Quietly attractive, sweet natured...and filthy rich, Bree Kincannon was just the bride ad exec Gavin Spencer had been looking for. And Bree's father had secretly offered him a cool million to take her off his hands. With the chance to start his own agency, it took the bachelor no time to turn the heiress into his loving wife.
Yet it didn't take Bree long to discover the real reason behind Gavin's whirlwind courtship. And the bedroom door was slammed in his face.... Too late, he realized his feelings were very real. But could he convince his bought bride that his motives for marriage had changed?
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May 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Bachelor's Bought Bride by Jennifer Lewis
Uh-oh. What now?
Bree Kincannon's father waved to her from across the ballroom. A self-conscious everyone-is-watching wave. She stiffened as he headed toward her, marching through the splendidly attired crowd. He'd left their table the moment dessert was done, heading out to see and be seen, as usual.
Bree, as usual, had settled into her chair to listen to the music and wait for the evening to end. She'd come only because the fundraiser was for one of her favorite charities.
Wary, she glanced up as her father approached, his silver hair gleaming in the ballroom lights. Then she noticed the tall man behind him.
Oh, no. Not another introduction. She thought he'd finally given up trying to introduce her to every eligible bachelor in San Francisco.
"Bree, dear, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
A familiar refrain. She'd heard it a lot in her twenty-nine years, and it rarely led beyond an awkward first date.
Still, she rose to her feet and planted a smile firmly on her lips.
"Gavin, this is my daughter, Bree. Bree, this is Gavin Spencer. He's an advertising executive with Maddox Communications."
Gavin Spencer thrust out his arm. She politely extended her hand to meet his. "Nice to..." Oh, goodness. She looked up and her heart almost stopped. Thick dark hair swept back from a high forehead. The slightest hint of five-o'clock shadow enhanced chiseled features, which framed a wide, sensual mouth.
He was gorgeous.
"Meet me?" A twinkle of humor lit warm gray eyes.
"Uh, yes. Really nice to meet you." She snatched her hand back. Her palm was practically sweating. Her father must be nuts thinking a man like this might be interested in her. "Maddox has done some really good campaigns lately. The print ads for Porto Shoes were really eye-catching."
And perhaps I could use the word really a few more times in quick succession. She felt her face heat.
"Thanks, I worked on that campaign." A smile revealed perfect white teeth. His chin had a slight cleft. "Your father tells me you're a photographer."
Bree's eyes darted to her father. He had? Shock and pride swept over her. He never bothered to say a word about her hobby, as he'd called it once. "Yes. I enjoy taking photos."
"She just won an award," her father chimed in, his face beaming with bonhomie. "The Black Hat or something."
"Black B-Book," she stammered. "It's a commercial photography competition."
"I know what the Black Book Awards are." Gavin tilted his head. "That's quite an accomplishment."
Bree's father waved to someone across the ballroom, nodded his apologies and strode off into the crowd.
Leaving her all alone with the most breathtakingly handsome man in the room.
She swallowed, smoothed the front of her crinkled taffeta dress and wished she'd worn something less...hideous.
"What kind of photographs do you take?"
"Portraits, mostly." Her voice sounded reasonably steady, which was impressive under the circumstances. She was annoyed that this gorgeous man her father had forced on her was having such an effect on her. She always felt so out of place in these situations. "I try to capture people's personalities."
"That sounds like quite a challenge."
"It's mostly about timing. Picking the right moment." She shrugged. She couldn't explain it herself. "I think the technical term is that I have a knack for it."
His finely cut mouth widened into a smile and those dreamy gray eyes twinkled. "A knack generally implies the kind of talent that makes you stand out from the crowd."
"Well, I certainly don't stand out from this crowd." She swept her arm, indicating San Francisco's most elegant and well-heeled partygoers--and instantly regretted her foolish words.
Of course she stood out. As the frumpiest and most unexciting person there.
"Everyone here is trying so hard to stand out." Dimples appeared under his impressive cheekbones. "It's the people who aren't trying who are more interesting. Would you like to dance?"
"Dance?" Did he mean with him? No one ever asked her to dance at these things.
"Is there an echo in here?"
"No. I mean, yes. Yes, I'd like to dance."
For a split second she wished the polished parquet would swallow her whole. Which would be quite a big gulp. Of course he didn't want to dance with her. He was just being polite. No doubt he'd have appreciated it if she politely refused.
But he extended his arm, clad in a deep black suit--like every other man at the formal gala--and led her to the dance floor where a band, in white tie and tails, played the thirties classic "In the Mood."
Gavin swept her out into the middle of the floor and slid his arm around her waist. Her whole body shivered with awareness, even through all the layers of crunchy taffeta. The steps to the dance were probably lodged somewhere in her subconscious. Lord knows she'd been dragged to enough dancing classes as a kid.
The room rushed past her as Gavin twirled her into a spin. He chased the music across the room, guiding them effortlessly through the other dancers. His enticing masculine scent wrapped around her, hypnotic and intoxicating. Her feet followed his almost as if they were attached, stepping in time. Her arm barely reached around his broad shoulders--which was quite something considering she was five feet nine inches--but she seemed to float along with him, gliding on the soaring trombones and quick-stepping with the punchy trumpets, until the music slid to a close.
Breathless and blinking, Bree extricated herself from Gavin's strong arms. Was that really her whipping around the floor like that--with a man like him?
"You're a wonderful dancer." His breath felt hot on her ear.
"Me? It was all you. I just had to follow."
"That's an art in itself. I bet you half the women in this room would be fighting so hard to lead they'd trip me up."
Bree laughed. "Probably true."
"You have a beautiful smile."
"Six years of orthodontics will do that for you."
He laughed. "And a wicked sense of humor." He led her off the dance floor, toward the bar. Eyes swiveled to him from all directions--both male and female eyes. Apparently no one could keep their gaze off the most impressive man in the room.
And he walked with his arm threaded firmly through hers.
Bree blinked under the unfamiliar glare of attention. They probably all wondered what on earth he was doing with her.
Heck, she wondered, too.
Being an heiress, and a plain one at that, made it easy to figure out what a man wanted. Begins with m and ends in y. But this guy could probably marry any heiress in the room--and there were plenty of them here tonight.
What was so special about her?
A voice in her head told her to stop worrying about it and just enjoy the attention that was making her heart beat faster than it had in quite some time.
"Would you like champagne?" He turned to offer her a glass.
"Thanks." Why not? The dance alone was something to celebrate. She took a sip and let the bubbles tickle her tongue.
He leaned in until his sexy stubble almost brushed her cheek. "How come I've never met you before?"
"I don't go out much. I adopted my two cats from the Oakland Animal Society, though, so I wanted to come to their fundraiser tonight. Do you have any pets?"
He shook his head. "Don't have the time. I work long hours and travel a lot. I bet your cats were lucky to find you."
"I like to think so. Especially since Ali needs insulin shots every day. Animals with health issues are hard to find homes for."
"You're a caring person."
"Or a sucker." She smiled. "But a happy one. They're my babies."
An odd expression flickered across Gavin's face. Something in his eyes, really, since his chiseled features didn't move.
Was he wondering why he was wasting time with a cat-owning spinster in a puffy dress, while stunning women cast suggestive glances over their drinks at him?
She'd rather be home with her cats anyway. Being around Gavin made her nervous, had her analyzing every move he made. She'd be a lot more comfortable with a camera lens between them. He was definitely too good-looking. It couldn't be healthy for her insides to be fluttering like this.
"I'm here because a client bought a table for the agency. It's obviously a good cause but I don't like these dos much, either," he murmured. "Too many people. Long speeches. Chewy beef." His dimples appeared again.
A warm sensation filled her chest. "What do you like to do?"
He hesitated a moment. "Interesting question. I spend so much time working, sometimes I forget what else is out there." He smiled, sheepish. "Lately though, I find myself wanting to slow down, enjoy the ride a bit more. Maybe even..." He paused and shoved a hand through his hair, as if embarrassed. "Settle down and start a family." His mouth formed a wry grin. "I guess that sounds sappy."
"Not at all." The way he looked at her with those soulful gray eyes made Bree feel woozy. Could this guy be more of a fantasy? "I think it's perfectly natural. Everyone needs balance in their life."
"Speaking of which, would you like to dance again? This song is one of my favorites."
The band had struck up a sultry Latin tune. Adrenaline prickled through her at the prospect of moving in sync with this man again. Was he for real?
Gavin entwined his arms with Bree's and led her back to the dance floor. He wished he wasn't wearing the stiff suit so he could feel her soft skin against his. So far everything about Bree seemed soft--the big gray eyes half hidden behind her glasses, her pink-tinged cheeks, her pretty, kissable mouth. He suspected there was also a soft, lush body hidden somewhere under all that crispy gray taffeta.
Her father had implied that she was unattractive and undesirable, and that her continued spinsterhood was a social embarrassment to him. His own daughter, a burden he'd pay well to be rid of. Could Elliott Kincannon really feel that way about the sweet woman on his arm?
Pure pleasure rippled through him as he slid his arm around her waist. Yes, she definitely had the kind of body a man could lose himself in. Full breasts bumped gently against his chest as he pulled her close. Her brown hair was pulled back into a tight knot and he wondered what it would look like cascading over her shoulders.
He liked the way she moved, too. Soft--again--and yielding, allowing her body to flow with his. Light on her feet as he twirled her slowly to the gentle rhythms. As she spun around to meet him, her eyes sparkled and she flashed a sweet, shy smile.
He couldn't help but respond with a smile of his own.
If first impressions were correct, then Bree Kincannon could make a very nice Mrs. Gavin Spencer. She might not be the kind of girl men flocked around in a bar, but so what? He didn't need some nipped-and-tucked trophy wife to prove his manhood.
And Bree Kincannon came with some very real incentives. One million of them, in fact.
Their eyes met again and a needle of guilt pricked his heart.
Could he really marry a woman for money?
He'd busted his ass for ten long years trying to build a reputation as a top-flight account executive. Since his first day on the job he knew he wanted to open his own agency. Bring together top creative talent, innovative thinking and creative media buying that would take the advertising world by storm.
If you'd told him ten years ago that he'd still be working for someone else at age thirty, he'd have laughed in your face.
But life had done a little laughing of its own.
His dad's pension plan had gone bust and he'd bailed his parents out of a mortgage mess. In truth, though, he was glad he could help them. The biggest mistake of his life was being dumb enough to trust a renowned "investment advisor" with a large chunk of his precious nest egg--only to learn in the papers it had been squandered on racehorses and vintage violins.
Gavin tugged Bree closer, enjoying the soft swell of her chest against his. Her long eyelashes lifted to reveal shining eyes.
He liked those eyes and it wasn't hard work to imagine looking at them for the rest of his life. He had a good feeling in his gut about Bree Kincannon, and his gut rarely steered him wrong.
Finding a wife, or even a girlfriend, had never been a priority for him. Married to his job, that's what his friends joked. True, though. He really loved his work and was more than satisfied with the occasional fling. At least then, no one was disappointed.
If he went through with this crazy plan, he'd work hard not to disappoint Bree. He'd be a good husband to her.
He dipped her slightly, and she yielded to the motion, letting herself fall backward into his hand. Trusting.
She had absolutely no idea what was going through his mind. If she knew, she'd be appalled beyond belief.
But she wouldn't know. Ever.
She giggled as he pulled her back up. A rare flash of excitement flared in his chest. She was enjoying this and dammit, so was he. He twirled her around, holding her close, hand pressed to the inviting curve of her hip.
He had a good feeling about this whole thing.
Bree stood in front of the mirror in the powder room on the pretext of rearranging her hair. Really she just wanted to see what exactly Gavin Spencer was looking at with that gleam of interest in his eyes.
People always told her she had pretty eyes. Rather an odd observation, since she wore glasses. She lowered the frames--the nice, low-profile ones she saved for special occasions--and peered into her own eyes. They didn't look all that special to her. Maybe that's what people said when they couldn't think of something else to compliment. She pushed the frames back up her nose where they settled comfortably into place. People said she should wear contacts but they were far too much hassle for her taste.
Her hair was a disaster, as usual. Unmanageable, frizzy and fighting her every step of the way. She never should have taken out the hairsticks she'd managed to jam in earlier. With a struggle, she poked them back in and secured a messy bun.
There wasn't a lick of makeup on her face, but then she never wore it. She wasn't skilled at applying lipstick, blush and eyeliner, so on the rare occasions she'd attempted to use them, she ended up looking like a clown.