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Needed: One Convenient Husband

By:Fiona Brand

Needed: One Convenient Husband
Fiona Brand

       One

Kyle Messena's gaze narrowed as the bridal car pulled up outside  Dolphin Bay's windblown, hilltop church. The bride, festooned in white  tulle, stepped out of the limousine. A drift of gauze obscured her face,  but sunlight gleamed on tawny hair that was heart-stoppingly familiar.

Adrenaline pumped and time seemed to slow, stop, as he considered the  stunning fact that, despite his efforts to prevent Eva Atraeus marrying a  man whose motives were purely financial, she had utterly fooled him and  the wedding he had thought he had nixed was going ahead.

Kyle had taken two long, gliding steps out of the inky shade cast by an  aged oak into the blistering heat of a New Zealand summer's day before  the ocean breeze whipped the veil from the bride's face.

It wasn't Eva.

Relief unlocked the fierce tension that gripped him.

A tension that sliced through the indifference to relationships that  had shrouded him for years, ever since the death of his wife and small  son. Deaths that he should have prevented.

The unwanted, brooding intensity had grown over the months he had been  entrusted with the duty of ensuring that the heiress to an Atraeus  fortune married according to a draconian clause in her adoptive father's  will. Eva, in order to get control of her inheritance, had to either  marry a Messena-him-or a man who genuinely wanted her and not her money.

Acting as Eva's trustee did not sit well with Kyle. He was aware that  his wily great-uncle, Mario, had named him as trustee in a last  game-playing move to maneuver him into marrying the woman he had once  wanted but left behind. Confronted by the mesmerizing power of an  attraction that still held him in reluctant thrall and unable to accept  that the one woman he had never been able to forget would marry someone  else, Kyle had been unable to refuse the job.

A gust of wind whipped the bride's veil to one side, revealing that she  was a little on the plump side. Her hair was also a couple of shades  lighter than the rich dark mane shot through with tawny highlights that  had been a natural feature of Eva's hair ever since he'd first set eyes  on her at age sixteen.

Kyle's jaw unlocked. Now that he had successfully circumvented Eva's  latest marriage plan, he was ready to leave, but when a zippy white  sports car emblazoned with the name of Eva's business, Perfect Weddings,  pulled into a space, Kyle knew he wasn't going anywhere.

Eva Atraeus, dressed in a pale pink button-down suit that clung in all  the right places, closed the door with an expensive thunk. Cell held to  one ear, she hooked a matching pale pink tote over her shoulder and  started toward the church doors, her stride fluid and distractingly sexy  in a pair of strappy high heels. At five feet seven, Eva was several  inches too short for the runway, but with her elegant, curvy figure,  mouthwatering cheekbones and exotic dark eyes, she had been a knockout  success as a photographic model. Gorgeous, quirky and certifiably high  maintenance, Eva had fascinated gossip columnists for years and dazzled  more men than she'd had hot dinners, including him.

Every muscle in Kyle's body tightened on a visceral hit of awareness that had become altogether too familiar.

A faint check in her step indicated that Eva had spotted him.

As the bridal party disappeared into the church, she terminated her  call and changed direction. Stepping beneath the shade of the oak, she  shoved the cell in her tote and glared at him. "What are you doing at my  wedding?"

Kyle clamped down on his irritation at Eva's deliberate play on the "my  wedding" bit. It was true that it was supposed to have been her actual  wedding day. Understandably, she was annoyed that he'd upset her plan to  leverage a marriage of convenience by offering the groom a lucrative  job in Dubai. The way Kyle saw it, he had simply countered one  employment opportunity with another. The fact that Jeremy, an  accountant, had taken the job so quickly and had even seemed relieved,  more than justified his intervention. "You shouldn't have arranged a  wedding you knew couldn't go ahead."

Her dark gaze flashed. "What if I was in love with Jeremy?"

He lifted a brow. "After a whole four weeks?"

"You know as well as I that it can happen a whole lot faster than-" She  stopped, her cheeks flushed. Rummaging in her bag, she found sunglasses  and, with controlled precision, slipped them onto the bridge of her  nose. "Now you get to tell me what you're doing at a private wedding.  I'm guessing it's not just to have another argument."

He crossed his arms over his chest. "If you think you can kick me out,  forget it. I'm a guest of the groom. I manage his share portfolio."                       
       
           



       

She took a deep breath and he watched with objective fascination as the  flare of irritation was replaced by one of the gorgeous smiles that had  graced magazines and posters and which had the power to stop all male  brain function. "That's thin, even for you."

"But workable."

"And here I was thinking you were here to make sure I hadn't pulled off a last-minute coup and found another groom."

He frowned at the light, floral waft of her perfume and resisted the  impulse to step a little closer. "It's not my brief to stop you  marrying."

Her head tilted to one side. Through the screen of the lenses her gaze  chilled. "No, it's to stop me marrying the man of my choice."

"You need to choose better." Out of an impressive discard pile during  the last few months, on three different occasions, Eva had selected a  prospective groom. Unfortunately, all three had been strapped for cash  and willing to sign prenuptial agreements that spelled out the cutoff  date for the marriage: two years to the day, the exact time period  specified in Mario's will. Kyle had been honor-bound by the terms of the  will to veto the weddings.

"Jeremy was perfect husband material. He was attractive, personable, with a reasonable job, his-"

"Motive was blatantly financial."

Her expression turned steely. "He needed money to cover some debts. What is so wrong with that?"

"Mario would spin in his grave if you married a man with a gambling addiction."

There was a small icy silence, intensified by the strains of the  wedding march emanating from the church. "If I have to marry Mr. Right  according to Kyle Messena, then maybe you should choose someone for me.  Only I'll need to marry him by-" she checked the slim pink watch on her  wrist "-next month. Since now, thanks to you, I only have three weeks  left to marry before my inheritance goes into lockdown for the next  thirteen years."

Despite Kyle's resolve to withstand the considerable pressure he had  always known Eva would apply, a twinge of guilt made his stomach  tighten.

Women and relationships in general had always proved to be a difficult  area for him. It was a fact that he was more comfortable with the world  of military operations or the clinical cut and thrust of his family's  banking business. He could do weapons and operational tactics; he could  do figures and financial markets. Love and the responsibility-and the  searing guilt that came with it-was something he would not risk again.  "It isn't my intention to prevent you getting your inheritance."

Eva's serene smile disappeared. "No," she said with a throaty little catch to her voice. "It's just turning out that way."

Spinning on her heel, Eva marched back to her car.

Kyle frowned. Eva's voice had sounded suspiciously husky, as if she was  on the verge of tears. In the entire checkered history of their  relationship, he had only ever seen Eva, who was superorganized with a  serene, kick-ass calm, cry twice. Of course, she had cried at Mario's  funeral almost a year ago. The only other occasion had been close on  eleven years ago when he'd been nineteen. To be precise, it had been the  morning after Mario had hauled them both over the coals for a  passionate interlude on Dolphin Bay's beach.

Memory flickered. A hot, extended twilight, a buttery moon sliding up  over the sea, the clamor of a family party at the resort fading in the  distance as Eva had wound her arms around his neck. He'd drawn a deep  breath, caught the scent of her hair, her skin. Every muscle had tensed  as he'd dipped his head and given in to the temptation that had kept him  in agony most of the summer and kissed her...

If Mario hadn't come looking for Eva, they would have done a lot more  than just kiss. The interview with Mario that had ensued that night had  been sharp and short. As gorgeous and put-together as Eva had looked at  age seventeen, she had more than her share of vulnerabilities. The  product of a severely dysfunctional family, Eva needed security and  protection, not seduction. Mario hadn't elaborated on any of those  details, but the message had been plain enough. Eva was off-limits.

Until now.

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