By: Tracy Wolff

Instead, Marc answered the question. “So that you’d look like the fun brother.”

“It was a rhetorical question. Besides, I don’t have to look like the fun brother. I am the fun brother,” Nic told him with a roll of his eyes. “But, fine. You can’t see your face. I can. And let me tell you, you look like someone...” He paused as if searching for the perfect descriptor.

“Pissed in my cornflakes?”

“Exactly. So what’s up? More trouble with De Beers?”

“No more than usual.”

“The new mine?”

“Nope. I just heard back from Heath and things are going well. Despite it being brand-new, we should be turning a very tidy profit by the fall.”

“See? Who says you can’t make money and responsibly source diamonds?”

“Greedy bastards with no heart or social conscience?”

Nic snorted. “Again, it was a rhetorical question. But good answer, anyway.”

“That’s why I get paid the big bucks.”

Marc turned back to his computer, tried to concentrate on the spreadsheet that was open on the screen. Normally, this stuff was like catnip to him, but today looking at the production values of the various mines was nothing but an annoyance. Especially when he couldn’t stop thinking about Isa—and the mystery man who was escorting her to the cocktail party. Was he a friend? A boyfriend? A lover? The last thought had his hands curling into fists and his teeth clenching so tightly that he could almost feel the enamel being ground away.

“See, there!” Nic said. “That’s the look I’m talking about.”

“Again, can’t see it.”

“Again, I can, so tell me what’s causing it. If we’re not losing money and we’re not yet in our annual power struggle with De Beers, then what the hell has you so freaked out?”

Marc glared at him, offended. “I don’t get freaked out.”

“Well, you sure aren’t freaked in.” Nic crossed to the bar in the corner, pulled a couple of sodas out of the fridge and tossed one Marc’s way.

“What the hell does that even mean?”

“It means I’m going to keep bugging you until you tell me what’s wrong, so you might as well spit it out. Otherwise, you’ll never get back to that spreadsheet of yours.”

“What makes you think I’m looking at a spreadsheet?”

“Face it. You’re always looking at a spreadsheet.” Nic settled back into one of the visitors’ chairs and kicked his feet up onto Marc’s desk. “Spill.”

Marc pretended to focus on his computer screen, but Nic didn’t get the hint. Or if he did, he totally ignored it. Silence stretched between them, broken only by Nic’s occasional swallow and the low, clicking sounds that came from Marc’s gritted teeth. Finally, in the hopes of saving himself a hefty dental bill, Marc did what his brother asked and spilled.

“I ran into Isa today.”

Nic’s feet hit the ground with a thud as he sat straight up. “Isa Varin?”

“Isabella Moreno now.”

“She’s married?” He whistled low and long. “No wonder you’re in a foul mood.”

“She’s not married!” Marc snapped out. “But even if she was, it’s no business of mine.”

“Oh, certainly not,” Nic mocked. “You’ve just spent the last six years dating every redhead you could find in a ridiculous attempt to replace her. But her marital status is none of your business.”

“I’ve never—” He broke off midrant. He wanted to tell his brother that he was dead wrong, that Marc hadn’t done anything of the sort. But as he thought back over the last few women he’d dated, Marc realized that Nic might have a point.

He’d never noticed before but all the women in his life were redheads. Tall, slender redheads with delicate bones and great smiles. Hell. Had he subconsciously been trying to find a replacement for Isa all these years? He’d never thought so, but the evidence was hard to ignore. Damn it.

“So, why the name change if she isn’t married?”

He didn’t know, but he was going to damn sure find out. Still, he told his brother what she’d told him. “She said she wanted to start over.”

Nic made a sympathetic noise. “I bet.”

He didn’t like Nic’s tone. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What do you think it means? Things didn’t exactly end well between you. I know when you kicked her out, it was what you felt you had to do.”

“It was what I had to do! Do you really think there was another option?” Marc waved the question away before Nic could answer it—they’d been over this ground hundreds of times since that night. “Still. I’ve paid a hell of a lot of money to private investigators through the years. You would think one of them would have turned up this name change.”