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The CEO's Contract Bride [Secure eReader]
eBook by Yvonne Lindsay

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: With her wedding nine days away, Gwen Jones's fiancee suddenly disappeared, along with her bank account. Now, to save her home, she had to marry businessman Declan Knight--the man with whom she'd shared one torrid, mistaken night of passion. Declan also needed to marry in order to access his inheritance. So he agreed to Gwen's plan despite his previous vow to keep his hands off her. Yet now he had to convince his family their charade was for real. Which meant marching Gwen straight into his bedroom and surrendering his hard-earned control....

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Desire
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2007

32 Reader Ratings:
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"Six weeks until the tender closes, mate."

Declan Knight leaned back his office chair and grimaced at his youngest brother's words as they echoed down the telephone line. He shot an irritated glance at his Rolex—yeah, six weeks. He could count off the seconds he had left to find the finance he needed to pull this project off.

"Don't remind me," he growled.

"Hey, it isn't my fault Mum put that stipulation in her will for our trust funds. Besides, who'd have thought you'd still be one of New Zealand's most wanted bachelors?"

Declan remained silent. He sensed Connor's instant discomfort over the crackling line.

"Dec? I'm sorry, mate."

"Yeah, I know." Declan interrupted swiftly before his brother could say another word. "I gotta move on." Move on from the reality that he hadn't been able to save Renata, his fiancée, when she'd needed him most. For a minute he allowed her face to swirl through his memory before fading away to where he kept the past locked down—locked down with his guilt.

"So, you want to go out tonight? Have a drink maybe? Show the Auckland nightspots how to have a really good time?" Connor's voice brought him back instantly.

"Sorry, previous engagement." Declan scowled into the mouthpiece.

"Well, don't sound so excited about it. What's the occasion?"

"Steve Crenshaw's prewedding party."

"You're kidding, right? Watch-the-paint-dry Steve?"

"I wish I were kidding." The pencil Declan had been twiddling through his fingers snapped—the two pieces falling unheeded to the floor. His staid and übercautious finance manager was marrying the one woman in the world who was a constant reminder of his failure, and his deepest betrayal—Renata's oldest and dearest friend, Gwen Jones.

"Maybe you should ask him for some tips on how to find a wife."

Declan's lips tweaked into a reluctant smile as he heard the suppressed laughter in his brother's voice. "I don't think so," he answered.

"You're probably right. Okay then. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Ciao, bro'."

Declan slowly replaced the receiver. It wasn't that he was short of women, in fact the opposite was true, but he sure as hell didn't want to marry any of them. There wasn't a single one who wouldn't expect declarations of undying devotion—devotion he was incapable of giving.

He'd been there, done that. He would bear the scars forever. Losing Renata had been the hardest thing in his life. He was never going down that road again. And he wasn't going to make promises he knew he couldn't hold to. It just wasn't his style, not now, not ever.

If he hadn't had his business to pour his energies into when Renata had died he may as well have buried himself with her. In some ways he probably had, but it was a choice he'd made, and one he stuck to.

He spun out of his chair and headed for the shower in the old bathroom of the converted Art Deco building, thankful—not for the first time—that he'd kept a fully functional bathroom in the office building. It gave him no end of pride to base the administrative side of his work here—his first completed project—the one his father had said would never succeed.

The house had been in a sorry state of repair, stuck in the middle of what had once been a residential area and which had slowly been absorbed by the nearby light-industrial zone. It had been just the sort of project he'd needed to get his hands on, literally, and had given him the opportunity to showcase his talents to restore and convert historical buildings for practical as well as aesthetic means. Cavaliere Developments had come a long way from the fledgling business he'd created eight years ago—and had a long way further to go if he had any say in the matter.

As he peeled off his work clothes, bunching them into a large crumpled ball in his fists, he wondered for the hundredth time if maybe he hadn't bitten off more than he could chew with the Sellers project. Buying the building outright wasn't the problem, he could do that without a blip on his financial radar. But converting it to luxury apartments, reminiscent of the era the building was constructed, took serious bucks. Bucks his board of directors, now headed by his father, would never authorise.

He'd worked out a way he could do it, though, a way to skip past any potential stonewalling by the board, and had liquidated everything he owned—his house, his stock in his father's company—everything, except his car and this building. He'd even temporarily moved in with his other brother, Mason, to minimise his expenses. But without the buffer of more funds his dream would be out of the running before he could even begin.

Declan rued, not for the first time, how easily he'd let his father take control of the board of directors when Renata died. How, in his grief, he'd let Tony Knight capitalise on his situation and take the seat of power for the one thing Declan had left that still meant anything. The old man had called most of the shots ever since. The board would never sanction taking on a loan the size he needed to make this job work.

But he had to make it work. He just had to. Somehow he'd get his hands on the money to make this dream come alive. After that, he'd resume control of his own company. It was all that mattered anymore, that and ensuring that he never laid himself open to being so weak that he'd lose control ever again.

* * *

Gwen Jones snapped her cell phone shut in frustration and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel of her car. If she couldn't put a halt to her wedding proceedings she'd be out of more than the deposits, she'd be out of her home, too. It had been Steve's idea to mortgage her house, and she'd reluctantly agreed, on the condition they only draw down sufficient funds to cover the wedding and some additional renovation costs on the late-nineteenth-century villa. But now he'd drawn down the lot and skipped the country. She'd never be able to cover the repayments on her own and she'd be forced to sell the only true home she'd ever known.

Copyright © 2007 by Dolce Vita Trust.

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