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Authors: Carol Rose

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BOOK: Momentary Marriage
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Jared catalogued that piece of info. She wanted kids in a big way, but hadn’t found the right guy to have them with. He was the one, he knew. He wanted children, too. Wanted a family of girls with brunette hair and blue eyes. But he’d have to catch Kelsey’s heart first.

“If you don’t believe in relationships lasting,” Jared said, knowing he was toying with his own future, “why don’t you tell Amy to give up on Doug? Move on to someone else?”

Her gaze dropped and she paused before answering. “Amy really cares about Doug. Loves him. She thinks he’s terrific. Maybe I’m wrong about love not lasting. I mean, maybe they’d hit the lottery and it would work for them. I think my sister deserves a chance anyway. After all these years of hanging around waiting for Doug to get real about me, she deserves a chance at finding love with him.”

“You don't think it’ll last, but you want to give your sister a shot at—“

“Being…loved for a while,” she said, her lashes dark against her skin as she looked down at the pencil in her hands.

“I’ll marry you,” Jared said, taking the plunge, excitement and adrenaline pumping through his veins. He knew it was risky, but risk frequently brought reward.

Maybe it was the biggest gamble he’d ever taken, marrying Kelsey before she’d come to terms with her refusal to love. But he couldn’t let her marry some other guy.

Kelsey looked up at him, her expression shocked and startled. “W-what? You’re kidding!”

Jared leaned forward, his arms propped on her desk, meeting her gaze at point-blank range. “I said, I’ll marry you and I’m completely serious.”

She seemed to gulp for air, her berry red mouth open. “I-I didn’t mean for you to think…. It really isn’t your problem.”

“I know. I like Doug and Amy, but they have nothing to do with my offer.” He watched her face intently, trying to gauge the emotions that flowed over her face.

“Then why would you want to marry me?”

He was ready for this one, had actually been working on it for several minutes now. “For the sex. If you end up marrying some other guy, just to help Amy, you won’t have sex with me.”

Kelsey’s jaw dropped further.

“I haven’t had sex with you,” she said. “I mean we haven’t had sex.”

“Not yet. But I want to and I think you do, too.”

“I, uh,” she stopped and cleared her throat. “I thought marriages of convenience were usually…celibate.”

Jared shook his head. “I think I’d find it very
inconvenient
to be married to you and not have sex.”

“Oh.” She’d dropped the pencil and was now nervously cracking her knuckles. “So you’d actually marry someone for the sex? I wouldn’t think you’d need to.”

This was the clincher, Jared knew. He couldn’t give Kelsey even a whiff of his real interest in her. She’d run like the blazes, Amy and Doug bedamned. He had to give her convincing alternative reasons for his proposal.

He leaned back in his chair, willing his face to show nothing more than a man offering to buy a car. In some ways, the strategy was no different from nailing down any acquisition.

“You’re a very presentable woman. Beautiful, intelligent, very comfortable in business and social situations. As a wife, you’d be a great asset to me socially.”

“Oh.” She stared at him, shock still lingering on her face.

“And, no, I wouldn’t marry ‘someone’ just for sex. But you have the potential to offer me…rewards…on multiple levels.”

Kelsey’s eyes widened.

“Oh,” she squeaked, her voice an octave higher.

Jared smiled at her. He didn’t care how he had to maneuver; he was convinced she was a prize worth winning. He’d make it work for her, make her so happy, she wouldn’t want to leave.

She took a deep breath, a speculative look in her eyes. “You’ve never even kissed me. What makes you think the sex would be that great?”

He was out of his chair instantly, pushing her office door shut.

“Would you like to give the chemistry a test drive?” he challenged, holding his hand out to her.

Kelsey hesitated, her gaze swinging up to meet his. She wanted to kiss him. He knew it in that instant. And, God, he wanted to kiss her. It had taken every ounce of his willpower to walk away from her at her door after the banquet, her slender, curvaceous body mouth-watering in that sinful red dress.

All the way down the elevator he’d cursed himself even though he’d known it was the right move to walk away. He’d never win the game if he signed on as just another one of her boyfriends.

Her eyes met his now, the crystalline blue of Caribbean water. The blue material of her shirt rose and fell quickly with her every breath.

She looked down at his hand…and placed hers in it.

Jared pulled her up from her chair, tugging her into his arms. He felt her tension, the fine alertness that ran through her beautiful body.

She fit in his arms perfectly, a matching puzzle piece. The dark fall of her shiny hair brushed softly against his arm.

Kelsey stood in his embrace, waiting, he knew, but he didn’t give her what she wanted, not yet. He’d thought of this moment too long, waited too many months to rush.

She was on the tall side. All Jared had to do was bend his head to find the sweet curve of her ear. Her scent hit him like a punch in the gut, the clean, natural potency of apple orchards in bloom.

He nuzzled the tender skin of her neck, hearing her swiftly in-drawn breath. Oh so honeyed, the spot just below her ear. He could lose himself exploring her riches.

Jared heard her faint, breathless moan, felt the sway of her body against his, and thought he’d go insane.

Suddenly, he had to taste her lips.

Lifting his head, Jared stared down into her eyes, dilated now with the blue irises only a rim. Her soft red mouth was barely parted.

He took it like a pirate finding treasure. She tasted warm and sweet, the tangle of her breath mixing with his as their lips met. The softness of her mouth open beneath his nearly undid him. His pulse zipped into high gear, his entire body tensing.

For a crazed moment, he thought of lifting her to her desk top and making love to her until she cried out loud enough to bring the entire office in on them.

But Jared restrained himself at that thought. When the time came, he wanted no interruptions.

Drawing her tight against his body, he plundered her mouth until he felt dizzy. Her lips, soft and sizzling, her tongue meeting his with no shyness. She kissed like heaven and hell, her mouth moving against his, her scent flooding his senses.

He was hard as a rock. With Kelsey wrapped around him like tissue paper in a strong wind, he fought for control.

Her mouth, open and hungry beneath his, mating with him like a wanton goddess. Her breasts, firm and incredibly arousing, thrust against his chest. The sweet flare of her hips snug against his erection.

Giving into temptation, he cupped her fanny in his hands, his fingers smoothing over her roundness. Jared rocked against her, only twice, making himself stop when she moaned again, the sound deep in her throat.

This was it.

He’d made love to women, maybe not hundreds, but enough to know lightening when it struck. This moment, this woman trembling in his arms. Nothing and no one had ever come close to her effect on him.

Backing down a notch then, Jared strained for control. He wanted to seduce the woman into marrying him, not convince her he was a randy teenager.

Nibbling softly at the corner of her mouth, he lifted a hand to her back. With the other, her smoothed her hair away from her face. She had hair like dark silk, not black, but a hundred deep shades of brown, rich and lustrous. He wanted to see it spread on his pillow.

Lightly stroking the curve of her cheek, he lifted his mouth from hers and looked into her dazed eyes.

Kelsey blinked, her hands braced against his shoulders for support.

“Better than I’d thought,” he admitted, his voice rough with the lingering shreds of passion.

She blinked again, pulling slowly away, the stunned look still on her face. “Um.”

Clearing her throat, she stepped back to subside into her chair again.

“Okay,” she sighed slowly. “We have…chemistry.”

Jared sat down, watching her across the desk. He still felt the buzzing in his ears, so powerful was her effect on him. But he had to close the deal. He was so close, yet she could slip through his fingers still. Then she’d be off trying to find someone else to marry her.

Striving to sound matter-of-fact, he said, “Of course, the particulars need to be determined.”

“Particulars?”

“To make the whole thing believable, we’d need to stay married a while. Say, a year?”

“I guess…anything shorter would look…funny,” she agreed.

“What else?” he asked, his voice musing.

Kelsey said slowly, “To be convincing, we’d have to pretend to be….”

“Desperately in love,” Jared finished for her, knowing the word stuck in her throat.

“Yes,” she said. “At least, around Amy and Doug.”

“And the people who know either of them and maybe people who know people who know them,” Jared pointed out.

“Jeez.” Kelsey’s slender fingers filtered through her fringe of bangs.

“Just to be safe, we might want to make it a general policy,” he said. “Frankly, I’d rather my family believe us to be devoted to one another. Fewer questions.”

“Your family. Of course.” She frowned.

“We’ll have to live together,” he said with a faint smile, wondering if she’d realized this implication. In these days, sex didn’t necessarily mean a couple even spent the night together.

But he wanted Kelsey in his bed every morning, in his life for more than a year.

“Oh, this is crazy!” she exclaimed suddenly. “People don’t actually get married for a reason like this.”

“Not usually,” he agreed, the words smooth. “But then you have an unusual problem. Got any better ideas on how to solve it?”

“No,” she said slowly, frowning as she looked out the window.

“Are you very attached to your apartment?”

“What?” She looked at him. “I…guess not. It’s just that I’ve never lived with anyone.”

Jared tried to keep his pleasure at this news from showing on his face. He’d always been fairly good at keeping his emotions to himself. Business, like playing poker, required a certain ability to hide one’s hand. But Kelsey would try him, he knew. He couldn’t let her see how she affected him. Not yet.

“I have a place overlooking Central Park,” he said. “Would you like to take a look at it?”

The corner of her mouth curled and he saw the humor glimmering in her eyes. “I'm sure it’s lovely. Most everything in that area is.”

“You need to see it. Then we’ll decide where to live,” Jared said, suspecting she was struggling with the idea of giving up her own place. Living with her at her tiny apartment would be a small enough sacrifice to win the overall game.

He was very aware that she hadn’t actually accepted his proposal.

“What about the rest of your family?” he asked, curious to hear her take on her background.

Kelsey shrugged. “My mother lives in
Spain
currently with her husband. She flies in to shop, but not often. I don’t think we’d see much of her, but…it would probably be better if she thought we were in love. My mother seriously believes in love.”

Jared glanced at her furiously tapping pencil, noting the faintly bitter tone of that last remark.

She dropped the pencil on to her desk. “Oh, we can’t be serious. Talking about getting married, for heaven’s sake!”

“For Amy’s sake,” Jared inserted. “Her and Doug.”

The animation in her face shifted to remorse. “Yes.”

“What about your father?” Jared probed. “Does he live here?”

She laughed suddenly. “We won’t need to worry about playing a role for my father. Yes, he lives in the city, but I haven’t seen him since I was two or three years old.”

“Bastard,” Jared said, his voice level. He could just imagine a little Kelsey wondering why her daddy never came.

Glancing up in obvious surprise, Kelsey shrugged again. “Probably. All I know about him is that he’s supposed to be successful on Wall Street. It’s not that big a deal, not knowing him. Fathers bail out on their kids all the time. Mothers, too, sometimes.”

“It’s still a big deal.”

She fiddled with a piece of paper on her desk. “I suppose so, at least when you’re a kid.”

“So,” Jared said, trying not to hold his breath, “will you marry me?”

Kelsey laughed, the sound a mixture of anxiety and resignation.

He reached across the desk and captured her nervous hand. “We could start the play acting now. Shall I drop to one knee?”

“No,” she said, raising her blue gaze to his. “I think we should play act for other people and be straight with each other.”

“Will you marry me?” he asked again, her slim fingers still in his. “Give your sister a chance to win the man she loves while we share a year of mind-blowing sex?”

BOOK: Momentary Marriage
7.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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