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Make it happen.
If Scott Fortune could attribute anything to his successin life, in businessit was that simple mantra, doggedly applied to every challenge that dared him to fail. Too bad the weather on this blustery, end-of-December afternoon hadn't gotten that particular memo.
From underneath the expansive portico fronting the main entrance to La Casa Paloma, an exclusive resort where he, his parents and his siblings had stayed while in Red Rock, Texas, to attend his youngest sister Wendy's wedding to Marcos Mendoza, he glowered at the charcoal sky. But the heavens jeered at his insignificance, the icy rain jackhammering the battered winter lawn, the gravel drive where a pair of SUVs waited to ferry them to the regional airport ten miles away and the chartered jet that would take them home to Atlanta.
"You really have to go already?"
Scott turned, smiling in spite of himself at Wendy's newly weddedand not-so-newly pregnantglow. Behind her, through the open, intricately carved double wooden doors, assorted family members traipsed back and forth, while the groom and his two brothers, Javier and Miguel, carted luggage out to the cars. In a minute, he'd have to herd his other siblings. But now he opened his arms to let his baby sister walk into themas much as she could, at leastthinking that Marcos Mendoza was the luckiest, and bravest, guy in the world, taking on the family's little princess.
"You know I've got to get back," he said into his much shorter sister's slippery brown hair. "As it was, I left several projects hanging to come here."
Snorting, Wendy disentangled herself. And gently smacked his arm, her all's-right-in-her-world grin a blatant affront to the dreary weather. "Well, excuse me for putting you out," she said, her warm brown eyes sparkling, her accent tilting more toward Texan by the second.
"I know, I knowDaddy's hot to get back for that New Year's Eve gala y'all are sponsoring." Her mouth pulled into a pout for about a half second before she grinned again. Wasn't that long ago, however, that those pouts had been precursors to the hissy fits of a precocious, blatantly spoiled young woman who'd assumed being an heiress was her life's work. At their wits' end, a year ago his parents had packed off Miss Diva-in-Training to Red Rock for some serious grounding as a waitress in Red, the Men-doza family's restaurant. Which Marcos managed.
Poor guy probably never knew what hit him.
And neither, in all likelihood, had Wendy, who was definitely not the same wild child she'd been then. Although the marriage had been far more to get their parents off her case than to please Wendy herself, whose penchant for doing things her way was legendary. And yet, there was more to that glow than hormones, Scott suspected. She seemed genuinely happy, and content, in a way that felt almost foreign to him.
"Why don't you come see us off?" he said, suddenly loath to leave her.
Palming her burgeoning belly underneath her too-tight sweater, she shook her head. "My doctor wants me to take it easy. And to be perfectly honest" she grinned again "having y'all around has worn me out"
" because when people pay a thousand bucks a plate," their father said as he strode through the door, his attention far more focused on his touch-screen phone than their mother, who trailed him like an agitated, delicate gray bird, "they expect the people who got them to part with their money to show up."
Spotting her youngest daughter, Virginia Alice Fortune dragged Wendy into her arms, a small pink box containing a sampling of Wendy's exquisite desserts swung from her French-manicured fingers.
"For heaven's sake," Scott heard his mother mutter, cupping her baby's head to her cashmere-covered bosom, "it's not as if we're going to serve them their salmon and buttered asparagus personally!"
Over the crush of her mother's embrace, Wendy's eyes popped, and Scott swallowed a sigh. Because God forbid their motherwho'd raised all six of them on her own, without a nanny in sightshould stand up to their father. Not that many people did. The impenetrable aura of his vast wealth notwithstanding, at six-foot-four, his full head of dark hair barely tinged with silver, John Michael Fortune's physical presence alone made most folks think long and hard about disagreeing with him.
Which made his mother's soft, "What's the harm in staying another day or two?" all the more stunning. And finally brought his father's confused gaze to hers.
"Because I promised the Harrises we'd be there," he said, his annoyance clear. "Which you know. And it's not as if we're never coming back." His eyes shifted to Wendy, who was soon to give him his first grandchild. "Baby's due in March, you said?"
"Then we'll be here."
But as John Michael escorted their mother to the car, Scott caught Wendy swiping a tear from her cheek. What a weird bunch they were, he mused as Marcos bounded back up the porch steps to slip an arm around his wife's thickened waist, plant a quick kiss on her lips. For as long as Scott could remember, their father had rammed home to all six of them that you were either a success or a failurethere was no middle ground and his mother, that nothing was more important than family. Dual mantras that defined everything they did. Everything they were.
And seemed to so often be in conflict with each other.
Suddenly restless, Scott returned to the lobby, an elegant blend of terra-cotta tiles and hand-plastered walls, wrought-iron fixtures and down-cushioned leather furniture, to see what was holding up the others. In a suit and tie, his older brother Mike paced the patterned carpet in front of the registration desk, his dark brows drawn as he barked orders at whoever was on the other end of his phone, while his younger brother Blake and their sister Emily were just entering the lobby from the restaurant, deep in conversation over something on Blake's iPad screen. Only their cousin, Victoriaclose to Wendy in both age and temperamentseemed to be "in the moment," scooting toward Scott in her high-heeled suede boots, her long, dark brown curls bouncing over her shoulders.
First through the door, Victoria threw her arms around Wendy, giving her a fierce hug, then, to Marcos, a stern, "And you'd better take good care of her or there will be hell to pay," before dashing across the flagstone porch and into the waiting, rented Escalade but not before flashing a grin at Marcos's youngest brother, Miguel, as he hefted her bag into the back.
"Guys! Let's go!" Scott called to the others. "Mom and Dad are already in the car!"
Emily, her long blond hair uncharacteristically loose, picked up the pace. "Sorry!" she said breathlessly. "But Blake just came up with this killer campaign for Universal Mobile." Her green eyes sparkling with excitement, she glanced back at Mike, who, still on his phone, was making "Yeah, yeah, I'm coming" gestures in Scott's direction, then added, "As soon as Mike closes the deal and it becomes Fortune Mobile."
No sooner were they outside, though, than a Jeep with Redmond Flight School painted on the door pulled up behind Javier's somewhat battered Explorer and a tall, cowboy-booted guy in a flight jacket and a ball cap climbed out. On seeing Tanner Redmond, Scott smiled and extended his hand, his eyes level with the other man's. Apparently a long-time friend of the Red Rock Fortunes, as well as the Mendozas, Tanner had been at the wedding and danced, as Scott now recalled, with his sister Jordana. Who, Scott also now realized, was nowhere to be seen.
"Glad I caught you," Tanner said, his own smile glinting in his olive-green eyes as he clasped Scott's hand. "Had to go out of town right after the wedding, but wanted to say goodbye before you all left. Although " His mouth pulled tight, the former Air Force pilot peered up at the sky, shaking his head.
Scott blew out a breath, glancing inside for his missing sister before tucking his fists in his leather jacket's front pockets. "Don't say it."
Tanner grinned again, gouging deep creases in tanned cheeks. "Who's the pilot?"
"Guy named Jack Sullivan."
"Know him well. You're in excellent hands. Man does not do stupid. Besides, this is bound to clear. Eventually."
"Thanks," Scott said drily, earning him a low chuckle and a clap on the shoulder before Tanner walked away to talk to Blake and Emily, then lean into the Escalade to pay his respects to their mother. Still one sister short, Scott asked the mob at large, "Where's Jordanaanybody know?"
"Not going," came from the doorway where his middle sister stood in plain jeans and a cowl-necked tunic, her dark blond hair pulled into her customary don't-give-a-damn ponytail. Although a brilliant asset to FortuneSouth's research and development team, Jordana clearly had not inherited his other sisters' fashion sense. Or their confidence in non-business-related situations.
Standing by the car with Tanner, their father glanced over, then lifted his own bag into the back. "Nonsense," he said, her "rebellion" clearly not worth even considering. "Of course you're going."
Jordana's arms tightened across her ribs, as something Scott couldn't remember ever seeing before flashed in her deep brown eyes. Still, her voice shook slightly when she spoke.
"I t-told you, there is no way I'm flying in this weather. Especially in some dinky little puddle jumper."
"A Learjet is hardly dinky"
"I'm sorry, Daddy," she said, her face reddening, "but I am not getting on that plane." Even though Jordana probably racked up more air miles than the rest of them for her work, flying had always scared the crap out of her. A quirk she'd kept hidden from their father, Scott wagered. Until now. "I'll get a commercial flight later. Promise."
Smiling, Tanner said something to John Michael that Scott couldn't hear, earning him a quick glower and an even quicker nod.
"We'll expect you back tomorrow, then," their father said, then ducked into the car. Scott gave Wendy a final hug, shook Marcos's hand, then climbed into the Escalade's front seat beside Javier. As they finally got under way, he waved to Jordana, standing under the portico, hugging herself and frowning. Tanner said something to her and pointed to the still-open door. Probably suggesting they go back inside, Scott guessed, where it was warm. And dry.
"How come you're not driving your own car?" he now asked Wendy's brother-in-law.
"Like I'd miss an opportunity to get behind the wheel of this beauty?" the black-haired man said with a grin, stroking the luxury car's leather-clad steering wheel with work-roughened fingers. "No way."
Scott sighed, letting his head drop back against the headrest. "I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever get out of there," he said in a low voice, even though, between the constant swishing of the windshield wipers and both his father and brother being deep in conversation on their phones, he doubted he'd be heard.
"I feel your pain," Javier said, tossing a bright smile in Scott's direction before once more focusing on the rain-drenched road. "With three brothers, I know what it's like trying to get that many people moving in the same direction at the same time.man," he said, angling his head slightly to look up at the clouds. "At least it isn't snow, right?"
Behind Scott, his brother laughed. A calculated We 're all friends here, right? laugh designed to put the other party at ease. A tactic Scott had mastered before his twenty-fifth birthday
"You worried about your sister?"
The unexpected question sliced through Scott's thoughts. "What? Oh. No. Not at all. Iwecan tell, Wendy couldn't have done better than with your brother. I get the feeling he'll be very good for her."
Javier chuckled. "Think maybe it's the other way around, to be honest. Dude needed some serious shaking up. And Wendy was just the girl to do that. But I wasn't talking about her. I meant the one who stayed behind. Jor-dana, right?"
Scott frowned. "Worried? No. Jordana's a smart cookie."
"No doubt. But maybe a little shy? At least, next to Wendy "
A half smile tugged at Scott's mouth. "Everybody's shy compared with Wendy. But then, more than one Wendy in the family might have taken us all under. So, I hear you're a developer.?"
They fell into an easy conversation for the next few miles, everyone's chatter competing with the hammering of rain on the Escalade's roof, the windshield wipers' rhythmic groans. When the visibility worsened, however, Javier became far more intent on driving than talking, giving Scott a chance to check his own messages on his iPhone. Not that there were many this close to New Year's, but the business world never completely stopped, even for the holidays.
He heard his mother ask his father something, his father's curt, distracted reply. A relationship dynamic he'd always taken for granted.until witnessing Wendy and Marcos together.
As far as he could tell, the relationship his sister and new brother-in-law had seemed to be based on mutual regard and respect for each other's opinions and intelligence. God knew, he thought with a smile, his strong-willed sister was not easy to live with, but Marcos seemed to actually thrive on the challenge. The stimulation. And while Wendy would never be "tamed" by any stretch of the imagination, being with Marcos had obviously forced her to focus on something other than herself. And that could only be a good thing.
Which made Scott wondernot for the first time, as it happenedwhat, exactly, had kept his parents married for more than thirty-five years. Loyalty? Habit? After all, it was no secretat least to their childrenthat the relationship was strained. Strike that: it might be a secret to his father. Because as Virginia Alice's role as mother became more and more attenuated, Scott more and more often caught the haunted "Now what?" look in her eyes.
And yet, Scott had no doubt their bond was indissoluble, if for no other reason than appearances meant too much to both of them. Lousy reason to stay together, if you asked him. And why, in all likelihood, their older progeny sucked at personal relationships. Business savvy? The drive to succeed? Sure. Those, they all had in spades. But the ability to form a lasting attachment to another human being?
Not so much.
Scott exhaled, thinking of his own track record in that department. Granted, his lack of commitment was by choice. He enjoyed the company of women, certainly, but falling in love had never been on his agenda. Or in his nature, most likely.
Which was why seeing Wendy so blissful was unsettling. As though she hailed from a different gene pool altogether. Cripes, she was so young. So fearless, falling in love with the same reckless abandon as she did everything else
His phone rang, rescuing him from pointless musings. "Scott Fortune here"
"Mr. Fortune, glad I caught you. It's Jack Sullivan. Your pilot?"
"Oh, yes. What can I do for you?"
He heard a dry, humorless laugh on the other end of the line. "Not a whole lot, I don't imagine. Afraid I've got some bad newsall this rain's flooded out the route I normally take to the airport." At Scott's muttered curse, the pilot said, "Oh, I'll be there, don't you worry. Just gonna take a bit longer than I'd figured."
"How much longer are we talking?"
"Hard to say. Might be a half hour or so, maybe a little more. But until this weather straightens out I'm not taking that bird up, anyway. So y'all just go on ahead and sit tight, have a cup of coffee, and hopefully this will have all blown over by the time I get there. Good news is, hundred miles east of here, it's completely clear!"
"Problem?" Mike asked quietly behind him. His brother's thinly veiled criticism made Scott bristle, as it always had. Not that he'd take the bait.
"Pilot's going to be late," he said mildly, slipping the phone back into his pocket. "Roads are flooded." At Mike's soft snort, he added, "Hard as this might be to believe, there are some things even we can't control."
As if on cue, they hit a squall that was like going through a car wash, making Javier slow the car to a crawl and Scott's mother suck in a worried breath.
"Man," Javier said. "I sure wouldn't want to fly in this weather. I'm beginning to think your sister had the right idea, staying put."
Probably, but despite what he'd said to his brother, Scott was chafing, too, at their plans being derailed, at being in a situation over which he was powerless.
Because first, last and foremost, he was a Fortune, and Fortunes did not like being told "no."