Unexpectedly His(9)

By: Maggie Kelley



She did. She needed a date for the Martha-Stewart-on-steroids blowout her mom was planning to celebrate her father’s freedom. Having supported her dad through the whole insider trading mess, her ex was sure to be there. If she intended to prove to his miserable cheating backside that she’d moved on, she needed a date. Preferably a hot date. Maybe a gorgeous Brooklyn date who smelled like freshly laundered Merino wool and Irish Spring, a combination that was knocking her hot pink Zumbas off. “I do. For a family event,” she said, taking another sip of her drink in an effort to hide her nerves, “in the Hamptons.”

The word “family” seemed to turn him green, but she crossed her fingers and ignored his typical male reaction. He cocked an eyebrow. “What kind of event?”

So he was an eyebrow cocker. She could handle it. “A private one.”

Nick nodded, opened two creamers, and emptied them into his coffee. His whole demeanor was casual, but Marianne wasn’t fooled. She suspected this was how he bested his opponents in negotiations. All casual and cool before he ripped them to shreds. “And how is it that a girl like you can’t find a date to a party in the Hamptons?”

A girl like her. Casual Nick played hardball. Well, two could play that game.

A blush bloomed on her cheeks as she swirled the straw inside her cup in her own indifferent way. “How is it a man like you can’t find a woman willing to marry him?”

He gave her a short nod at the evasion. Maybe she unraveled when it came to men, but she hadn’t negotiated Wall Street deals for nothing. They both knew why Nick was more interested in a business arrangement than a real engagement. His reputation preceded him.

Nick sipped his coffee. “Some unexpected trouble at work…”

Her brows rose above the glasses. “Woman trouble?”

“Not of my own making,” he said without missing a beat. “But, yes, woman trouble. Now if I want to win a partnership with the firm, a partnership I’ve earned, by the way, I need to come up with a fiancée. Preferably, a short-term fiancée.”

Her lips rounded into a small circle. Typical. “This is all about a job?”

“Not a job, a partnership with the most influential firm in the city,” he said, his still sexy tone decked out in irony. “If I were you, I wouldn’t be so judgmental. An engagement seems like an extreme way to solve a party date issue.” She wrinkled her nose. The man did have a point.

“What are the terms?” she asked, spitting out the words before she changed her mind. “Of our potential six week engagement.”

Nick leaned back in the plastic chair, his hands tented in front of him. “Ideally, you’d move into the condo this afternoon…”

Her eyes widened behind the glasses. Honestly, jumping out of his birthday cake was one thing, even pretending to be his fiancée. But living with the man? The thought of such close daily proximity to Nick Wright sent her senses reeling into next week. “Move in?” she asked, trying to keep her voice from rocketing through the skylights. “With you?”

An uncertain expression carved into his handsome features, but almost immediately transformed into his usual easy smile. “My boss thinks I’ve fallen head over heels. A man that desperate in love would want his woman near him 24/7.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice to keep the conversation between them. “And if we’re going to convince your family and my colleagues that we’re in love, we need time to get to know each other’s details and quirks.”

“Details and quirks?”

He smiled and nodded at the coffee. “Like the fact that you don’t drink coffee.”

“Oh, right.” She chewed on the end of her straw. Moving in with Nick would give her the opportunity to finish the renovations she’d started last year after purchasing her nineteenth century Gramercy Park home for her and her miserable ex. Might be good to get out of the place, renovate, start over. “What about…dating?”

“Dating?”

“Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but if I’m going to be living with you as your fiancée,” she paused and glanced around the room, “I don’t think we should see other people.”

“Fair enough.” He drew a sleek pen from the inside pocket of his suit coat, pulled a napkin from the dispenser, and scribbled out the terms. “Six weeks. Live together. No dating.” He set the pen next to the napkin. “What else?” He took another sip of his coffee.

Marianne drew in a steadying breath, lowered her voice and asked what seemed like the obvious question, “Well…if you expect us to live together…um…what about sex?”

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