Wed and bed one of his biggest client's unsavory daughters? No thanks. But the only way millionaire Travis King could get the man off his back was to marry someone else. So he handpicked his temporary and on-his-terms bride--hometown girl Julie O'Hara. The woman was desperate and should easily fade into the background. And, as per their contract, she'd do exactly what he wanted during their year of platonic marriage. Unless what he wanted began to change...
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April 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Marrying for King's Millions by Maureen Child
"No way. Sorry, Travis, I just can't marry you." Julie O'Hara leaned against the closed door and kept her voice pitched loud enough so that it would carry to the man on the other side.
Clearly, he heard her.
"Oh, yes you can," he said, and even through the door, his voice was all steely determination. "Now cut the dramatics and open the damn door."
Julie's head dropped back against the door and she rolled her eyes to look at the high, beamed ceiling. Sunlight slanted in through the windows across the room and the golden wash from the sun created shadows on the walls that looked eerily like the bars on a cell.
She didn't think so.
This was a huge mistake. She knew it down to her bones. The bad feeling that had been taking root inside her for the last month had suddenly blossomed into big, black flowers. Ooh, there was an image.
"Travis, think about this for a minute."
"Not really the time for any more thinking, Julie," he said. "The guests are here, the minister's waiting and we are getting married."
Her stomach did a slow pitch and roll and she clenched her teeth together and took a few deep breaths through her nose. Didn't really help. How in the heck had she gotten herself into this? Julie's eyes flew open when Travis King's knuckles rapped on the door again and she looked around the room with a frantic gaze, futilely searching for an escape route.
But there wasn't one and she knew it. She was trapped in this plush guest room in Travis's castlelike house on the King Vineyard. Just like the rest of the house, it was gorgeous, elegant and so far away from her ordinary world she felt like a servant girl who'd sneaked into the mistress's room to try on her clothes. Bad, bad feeling. And it was all her own fault.
She'd walked into this stupid situation with her eyes wide open. "Idiot."
"Open the door, Julie...."
"It's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding," she said.
"Uh-huh. Don't think that matters so much in our case, so open up."
Of course their case was special. Because this wasn't your ordinary, everyday wedding.
It had all seemed so simple a month ago, she thought and instantly remembered just how she'd gotten to this place in her life.
"I need a wife," Travis had said. "You need a future. It's perfect."
Julie had looked at him, sitting across from her in a red vinyl booth at Terri's Diner in the heart of downtown Birkfield, California. In a small town, the diner was the one place where everyone eventually showed up. Julie had practically grown up sliding across the red vinyl seats.
Her first date had brought her here. She'd nursed her first broken heart over four double-chocolate shakes. And now she was getting a marriage proposal here.
Shouldn't there be a plaque?
"It's not perfect," she argued, thinking that at least one of them had to be logical here. Travis had always been more impulsive than she--well, except for that one time when she'd married a man she thought loved her, only to find out too late that he hadn't. See where impulsiveness had gotten her?
Firmly, she said, "There's an easier solution, Travis. Just go find another distributor for your wines."
He shook his head, dark brown hair flopping across his forehead in a way that made her want to reach across the table and smooth it back for him. She resisted. "Can't. Thomas Henry is the best and you know I never settle for less than the best."
True, he never had. Travis had grown up as a member of one of the wealthiest, most powerful families in the state. He'd long ago grown accustomed to being on top. Being number one. And there was nothing Travis cared for more than King Vineyards. Ever since taking it over from his late father, he'd put in the time and effort required to make King wines known all over California.
Now he'd set his sights on not only distribution countrywide, but also eventually international exports, as well. Apparently, Thomas Henry was key to Travis's plan for world domination.
"Okay, but you don't have to marry me to get him."
"No." He sat back in the booth seat with a disgusted scowl on his face. "I don't. I could marry one of Henry's hideous daughters instead. I told you, Julie. The guy's kind of eccentric. He's a self-made millionaire and now his big goal in life is to get his girls married. I'm single. Rich. Therefore, I'm prime husband material."
She smiled. "He can't force you to marry one of his daughters. This isn't the Middle Ages."
"I wouldn't put it past him to try." Travis smiled wryly. "But if I turn down his 'darlings,' he can--and will--refuse to handle my wines. I can't risk that. King Vineyards is poised for the next big step. Getting the distribution deal with Henry would put me on the right path. All I need to make it all happen is a temporary wife.