It was only a kiss, meant to get rid of an unwanted suitor. Now Gabriel Gannon was asking Bobbie Fairchild to pretend to be his fianc?e so he could gain custody of his son and daughter. She certainly wouldn't have to fake her attraction to the incredibly sexy businessman and devoted father. And that was the problem....
Gabe couldn't forget the kiss he'd shared with his grandmother's tenant. He knew he was asking a lot, but proposing to Bobbie just felt so right. The petite dynamo was making him believe in love again. Now if he could only get her to believe that this was their chance for a new beginning--and the fair-tale ending they both craved....
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November 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Once Upon a Proposal by Allison Leigh
Gabriel Gannon stared at the petite bundle of curly-haired brunette energy standing in the doorway of his grandmother's carriage house. "Excuse--"
He didn't even get the rest of it out, as the girl--after a harried glance around him--grabbed his shoulders and yanked him down with an urgency that surprised him so much, he couldn't help but go with it.
Her mouth pressed against his. "Kiss me," she muttered again, her lips moving against his as she twined her arms around his neck. "And for pity's sake, make it look good."
Look good? His brain was faintly aware of some insult there, but his hands were too busy being filled by the shapely body practically climbing up his. He had a vague recollection of the last time he'd kissed a woman. Some leggy blond architect he'd met in Colorado. Maybe he'd even taken her to bed.
Hell. Who could remember a minor detail like that when he had the taste of this little body-climber in his mouth, making him feel like the top of his head was about to blow right off?
His fingers flexed against her waist. Spread against her back, feeling the supple stretch of her spine through the soft fabric of her cherry-red shirt.
He'd seen her before, of course. She was his grandmother's new tenant, living in the old carriage house at the rear of Fiona Gannon's stately Seattle property.
But he damn sure had never figured on this.
His fingers flexed again and it took every speck of self-control he had not to run them down to her hips, to her rear, and drag her even tighter against him. Not to press her back against the opened front door--which he fleetingly remembered that he was there to fix--and really make it look good...
She made a soft sound, her mouth opening, her fingers slid ing through his hair and her tongue dancing against his. Even through their shirts he could feel the soft push of her breasts; could feel, too, the way her heartbeat raced.
Or maybe that was his.
All he could think about was where in the hell was the near est bed. Or couch. Or floor.
He took a step. Then another. Over the threshold of the doorway.
"Bobbie?" The deep voice came from behind them and an oath raced through Gabe's thoughts, but not past his lips, which were still fused to hers. "What's going on here?"
Gabe tore his mouth away, hauling in a deep gasp. His hands slowly--way too slowly--let go of his kissing bandit as he lowered her feet back to the floor. He caught a glimpse of startled gray eyes before her thick lashes fell and she looked around him at the man who'd interrupted them.
"Tim," she greeted, sounding as breathless as Gabe felt. "What are you doing here?"
Gabe couldn't even move away. For one thing, she had her arms wrapped around him in a maddening way that kept him trapped against her luscious curves. For another, he was none too anxious to face a strange guy while he felt strangled by jeans that had gone too tight.
He might as well be seventeen again, instead of the forty-one he really was, for the amount of self-control he seemed to have just then.
"I brought you these," the other guy--Tim--was saying, as he passed a bunch of sickly-sweet smelling roses between Gabe's shoulder and the doorjamb.
"Oh." Bobbie finally had to let go of Gabe's arm to take the flowers and he used the moment to take a step away. But her free hand frantically grasped his, holding him close with a strength that was surprising. "That's very sweet of you."
The fingernails digging into Gabe's palm didn't feel all that sweet. He looked down at the top of her head. It barely reached his shoulder. And behind the veil of the flowers that she was sniffing, the glance she flashed up at him looked decidedly panicked. Gabe's nerves tightened and this time it had nothing to do with wanting a woman for the first time in longer than he cared to admit.
He turned to face the intruder, casually sliding his arm around Bobbie's shoulders, tucking her neatly against his side.
Tim--who'd evidently been the reason why Gabe had needed to make anything look good on this particular October morning--didn't appear particularly threatening. Medium brown hair. Medium brown eyes. Creased khaki pants and a navy-blue crew-neck sweater. If anything, he looked like he belonged in one of those yuppie-courting store catalogs that Gabe's daughter, Lisette, had suddenly begun showing an interest in.
But there was still no mistaking Bobbie's anxiety. So he curled his palm around the point of her shoulder in a possessive move that the other guy couldn't fail to notice. "Who is this, honey?"
"Tim." The other guy introduced himself before Bobbie could utter a word. "Tim Boering." He stuck his hand out, obviously not as put off by Gabe's arm around Bobbie as Gabe had hoped. "And you?"
"This is...is Gabriel Gannon," Bobbie finally spoke. She was probably trying to sound cheerful, but her musical voice mostly just sounded high-pitched and half-strangled. "Gabriel, Tim is a, um, a friend of Uncle Harry."
Gabe nodded, as if he had a single clue who in the hell her uncle was.
"Not just Mr. Hunt's friend, I hope." Tim shot Gabe a tight look before smiling winsomely at Bobbie. "You and I did spend a very memorable day together last weekend."
"Sightseeing," Bobbie put in quickly. "Uncle Harry asked me to show Tim around the city. He's just moved here from..." She trailed off, looking back at Tim with a question in her eyes.
"Minneapolis," Tim provided after the faintest of hesitations. He smiled a little deprecatingly, and Gabe supposed that if a woman liked that pretty-boy kind of guy, she'd probably lap it up. But in Gabe's estimation, Bobbie didn't seem the least bit thirsty. And the look Tim directed at Gabe was entirely competitive. "Are you an old friend of Bobbie's?"
Gabe smiled faintly, amused at the other guy's attempt to point out that he was plainly older than Tim. And Bobbie. He looked down at her. She was giving him another gray-eyed look of pleading. "Something like that," he murmured, his voice low. Intimate.
Her eyes widened slightly and that cool, panicky gray turned soft and warm. Then she blinked suddenly, looking away. She moistened her bow-shaped lips and color suffused her cheeks.
"I see," Tim said slowly. He tugged at his ear. "Bobbie, maybe I could call you later?"
Clearly, a lack of persistence wasn't one of Tim's faults.
Bobbie's mouth was opening and closing, as if she didn't know what to say. "I, well, I--"
Tim's gaze went from Bobbie to Gabe and back again. "I wasn't trying to poach. I just got the impression from Mr. Hunt that you weren't involved with anyone." He gave that toothy smile again. "I got that impression last weekend, too," he said to Bobbie.
If Gabe had to guess, he'd bet that Bobbie was wishing she could disappear into thin air as she hemmed around for something to say.
Gabe thought of the door he still had to fix for his grandmother before he could get out of there and pick up his kids for the day. At this rate, with Bobbie not getting rid of the guy she clearly wanted to get rid of, it was going to take more time than Gabe had.
"Blame that on me," he said smoothly. He nudged a finger beneath Bobbie's slightly pointed chin, and nudged it upward. "A misunderstanding, I'm afraid."
He lowered his head and pressed a kiss to the softly surprised O of her lips.
When he lifted his head, those gray eyes had a distinct silvery cast. He'd never seen anyone with eyes so expressively changeable. Fascinating. For a man with the time to explore it.
Which did not describe him.
He didn't even want to recognize the regret he felt as he brushed his thumb over the lips he'd just kissed, keeping up the act for young Tim. "But that's all worked out now, isn't it, sweetheart?"
She nodded hurriedly. "Mmm-hmm. For, um, for better or worse." Her cheeks were pinker than ever when she smiled brightly at Tim again.
"I see." Tim's expression tightened. "Well. Congratulations, then." He gave Gabe a terse nod and turned on his heel, striding back down the three porch steps to the stone walkway that led beyond the large main house and out to the hillside street.
Gabe leaned down again toward the riotous brown spirals covering her head. "I'm guessing you don't want to run and stop him?"
She let out a breathless sound and tilted her head to look up at him. "I...no." Her lips closed, softly pursed. They were pink and rosy. Lushly curved.
And now he knew they tasted sweeter than a summer strawberry.
It was all he could do not to take them again. He pressed his hand against the doorjamb above her head, realizing belatedly that he was still holding his hammer.
He didn't know whether to laugh at himself or curse. So he did neither. He straightened away from her and nodded toward the bouquet she was clutching. "Remind me never to give you roses. Lord knows what other innocent person you might attack."
She flushed and looked at the bouquet as if she'd forgotten all about it. "It's not the roses," she assured, running her hand over the perfectly pink blooms. "I love any sort of flower. And, I am sorry about, well, about all that."
He couldn't say that he was. "Getting kissed by a pretty girl isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me."
Her lashes flew up and again he couldn't help but think that she really did have the most distinctive eyes. And right now, they were as soft a gray as a mourning dove.
"Thank you." A dimple came and went in her smooth cheek. "I think."
"Just for future reference, though, if it wasn't the roses, what was so objectionable about the guy?"
"Boering wasn't just his last name." She gave a little huff, shaking her head and causing silky brown curls to dance around her shoulders. "And honestly, I never encouraged him. We spent a few hours visiting Pike Place and the Space Needle and I've been dodging his phone calls since."
"Ever think about just telling the guy you weren't interested?"
Her smooth forehead crinkled. "I tried!" She huffed a little at the look he gave her. "Honestly, I did. It's just not as easy as you make it sound. And I really didn't want to offend him. He's a friend of Uncle--"
"--Harry's," Gabe finished.
"Well, I hope your Uncle Harry doesn't have too many friends like Boering that he sets you up with or you're--"
"No, no, no." Her curls danced some more. "Uncle Harry didn't set us up. He just happened to introduce us when I delivered some coffee to his office. He's not supposed to be drinking it, you see, but when he called me--" Her shoulders lifted.
"You couldn't say no to him, either." Gabe grinned a little.
Her lips curved, and that dimple flirted into view again. "I was just doing a favor. Really."
"Well." He tapped the doorjamb with the butt of his hammer. "Someday you can thank your Uncle Harry for me. Whoever he is."
This time her cheeks went even rosier than the velvety flowers. Her eyes sparkled. "You're pretty gracious, considering everything."
"My grandmother would expect nothing less," he assured wryly.
"Right. And though Fiona has talked about you, we haven't ever been properly introduced." She tucked the roses under her arm and stuck out her hand. "I'm Bobbie Fairchild."
He took her palm in his. His hand practically swallowed her smaller one. "Gabe Gannon. It's nice to kiss you, Bobbie Fairchild."
She laughed. "I suppose I deserve the teasing."
If he teased long enough, maybe he could forget the taste of her. Which would be the smartest thing all around. For one thing, he had seriously more pressing issues going on than his dearth of a love life. For another, he figured Bobbie was one of the causes that his grandmother had taken under her wing. What other reason would Fiona have for suddenly renting out the carriage house the way she had?
It wasn't as if his grandmother needed the money. And it wasn't as if the carriage house was in such great shape. Structurally sound, maybe. But nobody had lived in the place for longer than Gabe could remember.
Which reminded him all over again about the door.
He lifted the hammer between them. "Fiona asked me to fix the door. It's been sticking?"
"If it's not sticking, then it's not locking properly." Bobbie was grateful to focus on something other than the way she'd virtually attacked the poor man. It seemed like hours since she'd yanked open the door at his knock, but she knew it really had only been a matter of minutes.
Only when she'd seen Tim Boering bearing down the walkway with determination in his step and roses in his hand, she'd simply panicked. No amount of hinting had been able to convince the man that she wasn't interested. And since there'd been six-plus feet of very manly man already standing on her porch, she'd impetuously decided to show Tim that she wasn't interested.
She just hadn't expected to find herself wrapped around a tick ing bomb of sex appeal.
Her heart was still dancing around inside her chest.
And she realized that Gabriel Gannon, her sweet Fiona's oft talked-about grandson, was clearly waiting for her to say something.
The door. Right.
Her face felt hotter than ever as she backed up until she was out of the way of the opened door. "It stuck so badly the other day that I couldn't make it budge. I had to climb out the back window to get to work on time."
He had the decency not to laugh at that, though he didn't stifle his grin all that quickly. "Can only imagine. This old door's been warped since I was a kid." He was running his very long-fingered hand down the edge of the door but his gaze--impossibly blue--was on her. "You work with my grandmother, don't you?"
"At Golden Ability?" Fiona was the founder and long-time director of the small nonprofit canine assistance agency. "I'm just a volunteer for them. I actually work at Between the Bean. It's a coffee place downtown." Just the latest job in a long string of them, but she wasn't about to tell this man that. "Lots of, um, business people stop in there," she added even though she knew she was rambling. She just couldn't quite seem to help herself. Her brains still felt scrambled.
"What sort of volunteering do you do?" He straightened again from studying the door and moved around to the inside, giving her another whiff of the intoxicating scent that she'd noticed when she was kissing him.