Grayson's Vow

Page 7


She sighed, looking only slightly less haughty. "I'm in a bit of a situation, Mr. Hawthorn. My father and I are," she chewed on her lip for a second, seeming to be searching for the right word, "estranged. To put it bluntly, I need money to live, to survive."
I studied her for a second and then chuckled softly. "I can assure you, Ms. Dallaire, marriage to me would not benefit your financial portfolio. Very much the opposite actually. Someone's misinformed you."
She shook her head, leaning forward. "Which leads me to the part that would benefit both of us."
"By all means, please educate me," I said, not trying to hide the boredom in my voice. I massaged my temple again. I hardly had time for this.
She nodded. "Well, it's come to my attention that your vineyard is, uh, well, it's failing to be honest. You need cash."
Anger swept through me at the way this little rich girl summed up my situation. I jerked my hand from my temple and gave her my chilliest look. "And you know this . . . how?"
She raised her chin again. "I researched you."
"And, well, I was at the bank yesterday. I accidentally overheard part of your meeting. You were turned down for a loan." I froze as a slow stain of color rose in her cheeks. Well, at least she had the grace to be embarrassed. "Accidentally" overheard, my ass. But then that little chin went up again.
Anger—and a small measure of shame about what she'd heard—speared down my spine, causing me to sit up straight. "You rudely eavesdropped on my appointment at the bank, googled me, and now you think you understand my situation?" What the fuck?
Her expression gentled and her pink tongue darted out to moisten her bottom lip. My body reacted lustily to that small movement, and I tamped it down with violence. I was not attracted to the arrogant little princess sitting in front of me. Plus, I'd had a woman last night as a matter of fact—a blonde named Jade who smelled like watermelon . . . or had it been pineapple? She'd been highly energetic. And yet, even so, the whole escapade had left me vaguely dissatisfied . . . and reeking of fruit salad. I focused my attention back to the redhead sitting in front of me. Or was she a brunette? Almost the perfect mixture of both . . . As if her hair was responding to my thoughts, another lock slipped out of her up-do. Kira tucked it behind her ear.
"I'm sure I don't know all the particulars of your situation. But I know that you need cash, and you have few options left, especially considering your . . . record." That blush rose in her ivory cheeks again before she continued, "I need cash as well. I'm desperate, too, actually."
I let out a sigh. "I'm sure if you went to Daddy, all this could be resolved. Things are rarely as desperate as they seem." Except in my situation they actually were.
Her eyes spit fire at me, but her expression remained neutral. "No," she said. "Things will not be resolved with my daddy. We had a falling out over a year ago."
"Uh huh. And how have you been getting by since then?"
She paused as if she was considering her answer. "I've been overseas."
Shopping, most likely. Or sunning herself. I ran my eyes down her legs again—lightly tanned legs. And now her personal funds had run out and Daddy wasn't going to supply her with more. How tragic.
"Do you have something against getting a job? Do you have an education?"
"My college career was . . . cut short. And no, of course I'm not against getting a job if need be. But," she sat up even straighter, "suffice it to say, I came here today believing this was the better course of action for all involved."
My head throbbed again. What did I care about her exact situation anyway? "Okay, can we cut to the chase here? Like you so succinctly pointed out, my vineyard is failing. I've got a lot of work to do today."
"Right. Well, yes. Mr. Hawthorn, you see, my grandmother, my father's mother, lived modestly, but thanks to some fortuitous investments my grandfather made, she died with quite a bit of money. She left it to her two grandchildren, me being one, the other a cousin I don't know well. However, she stipulated in the trust that we only get the money either when we turn thirty, or get married, whichever comes first."
I sat back again, steepling my fingers.
"And so," she went on quickly, "what I propose is this: we marry, split the money, and in a year's time, file for divorce."
I raised an eyebrow. "Split the money? How much money are we talking exactly?"
"Seven hundred thousand dollars."
My heart started beating faster. Three hundred fifty thousand dollars. It was even more than the loan I'd hoped the bank would approve. It would be more than enough to make all the equipment and house repairs. Enough to bottle the wine sitting in barrels right now. Enough to add at least a couple employees, too. And if the newest harvest was as good as I predicted . . . this winery would be successful again in less than a year. I could fulfill the vow I'd made in my father's name.
I remained silent, not only going over what she'd just said, but also to make her squirm. She didn't. Finally, I said, "Interesting. There's no clause about how long we'd have to remain married?"
She released a breath and shook her head, no doubt assuming my question meant I was actually considering this insane idea. Was I? Was this even legit? Surely there was some catch. It was too preposterous to be true. My head was reeling just a bit and not only from the hangover anymore. "No, but my father would be . . . displeased if he knew I had married to get the money my grandmother left only to split it with you . . . that is, with anyone." Something raced across her expression, but I couldn't read it. "If he had any indication this was a fake marriage, he might very well try to contest the payout of the trust. It would be in both our best interests to make the marriage look as legitimate as possible. However, like I said, my father and I are estranged. I imagine our effort would only need to be minimal, but convincing."