Home > The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(15)

The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(15)
Author: Jennifer Probst

“I like it too much. I’ll just have the salad.”

He shot her a disgusted look over his shoulder. “I’m tired of females who order a salad, then look as if they deserve a medal. A good meal is a gift.”

She clenched her fingers harder. “Well, thanks so much for that smug viewpoint of the female population. For your information, I can appreciate good food better than you. Did you see the appetizers I ordered for our wedding? Didn’t you see how much I ate? Dammit, it’s just like a man to put a rich, fattening meal in front of a woman and get offended when she won’t eat. Then you seem shocked in the bedroom when you’re looking at her hips and wondering how she put on ten extra pounds!”

“Nothing wrong with curves on a woman.”

She bolted out of her chair and grabbed the ingredients for salad. “I’ve heard that one before. Let’s put this to the test, shall we? How much does Gabriella weigh?”

He didn’t answer.

She threw a red pepper on the table next to the Romaine lettuce and snorted. “Oh, are we tongue-tied now? Is she one hundred pounds or is that considered fat nowadays?”

When he spoke, his tone was less cocky. “She’s a model. She has to retain a lighter weight.”

“And does she order salads when she goes out to dinner?”

More silence.

A cucumber rolled over the counter and stopped at the edge. “Ah, I guess that means yes. But I’m sure you appreciate her discipline when you rip her clothes off.”

He shifted his feet and kept his attention on the pan sizzling with shrimp. “Gabriella is a bad example.” He definitely sounded uncomfortable.

“I have another puzzle. Maggie said you tend to date only models. Seems you like skinny women and accept them eating a salad.” She rinsed the vegetables, grabbed a knife, and started hacking. “But if it’s someone you’re not thinking of sleeping with, I guess you don’t care how fat she gets as long as she keeps you company at meals.”

“I happen to detest going out to dinner with most of my dates. I understand they’re in the business, but I enjoy a woman who likes good food and isn’t afraid to eat it. You’re not fat. You never were fat so I don’t know where this obsession comes from.”

“You called me fat once.”

“I did not.”

“Yes, you did. When I was fourteen, you told me I was filling out in all the wrong places.”

“Hell, woman, I meant your br**sts. I was a snotty teenager who wanted to torture you. You were always beautiful.”

Silence descended.

She looked up from her task and her mouth gaped open. In all the years she’d known Nick Ryan, he had teased, tortured, and insulted her.

He had never called her beautiful.

Nick busied himself with whisking the cream and kept his tone casual. “You know what I mean. Beautiful in the sense of sisterly. I watched you and Maggie go through puberty, and grow into women. Neither of you are ugly. Or fat. I think you’re being hard on yourself.”

Alexa understood what he meant. He didn’t think of her as a beautiful woman, more like as an annoying younger sister who grew up to be attractive. The difference was monumental, and she ignored the sharp sting of hurt. “Well, I’m going to eat this salad and I don’t want to hear any more comments about women.”

“Fine. Would you open a bottle of wine? There’s one chilling in the fridge.”

She uncorked an expensive chardonnay and watched him sip it. The citrusy scents of wood and fruit rose to her nostrils. She battled for one minute, then surrendered. One glass. After all, she deserved it.

She poured herself a glass and took a sip. The liquid slid down the back of her throat, the taste both tingly and dry. She uttered a low moan of pleasure. Her tongue licked the edges of her lips and her eyes closed as the flavor pulsed through her body.

Nick started to say something, then stopped cold. The sight of her sipping and enjoying her wine put every muscle in his body in a lock. The blood pounded through his veins and his groin shot to full alert. Her tongue licked her lips with such delicate strokes, he wished she tasted something other than the wine. He wondered if she made those throaty sounds when a man was buried deep inside her wet, clinging heat. He wondered if she’d be as tight and hot as her mouth, closing around him like a silky fist, milking every last drop of his reserve and still demanding more. Those stretchy pants revealed every curve of her body, from her sweet butt to the luscious length of her legs. Her sweatshirt had ridden up and flashed him with a strip of bare skin. And obviously she’d ripped off her bra, not thinking of him as a man who wanted her, but more like an annoying older brother without male urges.

Damn her for starting to make things complicated. He dropped the bowl of pasta on the table and quickly arranged the place settings.

“Stop drinking the wine like that. You’re not in a  p**n o flick.”

She gasped. “Hey, don’t take things out on me just ’cause you’re cranky. I can’t help it if business was more important to you than a real marriage.”

“Yeah, but as soon as I gave a price you jumped. I bought you just as much as you bought me.”

She grabbed the pasta bowl and filled her plate. “Who are you to judge me? You’ve had everything given to you your whole life. You got a Mitsubishi Eclipse for your sixteenth birthday. I got a Chevette.”

He stiffened at the memory. “You got a family. I got shit.”

She paused, then grabbed a piece of hot garlic bread dripping with mozzarella. “You got Maggie.”

“I know.”

“What happened to you guys? You used to be close.”

He shrugged. “She changed in high school. Suddenly, she wouldn’t talk to me. She stopped letting me in her room for our talks, then shut me out completely. So, I let her go and concentrated on having a life of my own. You lost touch with her for a while back then, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. I always thought something happened, but she never talks about it. Anyway, my own family was screwed up for a while, so you weren’t alone.”

“But now it’s like the Waltons in there.”

She laughed and crammed a mouthful of pasta into her mouth. “My father has a lot to make up for, but I think we’ve managed to heal the cycle.”


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