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by Jaci Burton
Description: It was nothing personal, just a business arrangement. Ryan McKay is a multi-millionaire with a problem. He needs a bride to fulfill the terms of his grandfather's will. Unfortunately, the one he chose just bailed on him and he's hours away from losing his company. Enter Faith Lewis --his demure, devoted assistant. Ryan convinces Faith to step in and marry him, assuring her their marriage is merely a business deal. Ryan is certain he can keep this strictly impersonal. After all, he's the product of a loveless marriage and for years has sealed his own heart in an icy stone. Despite Faith's warmth, compassion and allure, he's convinced he's immune to her charms. Faith will do anything for her boss, but -- marry him? The shy virgin sees herself as plain and unattractive, a product of a bitter mother who drummed into her head that she wasn't worthy of a man's love. But she agrees to help Ryan fulfill the terms of his grandfather's will, hoping she doesn't lose her heart to him in the process. But love rarely listens to logic, and what follows is anything but business. This book has been previously distributed as a free book in Jaci's newsletter and has been revised from its original release.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2007
eBookwise Release Date: January 2011
58 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [248 KB]
Reading time: 155-218 min.
"Tell me, Faith. Why the hell did I wait until the last minute when I had a year to get this done?"
She studied her sensible shoes and clasped her hands behind her back. "Actually, Mr. McKay, I...um, reminded you of that very fact several months ago."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." He sighed. "I thought I could find a loophole in Grandfather's will that would get me out of needing to marry. After wasting nearly a year, I still haven't found one." Ryan plopped down on the sofa nearby, the Italian leather giving with a whoosh. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
She wanted to offer him comfort--wanted to sit down, pull him into her arms and reassure him. But, of course that would never happen. She wouldn't dare. They didn't have that kind of relationship. They didn't have a relationship at all. She was an employee and nothing more.
Instead, she stood next to the sofa and waited, wondering if there was something else she could have said to Erica to convince the woman to go ahead with the wedding. Certainly appealing to Erica's soft side would have done no good--she didn't have one.
Tall, blonde and nearly perfect, Erica had one fatal flaw, in Faith's opinion. She was utterly cold. Like a stone statue--a Venus of incredible beauty, but devoid of life or any emotion. Why Ryan had chosen to marry Erica was something Faith would never understand. Then again, this deal wasn't exactly a love match, so it didn't really matter who he chose as the woman he married.
But Erica? The homeless bag lady who wandered the streets would have been a warmer choice.
Ryan opened his eyes and stared at her. Faith's heart leaped. Had he heard her quiet chuckle?
His gaze held hers and warmth seeped into her middle. She'd never had a steady man in her life, but if she had a fantasy guy he would look like Ryan McKay. Hair the color of midnight and turbulent eyes like the Oklahoma storms she remembered as a child.
She'd loved those come-out-of-nowhere squalls while growing up in her small town. Whenever a storm approached, she'd run outside on the front porch and watch as the clouds gathered momentum, moving ever closer until the wind whipped her inside the house to watch from the safety of the windows.
The energy had always charged her. The storms shook her to the core, fired up the energy around her and took her with them in a maelstrom of fury and passion.
Ryan's eyes were like that. Changing like rolling clouds and loaded with the fire of a blistering rainstorm. She had seen those eyes flash with brilliance, light with anger, and shine like a glittering diamond when he closed a deal. Never had she seen them spark with passion, but she could imagine it.
"Faith, are you listening?"
"Oh. Oh, Mr. McKay, I'm so sorry." She shook off the daydream. How many times over the years had she fantasized about him? She thought she'd finally had a handle on her crush and could now think of him only as her boss. He was, after all, as unattainable as a man could get.
At least for her.
"I asked you to sit." He patted the sofa cushion next to him.
She sat. Clear on the opposite end.
"Yes?" She pulled a notepad out of her bag, ready to take down instructions.
"Come closer. You're half a mile away. I won't bite." He flashed her that charming, devastating smile that made her insides melt away. Maybe he wouldn't bite, but then again maybe she'd like him to.
Really, she had to stop her errant thoughts. Ryan was her boss. The one who never noticed her. She remembered her mother's lessons well. Not a day went by during her childhood that her mother hadn't reminded her to blend in and not call attention to herself--to stay away from men because they'd only hurt her. She was plain, her mother had told her, had little to offer and she'd better use her brains because her looks would get her nowhere in life.
She'd spent twenty-six years believing those words to be true. Every time she looked in the mirror she recalled her mother's warnings.
At Ryan's urging, she scooted a bit toward the center of the sofa, pulling her wool skirt down further over her shins. He motioned her closer. She moved. Another inch.
"This is ridiculous." Ryan closed the distance, situating next to her in the center of the sofa. Their thighs touched. Faith's burned. The room was definitely getting warm.
"I can't talk to you when you're so far away," he said. "As I said before when you clearly weren't listening, I need your help."
Desperately trying for focus, she nodded. "Of course. Anything at all I can do to assist you, you know I will."
He tilted his head, examining her with inquisitive eyes. "You're single, aren't you?"
"Involved? Dating anyone right now?"
What was this about? He never asked personal questions about her. In the five years she'd worked for him, she'd found out every minute detail of his life, from his childhood to present day. But he never once asked about hers. Why would he? And why was he asking now?
"No, not dating anyone. Not involved. Mr. McKay, may I ask why you're curious about my personal life?"
"I have a solution, but wanted to be sure I wasn't stepping on any toes first."
A rolling ache formed in the pit of her stomach. She swallowed. "A solution?"
"Yes. You know how I depend on you to help me with McKay Corporation. I need your help to hold on to it."
"What can I do?" Did she really want the answer? Some thread of an idea crept into her head, but surely Ryan wouldn't suggest it. Not with her. The very thought was ludicrous and she quickly banished it from her mind.
Ryan took the pen from her fingers and picked up her hands. Faith glanced down. Her hand looked so small encased within his. Her entire body trembled with the reaction of feeling the full-on contact of his skin against hers for the first time. Other than the brief brushing of knuckles when they passed a file back and forth, he'd never touched her. And definitely not like this.
"Marry me, Faith."