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The Billionaire Who Bought Christmas

By:Barbara Dunlop

The Billionaire Who Bought Christmas
Barbara Dunlop

       One


Jack Osland peered through the window of his Gulfstream jet plane as an    indistinct figure emerged in the scattered snow falling on the tarmac   at  JFK.

"Did I evenmention the wordkidnap? " he asked his cousin Hunter who was sitting in the opposite seat.

"I can tell you're thinking about it," said Hunter, turning to improve his view, the white leather creaking beneath him.

"You're clairvoyant now?" asked Jack.

"I've known you since you were two years old."

"You were a baby when I was two."

Hunter shrugged. "You've got that telltale twitch in your temple."

"That just means I'm ticked off." Jack's attention went back to the    woman who was striding through the frozen swirls of white.Ticked off was    an understatement, and he was watching the reason walk toward him.

A slim five and a half feet, her face was obscured by a furtrimmed hat    and the enormous collar of her matching, cream-colored coat.

"Maybe she'll say no," Hunter offered, a hopeful lilt to his voice.

"And maybe pigs fly," Jack responded.

The woman wasn't about to say no. Nobody ever did. When Jack and    Hunter's billionaire grandfather Cleveland Osland asked a gold digging,    trophy babe to marry him, it was a done deal.

"Well it looks like dogs fly," said Hunter with a nod toward the future Mrs. Osland.

Jack blinked.

A flash of red pulled his gaze to her high-heeled boots. Sure enough.    There, prancing along at her feet, was a tiny, plaid-coated fur ball.

As the implication registered, Jack shot Hunter a triumphant look. "Am I right, or am I right?"

"Her dog doesn't mean a thing."

"It means she's not turning around and going home."

"They only loaded one suitcase."

"You don't think Gramps's first wedding gift will be a platinum card?"

"Well, youstill can't kidnap her," said Hunter.

"I'm not kidnapping her." Jack was desperate, but he wasn't a fool. He    had no desire to give up a Malibu Beach penthouse for an eight-by-eight    cell with a lumpy mattress, a leaky toilet and a roommate with a  skull   tattoo.

He didn't know how he was going to stop her. But, whatever his plan, he'd have to come up with it before the jet made it to L.A.

"What exactly did your mom say to you?" asked Hunter.

"She said that Gramps was at it again, and the latest one was hitching a    ride with us. That's all I got, because she was boarding a flight to    Paris, and we lost the connection. She's on the plane now."

"Could she have meant something else?"

Jack gave his cousin a deadpan stare. "No. She could not have meant    something else. Gramps is getting remarried, and it's up to me to put a    stop to it."

The future bride approached the aircraft, tipping her head to gaze at    the fuselage. Jack caught a glimpse of straight, white teeth, burgundy    lips, a smooth, flushed complexion and blue eyes that sparkled like    jewels.

"Well, there's nothing wrong with Gramps's eyesight," muttered Hunter.

"I sure wish something would go wrong with his testosterone," Jack    returned, giving the steward, Leonardo, a nod to open the cabin door.

"He doesn't sleep with them," said Hunter.

Jack stared at his cousin in disbelief.

"At least not until they're married. And then, well it sounded like sporadic attempts."

Jack was momentarily speechless. "You actuallyasked Moira and Gracie about their sex lives with Gramps?"

"Sure. Didn't you?"

"Ofcourse not."

Hunter smirked. "You are such an easy mark. It was your mom who told me. I guess she asked them.

She was worried about a possible pregnancy."

Jack wondered why his mother hadn't talked to him about her fears,    instead of Hunter. Jack was her son, and the CEO of Osland    International, the man whose job it was to protect the family interests.

Leonardo finished lowering the aircraft staircase, and the woman's quick footsteps echoed on metal stairs.

"You could try reasoning with her," Hunter suggested as they rose to their feet.                       
       
           



       

Jack snorted his disbelief.

But Hunter didn't give up. "Warn her that Gramps has done this before."

"She's a twentysomething trophy babe, dating an eighty-year-old man. You    think there's a chance she'll be offended by his ethics?"

The woman in question rounded the corner in all her fur-trimmed,    youth-dewy glory. The little dog barked once, but obeyed when she    shushed it.

After a brief moment's hesitation, she smiled brightly at the two of    them, leading with an outstretched, manicured hand. "Kristy Mahoney. I    don't know if you heard, but I'm meeting with Cleveland and the Sierra    Sanchez buying team on Monday. Cleveland said you wouldn't mind if I    caught a ride?"

Her voice was as soft and husky as a lounge singer's. And she had an    interesting flare of fashion-both for herself and the dog. In addition    to the red plaid coat, the dog wore a collar that sparkled with    rhinestones. After the single bark, it had stayed perfectly still,    unblinking in her arms. It looked like a child's toy now, with wide    glassy brown eyes and blow-dried fur.

Hunter was the first to step forward. "Hunter Osland. I'm one of    Cleveland's grandsons. And of course we don't mind if you join us."

"A pleasure to meet you," she pulled off her white glove and gave his hand a graceful shake.

Then she turned to Jack and raised her finely sculpted eyebrows. Her    face was porcelain-doll beautiful, with a tiny upturned nose, a delicate    chin and wide-set, thick-lashed eyes.

"Jack Osland," he said, his voice unexpectedly gruff as he reached for her hand.

"Mr. Osland," she responded, closing her delicate fingers around his.

Jack was distracted by the feel of her cool skin, and her mesmerizing beauty. He barely heard Hunter's voice.

"Call us Jack and Hunter. Please."

She smiled into Jack's eyes, as if all was right with the world. As if    she wasn't a shameless hussy hoping to get her hands on the family    fortune. Quite the little actress this one.

"Jack, then," she said.

The sound of his name somehow sensitized his skin. Her vaguely tropical    scent surrounded him, and her blue-green gaze seemed to bore directly    into his brain. For a split second, he empathized with his  grandfather.   But he ruthlessly shook off the feeling. Unlike  Cleveland, he wasn't   falling for azure eyes, full lips and long legs  on a woman who could   barely string together a coherent sentence.

Not that Kristy appeared to be struggling with the English language. But her two predecessors sure had.

Gracie, Gramps's first bimbo, thought the bottom line was caused by    poor-fitting panties. She had designed jewelry so ugly it had to be    melted down and sold for scrap. Moira had insisted on her own perfume    label. R & D on that little venture had set the family back about a    million bucks.

With Kristy, apparently it was fashion. And since Cleveland was the    major shareholder in Osland International, and since Osland    International owned the Sierra Sanchez chain of women's fashion stores,    she had a whole lot to gain from the impending union       .

Jack, on the other hand, had a whole lot to lose. Reminding himself of    that important fact helped him will his brain-waves back to normal.

"Welcome aboard, Kristy," he said.

His voice was even as he released her hand, but his brain was scrambling    for a way to neutralize her. In less than five hours they'd be in  L.A.   That gave him five hours to figure out a way to save his family   several  million dollars.



This trip was the opportunity of a lifetime for Kristy Mahoney. She was    trying to play it cool, hoping Jack and Hunter hadn't noticed the   tremor  in her voice and the slight shaking of her hands. It was a   combination  of nerves, adrenaline and way too much caffeine.

She'd been riding a high for a week, ever since she'd wrangled an    invitation to a fashion-week after-party at Rockefeller Square and met    L.A. clothing-store mogul Cleveland Osland. When he'd admired her    self-designed gown, she was more than flattered. Then she'd been stunned    when he'd asked to see her sketches and samples.                       

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