The only reasonable explanation was that I had to have been adopted because there was no way the people sitting around the unnecessarily large dining room table could have the same blood running through their veins that I did. They were certifiable.
During every family dinner, there was a point that I came to this same conclusion, and as my wannabe fashion-designer younger sister explained her latest ideas to us, I realized that I had reached that point.
“There are only two weeks to go until Christmas,” she said with an air that made it seem like she was imparting wisdom to us, like we hadn’t known it was nearly the holidays. “What could be better for Christmas than glitter? Think about it. I’ll do an entire line based on red, green, and gold glitter.”
I tried to bite my lip, I really did, but my jaw dropped just a little anyway. “Surely, you can’t be serious.”
Daisy and I shared forest-green eyes that we’d inherited from our father, along with sandy-brown hair from our mother. But that was where our similarities ended.
Her gaze swung my way as she executed a hair toss that would have made most supermodels jealous. I happened to know that she’d spent months back in high school in front of the mirror to perfect that stupid fucking hair toss. The order of her priorities had always been a mystery to me, since she’d almost failed out of school that same semester.
Fuck homework, she’d told me once when I asked her where she got the time to be standing in front of the mirror every afternoon. This is way more important to my future.
I hadn’t understood it then, just like I didn’t understand her glitter idea now. Her eyes narrowed, and her chin came up in haughty defiance. “And what exactly do you know about fashion, Declan? You wouldn’t know what a trend was if it bit you on the ass.”
Actually, I could have given her the Oxford Dictionary definition of the word trend from memory, as well as information on what the real trends of the holiday season were, but I held back. I always did.
There was no point in arguing with her, especially about this. Even if the very reason I bothered to keep up with fashion trends was for her.
“Tell me, sister,” Charles drawled, setting down the obnoxious crystal champagne flute he insisted on drinking from at every family meal. “This new line of yours, is there any opportunity for partnership?”
Ah yes. The older brother character. Inwardly rolling my eyes at him, I desperately tried to keep my laughter from bubbling out.
We should be on a fucking reality show. The other families whose net worth hovered in the billions and had their own TV shows had nothing on us.
“Two of my babies working together to create the line of the season.” Mom beamed, clapping her gloved hands together. Why she wore gloves to an ordinary dinner with her family, I didn’t know. “What a wonderful idea, Charles.”
He smirked at her. “Do I ever have ideas that aren’t wonderful, Mother?”
This time, it was a scoff of disbelief I had to hold back. Charles had many ideas, but none of them had ever come close to being wonderful. My sister’s fashion design company might have been a total flop that Dad kept throwing money into to keep her dream alive, but Charles’s entrepreneurial history was a cash-in-trash black hole.
I glanced at Dad, wondering what his reaction to that statement would be. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t say a word. Didn’t flinch or even frown.
Cutting into his prime ribeye steak, he speared it with his silver fork and bit into it. The glassiness in his eyes made me wonder if he’d even heard what Charles had said.
No doubt, Russell Hobbs was so far into strategizing whatever the next move was for his business that he’d shut us all out again. He always had been a quiet man, but like me, he was especially so whenever we stepped into the dining room together.
A quiet sigh parted my lips. For all the wealth in our portfolios and the opulence that surrounded us, we truly were a bunch of dysfunctional fuckups.
Charles was twenty-nine, and he’d burned through companies in almost every industry, failing at everything he’d tried. Yet he was the smuggest, most arrogant bastard I’d ever met.
And that was saying a lot coming from me, since I was pretty much the crown prince of smug and arrogant. Charles lived off the family fortune but for all the world liked to pretend that he, and not Dad, was the corporate mastermind behind Hobbs International.
Daisy was twenty-two and the snobbiest snob there was. A card-carrying member of the starry-eyed socialite club who thought they could slap their names on anything and it would become a trend. As she had just proven with her glitter idea, they were all sorely mistaken.
And then there was me. The middle child at twenty-five, a playboy who didn’t pretend not to be, and the epitome of living the high life without a care in the world.
Why wouldn’t I be? It wasn’t being immodest to say I had the looks, the money, the toys, and the cock to enjoy my fucking life.
“Of course not, Charles,” Mom said, interrupting my thoughts. She was as supportive as she always was when she was talking to my brother. As the oldest, he’d always been her favorite.
Legit. She didn’t even deny it. Only claimed to have a special bond with him because he’d been the first to emerge from her nether regions. “You’re brilliant, my darling Charlie. What do you say, Daisy? Do you think you can team up with your brother for this one?”
My sister released the biggest sigh, her shoulders slumping as she brought her chin down into her palm. “Fine. I’ll figure something out. But I’m warning you, Charles, this is my show. I will be the one to get the glory for the glitter.”
I straight up snorted. There was no holding it back, just like there wouldn’t be any glory for her glitter.
Unfortunately, my failure to keep the sound in also reminded our mother of my presence. She smiled at my siblings before turning toward me. “Excellent. Keep me abreast of your progress. I look forward to the show. Now, Declan honey, how are you doing?”
Oh, Christ. Here it comes. The dreaded question: what are you doing with your life?
Thankfully, as luck would have it, my phone chimed loudly just before she could ask. I grabbed it, tapping into my messages as I started pushing away from the table.
Finley: I’m at the bar. Come hang out. Get out of the compound for a beer.
Gratitude so intense it might have made me hard if I hadn’t been feeling it for my best friend filled me. I shot my family an apologetic smile and rose from my chair. “Terribly sorry. Please excuse me. I’m needed elsewhere.”
“Enjoy frolicking with your little friends, but do try not to crash the yacht again, dear brother,” Charles said. “Hilton Head doesn’t have enough marinas for us to be banished from another.”
“It was one time,” I muttered under my breath as I pivoted toward the door. “And we weren’t banished.”
Whether or not they had heard me, I didn’t wait to find out. I hauled ass out of there and was relieved to walk into the local bar Finley and I frequented to find my fiery-haired friend had already ordered me a beer.
“You’re a lifesaver,” I said just before draining half of the drink in one go.
Finley watched me with a knowing gleam in his ice-blue eyes and a smirk surrounded by the stubble on his lips. “Tough dinner, huh?”
“Aren’t they all?” I took my seat beside him at the pockmarked bar and loosened my tie before undoing my top two buttons. “I think my big bro and baby sis are fucking delusional.”
“What did they do this time?” He chuckled. Having been my best friend for six years, he knew my family’s ins and outs better than anyone. “Daisy wanting to dress someone in live poultry again?”
“Glitter this time.” I shook my head. “Charles wants in on it.”
His eyes went wide as his chin dropped closer to his chest. “Let me guess, holiday-themed glitter colors?”
“But of course.”
Finley batted lashes longer than any man should have had at me. “That sounds like a terrific idea. Why not get in on the action? Make it a Hobbs family affair?”
I shot him a glare at the same time that I signaled the bartender for a refill. “Charles and Daisy both run lifeless companies. I have no intention of joining them in any venture, let alone Glittergate. God, it’s going to be so damn embarrassing.”
“Another strike against the Hobbs family name,” Finley joked, amusement dancing around like the playful Irish heritage he had in his eyes. “Woe be you. Whatever will you do? You only have a gazillion dollars to your name. Lord knows you can’t afford any more embarrassment, especially since it wouldn’t even be you causing it this time.”
“Shut up.” I laughed and ran my hands through my hair just as a busty brunette came to stand beside me.
Finley went quiet but discreetly gave me the go-for-it motion. Under normal circumstances, I might have. But I wasn’t in the mood tonight.
A little flirting would lift my spirits, but I felt like getting fucked up tonight. Not fucked.
Glittering brown eyes slid to mine, a sly smile lifting the corners of her full lips. “Declan Hobbs. In all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, you walked into mine.”
I didn’t know how she knew my name. She didn’t look familiar to me. Then again, my family was well known among the upper crust of South Carolina. I’d never paid much attention to that scene, but there were plenty of people who were part of it that paid attention to me.
The barman slid my new beer across the counter just in time. I picked it up and held it out to her, grinning as I tossed her a wink. “I prefer beer to gin, and I’m pretty sure this joint is mine, not yours. But I’m willing to share if you are.”
The brunette turned to face me more fully, her eyes flickering toward Finley behind me. “Who would you like to share me with, honey? Him? I might be convinced to go for that.”
Finley made a choking sound, but he didn’t need to. Just because I was flirting with her didn’t mean I had any intention of giving her the time of day, never mind trying to rope him into a threesome.
“Would have loved to take you up on that, sweetheart, but Fin and I have taken a vow of celibacy until we resolve the feelings that surfaced for each other the last time we tried that.” Dismissing her by presenting her with my back, I shrugged when I was met with Finley’s raised brows. “What? Don’t look at me like that. I’m not in the mood.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “I may be a mere peasant residing in your kingdom, sire. But what if I was in the mood?”
“For a threesome?” I smirked, reaching up to touch my heart. “All you had to do was ask, darling.”
Snorting on his laughter, he shook his head at me. “I wasn’t talking about that, asshole. I was talking about her.”
“Don’t worry, there will be another her soon enough.” It turned out I was right. The next girl approached us only minutes after the brunette left.
I shot Finley a silent question before repeating a similar flirt-and-dismiss routine, but he frowned and shook his head no.
“I’m not in the mood either, dude,” he grumbled after she left. “I was fucking with you.”
Lifting my fresh beer, I clinked it to his. “Hear, hear.”
He mashed his glass against mine, and then we drank. And drank some more. After batting away several more advances and once we had a nice buzz going, we decided to hit up a club nearby.
Finley picked up a rock as he walked down the street, weighing it by throwing it up and down in his hand a few times. His speech was slightly slurred by now, that dreamy look of being neither here nor there entering his eyes.
“I’m going to play for the NFL, man.” He reached back with his arm before releasing the rock onto the blacktop just a few paces ahead of us. He was the same age as me and had been working construction since he graduated from high school. As far as I knew, he hadn’t touched a ball in all that time.
“Yeah, that’s a far from realistic goal.” I bent down to pick up a rock of my own. “Neither of us is going to make it there at our age.”
He scoffed and rolled his shoulders back. “Never say never. I bet you couldn’t throw it any further than I did, anyway.”
“Yeah?” I turned to face him, walking backward as a smirk curved on my lips. “I hope you don’t have anything riding on that bet because you, my friend, are going to lose.”
Turning as soon as I finished my sentence, I released my rock and watched as it sailed through the air. It went way farther than either of us had expected and hit a passing car.
A passing car with a familiar insignia on the side. A cop car. Fuck.
I groaned but didn’t resist when they slapped handcuffs on me and lowered me into the back of the police car. At least this was an experience I’d never had before and always knew I would have at some stage. Gotta embrace it, right?
Right, but my father was not going to be a happy fucking camper when he found out.