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Shopping for a Billionaire's Wife (Shopping for a Billionaire #8) Page 54
Author: Julia Kent

“Ever wonder why?” He blinks a lot. Declan’s told me that’s a tell in people, a sign that they’re struggling to recall a negative memory, and their brain can’t process it fast enough to manage the emotional reaction.

That tingling in my neck spreads.

“Um, I guess?” Some part of this conversation makes me feel like an introverted twelve year old.

“She and Marie had a strained relationship. Your mom spent most of her younger years trying desperately to please her. She was a hard woman.” Dad’s face goes tight. He stabs the spoon in his ice cream and pushes it away.

“Marie never stopped trying, though. When we met, your mother thought that becoming a famous artist would finally please Celeste. But Celeste only cared about herself. You know she kicked your mom out at seventeen when she remarried and the new husband hit on your mom?”


“Like I said—Celeste was a hard woman. She divorced him about two years later. I can’t remember his name. Celeste called your mom out of the blue one day, pretending the previous two years had been nothing. Meanwhile, the kindness of friends was the only reason Marie graduated high school. She couch-surfed and finished her senior year a semester early. Then she turned bohemian and lived as a squatter off Congress Street, long before that neighborhood was trendy. That’s when we met.”

“I just know you were a vet tech and Mom brought some dog in that had been bit by a rat.”

“Yup.” He gets a faraway look in his eyes and stares over my shoulder. “You can thank James McCormick for that. Indirectly.” Rueful and dreamy, tense and pensive, Dad just sits with his feelings, leaving me to process all of this, knowing that if I interrupt too much the moment will dissolve.

“I knew. I knew the moment I met your mother that I was destined to spend the rest of my life with her. I think she knew, too, but it took a little longer for her to wise up.”

I laugh.

He grins. “We got married fast. Part of it was love. Part was necessity. Your mom was living a life that put her in danger, and I wanted her to move in with me. So she insisted I come and meet Celeste.”

His face turns to stone.

I jump. He looks so much like Declan.

“Shannon, I have never spent a more uncomfortable ninety minutes in my life than in the presence of that woman. For the next twenty-five years or so, until she died—God rest her black, shriveled soul—every time I saw her I gritted my teeth and tolerated her for Marie’s sake, but it took a lot of alcohol afterwards to help shake off the gloom.”

The tingling covers my entire body.

“What—what was it about her?”

“Do you ever pick up vibes from people? Not the way your mother talks about it, with crystals and energy auras.” He frowns. “More like a tuning fork. Someone whose frequency is off just enough that it begins to clash with normal frequency, until you realize something is very, very off.”

“Yes,” I whisper, sitting up in amazement.

“I don’t know how your mother did it. How she came out of a family where she was raised by a woman who had no self.”

“No self?”

“The best description for Celeste that I’ve ever seen came to me a few years ago, in some pop culture magazine. ‘Emotional vampire.’” His sad eyes catch mine. “Do you know what that is?”

I nod.

“She couldn’t stand for anyone else to be happy. As long as she was happy, it was okay. As long as she was the center of attention, all was well. The moment attention was pulled from her, woe be unto you.” Kneading his hands, Dad makes a series of faces that indicate he’s caught in that fragile space between past and present, between old events that trigger current emotions.

“That first time I met her, I just wanted to crawl out of my skin. She fawned over me, Shannon. Acted like Marie and me getting together was the greatest thing since sliced bread. She ate up every detail I gave about myself and somehow paired it with some experience of hers. And her story was always just a little bit more.”

I sigh. “I know the type.”

“When we told her Marie and I were engaged, her eyes lit up. Not with happiness. With a kind of frantic panic that I wish I’d understood back then. It would have saved poor Marie a lot of grief.”

The tingling pierces my heart.

“What happened?”

“Celeste pretended to be so happy for us. Promised to pay for a big wedding. Insisted we hold it at a grand estate just north of Boston. She and Marie’s father came from modest families, and Marie’s dad died when she was in third grade in a bad construction accident, but he was union. The union took care of them. Celeste had a good survivor’s pension. She volunteered around town and had enough connections to feel important.”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this? Did she make a big scene at the wedding?”

He gets a wry smile on his face, a sickly look that makes the ice cream pool in my stomach like battery acid.

“I wish.”

“What did she do?”

“She—ah, Jesus, honey, I still can’t believe it, more than thirty years later.” He lets out a long sigh, scoops out a spoonful of ice cream, and eats it, his mouth moving over the confection, his mind mulling over his next words. “She went all over town with Marie, lavishing her with attention. Marie ate it up. Like a dry sponge that needed water, she just absorbed it. Celeste paraded all over the place, booking this impressive old estate on the North Shore, right on the water. She was dating this guy named Kirby—that was his nickname. His real name was some old Boston family name. Wentworth something. I don’t remember. I think I blocked it.”

Julia Kent's Novels
» Shopping for an Heir (Shopping for a Billionaire #10)
» Shopping for a CEO's Fiancée (Shopping for a Billionaire #9)
» Shopping for a Billionaire's Wife (Shopping for a Billionaire #8)
» Shopping for a CEO (Shopping for a Billionaire #7)
» Shopping for a Billionaire's Fiancee (Shopping for a Billionaire #6)
» Christmas Shopping for a Billionaire (Shopping for a Billionaire #5)
» Complete Harmony (Her Billionaires #5.2)
» Complete Abandon (Her Billionaires #5.1)
» Shopping for a Billionaire 2
» Shopping for a Billionaire 1
» Complete Bliss (Her Billionaires #5.3)
» It's Complicated (Her Billionaires #5)
» Shopping for a Billionaire 4
» Shopping for a Billionaire 3
» Random Acts of Crazy (Random #1)
» Random Acts of Trust (Random #2)
» Her First Billionaire (BBW Menage #1)
» Her Second Billionaire (BBW Menage #2)
» Her Two Billionaires (BBW Menage #3)
» Her Two Billionaires and a Baby (BBW Menage #4)