Rich Man's Fake Finance

By: Catherine Mann

CHAPTER ONE


Only one thing sucked worse than wearing boring white cotton underwear on the night she finally landed in bed with her secret fantasy man.

Having him walk out on her before daylight.

Ashley Carson tensed under her down comforter. Through the veil of her eyelashes, she watched her new lover quietly zip his custom-fit pants. She’d taken a bold step—unusual for her—by falling into bed with Matthew Landis the night before. Her still-tingly sated body cheered the risk. Her good sense, however, told her she’d made a whopper mistake with none other than South Carolina’s most high-profile senatorial candidate.

Moonlight streaked through the dormer window, glinting off his dark hair trimmed short but still mussed from her fingers.

Broad shoulders showcased his beacon white shirt, crisp even though she’d stripped it from him just hours ago when their planning session for his fund-raiser dinner at her restaurant/home had taken an unexpected turn down the hall to her bedroom.

Matthew may have been dream material, but safely so since she’d always thought there wasn’t a chance they could actually end up together. She preferred a sedentary, quiet life running her business, with simple pleasures she never took for granted after her foster child upbringing. He worked in the spotlight as a powerful member of the House of Representatives just as adept at negotiating high-profile legislation as swinging a hammer at a Habitat for Humanity site.

People gravitated to his natural charisma and sense of purpose.

Matthew reached for his suit jacket draped over the back of a corner chair. Would he say goodbye or simply walk away?

She wanted to think he would speak to her, but couldn’t bear to find out otherwise so she sat up, floral sheet clutched to her chest.

“That floorboard by the door creaks, Matthew. You might want to sidestep it or I’ll hear you sneaking out.”

He stopped, wide shoulders stiffening before he turned slowly. He hadn’t shaved, his five-o’clock shadow having thickened into something much darker—just below the guilty glint in his jewel-green eyes that had helped win him a seat in the U.S.

House of Representatives. Five months from now, come November, he could well be the handsome sexy-eyed Senator Landis if he won the seat to be vacated by his mother.

With one quick blink, Matthew masked the hint of emotion. “Excuse me? I haven’t snuck anywhere since I was twelve, trying to steal my cousin’s magazines from under his mattress.” He stuffed his tie in his pocket. “I was getting dressed.”

“Oh, my mistake.” She slid from the bed, keeping the sheet tucked around her naked body. The room smelled of potpourri and musk, but she wouldn’t let either distract her. “Since yesterday, you’ve developed a light step and a penchant for walking around in your socks.”

Ashley nodded toward his Gucci loafers dangling from two fingers.

“You were sleeping soundly,” he stated simply.

A lot of great sex tends to wear a woman out. Apparently she hadn’t accomplished the same for him, not that she intended to voice her vulnerability to him. “How polite of you.”

He dropped the shoes to the floor and toed them on one after the other. Seeing his expensive loafers on her worn hardwood floors with a cotton rag rug, she couldn’t miss the hints that this polished, soon-to-be senator wasn’t at home in her world. Too bad those reminders didn’t stop her from wanting to drag him back onto her bed.

“Ashley, last night was amazing—”

“Stop right there. I don’t need platitudes or explanations. We’re both single adults, not dating each other or anyone else.”

She snagged a terry-cloth robe off a brass hook by the bathroom door and ducked inside to swap the sheet for the robe. “We’re not even really friends for that matter. More like business acquaintances who happened to indulge in a momentary attraction.”

Okay, momentary for him maybe. But she’d been salivating over him during the few times they’d met to plan social functions at her Beachcombers Restaurant and Bar.

Ashley stepped back into the bedroom, tugging the robe tie tight around her waist.

“Right, we’re on the same page then.” He braced a hand on the doorframe, his gold cuff links glinting.

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