Grayson's Vow

Page 16


"No, I'd imagine you're about as capable of monogamy as a junkyard dog. Not that that has anything at all to do with me."
As if from a great distance, I heard Charlotte cough again.
I narrowed my eyes to slits. "Exactly. Do you think I'd be doing this if I weren't utterly desperate and if you weren't my Very. Last. Option? So, throw the money in my face if you will, but don't act like you don't need me, too. Don't act like you're not just as desperate as I am. And don't act like I'm not your best and only prospect. You said it yourself. For someone who came here begging, you'd be wise to treat me with some respect."
Her cheeks flared with even more color. "Begging?" she hissed. "Begging?" Heavy cascades of dark fire fell around her face as her hair came completely loose from whatever she'd been using to hold it back. I almost sucked in a breath. I hadn't realized she had so much of it. It surrounded her face and swung around her shoulders, looking as if it went halfway down her back.
She stood up slowly and I did, too, until we were both glaring at each other across the expanse of the kitchen table. The air between us crackled with . . . something, the heat in the air practically shimmering. And strangely, that tingling heat was now dancing through my blood in a full-blown performance much like the African welcome dance Kira had described, making me feel vitally . . . alive.
"I was crazy to come here. This," she waved between us, "is crazy. It'll never work. We should call it off. I could find someone else to marry. I can't imagine why I chose you. I find you . . . exceedingly difficult to like."
"I agree. It's ridiculous. And vice versa."
"Good. It's off," she hissed.
"Good," I growled. We stared each other down, her eyes dancing with angry fire. And why the hell did I like that so much? After several tense, heated moments, I made a conscious effort to control my breathing, raising an eyebrow at her. "And by the way, next time you offer to marry someone, you should try to be a little more meek. A man likes some obedience in a wife."
More fire glowed in her eyes and another undeniable thrill shot down my spine. "Charlotte," she suddenly said very sweetly. "Do you have a pen and paper I could borrow?"
"Oh yes," Charlotte said, grabbing a pen and pad of paper out of the junk drawer and practically running it over to Kira, as if she were suddenly at her beck and call.
I watched Kira closely, waiting to see what she would do next.
Kira smiled politely at Charlotte and then uncapped the pen carefully, putting it on the end with deliberate slowness, and then holding the pad of paper up, the pen poised before it. "What was that now? I want to make sure I get every single word of wise advice," she said, stretching out the word every. "Meek, was it? Does that have double e or is it ea? I can never remember."
I regarded her through lowered lashes, resisting the urge to laugh at her ridiculous display of sarcasm. "I wouldn't worry so much about the spelling of the word meek as how to embrace the concept."
"Hmm," she hummed. "And obedient, you said?"
"Obedient—yes." She made a big check mark on the paper. "And?"
"Your sharp tongue—that will be a turnoff to future husbands."
She pretended to write that down. "Sharp tongue—no." She marked a big X on the paper. "What else?"
We stared at each other for a few more strained seconds, her expression a phony look of intense interest and mine a mild smirk. The truth was, I didn't even know if the legal aspects of the fake marriage she'd proposed were legitimate. But talking about calling it off before even knowing caused a spear of disappointment to shoot through my body. I hated the idea, hated the little spiky-tongued witch standing in front of me, hated that in reality, she did have more power in this situation than I did . . . but at the same time, it was the first thing in a long while that had given me some hope. And I didn't even realize until that moment how sweet that hope tasted. I looked away first, breaking the intensity flowing between us, but she was the first who spoke as she set the pen and paper on the table. "Listen, this situation is . . . unusual to say the least." She paused again and I looked back to her. The spark had gone out of her eyes as if the idea of calling it off wasn't exactly what she wanted either. "I called the executor of my trust before I walked over here. He can see us late in the day tomorrow. Maybe we could find a way to coexist at least until we've ascertained everything is as I've said. And then we can make a final decision from there."
"I can agree to that."
She took a deep breath. "Okay, good." She held out her hand. "Truce?" She arched an eyebrow. I looked at her hand and held out my own from across the table.
"Truce. Come here so we can shake."
"You come here," she challenged.
I smiled slowly. "Meet in the middle."
She narrowed her eyes, but nodded, stepping away from her chair. I stepped away from mine, and we met next to the center of the large table. I took her warm hand in mine and shook it as we regarded each other warily. Finally, she smiled and I gave one in return. She returned to her seat and so did I. When Charlotte came over to refill Kira's wine, she regarded her not with disdain, but with a wary curiosity. Interesting that somehow our fighting had ingratiated Kira to Charlotte. Women were all a mystery to me. Kira gave Charlotte a small smile and thanked her for the delicious meal.