His Convenient Marriage

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Book: Read His Convenient Marriage for Free Online
Authors: Sara Craven
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Contemporary
voice that seemed to have travelled vast distances across space and time.` I don't think I quite understand.'
     
    'It's perfectly simple. I've just proposed to you—asked you to become my wife.' He sounded totally cool about it—unbelievably matter-of-fact. 'Look on it, if you want, as a new kind of contract.'
    He was mad, she thought dazedly. That was the answer. Completely and totally insane. Suffering some kind of de¬layed shell-shock.
    Her lips moved. 'Marriage is—hardly a business arrange¬ment.'
    'I'd say that depends on the people involved.' His gaze was steady. 'Considering our individual circumstances and problems, marriage between us seems a sensible idea.'
    He paused. 'You need more stability and security than you currently enjoy, and I'm going to require a hostess as well as a housekeeper. I think we could work out a per¬fectly satisfactory deal.'
    'Just like that?' Her voice sounded faint. She still could not believe what was happening.
    'No, of course not,' he said with a trace of impatience. `I don't want an immediate answer. But I'd like you to give my proposal some coherent and rational thought before you reach any decision.'
    Coherent? she thought. Rational—when applied to this! The words were meaningless.
    'Judging by your reaction, this has been a bit of a thun¬derbolt,' he went on.
    'Yes.' Chessie swallowed. 'You—could say that.' She spread her hands in an almost pleading gesture. 'I mean— we hardly know each other.'
    'We work together every day, and we live in the same house. That's not exactly a casual acquaintance.'
    'Yes—but...' She fought for the right words, and lost. 'Oh, you know exactly what I mean.'
    'I think so.' His face was sardonic. 'You're still ponder¬ing the lack of amorous advances.'
    'It's not that—or not totally, anyway.' She pushed her glass at him. `I will have some more wine, please. I seem to need it.'
     
    She watched him pour, his hand steady. He was com¬pletely calm, she thought incredulously. Detached, even. But how could that be, when he'd just turned her world upside down?
    She hurried into speech again. 'There's never been any¬thing remotely personal between us—not until now. Yes, we've seen each other every day, but we've never talked about anything but work, and problems to do with the house.' Mostly created by Jenny, she realised with a pang. Then—oh, God—Jenny.
    'Has this shift in our relationship plunged you into some kind of trauma?' he drawled. 'I didn't intend that.'
    'No—but it's all so sudden.' She stopped, grimacing. 'Hell, now I sound like the heroine of a bad historical novel.'
    'And highly sensible of the honour I've just done you.' It was his turn to pull a face. 'Only I don't think you are, by any means. You look more winded than appreciative.'
    'Being hit by a thunderbolt doesn't usually call for ap¬preciation,' Chessie said with something of a snap. 'What did you expect—that I'd fall into your arms?'
    'Hardly. You'd damage the crockery.' He was silent for a moment. 'If you're saying you'd have preferred a con¬ventional courtship, then I can only apologise. But we've always had a reasonable working relationship, and our mar¬riage would simply be an extension of this. So I thought the pragmatic approach would have more credence than hearts and flowers.'
    Chessie said with difficulty, 'It doesn't—worry you that we're not in love with each other?'
    'You forget I've been down that path once already. I can't speak for you, of course.' His face was expressionless. 'Is there anyone?'
    She shook her head. 'No—not any more.' She kept her eyes fixed on the tablecloth. 'So it would be just a business arrangement—not a real marriage at all.'
    'Yes,' he said. 'Initially, anyway.'
    Her heart thudded in renewed shock. 'But later...?'
     
    He shrugged. 'Who knows?' The blue eyes met hers di¬rectly. 'Ultimately, we might think again.' He paused. 'But any alteration in the terms would only be by mutual agree¬ment.'
    `I—I don't know

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