Home > Faking Forever (First Wives #4)(9)

Faking Forever (First Wives #4)(9)
Author: Catherine Bybee

He took a few steps forward, anger surging through every muscle.

She retreated.

“What did you say to her?”

“This is not on me . . .”

“Okay, little brother, simmer down. You’re upset, but this is not the time to start blaming anyone.” Justin approached his brother and pulled him outside.

As they went out one door, the bridesmaids and groomsmen walked in another.

“This is bad.” Barbie, or maybe it was Bitsy, stated the obvious.

“Did she say anything to you girls?” Mrs. Harkin quizzed them.

They both looked at each other and shrugged. Which told Shannon that Corrie had said something.

“Well?” Mrs. Harkin yelled.

Both girls jumped.

“She was nervous. Said she needed a little time to breathe, so we walked next door.”

With all the clothes thrown around the room, Shannon couldn’t help but think the girl would be back once the wedding was called off. “Can you look around and tell us if Corrie’s stuff is still here? Her purse, passport?”

Her question prompted the girls to take inspection and open the room safe.

The looks on their faces spoke for them.

“Both her and Melia’s passports are gone.”

“Purses and phones, too.”

Scott Brooks patted his wife on the shoulder and followed his sons outside.

When Mrs. Brooks sat beside Mrs. Harkin to console her, Shannon ducked outside. She motioned for the girls to follow her.

Once away from the family, she played big sister.

“She didn’t say she was leaving,” the tall girl said immediately.

“It’s okay. I don’t care about that. Check in with Melia, make sure she’s with Corrie and that they’re safe. You don’t have to tell anyone where they are. Just let the family know everyone is okay. That’s all that matters.”

The girls huddled together and nodded in unison.

Standing beside his brother and telling the wedding guests that his bride had had second thoughts was the single most humiliating experience in Victor’s life, though the time in fifth grade when he was mandated to sing in a talent show wearing a green frog costume was a close second. Why that thought surfaced in his head while he was doing his best to make light of the situation, he didn’t know.

Justin stepped up and told everyone to stay and eat and drink. It was all paid for, and they wouldn’t want it to go to waste.

A couple dozen people left right away, and the others gathered in small groups and quietly ate and drank from the open bar.

Kurt and Arwin, Victor’s friends since high school, plied him with alcohol. He allowed them to hand him liquor, but he didn’t go out of his way to keep drinking it. Needing some control, Victor approached each and every guest and thanked them for coming. He shook hands with people he’d never met, friends of the Harkin family, and accepted condolences from the people he knew in the crowd.

He heard a chorus of: “Maybe she’ll change her mind.” “She’ll be back when she realizes what she lost.” “No worries. There are other women out there.”

Yeah, it was all placating crap. The kind of encouragement he’d offer if the shoe were on the other foot.

Only it was his toes stuck in the shit.

And it stank.

What the hell was he going to say to his staff when he returned home? He’d be sitting in the frog suit all over again. Everyone he’d told he was getting married would ask about the missus, and he’d have to relive this moment. He’d worked his whole life to avoid times like this.

A hand on his shoulder snapped him out of his thoughts. He turned, on autopilot, a grin in place.

His mother’s soft smile pulled him back to his reality.

“How are you holding up?”

“I’m good.”

Her eyes narrowed, concern on her brow. “You know you don’t have to stick around here. Your brother offered to take you out with your friends to get shitfaced, I think is how he put it.”

The closer the evening closed in, the more appealing that became. “I need to make sure everything is okay here.”

“No, you don’t. Your dad and I will see that everything is taken care of for you.”

“I can do it.”

She patted his arm. “You were always so independent. Never letting anyone do for you what you could do for yourself. Let us do this for you. This isn’t where you want to be tonight. Corrie’s parents are already gone, packing up.”

“I thought they were waiting for her to come back.” To drag her to the altar, not that Victor would accept that now.

His mom looked at her feet, avoiding his eyes.

“Mom?”

“She’s not coming back. Noel, is it? Her friend?”

Victor nodded.

“She let us know that she’s okay. And that she asked her friends to pack all her stuff and send it with her parents, or ship it home.”

Victor turned toward the ocean breeze and caught the last rays of sun on the horizon. What a coward, not even willing to face him. “You were right.”

“I was?”

“Yeah. You said she was too young.”

His mom stood in front of him and forced him to look at her.

On a deep sigh, she said, “I also told you she wasn’t the right woman for you, despite her age. But that doesn’t make today any easier.” She kissed his cheek. “Now, go with your brother. Let your dad and I handle this crowd.”

Victor watched as his mom approached his brother and pointed toward him. Next thing he knew, his brother and friends were pushing him down the beach to a hotel that didn’t house anyone who knew him, Corrie, or the whole sordid mess.

“Runaway bride. I kid you not.” Shannon sat on an abandoned lounge chair outside her hotel, away from the party atmosphere inside the restaurant and bar, and FaceTimed Avery.

“No way.”

“Yeah, I saw her less than an hour before the ceremony, in her dress. She bailed.”

“Dude, that’s rough.”

Shannon sighed. “Yeah, I hope she’s okay.”

Avery moved the phone closer. “Her? What about him?”

Shannon shook her head. “He’s a total tool. Didn’t deserve her. Completely full of himself.”

“What?”

“Yeah, he reminded me of Paul. Good-looking and knows it. Life is all about work and the next thing that needs to be conquered. Only she refused to be one of them. We could all take a lesson.”

“Still, what happens when someone flees on their wedding day?”

“I’m guessing they’re both getting drunk right about now.”

“Probably,” Avery said.

“Anyway . . . I can’t wait for you to get here.”

Avery grinned. “Meet anyone you might want to have a baby with?”

Shannon stretched out on the beach bed. “I haven’t even looked.”

“Not at all?”

“No,” she admitted. “I’ve been wrapped up in this wedding . . . or lack thereof. Besides, I told you I wanted to wait until we’re at the other hotel to look. People here will recognize me.”

“Right, right. When are you going to the new place?”

“The day after tomorrow, when you fly in. I’m planning to spend the whole time on the beach until you get here. Can you believe I’ve been here a full day and haven’t touched the water yet?” She turned the camera around in hopes she could capture the way the moon danced on the sea. “It’s remarkable here.”

“I’ll be there before you know it. I’ll call when I land.”

“Sounds good. Safe flight.”

Avery blew her a kiss and disconnected the call.

What a day. Very few that compared.

“Look who we have here!”

Shannon jumped, the voice behind her familiar.

“Good God. You scared me.”

Victor stood behind her, his shirt unbuttoned to midchest, pants rolled up and damp from barefoot walks on the water’s edge. The flower that once was upright on his lapel was now smashed against his shirt, with what looked like duct tape holding it on. The perfect picture of the wounded groom.

Turning away, she sat back on the lounge chair and watched the small waves push against the shore.

“Ms. Annoyed is scared,” he mocked her.

Yup. He was drunk. Shannon couldn’t blame him for that. “You should probably find your room and sleep that off.”

“Sassy.”

“Bossy,” she corrected. “And sober. So you might wanna listen. You wouldn’t want to stumble on the wrong beach into some kinda drug cartel situation.” She glanced over her shoulder. Saw him swaying as he stood. “Good Lord. Where is your brother? Isn’t he watching out for you?”

Victor shook his head. “I told him I was going to bed.”

She looked around. “Did you get lost on the way to your room?”

He glanced left, then right. “Misplaced.”

Another look around and she knew she wasn’t going to find any help. Pushing off her comfortable perch, she made a come-hither motion with her hand in an effort to direct him to his room.

Halfway there, he turned toward the noise of the bar. “I want another drink.”

“That’s a bad idea.”

“I think it’s a great idea.” His words exited his mouth in a slow, steady pace.

She remembered her morning and the need to phone a friend for a hangover cure and paused. The image of Victor spending his morning cussing the world probably wasn’t a horrible thing.

She smiled, started toward the bar. “I’m going on record that this is your idea.”

He grinned. “I’ll blame you in the morning.”

With that comment, she would see that he did.

They worked their way into the bar. It was late for the resort town, even on a Saturday. Seemed the town wanted to close up before midnight. So things were winding down but not completely empty at eleven thirty. Shannon slid onto a bar stool while Victor did the same with a little less grace. “My friend here would like a shot of mezcal,” she said for him.

   
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