Home > Faking Forever (First Wives #4)(15)

Faking Forever (First Wives #4)(15)
Author: Catherine Bybee

Yet here he was.

He’d learned that Avery was in estate sales for the wealthy. And that she’d recently married.

Erasmo was an investment banker in Portugal and Dylan was a physical therapist.

Then there was Shannon . . . the wedding photographer who sat across from him but avoided eye contact. She seemed genuinely embarrassed when caught talking about him. He couldn’t blame her, he supposed. He might as well get used to it. He wouldn’t avoid the talk when he returned home.

“Why wedding photography?” Dylan asked Shannon.

“I’ve always wanted to be a photographer. Weddings just kinda happened in the past couple years. I had a studio before my marriage but couldn’t keep up with it.”

“Why not?” Erasmo asked.

“Shannon was married to a governor,” Avery explained.

Victor had somehow forgotten that since he’d first learned of her political husband. He had a strange desire to look up her ex and see if he could find any pictures of the two of them together.

“That had to be exciting,” Dylan said.

“Sometimes,” Shannon told them. “Most of the time it was full of fake smiles, fake friends, insincere accolades from strangers, and a whole lot of gossip.”

Dylan reached over and patted Shannon’s hand. “Good thing you didn’t have kids with him.”

Victor watched a smile come and go from her face.

“A very good thing,” she said.

“Do you have a boyfriend back home?”

Shannon looked at Victor briefly, then played with the straw in her drink. “No.”

“The men in California must be blind and stupid,” Dylan said with a wink.

“Hey,” Victor said, reacting to the direct insult on his location and gender.

Dylan waved him off. “You don’t count. You were engaged.”

That made him feel marginally better. He considered Shannon with a tilt of his head. “I bet you intimidate a lot of men.”

“Why do you say that?” she asked.

“You speak your mind. Have no trouble telling strangers they’re rude . . . and we know you’re sassy.”

She seemed to like his definition of her, if the smile on her face was any indication.

“Are we talking about the same woman?” Avery asked.

Victor’s eyes locked with Shannon’s.

“I did tell him he was rude.”

“And Justin said you called me an asshole before you knew who he was,” Victor told her.

Her cheeks started to flush.

“Who is Justin?”

“Victor’s brother,” Shannon told Avery.


“You’re the only one who has accused me of being full of sass,” she told him.

“I can vouch for that,” Avery added.

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Nope. Shannon’s the reserved one. Always watching but almost never speaking up unless asked.”

Victor moved his gaze to Avery. “Now I know we’re not talking about the same woman.”

“I’ve known her longer than you, buddy.”

He smirked. “She sat in my lap on the airplane.”

“I fell,” Shannon corrected him.

He met her stare, lifted an eyebrow. “You didn’t get up right away.”

“There was turbulence.”

“Then you blamed me.”

“I needed to get back to my seat, and you stretched out and fell asleep when I was using the restroom.”

Victor grinned. “See the sass?”

Shannon rolled her eyes.

Avery’s mouth hung open. “You did not just roll your eyes. Shannon never rolls her eyes.”

Dylan started to laugh. “Looks like you bring out the best in our new friend, Victor.”

Shannon seemed to bite her lips together to keep from speaking. But man, did he want to know what she was thinking.

“Looks like I do.”

Chapter Ten

“I just need a couple more hours.” Avery rolled back over when Shannon nudged her awake after eight the next morning. “I think I drank too much last night.”

“Can I get you anything?”

“No. I’ll meet you on the beach in a few. Jet lag and drinking. Bad combo.”

They hadn’t been out that late, closing the beach bar and grabbing a bite in the hotel restaurant.

“I’m within shouting distance if you need something.”

Avery lifted a hand and then tucked it under her cheek.

Five minutes later, Shannon left their room with a beach bag slung over her shoulder.

Instead of going straight for the sand, she detoured to the hotel restaurant, sat, and ordered coffee. She picked up her e-reader and clicked into a book written by and about a single mother by choice. There were a lot of things she’d considered before making her decision to have a baby . . . and many she had not. Hearing from women who had done it helped boost her confidence in her plan.

She sipped coffee and ordered a plate of granola, fruit, and yogurt and enjoyed the quiet before the restaurant and beach outside filled with people.

Deep in a chapter about the support system needed to be successful at raising a child as a single woman, Shannon nibbled on her breakfast, ignoring everything around her. Her thoughts wandered to her parents . . . people she had tried to please most of her life but ultimately felt she disappointed. They’d been ecstatic with her marriage to Paul. What affluent parents wouldn’t be? Little did they know it was all a calculated plan to obtain financial security for her future. It wasn’t that Shannon was afraid of work. She wasn’t. Her liberal arts degree was for her parents, her minor in digital photography was for her. Except photography didn’t pay well, and as a new graduate, she couldn’t afford her rent. And her parents refused to help her financially so long as she pursued a career in taking pictures. Shannon ended up opening a small studio and had been working with wannabe actors who needed headshots and budget weddings. But she wasn’t getting ahead, and her parents were already one daughter short since Angie had run off. Since Shannon was a people pleaser more than she cared to admit, she started to look for alternatives that would make her parents happy and give her the financial freedom she needed.

She’d met Samantha Harrison, owner of Alliance, the company that arranged her temporary marriage to Paul, at a holiday party at her father’s firm. Sam, as she liked to be called, clued in right away that Shannon was looking for stability while building her business. With her pedigree and poise, coming from a wealthy family, it was an easy match between her and Paul. Sam introduced her to Meg, one of her colleagues, and the facts of a temporary marriage were spelled out to her.

When Shannon realized she only had to pretend to be the man’s happy wife for two years and then leave with six million and a house worthy of the governor’s wife, Shannon signed the contract.

Falling in love with the man wasn’t part of the plan.

Spending three years after her divorce mourning the loss of her temporary marriage wasn’t expected either.

With her fertility clock ticking away and the desire to not put her heart out there only to be stomped on again, Shannon felt she was making the best logical step to making her future better.

Her parents no longer nagged her to get married, and while they didn’t openly support her work as a photographer, they didn’t continually put it down either. Her mother referred to it as a hobby. And since it didn’t truly support her, Shannon couldn’t disagree. Then again, she wasn’t attempting to fill every extra hour with work. There wasn’t a need. Which led to her desire to have a child. She had love to give, and who better than her own baby?

Like the woman who’d written the book she was reading, Shannon had enough money to support a baby on her own, and with her friendship pool filled with strong women with equally solid men, she knew she and her child would be fine.

Shannon flipped through the virtual pages of the book discussing the lesbian choice of conception and moved on to the single straight woman.

“It’s either a boring book or you’re a speed reader.”

The voice behind her made her jump.

She set the reader down, heart in chest. “Stop scaring me, Victor.”

He slid into a chair, signaled the waiter, and sat back with a smile. “Good morning.”

He still wore ridiculous pants, loafers, and what looked like a T-shirt from the hotel staff. “You’re up early,” he said.

“I can’t help it.”

He looked around. “Where’s Avery?”


“Ahh. She seemed very protective of you yesterday.”

“She is. Good friends are like that.” She looked at his shirt. “Did you bum the shirt off the waiter?”

“Concierge offered a lost luggage pack.”

She smiled. “Did you tell them the airline lost your suitcase?”

He leaned forward, lowered his voice. “That was my first thought, then I realized they’d be on the lookout for when the airline found it and sent it here. So I told them my runaway bride ran off with my luggage by mistake.”

“Sneaky, but resourceful.”

The waiter brought his coffee. “I’m meeting Dylan here before we shop. Although I’m sure I can manage on my own.”

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