Read A Family Circle 1 - A Very Convenient Marriage Online

Authors: Dallas Schulze

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #General

A Family Circle 1 - A Very Convenient Marriage

A Family Circle 1 - A Very Convenient Marriage
Dallas Schulze
Silhouette Books (1994)
Tags:
Romance, Fiction, General

(

Silhouette 

Intimate Moments  #608)

HUSBAND WANTED...

Nikki Beauvisage desperately needed her inheritance to keep her day-care centre open. But she had to be married to get the money. Enter Sam Walker - the most arrogant, tantalizing man she'd ever met. And as Nikki said 'I do', she had a sinking feeling she was in for a lot more than she'd bargained for... Sam Walker desperately needed money for his niece's surgery, and he would do anything to get it. Although their business deal was highly unusual, the prospect of spending a year with this sultry beauty was downright enticing. This could be a very convenient marriage indeed...

A FAMILY CIRCLE:
A bond so strong, nothing can tear them apart!

A Very Convenient Marriage


Dallas Schulze

Copyright© 1994 by Dallas Schulze

Australian Copyright 1994

New Zealand Copyright 1994

Philippine Copyright 1994

First Australian Paperback Edition 1995

ISBN 0 373 07608 8

DALLAS SCHULZE

loves books, old movies, her husband and her cat, not necessarily in that order. She's a sucker for a happy ending, her writing has given her an outlet for her imagination. Dallas hopes that readers have half as much fun with her books as she does! She has more hobbies than there is space to list them, but is currently working on a doll collection.

Chapter 1

"
L
et me get this straight. You're suggesting that it's a good idea for me to marry a woman I've never laid eyes on?" Sam Walker leaned back in the big leather chair and gave the man sitting behind the desk a look that questioned his sanity. "You're kidding, right?"

"Do I look like I'm kidding?" Max Devlin braced his elbows on his desk and leaned forward, his dark eyes intent. "This is the perfect solution to both problems."

"Perfect solution?" Sam raised one eyebrow. "Marrying a woman I've never met? I think you've been spending too many hours reading legal briefs and not enough time in the real world. In the real world, people do not marry people they don't know."

"You might be surprised. When they get divorced, it turns out that they didn't really know each other as well as they thought."

"Don't get philosophical on me. You know what I mean. I've never even seen this woman."

"What difference does that make?" Max asked impatiently. "I'm suggesting you marry her, not put her in your will."

"There speaks the lawyer." Sam's grin revealed deep dimples that creased both cheeks. "It's okay to marry her as long as I don't leave her my estate." The grin faded abruptly. "If I had anything worth leaving to anyone, I'd sell it. And then I wouldn't be sitting here listening to this crazy suggestion of yours."

"Wouldn't do you any good to sell anything, anyway. Cole wouldn't take the money, and you and I both know it." Max spoke with the confidence of someone who'd known Sam since third grade when they'd bloodied each other's noses and then become the best of friends.

"He'd take it." Sam's tone held grim promise.

"No, he wouldn't. He's as stubborn as the rest of you."

"He'd take it because it's for Mary. He'd do damn near anything to see her well. We all would." Sam's face softened at the thought of his niece.

"I know."

Max was more than a little fond of five-year-old Mary Walker himself, which was one of the reasons he'd come up with this scheme. It would solve problems for two people who were more friends than clients. If he could just persuade the two of them to do what was good for them. He picked up a slim black-and-gold fountain pen and twisted it between his fingers, deciding on a small shift in tactics.

"I know Keefe has put his ranch on the market, but real estate is in pretty bad shape in Southern California right now. It could take him months to sell it, and Cole is going to hate taking the money even if Keefe can sell." He made his voice thoughtful and carefully free of any hint of pressure.

Sam winced. When Max got that reasonable tone, he knew he was in trouble. It meant Max was convinced that whatever he had in mind was best for whoever he was talking to. And once that happened, it was damned near impossible to get him to turn the idea loose.

"Tell me this brilliant plan again." Sam stood up and walked across the room to the coffeepot that sat on one end of the elegant wet bar. He topped off his cup and then turned to look at his friend. "Tell me in short, simple sentences. I was on stakeout all night, and about the only thing keeping me upright at the moment is caffeine."

"Where was this stakeout? The bottom of a sewer?" Max eyed Sam's scruffy clothing with exaggerated distaste.

"Too real world for you, Counselor?" Sam grinned.

"Let me put it this way—if s a good thing it's so early in the morning. Having someone who looks like you in my office is probably a violation of my lease."

"I could have a word with the landlord, show him my badge."

"He'd probably think you stole it." Since Max was the landlord, the conversation was nonsensical. It was simply a continuation of an ongoing joke between the two of them, contrasting Sam's working-class background with the world of wealth and privilege into which Max had been born.

Sam carried his coffee back across the room and sank down into the comfortable leather chair. It took a conscious effort to resist the urge to lay his head back and doze off. After spending most of the night sitting on a pile of garbage in an alley, he was more than ready for sleep-caffeine or no caffeine. But if Max had a way for him to get the money for his niece's surgery, no matter how crazy it was, he'd listen.

"Okay," Sam repeated, "tell me again about this brilliant plan."

"It's simple." Max dropped the pen and leaned forward, fixing Sam with the same intent look he used to sway judges to his point of view. "You need money for Mary's surgery. A lot of money. Nikki has a lot of money but she needs a husband to collect it. The two of you get married. Nikki gets her inheritance. You get the money for Mary's surgery. Everyone lives happily ever after."

"Yeah, right. And the moon really is made of green cheese." Sam shook his head. "All these years and I never knew there was any insanity in your family."

"What's wrong with the plan?" Max refused to let himself be drawn into an exchange of insults.

"What's not wrong with it?" Sam leaned forward and set his cup on the desk. "It sounds like something out of a movie or a book, Max. We're talking marriage here."

"We're talking about a perfectly reasonable business arrangement between two consenting adults," Max corrected. "Just because a marriage certificate is part of the bargain is no reason to turn it down."

"There's the lawyer again." Sam rubbed one hand over his face, wishing he'd had a chance to get some sleep. He was sure there were any number of logical objections to this crazy idea—he was just too damned tired to think of them. '' I don't want to get married again.''

Sam's wife, Sara, had died almost five years before. He'd never imagined himself marrying again. Certainly not under these circumstances.

"This wouldn't be a real marriage." Sensing victory, Max leaned forward. "You and Nikki would have to share a house for a year but that's all."

"That's all? You're suggesting I move in with some strange woman for a year and you say that's all?" Sam glared at him through eyes red-rimmed from lack of sleep. "What about her? Doesn't she have any problem with this?"

"She wants her inheritance, and the way her grandfather's will leaves things, she has to be married before her twenty-seventh birthday and stay married for a full year in order to get it."

"So she wouldn't have any money for a year," Sam said, pouncing on the obvious weak spot. "Which means Mary would have to wait a year for her surgery."

"Nikki can give you the money up front." Max's smile was smug as he eliminated that objection. "She has money of her own. Besides, it's my understanding that the doctors don't have any plans to do surgery in the next year. Possibly not in the year after that. So, even if you had to wait until the end of the year for the money, it wouldn't really make any difference, would it?"

Max was right but Sam didn't plan to admit as much, at least not out loud.

"If she's already got money to burn, then why does she care about the money from her grandfather? Or does she just figure that you can't ever have too much?"

"Nikki has her reasons for giving in to her grandfather's request."

"What reasons?"

"If she wants you to know, she'll tell you," Max said, suddenly very much the lawyer.

Sam gave him a sour look. "Is this part of some lawyer code? It's okay to marry your clients off but not to talk about their money?"

"Something like that. Look, just meet her. Talk to her. Then make up your mind."

Sam was silent for a moment and then shrugged and reached for his coffee cup. "What the hell, I can always say no. Set up a meeting."

Max cleared his throat. "Actually, I already have. She should be here any minute."

Sam choked on a mouthful of coffee. Once he'd stopped coughing, he glared at his friend. "Confident, aren't you?"

"I knew you'd see reason," Max said imperturbably. "Since timing is somewhat critical for both of you, I didn't see any reason to waste time."

Or to give either of them a chance to change their minds. But Max didn't say that out loud. It would have been easier to persuade Saddam Hussein to have tea with Mother Teresa than it had been to convince Sam and Nikki to consider his plan for solving both of their problems. Now all he had to do was hope that they didn't hate each other on sight.

It was a vain hope.

Five minutes later, Nicole Beauvisage walked into the office, smelling of Chanel and luxury. Sam's blue eyes swept over her, from the smooth twist of her pale gold hair, across the elegant perfection of her peach silk suit, to the Italian leather of the matching pumps with their three-inch heels. His gaze rose, lingering on a pair of legs good enough to cause accidents, taking in the trim lines of her figure, before settling on the perfect oval of her face.

For her part, Nikki paused just inside the door, her gaze widening a little as she looked at the man Max had suggested she marry.

"I've known Sam Walker since we were kids," Max had said. "He's a great guy. You'll like him and you'll like his family. The Walkers are a close-knit bunch, a Norman Rockwell kind of family. Besides, he's a cop. How can you go wrong?"

Nikki considered the answer to that question as she looked at Sam Walker, great guy, police officer and member of a Norman Rockwell kind of family. Funny, she didn't recall ever seeing a Rockwell painting with anyone who looked like him in it.

Shaggy dark blond hair, worn too long for her taste, a square-jawed face that couldn't quite be called handsome but she had to admit was arresting. There was a cleft in the middle of his chin that she refused to find attractive.

His shoulders were broad, and she guessed they were solid muscle, but it was difficult to tell beneath the layers of ragged coat, filthy sweater and torn shirt. The jeans he wore looked as if they hadn't seen a washer in at least a year of steady wear. He wore heavy boots that laced up the front, but the sole of one flapped loose, revealing a sock of indeterminate color.

Her green eyes widened in shock before meeting the cool blue of Sam's and reading his assessment of her.

Rich ice princess,
his look said.

Filthy pig
, hers responded.

It was instant antipathy.

Max nearly groaned aloud with frustration.

"Nikki. Come on in." He came around the desk to take her arm, ignoring her slight resistance as he led her toward Sam. "This is Sam Walker. Sam, this is Nikki Beauvisage."

"Mr. Walker." Her voice had the cool sound of ice tinkling in a glass. There was an almost imperceptible pause before she extended her hand.

"Nikki." Sam grasped her hand firmly, taking pleasure in her faint shudder as he leaned toward her. He knew exactly how bad he looked, not to mention smelled. It had taken considerable effort to achieve just the right look, and he wanted to be sure Ms. Nicole Beauvisage got the full effect.

"Max has told me so much about you," he said, giving her hand a hearty shake.

"I don't think he told me nearly enough about you." The look Nikki cast at Max held more than a trace of annoyance. She pulled her hand free and Sam noticed that while her manners were too good to allow her to look and see if any of his dirt had migrated to her, she was careful to hold her hand away from the pastel elegance of her suit. "I thought you said Mr. Walker was a police officer, Maxwell."

Max winced, recognizing the anger behind that coolly polite inquiry. He shot Sam a warning look with little hope that it would be heeded. Damn the pair of them, anyway.

"Sam was on a stakeout all night, Nikki.''

"If I'd known I was going to be meeting you, I'd have swung by my apartment and changed into my best Armani suit."

"Not on my account, I hope. If it would make you more comfortable, I could ask Max for a few pieces of rotten fruit to put in my pockets," she offered sweetly. "Or possibly a bottle of cheap wine would be more appropriate." Her nose wrinkled subtly at the smell of stale wine wafting from his clothes.

"Sorry. I was out of Dom Perignon." Sam's smile held an edge sharp enough to cut.

"Stop it, you two." Max stepped between them, physically as well as verbally. "Sit down, both of you. The cleaning service charges extra for getting blood out of the carpet."

He saw Nikki seated before turning to look at Sam. Sam hesitated a moment before sitting back down. Only when the combatants had retreated to their respective corners did Max step out from between them.

Nikki crossed one leg over the other and fixed her gaze on the tip of her pump.

Sam studied the grain of the wood on the desk, pretending not to notice the truly riveting length of leg she displayed.

Max looked at the pair of them and wondered if maybe Sam hadn't been right about the insanity in his family.

"So, I know the two of you must have questions to ask each other."

They both looked at him.

Nikki raised one shoulder in a delicate half shrug.

Sam rolled his eyes.

Max reached for a package of antacids. "We could start out slow. How about the weather? The weather report said it might rain."

"It's that time of year," Sam said.

"Actually, it's rather early for rain," Nikki corrected.

They both fell silent.

Max popped an antacid and chewed furiously. "Okay, we'll skip the small talk. What do you think of my idea?"

"It's nuts."

"It's insane."

The responses came one on top of the other.

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