Hotter Than Ever (Out of Uniform)(4)By: Elle Kennedy
Shit. His mom was going to be crushed.
“I’ve been deluding myself for months,” Chris was saying, his voice lined with so much misery that Dylan felt a pang of sympathy for the guy. “I kept telling myself that I’d made the right decision by asking her to marry me. Claire’s smart, she’s successful, she’s beautiful. But she’s got a lot of flaws too, and…I thought…”
Dylan sank into the other armchair. “You thought what?”
“That she would change.” Chris shrugged helplessly. “I was hoping she’d eventually start acting like…I don’t know, like the woman I wanted her to be.”
“For fuck’s sake, Chris, you were waiting around hoping your fiancée’s entire personality would change?”
It also didn’t escape him that his brother hadn’t said a word about love. Not even once. But he decided not to point that out.
“I’m an idiot, okay?” Chris dragged a hand through his perfectly groomed blond hair. “Deep down I knew it wasn’t right, but I kept telling myself I had to go through with it. The invitations were already sent out, and Mom was so excited, and then Lowenstein booked us the Lavender Ballroom at the frickin’ Marin Hills Golf Club as a wedding gift—I couldn’t exactly tell the senior partner of my firm, hey, no thanks, the wedding is off.”
Chris’s breathing grew labored. He was visibly trembling now, and Dylan had never seen his brother’s face so pale before.
“I should have listened to Maxwell,” Chris muttered. “He told me she wasn’t a good enough prospect, he—”
“Wait a minute, what?”
“Pres Maxwell—he’s one of the associates at the firm. He and his wife are members here—they’re the ones who nominated Claire and me for membership—and last weekend we had lunch with them. I played a few rounds with Pres and the boys, and Claire spent some time with the other wives.” Chris’s lips tightened. “I don’t know what was said exactly, but Pres pulled me aside on Monday morning and said that Claire told the women some personal details about her past. And they weren’t respectable details, if you know what I mean.”
Dylan resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He sometimes forgot what a prude his brother was.
“Okay, so she talked to the country club ladies about sex. Are you telling me that’s why you’re breaking it off?”
His brother’s eyes flashed with annoyance. “I told you why I’m doing this, Dylan. That was just one example of how she’s not a good match for me.” Chris abruptly shot to his feet. “I can’t marry her. I can’t be with a woman who doesn’t respect me.”
“Who says she doesn’t?”
“There’s a lot more you don’t know,” Chris said darkly. “Unlike Claire, I’m not going to talk out of turn. Our personal shit and certain indiscretions aren’t anybody’s business but ours. Just trust me when I say that I need to end this.”
Dylan narrowed his eyes. “Are you saying she fucked around on you?”
“I’m not saying anything.” Now those green eyes were imploring him, shining with fear. “You’ve got to tell her the wedding is cancelled.”
“I’m not breaking up with your bride for you, damn it.”
“But you’re the best man,” Chris protested. “And you’re my brother.”
“As your best man, I’m in charge of holding on to the rings and standing next to you at the altar. As your brother, I’m responsible for supporting you and clapping politely when you kiss the bride. Neither of those roles requires me to call off your fucking wedding!”
“Please, Dyl. I can’t do it. I don’t want to hurt her.”
Dylan’s jaw fell open. “Dumping her five minutes before your wedding is going to hurt her. You realize that, right?”
“I know. But…goddammit! If that friend of hers was here, she could be the one to talk to Claire, but Dr. Dyke couldn’t be bothered to fly in, so—”
“Whoa,” Dylan interrupted, an edge to his voice. “Uncool, dude.”