Kyle Lawson needs a wife, and he needs one now. With his ailing business on the line, the only women who can rescue him is the step-daughter of the man who put him in this precarious position in the first place. Can he trust her to come through for him, and save his business?
When given the chance to marry the man of her dreams, while atoning for the sins of her family, Molly Wilson doesn’t hesitate. Propelled into a bogus marriage, she vows to make up for the mistakes of the past, even if it means breaking her own heart.
Can Kyle and Molly put aside their differences and united, fight for a better future? When their plan is threatened by a secret from Kyle’s past, will it ruin the deal and destroy any hope of a life together?
Amidst the searing heat of Florida, will Molly and Kyle resist their inner desires? Or, despite their troubled past, can love, forgiveness and redemption find a way to shape their future?
Alone in the kitchen, surrounded by the delicious aroma of stewed apples and cinnamon, Molly pondered how to make the Fete different. While her fingers worked on automation and carved leaf shapes out of leftover pastry, she struggled to find a fresh angle. Something original to impress Kyle and silence Coral.
Kyle’s favourite pudding, made in appreciation for including her in the planning, sat on the worktop, almost finished. Lost in thought, she added the last leaf to finish the pattern on the top and egg washed the pastry. Taking a spoon filled with sugar, she was spreading an even coating over the pie, when the door flew open and Kyle bounded through. Surprised, her hand jerked and sent sugar cascading onto the worktop.
“Florida just called,” he said, his enthusiasm easy to see.
Oh no. Game on. For a moment his contagious smile pushed fear aside. “At last. Great.” She wiped away the sugar with a cloth and rinsed it under the tap.
“They rang direct because I didn’t acknowledge an email they sent. I found it in my spam folder.”
“At least we’ve time to practice being nice to each other. So, when do we leave?”
“I’ve already reserved two flights to Orlando.”
He frowned. “Yes. You’ll be ready, won’t you?”
Panic struck. “I’ve so much to do, but I’ll have to be.” Her tummy churned and words tumbled from her mouth. “I’ve washing to do, ironing as well. What do I take?”
“Hey,” he said, catching hold of her shoulders. “Take a breath. They’re emailing me later with more details.”
“Later? How much later?” Her mind raced. “I assumed I’d time to get everything organized without a last-minute dash. Did they hint at what clothes we’ll need? What’s our dress style?”
“On the phone, his secretary said there would be an agenda coming. She rattled off something about casual attire for the daytime and smart/casual for the evening. She mentioned a dance on our last night. Nothing too explicit, but I got the impression it’ll be a dressy affair. I figure I’ll take shorts and tops, and two suits. You always look nice, so I shouldn’t worry.”
“I shouldn’t worry,” she mimicked his tone and he grinned, but she wasn’t trying to be funny. “Thanks for the compliment, but I shouldn’t worry is not very helpful. I have nothing dressy to wear for a dance.”
His expression sobered. “Too late to shop now. How about at the airport? There will be lots of stores.”
His words sunk in, easing the panic and letting her breathe. Except…
“How dressy is dressy?”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re asking me? I thought you women knew about things like this.”
“Oh sure. Not even the Atlantic Ocean stops me reading minds and emails, especially those not yet arrived.” Yep, Mum definitely nailed it, she led with sarcasm. “They’re American. They may have a different concept than us about these things.”
“We’ll get the email, see what’s needed and arrive at the airport early enough to buy it.”
Deep breaths helped calm her. But? “Will it be okay? I mean, you have the money?”
A slow smile spread across his face. Forget deep breathing, his smile calmed her quicker, melting her heart and warming her soul. “No. I’m asking you to put your clothes back on top of what you’re buying and make a run for it.”
“Since we started this pantomime, you’ve stressed money is tight. Now you’re telling me I can spend what I like on fancy clothes?”
“Not what you’d like, but I’m not destitute, despite Dennis’s best attempt.”
Bullets straight from his mouth scored a direct hit. Words failed and she stared at him, but his repentance came without hesitation.
“Sorry. I’m anxious too, but I’ve no excuse for throwing Dennis in your face. I’m working on trying harder.”
His stricken expression told her he meant it.
“Forget it, but remember if you make a similar mistake in the next few days, we might as well save ourselves the bother of going.”
“You’re right, and I’ll watch my tongue. For the record, I don’t have money to burn but we must look the part. Anything sending a signal we’ll struggle to close the deal, could cause problems.”
“Can you meet his price without it being a problem?”
He hesitated. “Yes. The bank is backing us, but I believe Wagoner to be an honest, decent man. He’ll want to sell to the right person and not necessarily the highest bidder.”
“Is that good business sense?”
“Probably not, but for him it’s not just about making money. His life’s work is being dismantled and sent somewhere else. He’ll care the next owner loves his rides as he does, and I’m guessing seeing them in the right hands is important.”
The panic gone, normality reigned again. “I can’t see you being so sentimental about the Fun Zone.”
He stilled. “You really don’t know me at all, do you?”
Well enough to realize once she’d gone from his life he’d revert to his womanising ways and forget her. “So, are you saying beneath your cool, business brain lies a warm, fuzzy man who hugs his rides every evening and kisses them goodnight?”
He took a step closer and slid the back of his index finger down her cheek. Forget normality, his touch reduced her to a pile of willing mush. He leaned forward, his mouth tantalisingly close and his voice a soft murmur, caressing her soul and lifting her heart to the dangerous high level from where recovery is impossible when it plummets and crashes. “It’s been said I’m a complicated man and difficult to define.”
“You don’t say?” Somehow the words came out like an invitation to strip her naked and help himself…please.
He bent even closer. “You smell of apples and something else.”
“Cinnamon. I’m making a….”
His lips pressed lightly against hers, almost as if unsure and he sought encouragement to go further. Encouragement! Surprise lasted a heartbeat before desire elbowed every other objection away. The fire smouldering deep inside ignited, reducing resistance to ash. Self-control, normally a stalwart guardian of sensibility, surrendered in willing sacrifice on the pyre of fundamental yearning. Eyes closed, want pulled her under, upping her heartbeat and sending need coursing through her body. He smelt lovely, as always, yet a subtle combination of shower gel and shampoo added a freshness she’d never noticed. But then, he’d never been so intimate before.
Strong arms wrapped around her and pulled her close. Fueled by need, her hands slid to his waist and held tight. Shameless, without regard for dignity or willpower, her lips parted, wanting more. Wanting him.
“Ms. Molly. I’ve left the….”
Jane’s interruption broke the mood. Back in control, Molly’s eyes opened and caught his disappointed scowl as he stepped away.
Jane blushed bright red. “Um…Sorry. I’ll, um, come back later.”
His eyes remained locked on her mouth.
“It’s okay, you carry on,” Kyle said, matter of fact, to Jane over his shoulder. “We’re off to America tomorrow and we’ve a lot to sort out.” He licked his lips, his stare still locked on Molly’s mouth, and then his gaze rose to meet hers. “Nice taste. I’m looking forward to having that.”
Her or the pie? Who knew? Her stomach lurched and her legs buckled. Struck dumb, she leaned against the worktop for support as he turned on his heels and marched out, a bounce to his step she’d not noticed before.
Was it there because of Florida, or because she’d almost let his kiss grow into something more?
Whatever. He’d gone, leaving her confused and in need.