top of page

Waking Up Married to the Billionaire

Chapter One

Ruby Wakefield’s temples pounded and it took an effort to peel her tongue from the roof of her mouth. Dear God, what had she drunk last night?

   Flashes of the previous evening flitted through her mind, slowly assembling themselves like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle—an incomplete one, but it told her enough.

   What hadn’t she drunk?

   It had been fun, though, and—

   She froze, the why behind her wild night returning in a rush. Her hands and jaw clenched. Her stomach churned. The word failure sounded over and over in her mind. Yesterday afternoon, when the conference had ended, Howard and Hugh, the senior executives at her law firm, had taken her aside and told her she didn’t have the leadership skills to be yet made a partner.

   She’d been slogging her guts out for five years. Five years! She’d gone above and beyond, and they all knew it. She’d been expecting them to announce the partnership and then take her out on the town to wine and dine her—she’d thought that was what this entire trip to Vegas had been about. But apparently, not only didn’t she have leadership skills, she had no work-life balance either. She buried her face in her pillow and fought the urge to scream. How on earth was one supposed to have a work-life balance when they were working towards a partnership?

   We’ll revisit our decision in a year or two.

   Or two? Acid burned her throat.

   Afterwards she’d met Luis in the hotel bar. Slowly her hands and jaw unclenched. Lovely Luis, who was staying in the same hotel, and whose business was concluded but who didn’t seem in any hurry to return home to Switzerland. They’d taken to dining together, seeing a few of the sights, and comparing their impressions of Vegas—he some high-flying executive and she a lowly lawyer who worked for a stupidly horrible firm in Sydney.

   Luis had taken her for a night on the town. ‘We’ll show them you’re not all work and no play.’ They’d laughed, drunk cocktails, danced, downed tequila shots, thrown down an enormous amount of money at the blackjack table, drunk…champagne?

   And they’d finally given into their desire for each other when they’d returned to her room. Five days of silently longing and aching, but holding back. They’d made love, and it had been…

   A revelation.

   She peeled open an eyelid. Luis still slept in the bed beside her. She closed her eye, a dreamy lassitude making her boneless. The lovemaking had blown her mind, and while they’d both had a lot to drink, it hadn’t seemed to affect their, uh…stamina.

   He stirred. She opened that eye again, watched as he opened both of his. A lazy smile flitted across his face when he saw her. ‘Morning, sweet Ruby.’

   She couldn’t help smiling back. The smile became a grin. Apparently, the worst afternoon of her life had been followed by the most extraordinary night.

   Grinning like an idiot, she rubbed a hand across her eyes, dying for a glass of water—dying to repeat the events of the night before. Flinching, she pulled her hand away as something scratched her eyebrow. ‘Ow.’

   Luis intercepted her hand as she reached up to touch a spot that smarted. ‘Careful, you’ll do yourself an injury.’

   They saw the ring at the exact same moment—a huge fake-diamond dime-store ring. Her mouth formed a perfect O. So did his. Ooh, she’d forgotten about that. ‘We had a lot to drink.’

   His eyes danced. ‘And you were determined to prove your leadership skills.’

   She clapped a hand to her mouth. ‘I ordered you to marry me.’

   ‘And respecting your leadership skills as any sensible person should, I did.’

   They stared at each other for a moment before dissolving into hiccupping fits of laughter.

   It hadn’t been a real wedding ceremony of course—just a fake one to give them the full Vegas experience. Grinning, she pulled the silly, glitzy ring from her finger. ‘Tell me I can keep the ring.’

   ‘You can keep the ring.’

   She’d treasure it for ever, but it seemed silly to keep wearing it now. ‘Luis, last night was wonderful. Such an adventure.’ Sitting up against the pillows, and bringing the sheet with her in the interests of modesty, she stared at the ring. ‘I don’t have very many of those.’

   Maybe her firm had a point about the work-life balance thing.

   She wasn’t going to keep working herself into the ground for nothing, though. If they didn’t value her contribution enough to promote her, then…

   Then what? an inner voice mocked. You told your family you were going to be made partner this week.

   Oh, God! She had, and—

   She slammed a lid on those thoughts. She wasn’t ruining this moment with Luis thinking about her parents, Horrid Cousin Christa, or the fact that she was a failure.

Luis sat up too, took the ring and twirled it in those rather magical fingers of his. ‘Maybe it’s time to start making time for some adventures, sweet Ruby.’

   Oh, the way he said her name! It had her swooning.

   One eyebrow hooked up. ‘We both have another full day in Vegas…’

   Another day to make memories that would lighten her life forever? Yes, please! ‘What did you have in mind? I—’

   She suddenly frowned.

   He leaned towards her. ‘What’s the matter?’

   The fingers of her right hand had found another ring—on the third finger of her left hand. She held it up for them both to see. ‘I don’t remember this.’

   He stared at it, frowned.

   She tugged at it. Oh, Lord, she couldn’t get it off. She’d need soap and water for that, or hand cream. ‘It feels real.’

   He took her hand to survey the ring more closely. ‘White gold,’ he said with a nod.

   ‘Are they…?’

   ‘Diamonds,’ he confirmed.

   Set around the band were three flawless diamonds that sparkled in the morning light. ‘Oh, God, Luis, please tell me I didn’t rob a jewellery store. This is the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen, but there’s no way on God’s green I could afford it.’

Fine nostrils flared. ‘I seem to recall buying it for you. You thought it lovely and I…’

   Oh, no, no, no.

   ‘I keep the fake engagement ring, but you’re getting this one back.’

   ‘But I bought it for you.’

   But even as he said the words, he threw the covers back to surge out of bed, his frown deepening.

   The entire surface of Ruby’s skin tightened, and logical thought fled. Her hand inched up to her throat as she stared at all the tanned, muscled flesh suddenly on display. Her breath jammed and she gave a funny little hiccup. Luis was quite simply the most beautiful man she’d ever seen—tall and lean with broad shoulders tapering to narrow hips and taut buttocks. Oh, God, she remembered digging her fingers into those in the throes of passion and—

   Heat flared across her face when she realised she was gazing at him with the kind of hunger dieting women reserved for a plate of chocolate-glazed doughnuts. She tried to drag her gaze away but before she could, Luis turned back, holding aloft a folder.

   His soft chuckle filled her ears when she covered her eyes. Through a gap in her fingers, though, she watched as he turned back around to pull on a pair of briefs before coming to sit on her side of the bed. ‘Sweet Ruby, my nakedness embarrasses you?’

   ‘Oh, I…’ Heat flared in her face. ‘I don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of…’

‘I know.’

   Oh, God. Had her inexperience been so obvious? Had she disappointed—?

   He bent down until their eyes were level and their breath mingled. ‘Last night was wonderful. Don’t think otherwise for even a second. But you told me you do not indulge in brief affairs. I was honoured you made an exception for me.’

   Swallowing, she nodded, ordered herself not to touch him. One hand lifted to touch his cheek, completely disobeying her. ‘You’re an exceptional man, Luis. And last night was also truly exceptional.’

   Firm, warm lips claimed hers, moving over them with an expert sensuality that had every sleepy nerve firing to life. Last night should’ve assuaged her greedy hunger, but she craved him again now with a bold need that would’ve mortified her if she’d been with anyone other than Luis. She kissed him back with a wild passion of her own.

   Strong arms slid around her back, splaying there, each fingertip branding her with the fiery intensity of its owner and leaving her in no doubt of what he wanted. Yes. Yes, please. Her hands landed against his chest, relishing the muscled contours they found there, the solid strength of his neck, her fingers eventually burrowing in the thick softness of dark blond hair. With a bitten-off curse that sounded more like a caress, he dragged her into his lap. She straddled him as his hands caressed her breasts, his thumbs making lazy circles around her nipples as he pressed drugging kisses to her neck.

   Unable to contain a moan, she pressed herself against him, neither the sheet nor the thin material of his briefs able to hide his erection. ‘Luis,’ she panted, begging, needy…on fire. Her hands danced along the muscled strength of his shoulders, tiptoed back down his chest to his stomach to—

   Her eyes flew open when he gripped her fingers to halt their sensual journey.            Breathing hard, he stared into her face, kissed her once more, with a fierceness that stole her breath, before setting her on the bed and retreating several feet away.

   She swallowed. ‘Luis?’

   ‘I burn to make love with you again, but I need to tell you something first.’

   A horrible thought shook her. They’d spent the last five days talking and sharing and enjoying each other’s company, but… She backed up until she’d jammed herself against the bedhead. ‘You’re not married, are you?’ She’d never once thought to ask.

   He dragged a hand down his face.

   Oh, God, he was! ‘Turn around,’ she choked out.

   He did as she bid, and she dragged on a T-shirt and her sleep-shorts—the nearest items of clothing to hand. She’d slept with a married man! How could she be so stupid? Her family were right. She’d never amount to anything. She was a screw-up, a failure, a disappointment.

   ‘May I yet turn around?’

   She tried to compose her features. ‘Yes.’

   He turned back slowly, as if afraid any sudden movement might send her scurrying for cover. He held the folder out to her. ‘This is what you need to see.’

   She was super careful not to touch him as she took it. She’d slept with another woman’s husband. She’d never be able to meet her own eyes in a mirror again. She was the lowest of the low, the—

   You didn’t know.

   What difference did that make? She should’ve checked, asked.

   Pushing the thoughts away to deal with later, she opened the folder and read the single sheet inside. The breath punched from her body. Blinking hard, she read it again. ‘Oh, God.’

   Luis was married.

   Luis was married to her!

   Her lungs cramped. She couldn’t breathe.

   ‘Head between your knees, Ruby.’ Luis gently supported her as he pushed her down to the bed and her head towards her knees. ‘Deep breaths. One…two… That’s right. And again.’

   ‘I’m okay,’ she mumbled a few moments later, unsure whether to be relieved or not when he released her. Meeting his gaze, she suspected her agonised expression mirrored his.

   ‘I’m sorry, Ruby.’

   ‘I’m pretty certain you didn’t force me into this.’ She pushed the words from frozen lips and once again read the marriage certificate. The legally binding marriage certificate. That was definitely her signature. ‘We did the fake marriage because it was…’

   ‘A laugh.’

   Neither of them was laughing now. Screwing up her face, she tried to piece it all together. ‘Afterwards we ate ice creams and looked in jewellery stores at real engagement rings.’

   ‘You fell in love with the wedding ring you’re wearing.’

   ‘It fitted perfectly.’

   ‘And somehow that led us to think it’d be a fine thing to make our marriage real.’

   ‘So we did.’

   She pressed both hands to her face. ‘Oh, Luis, I’m sorry.’

   He hesitated then sat beside her, careful not to sit too close. ‘We’d both had a lot to drink. It would be a simple thing to have this marriage annulled.’

   She couldn’t explain why, but her heart grew heavy at his words. ‘Which is clearly what we have to do, because…well, it was madness.’

   His whole body drooped. ‘I do not know what we were thinking.’

   She met his gaze once more, opened her mouth but he reached across, pressed a finger to her lips. ‘No more apologies, sweet Ruby.’

   He really ought to stop calling her that.

   Frowning at him, she pulled in another breath. ‘You aren’t married to someone else too, are you?’

   ‘I am not. You?’

   She shook her head. Who’d want to marry a mess like her?

   Luis, a traitorous voice whispered through her. Luis had wanted to marry her.

   The reason for him calling a halt to their lovemaking, though, hit her now. ‘Last night we were drunk and not making responsible decisions.’

   ‘But this morning we’re no longer drunk. If we were to make love now…’

   They’d be tacitly consummating the marriage, dammit! Why couldn’t they have remembered this real legal marriage later? Much later.

   Her phone buzzed informing her that a message had hit her inbox. Leaping up, Luis gestured for her to check it while he moved across to grab waters from the minibar.

   The message was from Christa. What on earth…? Christa only ever contacted her when she wanted something.

   Hello everyone!

   Oh, God. Even worse, this was a message to the combined family group.

   I simply had to tell you the news before I burst. I’ve just been made Senior Liaison Officer with Crosbie and Larkin.

   Crosbie and Larkin was the political consulting firm Christa worked for.

   As you can imagine. I’m in absolute ecstasies.

   A lump lodged in her throat. Christa had known—she’d known—that today was supposed to be Ruby’s day. She’d deliberately stolen Ruby’s thunder.

   How wonderful it will be to celebrate both my and Ruby’s promotions when she returns home from Vegas. Ooh, do hurry, Ruby, and put us out of our suspense. Did your firm make you partner?

   Her eyes burned. It was as if Christa knew, and was doing all she could to rub salt into the still raw and bleeding wound that stretched through Ruby’s psyche. Everything came so easy for Christa. Why couldn’t she just once…?

   What? an ugly voiced mocked. Let you shine?

   As far as her family were concerned, she wasn’t made of the kind of stuff that shone. Whatever it was that Ruby was made of, it was a bit tarnished around the edges.


   It didn’t matter what she did or how she did it, she’d never sparkle like golden girl Christa.


   She crashed back, found herself blinking into brilliant blue eyes. Luis leant towards her.

   ‘Bad news?’

She shook her head.

   ‘That’s not what it looks like,’ he said, his voice so gentle it had a lump stretching her throat into a painful ache.

   ‘Just a message from Christa,’ she mumbled.

   ‘Horrid Cousin Christa?’

   She’d told him a bit about Christa the other night, shared how she felt as if she lived in Christa’s shadow. She’d even confided to feeling as if maybe she was the one with the problem, that maybe she was paranoid. Bless him, though, he hadn’t agreed.

   ‘What is the mean cow gloating about now?’

   His words startled a laugh from her. Lord, no wonder she’d married him.


Luis’s heart clenched at the expression on Ruby’s face, the disconsolate slope of her shoulders in her Tweety T-shirt with the matching soft shorts that were so baggy they practically reached her knees. They were in the softest butter-yellow cotton…and so thin it brought last night’s memories flaring back to vivid life.

   Which was the last thing he should be thinking of at this juncture. For pity’s sake, he had woken up married!

   And yet it didn’t send panic racing through him, as he expected it to. Or, he suspected, as it ought. He still found himself fighting the desire to laugh.

   And to make love with Ruby again. And then maybe just one more time after that. To fix it in his memory for good.


   His lips twisted. If only his mother could see him now. She’d be ecstatic. So would his father. Walter Keller always wanted Claudia Keller to have her heart’s desire. And Claudia’s current heart’s desire was to see her son married. Whether he was happy about the arrangement or not.

   Shaking the thought off, he focussed on Ruby again. ‘What does Christa say?’ He didn’t like the sound of Ruby’s glamorous cousin—anyone who made themselves feel big by making someone else feel small had a problem. Ruby was lovely. She didn’t deserve to feel small.

   ‘She’s sent a group message to the family…’

   He watched her throat bob as she swallowed and his hands clenched. ‘Yes?’

   ‘She’s just been promoted at the firm where she works.’ She glanced down at her phone, and the smile she tried to give pierced his heart. ‘It’s a big promotion. Comes with lots of responsibility, and a huge pay rise.’

   He winced.

   ‘And she simply can’t wait until we can get together to celebrate our joint career successes.’

   He bit back something rude and succinct. Ruby had been absolutely devastated when he’d met her in the bar yesterday afternoon. She’d worked so hard for the partnership, only to be denied it. And now Horrid Cousin Christa was gloating, clearly intent on rubbing Ruby’s nose in it.

   ‘I would give you a job that would trump hers in an instant!’ He snapped his fingers with a growl. ‘Just like that.’

   She gave a half-hearted laugh. ‘If I recall rightly, you made me that offer last night too.’

   He had. And she’d turned him down. They lived on opposite sides of the world, blah-blah-blah. He couldn’t give her a job when he barely knew her, blah-blah-blah. You couldn’t offer someone a job when you were under the influence, blah-blah-blah. All reasonable points, but they didn’t stop him from wanting to give her a job that would turn her gloating cousin an ugly shade of green. He and Ruby might’ve only known each other for five days, but he felt he knew her—really knew her.

   Ruby thrust her phone face down on the bedside table. ‘I’m sorry. We’ve far more important things to discuss than my stupid petty concerns.’

   They weren’t stupid. And they weren’t petty. If only she would let him help—

   He froze. Everything stilled.

   If only…

   Boom. Boom. Boom.

   His heartbeat sounded loud in his ears and he slammed back into the moment, his pulse quickening and the razor-sharp business instincts that had made him ridiculously successful igniting.

   If only she would let him help.

   If only his mother could see him now…

   He’d been searching for a solution. Could this…?

   ‘Luis?’ The touch of soft fingers on his arm snapped him back. He stared at Ruby, his heart pounding.

   If only his mother could see him now.

   She backed up a step. ‘What?’

   It could be a bad idea. He paced from one side of the room to the other. Or it could be inspired.

   He’d been cooling his heels in Vegas, reluctant to return home to meet the parade of eligible women his mother had threatened him with these holidays. For reasons he’d yet to discover, it was suddenly of paramount importance he marry.      Unbeknownst to him, some clock had run down and his time had run out. He hadn’t even known a clock had been ticking!

   Lifting his water to his mouth, he drank deeply. There was no way he was marrying. His parents’ marriage and subsequent divorce had proven to him that romantic love was a lie. He recalled their pain when their marriage had failed in all its ugly detail, their trauma—the guilt, confusion…the sense of inadequacy—and shook his head. He wanted no part of that.

   He’d tried talking to his mother. He’d approached her on three separate occasions with the sole intention of finding out why it was suddenly so important to her that he settle down. She’d evaded him the first time—had murmured platitudes about wanting to see him happy, had said she was worried about him being lonely. He’d told her he was happy, had assured her he wasn’t lonely. She’d waved that away with, ‘That’s not the same.’ She’d then made some excuse about being late for a lunch with a business contact. She hadn’t met his eyes once during the entire conversation.

   The second time he’d asked her if she was ill, his stomach churning and fists clenching. Was that behind her desire to see him settled? She’d blinked and straightened and said absolutely not, holding his gaze the entire time. Glancing at her watch, she’d then feigned a yelp and raced off to some charity event. A lie. There hadn’t been an event for that particular charity in the city that day. There hadn’t been one for the entire week. He’d checked. But her surprise that he might think her ill had been genuine enough.

   The third time, he’d blocked the exit from the room, and demanded an honest answer. ‘Why do you want to see me married?’ She’d lost her temper. He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he’d seen her truly blow her top, and it had taken him off guard. She’d flung words like duty and responsibility at him like knives, had yelled that he owed it to her and his father. They’d given him every advantage in life, blah-blah-blah, and this was how he wanted to repay them? She called him hard-hearted, intractable, selfish…

   He swallowed. She’d called him a disappointment. She’d never spoken to him like that before. Ever. It had left him reeling. When she’d brushed past him, he hadn’t tried to stop her.

   She hadn’t apologised. She hadn’t retracted the ugly words. She’d hadn’t referred to the conversation again. But it now throbbed in all the spaces between them.

   His father hadn’t proven helpful. When approached, Walter had simply said, ‘She is your mother. She wants to see you happy and settled. These are natural instincts, Luis. Is it really so much to ask?’

   Apparently his happiness wasn’t of any concern to either of them.

   Resentment, though, had slowly evolved into concern. Claudia Keller was an intelligent woman, usually level-headed. His hands clenched and unclenched. He knew his happiness did matter to his parents. He knew it would hurt them to see him unhappy.

   Something was going on, and he needed to find out what the hell it was. Instinct told him it was something serious. If she wouldn’t talk to him…then he’d need to take more drastic action.

   Squaring his shoulders, he turned back to Ruby. ‘Ruby, it occurs to me that we could help each other out.’

   She once again held that silly dime-store ring. When she realised he was watching, she dropped it beside her phone, and seized her bottle of water. ‘I’d be happy to help you any way I can.’ She lifted the bottle to her lips and took a long swallow.

   ‘If you were to stay married to me—’

   She choked, water spraying everywhere. ‘What on earth—?’

   He waited for her coughing to subside before continuing. ‘I believe I mentioned how my mother has been plaguing me to marry.’

   She gave a wary nod. ‘Apparently you owe it to her and your father, and you owe it to the family name to marry as soon as humanly possible.’

   His hands clenched and unclenched. He had no intention of marrying to please his mother, but—

   This marriage didn’t count. They’d have it dissolved. But… Being married could buy him the time to find out what was going on, to find out why his being married mattered so much. Once he discovered the problem, he could fix it.

   ‘You also know I haven’t been in any hurry to return home.’

   ‘Because you want to avoid your mother’s matchmaking.’ Her lips twitched. ‘And avoid being introduced to a whole array of beautiful women, because, I mean, that would be a fate worse than death, right?’

   He bit back a smile. This was why he’d spent so much time with Ruby over the past week. ‘Ordinarily I’d agree with you, but I don’t dally with women who are hoping for long-term commitment.’

   He kept his gaze trained on her face, but she didn’t pale at his words or appear suddenly disappointed. He let out a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding. He and Ruby were on the same page. She hadn’t been expecting love and commitment. He hadn’t read her wrong. ‘All of the lecturing would stop if I was married.’

   Ruby took a careful drink, and then lowered herself back to the side of the bed. ‘You’re talking about remaining married for the duration of the holidays.’


   She nodded—not in agreement, but as if getting his proposition straight in her mind. ‘I hate to point out the obvious, but as soon as we dissolved the marriage, the lecturing would start up again. This isn’t a long-term solution.’

   He paced again. It was a generous enough room, but nothing like his penthouse on the top floor. ‘Not if we do it right.’


   ‘First, let me tell you what you will gain from the arrangement, because I don’t expect you to do this from the goodness of your heart. As I said, we can help each other.’

   She stared at him as if she were Alice and had just fallen down the rabbit hole.

   ‘You and me, Ruby, we just want to live our lives on our own terms, yes?’

   Her eyes flashed and she nodded.

   ‘My family, they are a…big deal. The moment your firm hears of your connection to me, I can promise they will offer you the partnership you so desire, probably within a week.’

   Her head came up and she didn’t bother trying to hide her thirst for that partnership. Her need to prove herself made something inside him ache.

   ‘Here is what you are going to do.’ Walking across, he seized her phone and thrust it at her. ‘You’re going to call one of those partners right now, tell them that you’re taking their criticisms on board, particularly the one about having no work-life balance, and that you’re taking a month’s leave, effective immediately, to have a long-overdue holiday and consider your options.’

   He shook the phone at her until she took it, and then raised an eyebrow when she continued to simply stare at him. ‘What are you waiting for?’

   ‘You want me to threaten them?’

   ‘This is not a threat. It is a negotiation.’

   ‘And when they call my bluff and tell me they no longer think I’m a good fit for the firm, what do I say then?’

    Her naiveté made him laugh. ‘They will not want to lose you. You have let them make of you a slave. They expect you to now work even harder, so that this time next year you will make partner.’ An event he had no doubt they’d keep delaying for as long as they possibly could. Ruby needed to develop a better strategy. And she needed to develop the backbone to see that strategy through.

   She folded her arms, clearly miffed that he’d read her future so clearly.

   ‘Imagine Christa’s face when she realises you’ve been given the partnership?’

   It was a cheap shot. But the more he considered his plan, the more he thought it would work.

   ‘You really think me hinting that I’m prepared to walk away would have an impact?’

   When combined with his family name, absolutely. ‘It would take them a long time to find someone to replace you, and we both know time is money.’

   She grimaced. ‘That, at least, is true.’

   ‘Furthermore, when they learn of your connection to me and my family, they will start to speculate how much business I might send your way.’ That would seal the deal.

   She chewed the inside of her cheek. ‘You know how much I want the partnership. I mean, I’ve spent all week talking about it.’

   It wasn’t the only thing she’d talked about, though. She’d been interested in him and his life, in making him laugh and focus on the here and now rather than on the weight of expectations that had started to darken his life. She hadn’t expected him to lighten her load or work any miracles. For heaven’s sake, she had no clue who he was. Not really.

   ‘And in return I spend the holidays with you and your family as your wife.’


   ‘And…? Because I sense there’s an and or a but in there somewhere.’

   She might not have much of a backbone, but she was smart, he’d give her that.

   ‘I want my mother to regret putting so much pressure on me to marry.’


   Her question was nothing more than a squeak, and a slow smile tugged at his lips. His plan was pure brilliance. ‘Could you imagine my parents’ horror at what they’d pressured me into, if I were to bring home the wife from hell?’

   ‘You want them to hate me?’

   ‘I want them to be appalled by you,’ he corrected. Hate was far too strong a term. ‘I want you to play the part of a gold-digging harpy. I want you to be the exact opposite of what my mother wants for me.’

   Hopefully it would give his mother such a shock he’d be able to crack her until-now impenetrable armour to discover the deeper reasons that lay behind her demands.

   She stared at him as if she couldn’t believe what he was asking, and he rubbed fingers across his brow, finally locating the flaw in his plan. ‘You, however, are a people-pleaser. This is a thing that you may not be able to manage.’

   Her chin shot up. ‘I can be as big a bitch as the next person.’

   He seriously doubted that, but thankfully that wasn’t what he wanted. ‘I don’t want you to be rude and spiteful or mean or anything like that.’

   Relief flashed across her face.

   ‘I just want you to be over-the-top impressed with the money. I want you to buy gaudy horrid things that will make my parents, who are the epitome of good taste, wince. I want you to nag me for a yacht and a holiday house on the French Riviera. I want you to ask what the rug in the breakfast room cost, and to ask their friends if they know how rich I am.’

   She clapped a hand over her mouth, but the sudden laughter in her eyes had his blood fizzing.

   ‘I want you to be totally and unashamedly…’

   ‘Cheap and trashy.’

   He’d been searching for less offensive descriptors, but he gave a nod. ‘Yes.’

   ‘And you really believe this will give you the space you need?’

   ‘It will give me the chance to find out why this has become so important to my mother. Something is wrong and I want to fix it.’

   Ruby had big hazel eyes—the green in the iris so very green, the brown a glowing amber—and they gentled now. He swallowed and rolled his shoulders. He’d never shared as much with anyone as he had with Ruby this week. They’d clicked, while both knowing their friendship had an end date. Would adding another three or four weeks to that end date be a mistake?

   Surely not? As long as they were upfront and honest with each other, all would be fine. ‘Ruby, I just want to fix whatever is broken and get life on an even keel once more. Do you think that’s wrong?’

   Reaching out, she squeezed his hand. ‘I think it’s admirable.’

   He squeezed back. ‘Thank you.’

   She wrinkled her nose. ‘While I just want to stop feeling like a failure.’

   ‘Despite what your firm and your family make you think, you are not a failure. You’re smart, you work hard, and you’re fun. And in case you didn’t know, that’s a winning combination.’

   She rubbed a hand across her chest, her eyes suspiciously bright. ‘You really think this plan of yours will win me my partnership?’

   ‘Yes.’ Though why she wanted to continue working for a company who demonstrated such a lack of respect for her was beyond him. ‘So…are you up for another adventure?’

   She stared at him, moistened her lips. ‘You said your family is a big deal. You’re rich?’

   He nodded.

   ‘Are we talking just rich or crazy, over-the-top, extraordinarily rich?’

   ‘The latter.’

   ‘Oh, God! So the yacht and diamonds…? The house on the French Riviera…?’

   ‘Could all be realities.’

   She leaped up, and backed away from him. ‘I’m not agreeing to this until we sign a prenup. God, Luis! I don’t want your money. I just…’

   ‘I trust you, Ruby.’ And he did, surprisingly. ‘And as we’re already married, a prenup is out of the question.’

   ‘We’re signing a post-nup, then. This is non-negotiable. Your parents don’t need to know about it, but I’m not staying married to you until you have protections in place for your money.’

   What a remarkable woman she was. He held out his hand. ‘Deal.’

bottom of page