a Billionaire's Fiancee (Shopping for a Billionaire #6)(12)

Shopping for a Billionaire's Fiancee (Shopping for a Billionaire #6)(12)
Author: Julia Kent

Here we go.

“My ass is fine. It’s my pride that’s hurt. More than that, though, it’s Shannon. That was one hell of an invasion, Marie, and I can’t have you doing that anymore.”

Marie hangs her head in the closest thing to shame she’s capable of feeling. Her hair doesn’t move with her at all. The woman must use the equivalent of a can of SuperGlue to keep it in place.

“I know. We just have a pretty free kind of family—”

“You have no boundaries. Shannon does.”

Marie’s face flashes with anger as she looks at me. “I’ve apologized for barging in on you having sex while a camera crew filmed me. I’ve tried to make amends. You’re a hard man, Declan.”

I smile without showing teeth. “I take that as a compliment.”

She shakes her head slowly. Sadly. “You need to learn how to forgive and move on.”

It dawns on me that her sadness isn’t about her rudeness in barging in on us, but is directed toward me. As if I’m the sad one. Being the object of her pity isn’t high on my list of goals.

“I don’t need to do anything, Marie. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

She pales. “You don’t...I don’t...” Her frown deepens and oh, no—are those tears?

I see where Shannon gets it.

“Declan,” she says with a tiny sob in her voice. “Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone.”

My perfectly reasonable, one hundred percent unassailable, totally understandable and perfectly justified righteous indignation is being threatened by the salt water in her eyes.

This is unfair.

“And in our family, when someone makes a mistake, they go to the person they hurt and they apologize. Sincerely and truly. And then, because we love each other, the person accepts. They forgive. They move on.”

Now there’s a fairy tale, right? Because who does that in real life?

She’s watching me carefully, without guile.

Oh, shit.

She’s serious. She really believes that this is how people work. Maybe in schlocky sitcoms. But I’ve been alive long enough to know that forgiveness is just a catch phrase that people with character disorders use against the weak.

At least, that’s what Dad always says.

“You want me to forgive you,” I say, clarifying.

“I won’t demand it, but it would be nice. You have a way of behaving that feels like the knife is being twisted a bit,” she answers.

“Maybe I’m not ready to forgive.” The words are out before I realize they’re all wrong. I’m conceding, aren’t I? Just mentioning the idea that I would forgive if I were ready shows a willingness to negotiate, and everyone knows the first rule of negotiations is never, ever to speak first.

(The second rule is not to do it naked after your mother-in-law’s barged in on you having sex).

She beams a smile of happiness that makes me feel like Tony Robbins is going to chew me out the next time I see him at a conference.

Marie just won.

Flinging her arms around me in an embrace I don’t reciprocate, she squeezes me twice, gives me a kiss on the cheek, and flees out the front door with a purse slung over her shoulder.

What the hell just happened?

How did I go from being aggrieved party to the one who was chided for not forgiving?

The look on my face must betray what’s going on inside, because Jason comes over to me and slings an arm around my shoulder.

“You’ve just been Marie’d.”

“What?”

“Marie’d. She got you. Welcome to the family.”

As that sinks in, I realize I haven’t even proposed yet and I’m being manipulated by people I’m not legally obligated to interact with.

The kids run into the kitchen past me and Jason.

“You want a cheese stick,” Tyler declares, opening the refrigerator door.

“We’re going out for ice cream, honey,” Shannon explains. “You want some?”

“Tyler wants ice cream!” Tyler says. Tyler’s like the Bob Dole of little kids, always talking about himself in third person. It’s amusing. Very gradually, he’s replacing his name with ‘I’, and as he begins to talk normally Carol’s thrilled. I think it’s pretty cool that he has a mind that works differently. Those are the people you really want to hang out with.

Tyler will develop something big some day, the future equivalent of the Internet, or the cell phone, or he’ll head Anonymous. I want to stay on Tyler’s good side.

“Say, ‘I want some ice cream, please,’” Carol says in a patient tone.

“I want some ice cream, please,” Tyler repeats perfectly. He’s nearly seven now, and while he’s still way behind kids his age, he’s really come a long way. Marie, Jason and Carol have acted as a unit, receiving training and support from speech therapists and teachers at Tyler’s school, and it shows. I admire that. The big, happy family really kicks in with the Jacobys when one of them needs help.

Maybe there’s something to this forgiveness bullshit.

Shannon offers a palm to Tyler. “High five!”

Tyler turns to me, ignoring her, and gives me a closed fist. “High zero!” he declares.

We fist bump.

That’s the closest he comes to saying When are you going to be my uncle?

Soon, kid. Soon.

I hope.

“Ice cream, huh?” I murmur in Shannon’s ear, giving her a kiss on the earlobe. “You’re my favorite flavor.”

She smiles and blushes, entwining her fingers in mine as we hold hands and herd the two excited boys outside for the walk down the street to their favorite ice cream stand. Carol’s already pulling out of the driveway with Marie. I can see Jason climbing in his car and he waves, a friendly smile plastered across his face.

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