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The Rich Man's Bride [Secure eReader]
eBook by Catherine George

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Ever since gamekeeper's granddaughter Anna Morton was snubbed by Ryder Wyndham and his upper-class friends, she's stayed away from Ryder, the man she once worshipped. But then Anna is forced to live with Ryder on his English country estate, and the tension between them turns to temptation. Anna is a career-minded city girl with no plans to settle down. But Ryder needs a wife, and he's decided that Anna will become his lady-of-the-manor bride!

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Presents
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2007

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COLD, tired and desperate for an early night, for once Anna was glad she had the flat to herself when she got home. She gave a sigh of frustration as the bell on the street door rang and snatched up the receiver. If this was Sean, he was out of luck.

'Ryder Wyndham,' said a voice over the intercom.

Anna's eyes lit up. 'Ryder? What a lovely surprise. Come on up.' She buzzed him in and opened her door to wait for him. She felt a sharp pang of sympathy when the new heir to the Wyndham Estate emerged from the lift. It was only months since she'd last seen him, but with his thick black curls cut close to his haggard face he looked years older and even taller than usual in a long dark overcoat over a formal suit and black tie.

She smiled warmly. 'Hi. Come in.'

Her visitor stalked past her, looking round him at the room which reflected her landlady's eclectic taste. 'Are you alone, Anna?'

No smile, not even a hello? 'Yes. How are you, Ryder?'

'I've been better.'

She nodded gravely. 'I was desperately sorry to hear about your brother. Edward's death must have been a huge shock.'

'It was,' he agreed curtly.

'Can I offer you a drink?'

He refused, giving her a head to toe scrutiny which rang warning bells in her head. 'I suppose I can see his point,' he said at last, mystifying her.

'Whose point?'

'I'm coming to that.' His eyes remained hostile. 'You don't look it, but by my calculations you must be at least thirty-three now.'

She frowned. 'You've come here to talk about my age, Ryder?'

'No, dammit,' he snarled. 'I came to tell you, face to face, to leave my brother alone.'

Anna stared at him in blank amazement. 'Dominic?'

'Who else? Eddy's dead,' he said brutally.

She took in a deep, calming breath, trying to make allowances for him. 'Look, Ryder, you're obviously under great strain. Take your coat off; let me make you a drink.'

'I don't want a drink. I want to know what the hell you're playing at!'

Anna's chin lifted. 'I think you'd better explain.'

'By all means.' His hostile eyes locked on hers. 'After Dominic came here to break the news about Eddy, you were all he could talk about—how sexy and gorgeous you are these days, and how sweet you were to him. He came up to London several times before he went back to New York—'

'You think he came to see me?' she said in disbelief.

'Officially he was visiting friends, but it's obvious now that he was coming here to visit you, Anna. I was too taken up with my various problems to suspect where it was actually leading.' His mouth twisted in disgust. 'He's barely twenty-three, so it's glaringly obvious why a woman of your age should want to marry a man so much her junior.'

'Great sex?' retorted Anna, suddenly so furious she could have hit him.

'In this case, money,' he snapped, looking down his nose in disdain. 'When Dominic told you he inherited a nice little packet from my aunt, you obviously sent the current man in your life packing and seized your chance.'

A surge of hurt anger welled up so violently it threatened to choke her. 'I can't believe you said that,' she said at last, when she could trust her voice. 'I had no idea Dominic had come into money. Nor do I care a toss if he did,' she added savagely. 'I have no intention of marrying your baby brother.'

'You expect me to believe that?' he demanded.

She stood with arms hugged across her chest. 'Whether you believe it or not, it's the truth, Squire. When he came to tell me about Edward it was the first time I'd seen Dominic in years. Just for the record,' she added cuttingly, 'he also paid me a second visit to say goodbye. And, if we're still counting, I caught a brief glimpse of him at the funeral.'

Ryder frowned. 'You were there? I didn't see you.'

'I left straight after the service to drive back to London.'

'I see. Your grandfather passed on your condolences, but I didn't know you'd actually made it to the church.' His eyes hardened. 'The fact remains that Dominic rang me from New York early this morning to say that you'd agreed to marry him.'

She stared in disbelief. 'If he did, he was lying—or joking. The phone's on the desk over there. Ring him right now and ask him. I won't even charge you for the call.'

Ryder shook his head. 'I've already tried, but I had no luck at his apartment and his mobile's switched off. Before we got cut off he said something about ringing me with the details tonight. I had to come up to London today to sort out probate—'

'So you came to warn me off at the same time. Or maybe even buy me off?' She gave him a taunting smile. 'What's the going rate to get shot of unsuitable brides like me, Ryder?'

He gave her an icy stare. 'That was never my intention, and you well know it.'

'Oh, I see!' Anna shook her head in mocking reproof. 'You expected to order me off and I'd meekly agree, with no expense involved. A bit cheap for a man with your kind of money, Ryder!'

To her intense satisfaction his eyes blazed with outrage for an instant. 'If I'm mistaken I shall, of course, apologise,' he said stiffly.

Copyright © 2007 by Catherine George.

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