Home > The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(6)

The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1)(6)
Author: Jennifer Probst

She looked a bit nervous as she shot him a glance, then rose from the chair and began pacing the room. His focus switched to her perfect rear end, swinging back and forth, and his zipper strained in discomfort.

His last fleeting rational thought skipped past his vision. Cut your losses here and now and walk out the door. This woman is going to turn your life upside down, diagonal and sideways, and you’ve always hated the fun house.

Nick fought the sudden surge of fear and waited for her answer.

Ah, hell.

Why did he have to be so damned gorgeous?

She snuck a glance at him as she paced. A vulgar curse rose to her lips but she forced it back down. Growing up, she used to sneer and call him Pretty Boy because of his golden hair. Those youthful curls had been tamed into a short, conservative cut, but some unruly strands fell across his brow in stubborn rebellion. The colors had deepened with time, but reminded her of Chex mix cereal, ranging from honey blond to wheat. His features had hardened—his jaw now slightly chiseled. Perfect white teeth flashed at her during that brief smile. His eyes were the same deep chestnut, and veiled secrets kept firmly locked behind a wall. But his body…

He’d always been active, but when he crossed the room the elegant fabric of his oatmeal colored pants moved and bent to his will, outlining long muscular legs and taut bu**ocks. The V-necked tan sweater was both casual and appropriate for the office on a Saturday.

Some parts were totally inappropriate. The corded length of his arms. The broad shoulders and chest that stretched and molded the fabric. The deep bronze of his skin as if he had been lying in the sun for hours. The animal litheness of his movements. He had grown up, and he was no pretty boy. Nick Ryan was all hot-blooded man—and still looked at her as Maggie’s little playmate. When their eyes locked, there was no recognition, no appreciation. Just a distant friendliness afforded to someone from his past.

Well, she’d be damned if she let her tongue loll out of her mouth just because he was attractive. His personality still sucked. The big B for Boring. The big D for Dull. The big…

She pushed that thought out of her mind.

Alexa hated the fact that his presence made her nervous and a bit giddy. One week ago, she’d cast a love spell, and Earth Mother had listened. She had her money and could save her family’s home. But what the hell had happened to her list?

The man before her struck out on everything she believed in. This was no love match. No, this was business, pure and simple, and so very cold. While her memory of their first kiss dragged from the recess of her mind, she bet he’d forgotten the moment completely. Humiliation wriggled through her. No more. Would Earth Mother really not allow her the number one requirement on her list? She took a deep breath and spoke. “One other thing.”

“Yes?” he asked.

“Do you watch baseball?”

“Of course.”

Her stomach pitched with tension. “Do you have a favorite team?”

He smirked. Literally smirked. “There’s only one New York team.”

Alexa fought past the nausea and asked the question. “Which one?”

“The Yankees, of course. It’s the only team that wins. It’s the only team that matters.”

She took deep belly breaths, which she’d learned in yoga class. Could she marry a Yankees fan? Would she be giving up all her morals and ethics? Could she stand being married to a man who made logic his God and thought monogamy was a female thing?

“Alexa? Are you okay?”

She silenced him with one hand and paced, searching desperately for answers. If she walked out now, there was no other option but to sell the house. Could she live with herself, knowing she was too selfish to make a sacrifice for her family? Did she have a choice?


She spun on one heel. Impatience carved the lines of his face. This man had no tolerance for any emotional outbursts. As hot as he looked, he’d be one major pain in the ass, just as he had been growing up. He probably scheduled his days by the minute. He probably didn’t know what the word impulsive meant. Could they make a year of living in the same house? Would they rip each other apart before 365 days passed? And what if the Yankees went to the World Series this year? She’d have to deal with his lousy arrogance and patronizing smiles. Oh God…

He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Don’t tell me. You’re a Mets fan.”

She shuddered at his tone. “I refuse to talk baseball with you. You will not wear any of your Yankees gear when you’re with me. I don’t care what you put on when I’m not around. Understand?”

Silence settled over the room. She risked a glance in his direction. He stared at her as if her hair had sprouted Medusa snakes. “Are you kidding me?”

She shook her head with gusto. “No.”

“I’m not even allowed to wear my Yankees cap?”

“That’s right.”

“You’re insane,” he said.

“Sticks and stones. Tell me now before we waste any more time.”

Then he did something she hadn’t seen since the neighborhood bully fell off his bike and burst into silly feminine tears.

Nick Ryan laughed. Not a glimmer of amusement, or a smirk around the lips. This was a no-holds belly laugh, deep and masculine. The sound filled the room and pumped it with life. Alexa fought back her own smile, especially since his humor was directed at her. Damn, he looked good when he got off his high horse.

He finally calmed, seemed to think the option over, and settled on a solution. “I won’t wear any Yankees gear, but the same applies to you. No Mets junk. I don’t even want to see a coffee mug or key chain lying around my house. Got it?”

She simmered with annoyance. Somehow, the deal had been turned around on her. “I disagree. We haven’t won a Series since 1986, so I get to wear mine. You get enough glory—you don’t need any more.”

The corner of his lip twitched. “Nice try, but I’m not one of the Twinkies you’re used to dating. No Yankees, no Mets. Take it or leave it.”

“I don’t date Twinkies!”

He shrugged. “I don’t care.”

She hopped from one foot to the other and barely managed to keep her hands from curling into fists. He was so damn detached. How could he look so tasty, yet remind her of the poison apple Snow White was offered?

“Well? Do you want to sleep on it or whatever women do when they can’t make a decision?”

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