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

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

“Okay, Victor. Let’s get a few shots with your brother.”

She posed them next to a crooked palm tree that stretched horizontally nearly as much as it did vertically. The second she had them in the right frame, Victor turned to her and smiled.

She waved him off. “No, no . . . I want you to talk to each other.”

Victor looked confused.

“Natural. I want to capture something real between the two of you.”

Justin looked at his brother and laughed softly.

“Act normal?”

Shannon watched them from behind the lens.

“What should we talk about?” Victor asked.

“About how I’m the better-looking brother?” Justin teased.

She captured an eye roll.

“You wish.”

She changed her angle, fired off a few more shots.

“What do you think, Shannon? Team Justin or Team Victor?”

Laughing, she knelt. Victor won, hands down . . . but she wasn’t about to give him the point. “Oh, I don’t know. We have to pull the stick out of Victor’s butt before I can judge.”

There it was. Shouts of laughter that had both men with genuine smiles filled with good humor.

“Oh, man, Vic . . . she has your number.”

Victor turned his smile on her, a smirk reaching his eyes.

“Got it,” she said, lowering her camera. “Okay, let’s go next door and get a few more with your parents before the ceremony.”

Scott and Renee Brooks were polar opposites of the Harkins. Warm and inviting, they didn’t seem the least bit interested in taking over anything. They stood beside their son and smiled when asked. Again, Shannon encouraged Justin to stand beside his parents and asked them to talk among themselves. Finding the casual and genuine shot was always more appealing than the staged, plastic moments other photographers reached for.

Guests started meandering toward their seats, saving their places and scurrying out of the direct sun, which would hide behind a white cloud every once in a while. The breeze had picked up a little bit, offering relief, but threatening the flower stands poked into the sand.

With an eye on the time, Shannon let Victor and his wedding party go in search of Corrie and the girls. She found two of the bridesmaids hovering by the door of the air-conditioned room the bride was supposed to stay in right before walking down the aisle.

“Is Corrie here?” Shannon asked the girls.

The taller of the two blondes shook her head. “She’s still in our room with Melia.”

“Is she on her way?”

The girls smiled. “Her mom and dad just left to go get her.”

Satisfied with that, Shannon found Ida and waited for Corrie to arrive.

Minutes trickled by as the guests took their seats. Music played softly in the background.

Shannon kept one eye on the far right of the crowd, where Victor stood in what seemed like deep conversation with his brother, and the other eye on the path Corrie would take to the staging room.

She glanced at her watch.

This wouldn’t be the first wedding to start late.

Ten minutes past the hour, Mr. Harkin rounded the corner. Shannon sighed and lifted her camera in anticipation.

And then watched while Mr. Harkin marched straight down the aisle and up to Victor.

The guests paused in their conversations to watch.

“What?” The question came from Victor’s lips and was heard from several feet away.

Without a pause, Victor turned toward the adjacent hotel and took the quick path along the beach.

Shannon found herself racing after him.

Some of the guests started to stand.

Justin waved his hands in the air. “Just a delay, everyone. We’ll be right back.” Then he was gone.

Shannon was a couple of yards behind, holding her camera and chasing the wedding party along the uneven sand.

Victor ran straight into the room where Corrie and her girls had been staying and stopped dead in his tracks. Justin bumped into his brother. Right behind were their parents.

“Where is she?” Victor asked, his voice tight.

Shannon managed to squeeze in between Mr. and Mrs. Brooks and Justin to find Beverly Harkin sitting in the middle of a discarded wedding dress, tears running down her cheeks.

“Oh, no,” Shannon whispered.

Chapter Six

“We found this,” Mr. Harkin said as he handed Victor a note.

He waved the paper in the air. “‘I’m sorry.’ That’s it?”

“She’ll come back,” Mrs. Harkin managed between sobs.

“Unbelievable!” Victor’s arms collapsed at his sides. “‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry’?” He repeated Corrie’s written words and paced the room.

“It’s okay, son.” Mr. Brooks stepped forward.

Victor moved toward the open sliding glass door that led out onto the beach party going on below. He stopped with his back to the group in the room and said, “Does anyone know what is going on? Why?”

He turned then, made eye contact with each person staring.

His scowl landed on Shannon, and the horns he’d managed to hide all day came out. She saw the moment his brain remembered the words she’d said on the plane. “If you were my boyfriend, I’d find the first cabana boy I could and ditch you at the door.”


Shannon swallowed her guilt over whatever part she may have played in Corrie leaving the groom at the altar and shook her head. “She didn’t say anything to me about leaving.”

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.”

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