If the running shoe fits...
As head of his family's Seattle-based software empire, workaholic Grayson Hunt was married to the job. Then Dear Old Dad issued Gray and his brothers an ultimatum--find brides, fast, or lose their fortunes. Gray was at wit's end--until he literally ran into the perfect candidate on his favorite jogging path. But did humble school librarian Amelia White have a hidden agenda?
This cinderella will wear it!
Amelia was going to teach this billionaire-in-training that his actions had consequences--and make him pay for what he had done to her sister. But when she signed up for this marriage of convenience, she didn't know she was signing away her heart in the bargain. Could she stick to her plan the more she fell for the man?
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January 31, 2008
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Excerpt from The Bride and the Bargain by Allison Leigh
Ten months later
Find. Wife. Find. Wife. Find. Wife.
Every time the soles of Gray's running shoes bounced against the narrow tree-lined path, the words seemed to echo in his head.
He picked up speed, pushing harder as the path rose sharply beneath his feet.
"Shut. Up. Shut. Up," he muttered under his breath.
Find. Wife. Find. Wife. His footsteps answered.
He made it to the peak of the hillside and looked out over the horizon that would have been nearly obscured if not for the footpath cut through the trees. He propped his hands on his hips, hauling in long breaths, feeling his heartbeat charging in his chest. The sweat soaking his shirt felt cold.
He spent precious time driving most mornings to this particular park because it was far enough away from his digs near the waterfront that he'd never once run into someone he knew.
The park wasn't a fancy place. It didn't have paved paths. It didn't have riding stables, or formal picnic areas or art displays. And often, he seemed to have the hilly tree-congested expanse to himself, but even when he didn't, it was rare to encounter more than one or two other runners.
Pretty much the way he liked it since his time was generally used up dealing with others. That was just one of the prices he paid for being president of a major corporation. A price he'd gladly pay many times over since--according to those who knew him--he'd been aiming for the helm of HuntCom since he was in the womb.
Until lately, Gray had never doubted that he would someday succeed his father as chairman of the board.
He set off down the hillside, oblivious of the slim rim of golden sunshine working its way into a sky that was unusually clear.
Find. Wife. Find. Wife.
He muttered an oath, and picked up speed.
Nearly a year had gone by since Harry called him and his brothers into his library and issued his damn marriage decree. Nearly a year since his brothers--and he, he admitted reluctantly--came to the consensus that they had to fall in line with their father's wishes or lose everything that mattered.
Everything. Not that giving in had been easy. Hell, no. In fact, Gray'd had his attorney come up with the flipping contract he and his brothers had all signed--as well as Harry, after some serious arm-twisting of their own--that detailed everything from marital deadlines and requirements of intent to procreate on one side to transfers of HuntCom voting shares on the other. But he'd only done it when it had become clear that Harry was not going to come to his senses.
Harry was a literal-minded soul. Not good with relationships of any sort, pretty much. He was more like the early computers he'd once programmed. Want results of X? Then do A. Then do B. Then do C.
He hadn't been successful in his marriages and family life and didn't want his sons ending up like him. So the answer?
Do what Harry hadn't done.
Marry the right woman. Resulting in the right kids. Resulting in an existence unlike Harry's.
Find. Wife. Find. Wife.
Gray gritted his teeth, moving even faster down the sharply curving trail, muscles warm and fluid from years of running, even though his brain felt uncommonly cold and tight. He'd thought that Harry would realize the error of his ways before it came down to the crunch.
But Harry was immovable. And he'd started talking to those in the industry who could possibly buy out portions of HuntCom.
Find. Wife. Find. Wife.
Everything that Gray had ever wanted to accomplish in life, he had. He was successful in every endeavor, because that was who he was. What was the point of wasting his time if he didn't plan to succeed?
But in this one...damned...thing...he was--
Barreling straight for a runner squatting square in his path. Cursing a blue streak, he tried slowing up, but momentum had him in its grip. "On the left," he barked, hoping the girl--oh, yeah, definitely a girl--would heed his warning and move to the side. But the path was too narrow and Gray's speed was too fast and maybe if she hadn't decided to straighten from her crouch, he could have hurdled over her--
Instead, he got a glimpse of pale skin, wide dark eyes and flying dark hair as she rose and took the impact with a gasping "oomph!"
He cursed again, reaching to catch her in the same moment that he'd been trying to avoid her, and managed to miss the mark as completely as he'd managed to plow over her.
His shoes skidded on the dirt as he finally succeeded in slowing enough to turn around and run back to her.
She was flat down, sprawled across the rocks that lined the edge of the path.
"I didn't see you."
"Obviously." Her voice was muffled as she gingerly pushed herself to her hands and knees.