Grayson's Vow

Page 12


As if he had read my thoughts, the smile disappeared from his face as quickly as it had appeared. "There are just a few more things I think we should discuss briefly."
"Okay." I crossed my legs. His eyes followed my movement, and then he clenched his jaw and looked away before speaking.
"Since you're going to be living on my property and doing some accounting work, I think we should be up front about the nature of our relationship."
"Relationship? I thought that was clear. We're marrying for money. We have no relationship." The awkward, stilted nature of this meeting highlighted that fact perfectly.
"We'll be business associates. Nothing more."
"Agreed. As long as you're discreet, conduct your personal life as you see fit."
"I intend to."
"Good. I don't want you to get any . . . fanciful ideas about this arrangement."
I raised a brow. "Fanciful?"
"Romantic. Inaccurate."
I gritted my teeth. "Yes, you've made it clear I'm not your type. And I'll try my very best not to fall for your irresistible charms and make things," I narrowed my eyes, "unbearably awkward."
I wanted to kick him. Regardless of what else he was, he was obviously a man used to being pursued by the opposite sex. And apparently he either assumed I was some sort  of nun, or he had zero concern with how I conducted my own personal life. Most likely the latter. "What else?" I asked coldly.
Grayson—henceforth referred to as The Dragon—studied me. I didn't try to figure out what he was thinking. Probably trying to ascertain whether or not I was actually going to be able to keep myself from falling in love with him. He was getting uglier by the second. Arrogant reptile. "You mentioned my record. I'm assuming you know the nature of my crime?"
That immediately cooled the anger I'd been feeling. I felt heat creep up in my cheeks. "I hope you don't find it too intrusive, but I thought it best that I research you before making my offer."
He shrugged. "A good business decision. Do you have any questions about what you read before we move forward? I'll answer your questions now, but I don't intend to discuss it later."
I couldn't hide the surprise that came over me. "I . . . well, from what I understand, you got in a fight with a man outside a bar in San Francisco, and you hit him . . . ah, repeatedly. He fell and hit his head and died. It was an accident. You didn't intend to kill him. Is that the truth?" I felt embarrassed to sum up what was certainly an extremely upsetting situation, even now. He'd gone to prison for five years for his crime.
He was silent for so long, I wondered if he'd answer me. Finally, he said simply, "That's accurate enough." I regarded him for a moment, but his face was unreadable.
"Prison must have been . . . very hard for you." Something passed over his expression, but he schooled it with passivity before I could attempt to name it.
"You have no idea." There was an awkward silence. I bit my lip.
"And now, you're a felon."
He leaned forward, his steady, dark gaze fixed on me, his masculine smell clouding my senses. "Yes, Kira. I'm a felon. I can't get a loan—as you well know. My employment options are limited to say the least. Many doors are now closed to me. You're going to be married to a felon. Frank Dallaire's daughter is going to be married to a felon."
All the more reason for him to extend our estrangement, perhaps make it permanent. Which suits me just fine. But I didn't say that. Instead, I answered, "It'd be difficult for me to disappoint my father more than I already have."
He studied me again with his dragon eyes, the ones that seemed to see right through me. "I'll take your word for that." He suddenly stood, startling me slightly. I jumped up, and we almost collided when we both went to step forward. He steadied me by putting his hands on my upper arms. I raised my eyes to his and when he looked down at me, he seemed startled, too. "I have to go," he said, turning and beginning to walk toward the door.
"Oh, okay," I said, following him. "Just one more question, um, regarding the timing of this arrangement." I looked around the hotel room, calculating quickly how many days I could stay here. Of course I'd also need to hire a lawyer to draw up a prenuptial agreement with The Dragon, someone who had no connections to my father. "I know you probably want to . . . well, the thing is . . ."
"You don't have the money to stay here."
I let out a breath. "I do, but, not for long. Especially if I'm going to need to pay lawyer fees."
He stood in front of the door, rubbing the back of his neck. Finally he said, "Pack your suitcase. You can come with me now. We'll arrange a lawyer tomorrow. But Kira," he turned, looking me in the eyes, "if this doesn't pan out in a way we're both satisfied with, I'm going to ask you to leave immediately."
I nodded. "You wouldn't have to ask."
He jerked his head in a quick nod. "I'll give you five minutes to pack."
Yes, sir, Dragon, sir, I was tempted to respond sarcastically. But I zipped my lips and hurriedly began packing my things.
Thirty minutes later I had checked out of the hotel, and following Grayson’s black truck, we were pulling through the gates of Hawthorn Vineyard.
I had been taken aback by the vineyard’s beauty the first time I'd arrived here, and I was just as taken now. Massive oak trees bordered the long driveway, the canopy of leaves shading our vehicles as we drove beneath them. The Hawthorn home, which stood just behind a courtyard with a large, round fountain in the center, was a vision of grace and elegance, and yet it managed to look warm and inviting at the same time. Ivy climbed one side of the large structure, and elegantly curved, wrought iron balconies flanked every window on the upper floor. The acres and acres of vineyards created a breathtaking background to the house and gardens, and I could see a small grove of fruit trees off to the left of the house—peaches, perhaps, or maybe apricots. At first glance, it looked like a lush paradise just waiting to be explored. It was only as you drew closer that you noticed the fountain wasn't running, the ivy needed tending, and the lawn and surrounding gardens were overgrown. The gardener had been dismissed, no doubt. It was beautiful nonetheless. In its glory, this place must have been magnificent. My eyes lingered on the rolling hills of vines in the distance, as I wondered at the state of grapes they'd produce. I looked forward to seeing it restored, not just for Grayson's sake, but for the sake of beauty itself. A place like this shouldn't be allowed to crumble to ruin. I thought Gram would agree. But I pushed the thought of my gram aside for the moment. No, she wouldn't want to see this beautiful vineyard in the place she'd loved so much crumble to ruin, but she'd also roll over in her grave to know I was marrying for money. I was a woman who would marry a complete stranger for money. That was me. Despair filled my chest momentarily. I knew that about myself now, and it brought another small measure of self-loathing.