Home > The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(4)

The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(4)
Author: Jennifer Probst

Her eyes were startling against the inky black of her hair, which consisted of corkscrew curls that tumbled past her shoulders and framed her face with a natural wildness she seemed unable to tame. High cheekbones set off a lush mouth. He used to ask her if she’d been stung by a bee, then crack up laughing. The joke was on him. Hot male fantasies were built around a mouth like hers—and it had nothing to do with bees. Just honey. Preferably warm, sticky honey poured over those plump lips and slowly licked off.

Ah, hell.

He reigned himself in and finished his inspection. He remembered torturing her when he found out she had to wear a bra. An early developer, she’d been mortified by his discovery, and he’d used the information wisely. Now, it wasn’t funny anymore. Her br**sts were as lush as her mouth, and matched the curve of her hips. She was tall, almost as tall as he, and this package of female temptation came all wrapped up in a fiery red tank dress that emphasized her cle**age, skimmed over her hips, and fell to the floor. Scarlet toenails peeked through shiny red sandals. She remained still in the doorway, as if allowing him to drink his fill before she decided to speak.

Feeling somewhat staggered, Nick fought past his discomposure and relied on professionalism to hide his reaction. Alexandria Maria McKenzie had grown up well. A little too well for his taste. But there was no need to let her know.

He offered her the same neutral smile he’d offer any business associate. “Hello, Alexa. It’s been a long time.”

She smiled back but it didn’t reach her eyes. She shifted her feet and fisted her hands. “Hello, Nick. How are you?”

“Fine. Please sit down. Can I pour you coffee? Tea?”

“Coffee, please.”

“Cream? Sugar?”

“Cream. Thank you.” She slid gracefully into the cushioned chair, swiveled away from the desk, and crossed her legs. The slinky red material crept up and gave him a glimpse of olive skin, smooth and athletic.

He concentrated on the coffee. “Napoleon? Apple fritter? They’re from the bakery across the street.”

“No, thank you.”

“Sure?”

“Yes. I’d never be able to stop at one. I’ve learned not to tempt myself. “

The word tempt fell from her lips in a low, smoky voice that stroked his ears. His pants tightened a notch and he realized her voice stroked other places as well. Completely disconcerted by his reaction to a woman he wanted no physical contact with, he focused on preparing her coffee and sat across from her.

They studied each other for a few moments and the silence lengthened. She plucked at the delicate gold bracelet encircling her wrist. “I’m sorry about your Uncle Earl.”

“Thank you. Did Maggie fill you in on the details?”

“The whole thing sounds crazy.”

“It is. Uncle Earl believed in family, and before he died he was convinced I’d never settle down. Therefore, he decided a strong push would be for my own good.”

“You don’t believe in marriage?”

He shrugged. “Marriage is unnecessary. The dream of forever is a fairy tale. White knights and monogamy don’t exist.”

She drew back in surprise. “You don’t believe in making a commitment to another person?”

“Commitments are short-lived. Sure, people mean it when they confess love and devotion, but time erodes all the good stuff and leaves the bad. Do you know anyone who is happily married?”

She parted her lips, then lapsed into silence. “Besides my parents? I guess not. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t happy couples.”

“Maybe.” His tone contradicted his partial agreement.

“I guess there are a lot of issues we don’t agree upon,” she said, and shifted in her seat then re-crossed her legs. “We’ll need some time together to see if this thing will work.”

“We have no time. The wedding has to take place by the end of next week. It doesn’t matter if we get along. This is strictly a business arrangement.”

She narrowed her eyes. “I see you’re the same overbearing bully who teased me about my chest size. Some things don’t change.”

He focused his attention on the dip of her dress. “I guess you’re right. Some things remain the same. Others keep expanding.”

Her breath caught at the jab, but she surprised him when she smiled. “And other things remain small.” Her pointed stare settled directly on the bulge in the center of his pants.

Nick almost sputtered in his coffee but managed to set the cup down with calm dignity. A rush of heat punched his gut as he remembered the day in the pool when they were kids.

He had been teasing Alexa mercilessly about the changes in her body when Maggie snuck up behind him and yanked down his swim trunks. Exposed in all senses of the word, he’d stalked away and pretended the whole episode didn’t bother him. But the memory still ranked as his most embarrassing moment.

He motioned to the papers in front of her. “Maggie told me you needed a specific amount of money. I kept the figure open for negotiation.”

An odd expression crossed her face. Her features tightened, then smoothed back out. “Is this the contract?”

He nodded. “I know you’ll need your lawyer to look it over.”

“No need. A friend of mine is a lawyer. I learned enough, since I helped him study for the bar exam. May I see it?”

He slid the papers over the polished wood. She reached in her purse for a pair of small, black reading glasses and pushed them up the bridge of her nose. Minutes passed as she studied the contract. He took the opportunity to study her. His strong attraction irritated him. Alexa wasn’t his type. She was too curvy, too direct, too…real. He liked to know he was safe from any emotional outbursts if something didn’t go her way. Even when Gabby became upset, she always handled herself with restraint. Alexa scared the hell out of him. Something in his gut whispered she wouldn’t be easy to handle. She spoke her opinion and exhibited emotions without thought. Such reactions caused danger and havoc and messiness. The last thing he needed in a marriage.

Yet…

He trusted her. Those sapphire eyes bespoke a certain determination and fairness. Her promise meant something. After a year, he knew she’d walk away without a glance backward or a desire for more money. The scale tipped in her favor.

One cherry red fingernail tapped the edge of the page in a steady rhythm. She looked up. Nick wondered why her skin took on such a pale tone when she’d seemed so flushed and healthy a moment ago.

   
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