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Christine Lange once thought she’d found a white knight, only to learn there’s no such thing. That was a lesson learned. So even though her world’s falling apart, she decides she can make it on her own—until a gorgeous guy appears out of the blue, offering a helping hand.
This time she KNOWS it's too good to be true, but Christine grabs it, pride be damned. Surely her heart will remain safe because this time she KNOWS he's gay. At least, she assumes so. Why else would a man who looks like that need a temporary wife to show off to his family?
Tonio needs a wife and the sexy redhead is perfect. She’s attractive, desperate…and since she doesn’t like men, there’s no danger of her falling in love with him. But Fate likes to play with those who tempt her, and an agreement to see to each other’s physical needs soon has them scorching the sheets. Christine gives Tonio her body, but it isn’t long before he realizes what he really wants is her heart.
Adriana Rodriguez flounced into the second floor office her brother preferred to use when he was working at home. Her brother pointedly ignored her as he sat behind the sprawling walnut desk, the phone receiver propped on his shoulder as he riffled through a sheaf of documents. She leaned on the low windowsill, arms crossed, and waited to be acknowledged. He shifted the phone and reached for another stack of papers.
“Yes—Antonio Rodriguez for Clarence Damien.” He glanced up as his call went through and his eyes locked with his sister’s. “You have something on your mind?” He frowned.
Adriana frowned back. “You know exactly what I want to talk to you about, Tonio, and it is time you took this seriously!” She paced across to the edge of the desk and drummed her scarlet-tipped fingers absently on the satin-smooth finish of the wood. “You know only three eligible females who could possibly make a match for you,Tonio, and two of them you can’t stand!”
“Correction,” he drawled in a bored tone, “three of them, I can’t stand.” He stopped his sister’s indignant retort with a raised hand as his father’s business manager picked up on the other end of the line. He said quickly, “Damien, Rodriguez here. I need you to have all of my father’s business records available so that I can review them when I arrive on Monday.” His gaze slid over his sister’s livid complexion and he wondered if she had always been so foul-tempered, or if he simply always managed to bring out the worst in her. “Very good. I’ll see you in three days, then.”
As he hung up, Adriana gave him a narrowed glare that might have withered another man’s resolve, and she rasped, “You know very well that Maria Vargas would make you an excellent wife. She has breeding, looks and all of Ricardo Vargas’ money! She is the obvious choice. She is your perfect match, socially and financially.”
He drew a deep breath and frowned at his beautiful, extremely self-serving sibling and wondered if it would be illegal to strangle her. Most likely. She had been after him for these past eight months to marry that fish-cold, supremely selfish bitch. Perfect indeed! He barely managed not to give a disgusted snort.
Instead he replied coolly, “I do not wish to spend the remainder of my existence tied to the apron strings of that sour-faced bruja. Perhaps old Vargas was desperate enough to take your dear friend to his bed, but I prefer women who are capable of some sort of response. The only time I ever saw Maria Vargas show so much emotion as to smile was when she told us that old Vargas had finally gone to his grave.” He rose from his chair and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. “She is about as responsive as a cadaver.”
He knew he had pushed her a trifle too far as her dark eyes flared and her voice rose to a shrill pitch. “Maria Vargas loved her husband! She was a good wife to him! She gave him five years of her life and she gave him the son his first wife could not! How dare you speak of her so?”
Fighting the urge to throttle her with both hands, Tonio shrugged with studied indifference. “Yes, she gave him a son—whose, no one will ever know.” He shook his head, his voice low.
His sister was furious as she hissed, “So? Ricardo Vargas was an old man. He cared little who fathered the boy. He simply wanted a son. She did what she had to do to please him. She did her duty as a wife.”
He laughed unpleasantly. “How very dedicated of her. I’m certain she preferred it to the alternative.”
“Alternative?” She glared at him.
“Losing his millions,” he replied absently, wishing he were miles from here.
“How dare you speak of her this way? You are hardly the one to preach on moral values, dear brother. Isn’t this a trifle like the pot calling the kettle black?”
Tonio was not about to get into another long discussion of his lack of morals or the terms of their father’s will, both of which he knew all too well already. “I have no time for this today, Adriana. You can lecture me on having no sense of duty or decorum when I return from the States.”
His statement made her pause, as did the set of his mouth and the look in his dark eyes. She knew him too well to continue to press him. It would be like butting her head into the stones of the pasture wall. She decided to let it drop for now. After all, their father’s will made it very plain that he must marry before the year was out or lose his inheritance to their cousin Luis. There was nothing for him to do but capitulate, for there were few worthy choices for a man of his social status and wealth. He would come around.
She knew he had no intention of allowing their greedy cousin to take possession of this house, the attached properties, the Coldwater Canyon estate and all the Los Angeles properties. He enjoyed his lifestyle. He would not allow it to vanish simply because he did not wish to be tied to a wife. She knew he would not allow their fortune to be given away. She grimaced at the thought of having to leave her comfortable home and live on the pittance her mother had left to her. Tonio was obligated to think of her too! Who could live on a paltry half a million for long?
“I think you and Maria would do well together,” she said offhandedly. “She would be no burden on you financially, and she would seek her pleasure elsewhere if you could not find it in yourself to take her to your bed. She’s not in love with you, thank God! She sees the joining of the two families as an important thing and she can rise above her own selfish desires to make certain that she weds well.”
Antonio stared at her thoughtfully. Did she really think him totally incapable of finding a female he was compatible with? Was she so desperately terrified of having someone beneath her social station become part of the all-important Rodriguez family? Or perhaps she was more worried about Luis taking over this house and losing her precious status? All of the above, most likely.
He did not answer her. How could she know why he had no desire to wed? His sister knew virtually nothing about his private life beyond sheer gossip—and he preferred to keep it that way. Gossip was easier to bear than pity.
He made a point of ignoring her, walking through the arching doorway to the airy hallway and heading for the library. He wanted to be alone and the library was Adriana’s least favorite room. It contained books and his sister had no use for books. Her tastes ran to clothes, jewels, and parties—none of which could ever come out of a book. He could hear her raised voice behind him as she told him once more that his time was running out.
As he closed the library doors he drew a deep breath. He rubbed his temples with one hand, closing his eyes to shut out the thought.
That damn will!The fourth cover is for Licking Her Wounds, the sequel to Hallie's Cats. It is barely into edits, but I love the cover. Have no release date yet. I have videos for each of these as well.
Never Tempt Fate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix5V9aCePgI&feature=plcp