The Billionaire's Christmas Proposal

By: Victoria James

He had the perverse pleasure of seeing his brother’s cocky grin falter slightly.

“Or maybe Dad is feeling badly for you, considering the time of year and everything,” Carson said.

Ethan squeezed the leather armrests on his chair. Ethan had learned from a young age to never let his father or brother see an ounce of weakness from him. He forced his muscles to remain relaxed, and he stretched his arms above his head and linked his fingers behind his neck, not breaking his brother’s stare. “This time of year means nothing to me. It hasn’t in a long time,” he said, lying through his damn teeth. He’d rather spend the day with Dani and discuss fashion over admitting that this time of year did mean shitloads to him, that this time of year haunted him from the beginning of November until December. That this time of year reminded him of how weak he really was. But they had never had that kind of relationship, so he wasn’t going to admit a damn thing to his brother.

His brother shrugged. “Sure. Well, let the best brother win, I guess.”

“But we don’t even own this land yet.”

“No, but we’ll outbid everyone. We’ll get it. Proposal needs to be ready for December twenty-first. Drawings, everything. I’m not sure you even have the means to access that kind of—”

“I have friends in real estate.”

“Really? I thought your only friend was Jason-from-nowhere-Pierce.”

“Jackson.” Ethan flexed his hands into a fist, knowing his brother was trying to get him riled. Nothing like the Dane snobbery to make an appearance. He and Carson came from a long line of money and had attended only private schools with the country’s elite. Outsiders were noticed. He’d never given a rat’s ass about that kind of thing, but then again, he’d been exposed to a different side of life than his brother ever had. Maybe that had been the only good thing that had come of it. “I have other friends.” The problem wasn’t finding a company to do this for him. The problem was doing this at all. Not only would it be bad enough to stand by and do nothing while his family destroyed Allie’s shelter, actually being the one to design the condo project was an entirely new level of asshole, even for him.

“Like who?”

How easily he fell into this competition with his brother. “Hayden Brooks.” He watched with smug satisfaction as his brother tried to hide his displeasure.

“I wasn’t aware you were friends.”

“Went to school together. We keep in touch.”

“Well, who knows if this would even interest him, being out in Vancouver.”

“His company builds anywhere, and I also happen to know that he’s in the province at the moment doing some business in a small town not that far from here. Still Harbor.”

“What the hell kind of business would he be doing there?”

Ethan shrugged. He wasn’t comfortable discussing his friends’ personal lives with his brother. You never knew how Carson could turn it around and use it as ammo. “Personal. Speaking of, how’s your wife?”

His brother squirmed in his seat, his cheeks growing red. Ethan knew full well they were getting divorced.

“She’s fine.”

“What’s this, wife number three or four? That must be making quite the dent in your finances.”

“As lovely as this was, it’s time for me to go. I’m meeting Dad for lunch.” His brother rose. Ethan remained seated. He ignored the silly pang of whatever it was that stabbed him in the chest. He knew his brother and father were close. Hell, they worked together every day. It shouldn’t matter that they never invited him to the club. He wouldn’t want to go anyway.

Besides, right now he’d rather be thinking about Allie. In his home, for days on end. He’d rather think about her in his shower, and about how she’d sought him out in a city of millions. She’d come to him for help, which meant that although she’d been avoiding each and every pass he made, she felt something for him.

His brother paused at the door and turned around to face him. Great. His brother loved delivering jabbing one-liners before he departed, like he’d watched one too many daytime soap operas. “Well, whoever Dad picks for this will inherit the family business. I only hope nothing happens to you between now and then…you know, considering it’s November.”

Nothing like his family to kick him when he was down. Ethan clamped down hard on his back teeth, a string of curses wanting to flow out of his mouth like hot lava. Instead, he held on to them, giving his brother a smile. “Don’t worry, nothing’s going to happen to me. Watching you self-implode will keep me around. Merry Christmas, Carson.” His brother gave him a smirk and walked out.

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