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Authors: Robin Kaye

Yours for the Taking

BOOK: Yours for the Taking
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Copyright

Copyright © 2011 by Robin Kaye

Cover and internal design © 2011 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover image © Edward Weiland/Edward Weiland Photography

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

FAX: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

To my husband, Stephen, who is the inspiration for all my Domestic Gods. I’m a lucky, lucky, woman.

Chapter 1

“Karma Kincaid, will you marry me?”

Ben Walsh sat on the weight bench in the home gym of his Columbus Avenue loft after spending the morning flipping through his not-so-little black book for the hundredth time. The pressure of a deadline was taking its toll. He had a book full of names of women he’d dated over the last ten years, none of whom he would ever consider marrying. Not that he ever wanted to marry anyone in the first place, but his grandfather had taken that decision out of his hands. He didn’t have a choice—well, not one he could live with anyway. He adjusted his Bluetooth to make sure they were still connected, and picked up a twenty-pound dumbbell, working his biceps while he waited for her reply.

“Benjamin Joseph Walsh, do you have any idea what time it is?”

He smiled and counted his reps silently. “Two hours earlier than it is here in New York. Did I wake you?” Sheets rustled over the phone, feet stomped, and then if he wasn’t mistaken, he heard peeing. “Do you always go to the bathroom when you’re on the phone?”

“No, you’re just privileged. You have some nerve calling me at seven twenty-two in the morning. I closed the bar last night and didn’t get to bed until after three.” The toilet flushed.

“Well, are you going to marry me or not?”

“How many times do I have to tell you I can’t marry you? Not only is it illegal; it’s disgusting. You’re my cousin.”

“I am not.” Ben switched hands to work his left arm. “We’re like cousins but we’re not blood relatives. There’s no law against marriage between two unrelated people who grew up like family. It’s perfectly legal.”

“Maybe, but I remember you in Spider-Man underwear—”

“It was Superman.”

“Whatever. I have no interest in ever seeing you in your underoos again, and even less interest in seeing you without them. Besides, even if I did marry you, which I won’t, Grampa Joe would never buy it. Like he’d ever believe, after knowing each other our entire lives, we chose this highly convenient time to fall madly in love.”

Ben placed the weight on the floor and lay back on the bench, curling his arm under his head. “Gramps never said anything about love. He said I had to get married and start working on producing an heir or two—”

“Can I just say one thing? Ewww! Not unless it’s artificial insemination and even then, it’s gross. No way. Sorry. I love you, Ben, but not that much.”

“Come on. Gramps is old. Maybe he’s finally losing it and going senile.”

Karma snorted. “Right. Big Joe Walsh is anything but, and you know it. Besides, he just turned eighty. That’s like sixty in human years. He’s probably going to live to be at least one hundred and ten. Did I tell you I almost ran into him the other day on Castle Rock skiing? I swear the man acts like he owns the mountain.”

Frustrated, Ben stood and picked up the dumbbell to return it to the rack. “I think he does. So, that settles it. I’m going to ask her, Karma.”

“Ask who what?”

“Gina, I’m going to call her and invite her over.”

“That friend of Annabelle Ronaldi’s who you’ve met how many times? Twice?”

“It’s Annabelle Flynn now, and yes, I’m going to propose to Gina.”

“Then why the heck did you bother proposing to me?”

“Last-ditch effort, I guess.”

“You’ve made up your mind?”

“It’s the only logical conclusion. I have to marry someone. The only question is who. Since you have so unceremoniously rejected me, what choice do I have?”

“You can call Big Joe’s bluff.”

“And let him sell my ranch to the highest bidder? No way. That’s my home.”

Karma let out a groan that sounded wrought with frustration. “It’s just land.”

“It’s my land, or it will be as soon as I talk Gina into marrying me.”

“What makes you think you can trust her?”

“I’ve done my research. Gina’s made no bones about never wanting to marry.”

“Yeah, that’s before she met you and your family’s billions.”

“You haven’t read her dossier. She has a very interesting and impressive background.”

“I don’t care what her background is. Greed is not discriminatory; people from all walks of life suffer from it.”

“That’s what prenups are for.”

“Good luck with that. What famous lawyer said he’d never seen a prenup he couldn’t break?”

“Your brother, Trapper.”

“He’s not so famous, but he knows what he’s talking about—usually.”

“I have a team of lawyers working on it and I’m paying through the nose for the best legal advice I can buy.”

“Okay, so let’s say this prenup is air-tight. What’s going to keep Gina from falling for you? All your women do, you know.”

Ben laughed. “All but you and Annabelle.”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself. This is a big deal, Ben.”

Ben moved on to the treadmill and started a mountain hike. “You think I don’t know that? Gina’s never had a relationship last more than a month or two, and from what I’ve learned, she has ample reason not to trust people enough to let them get close—especially men.” He pumped up the incline and speed. “She’s young and she’s making a real name for herself in her field. My sources claim she has no interest in ever getting married.”

“What about sex?”

Ben laughed. “Karma, I don’t know what your mama told you, but you don’t have to be married to have sex.”

“I’m just saying it’d be nice to wake up with the same person every day. Don’t you think if that happens over a period of time you’ll both become more committed to this relationship than you bargained for, prenup or not?”

“No way. I’m not going to sleep with her. I’m just going to marry her. Besides, I make sure I don’t wake up with anyone. Ever. I leave in the middle of the night so I don’t have to deal with any morning-after awkwardness. I thought you did the same.” When there was no comment on Karma’s part he added, “I don’t remember you ever bringing anyone home.” Not that it was a major concern; still, he always tried to keep an eye on her.

“We’re not talking about me.”

Ben guessed he deserved her wrath. He did wake her up, after all, and he knew damn well Karma wasn’t Little Miss Sunshine in the morning. He should feel guilty but he didn’t. Something beeped, probably her coffee pot. He pictured Karma, wearing a ripped sweatshirt and sweatpants—her normal sleepwear. Her long, curly, blonde hair would be sticking out in all directions as she made coffee in the kitchen of her small apartment. She gulped and then let out what sounded like a sigh of contentment. Yep, she just poured her coffee.

“I’m going to ask Gina to marry me, not live with me. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll get married and then she’ll go her way and I’ll go mine. We never have to see each other again. Hell, we can even let the lawyers deal with the divorce.”

“And why would Big Joe buy that?”

“Why wouldn’t he? Gina has a career in New York. It’s not as if she’s going to quit her job and move to Idaho. Gramps will think we’re together when I’m here. You know Gramps; he hates New York. He’ll never come out here. But even if he does, what’s it going to take? Gina will go out to dinner with us, maybe take in a play. One night and Gramps will be back on a plane to Boise, I’ll have the ranch, and Gina will have whatever is agreed upon in the prenup. Gramps will be none the wiser.”

“I don’t like it, Ben. I love Grandpa Joe. I hate the thought of you lying to him and I hate that I’m going to have to lie to him even more. I can’t help but think that maybe he’s right.”

“About what?”

“About you. It might be good for you to have someone who loves you, someone to share your life with.”

Women. They were always matchmaking. “You of all people know how I feel about this. I’m happy being single. I have friends all over the world. I have the best family—you, Trapper, Hunter, Fisher, Kate, and Gramps. You’re all I need. And you know my relationships tend to be physical and temporary.”

“You’re a dog.”

“No, I just have a short attention span when it comes to women and thankfully, most of the women I date have relationship ADD as well.”

Karma let out something between a sigh and a growl. If Ben had been in her presence, she probably would have given him a shot in the arm. “Joe wants an heir.”

“Gramps said I have a year to get married. Although he mentioned an heir, it wasn’t part of the deal. I’ll get married, I’ll get the ranch, and I’ll get a divorce. End of story.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing.”

She sounded doubtful, but then again, so was he. He hated being forced to do anything. “Me too.”

***

Gina Reyez sat at her desk looking out over lower Manhattan while doing a mental Snoopy Happy Dance. She achieved yet another goal—finally getting a window office. She was one step closer to finding Rafael, one step closer to helping her sister and brother-in-law buy a decent home to raise a family, and one step closer to her dream of having a place of her own. Gina’s desk phone buzzed and without even turning her head, she answered. “Yes?”

“There’s a call for you on line one, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Laura.” Gina blew her bangs out of her eyes. She’d have to have a little talk with her new assistant. She’d already asked Laura to call her Gina, but Laura still called her ma’am. Gina was way too young to be considered a ma’am. Heck, she wasn’t even twenty-seven yet. She picked up the handset and pressed line one.

“This is Gina Reyez.”

“Gina, I’m not sure you remember me. It’s Ben Walsh, Annabelle Flynn and Becca Ronaldi’s partner in the Ben Walsh Gallery.”

His voice oozed through the phone like warm honey. He had a strange accent she couldn’t place, strange but sexy. To think that she, or anyone else for that matter, could forget Ben Walsh was laughable (not that she’d admit it). The man was rather unforgettable with his dark mahogany hair, slate-blue eyes that looked lit from within, and a face that was a combination of boy next door and fallen angel. He was tall, broad, and built like a model, not to mention incredibly well-dressed, rich, successful, and funny. Unfortunately, he was also gay. Gina sat back in her chair, slipped off a shoe, and tucked her foot underneath her. “Didn’t we meet at Annabelle Flynn’s wedding?”

“Yes, we did.”

She smiled to herself. “That’s right, I remember now.”

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m calling.”

Gina sank further back into her new leather high-backed chair. “The thought had occurred to me.”

Ben cleared his throat. “I’d like to meet with you about a mutually beneficial business venture.”

“You’re not going to try to get me involved in some pyramid scheme, are you, Ben?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Gina spun around in her chair and found her boss and best friend, Rosalie Romeo, leaning against the doorjamb eavesdropping without a hint of remorse or embarrassment. Gina wondered how much she’d heard. She twirled the phone cord around her finger. “What kind of business are we talking about?”

“I don’t mean to sound cryptic, but this is something I would prefer to discuss in person.”

Ignoring Rosalie’s presence, even when she set a venti Starbucks cup on the desk, Gina pulled the cord from around her fingers and shook her mouse, waking the computer before opening her calendar. “When would you like to meet?”

“As soon as possible. I’m flying out the day after tomorrow and won’t be back for a week.”

Rosalie’s eyes bored a hole through Gina as she looked over her calendar; it didn’t look good. “I can do lunch tomorrow. That’s all I have free during the day.”

“This might take more than a couple of hours. Are you busy this evening?”

“It can’t wait until you return from wherever it is you’re going?”

“I’m going to Idaho, and no, timing is everything. The clock is ticking.”

Gina wasn’t too happy about meeting tonight, even less happy to have her boss sitting across from her while she set it up. Still, Ben Walsh was very successful and would be a great contact. Besides, it wasn’t as if she had to worry about him being interested in more than just business. Which, when she thought about it, was a damn shame. “We can meet at my office.”

“I thought you might come here. I live right over the Gallery on 82nd and Columbus. I’ll make dinner and we can talk.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“If all goes well, this could take quite a while. We both need to eat and I don’t want to discuss it in public.”

“Okay, but if it’s not working for me, I’m leaving.”

“Gina, you have the right to leave at any time. I just hope you’ll hear me out before you do.”

“I’ll come with an open mind.”

“Shall we say seven?”

Gina typed it into her calendar and shot off an email to her sister, Tina, saying she most likely wouldn’t be home for dinner. “Seven it is, I’ll be there.”

“Thanks. You won’t regret it.”

Gina wasn’t too sure about that. “You’re welcome. I’ll see you tonight.”

Rosalie crossed her arms and gave Gina her you’re-so-busted look. “Dinner with Ben Walsh?”

Gina shrugged and closed her calendar. “He said it’s business. He’s a good contact.”

Rosalie walked around and inspected Gina’s desk; there was nothing on it but the computer monitor, the telephone, and her Starbucks. “Does business usually occur over dinner at his place?”

“You have exceptional hearing. And yes, it sounds as if Ben does business at his place. Since he’s one of your sister’s best friends, I’m sure he’s not an ax murderer so there’s nothing to worry about. Besides, the man is gay.”

Rosalie whipped her eyes away from the credenza she’d been examining to stare wide-eyed at Gina. “He is?”

Standing, Gina slipped her foot into her pump, and paced her office. It really wasn’t big enough for a good pace, but she had short legs so she couldn’t complain. “The man owns an art gallery, for Pete’s sake.”

“Part of an art gallery.”

“So, that doesn’t make him any less gay.”

Rosalie put her hands on her hips and stepped directly in front of Gina. “I’ve met Ben several times and my gaydar never went off.”

Gina shrugged. “Well maybe you’re getting sloppy since you married Nick. He has enough testosterone for a dozen men. Ben’s too perfect to be straight. Believe me, all the good-looking, rich, single, metrosexual men are gay.”

BOOK: Yours for the Taking
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