Home > The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(14)

The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(14)
Author: Jennifer Probst

She glared at him. “You didn’t do anything for this wedding but show up. Try scheduling every last detail within seven days and I’ll sit back and watch you collapse.”

“I told you to get a Justice of the Peace.”

Alexa snorted. “Typical male. You don’t lift a finger to help and cry innocent when challenged.”

“You snore.”

Her mouth gaped. “I do not snore!”

“Do too.”

“Do not. Someone would have told me.”

“I’m sure your lovers didn’t want to be kicked out of bed. You’re cranky.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

The door swung open and the chauffeur offered his arm to help her. She stuck out her tongue and left the limo with the haughtiness of Queen Elizabeth. He smothered another laugh and followed. Alexa stopped short at the curb. He watched her take in the arching lines of the mansion, which resembled a Tuscan villa. Sandstone terra cotta created an image of casual elegance, and its high walls and large windows lent an aura of history. A lush green lawn hugged the drive and led up to the house, then sprawled out for acres in cheery abandon. Colorful geraniums spilled from each window-box to mimic old age Italy. The top of the house opened up to a wrought iron balcony which held tables, chairs, and a hot tub sunk amidst leafy trees. She opened her mouth as if to comment, then shut it with a snap.

“What do you think?” he asked.

She tilted her head. “It’s stunning,” she said. “The most beautiful house I’ve ever seen.”

Pleasure shot through him at her obvious delight. “Thank you. I designed it myself.”

“It looks old.”

“That was my goal. I promise I have all the necessary indoor plumbing.”

She shook her head and followed him inside. Marble floors shone to high polish and cathedral ceilings created an illusion of space and elegance. Large, airy rooms set off the center spiral staircase. Nick tipped the driver and closed the door behind him. “Come on, I’ll show you around. Unless you want to get undressed first.”

She grabbed handfuls of gauzy material and lifted her train. Her stocking feet peeked out from underneath. “Lead on.”

He took her on the grand tour. The fully equipped kitchen boasted a gleaming center of stainless steel and chrome, but Nick had made sure the room retained the warmth an Italian grandmother would be proud of. A heavily cut wooden island held baskets filled with fresh fruit and cloves of garlic, herbs sunk in bottles brimmed with olive oil, dry pastas, and red, ripe tomatoes. The table was thick oak with sturdy, comfortable chairs. An array of wines peeked out from an extensive wrought iron rack. Glass doors led from the kitchen to the sunroom, complete with wicker furniture, bookcases, and vases of daisies spilling through the room. Instead of colorful paintings, black and white photographs took up wall space, and displayed an array of architecture from around the world. Nick enjoyed her expressions as she took in every inch of his space. He led her up the staircase to the bedrooms.

“My room is down the hallway. I have a private office but there’s a spare computer in the library you can use. I can order anything else you need.” He pushed open one of the doors. “I’ve given you a room with a private bath. I wasn’t sure of your taste so feel free to redecorate.”

He watched her take in the neutral, pale tones of the king-sized poster bed and matching furniture.

“This will be fine. Thank you,” she said.

He stared at her for a moment as the formality pulsed between them. “You know we’re stuck here for at least two days, right? We used work as an excuse not to go on a honeymoon, but I can’t show up at the office until Monday. People will gossip.”

She nodded. “I can use the computer to keep up. And Maggie said she’d help out.”

He turned. “Get comfortable and meet me down in the kitchen. I’ll cook something for dinner.”

“You cook?”

“I don’t like strange people in my kitchen—I had enough of that growing up. So, I learned.”

“Are you good?”

He snorted. “I’m the best.”

Then he shut the door behind him.

Arrogant man.

Alexa turned and studied her new room. She knew Nick was comfortable living with grand wealth, but the tour had made her feel like Audrey Hepburn’s character in My Fair Lady—hopelessly common beside the sophistication of her tutor.

The heck with it. She needed to keep her life as normal as possible, marriage or not. Nick was not her real husband, and she didn’t intend to get sucked into any domestic ruse and find herself lost at the end of the year. She probably wouldn’t even see him often. She assumed he also worked late hours, and besides the occasional party they’d need to attend, they’d lead separate lives.

Her mental pep talk helped, so she ripped off her dress and spent the next hour in a bubble bath in the luxurious spa tub attached to her room. She glanced just once at the sheer black nightie her sisters had thrown in her overnight bag, then shoved it to the back of a drawer. She threw on a pair of leggings and cropped fleece sweatshirt, clipped up her hair, and made her way down to the kitchen. Alexa followed the sounds of crackling and slipped into one of the heavy carved chairs in the kitchen. She drew her bare feet up to the edge of her seat, wrapped her arms around her knees, and watched her new husband.

He hadn’t changed out of his tuxedo. He’d taken off his jacket, and rolled crisp white shirt sleeves up past his elbows. The onyx pearl buttons had been undone to mid-chest, and revealed a mat of golden hair sprinkled across carved muscles. His shoulders were broad, and demanded the fabric stretch to accommodate. His black pants covered him like a lover and emphasized the long lean length of his legs and hips. Alexa had a hell of a time ignoring the hard curve of his butt. The man had a great ass. Too bad she’d never see it naked. She didn’t think seeing his bathing suit pulled down as a teenager counted. Besides, she’d been too busy staring at his front.

“Want to help?”

She dug her nails into her palm to give herself a reality boost. “Sure. What are we having?”

“Fettuccini Alfredo with shrimp, garlic bread, and a salad.”

A distressed moan escaped her lips. “Oh God, you’re mean.”

“You don’t like the menu?”

   
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