“Are we going to marry?”
“Yes, we will marry. We will do everything expected of us to meet your father’s filthy terms! But don’t,” he warned, “let yourself think for a moment that it is going to be a pleasure.”
“You seem to think you have the divine right to stand there and be superior to me. But you do not,” she muttered. “You have your price, just like the rest of us! Which makes you no better than my father—no better than myself!”
“And what exactly is your price?” he challenged grimly. “Give me one good reason why you are agreeing to all of this and I might at least try to respect you for it!”
MICHELLE REID grew up on the southern edges of Manchester, England, the youngest in a family of five lively children. But now she lives in the beautiful county of Cheshire with her busy executive husband and has two grown-up daughters. She loves reading, the ballet, and playing tennis when she gets the chance. She hates cooking and cleaning, and despises ironing! Sleep she can do without, and she produces some of her best written work during the early hours of the morning.
The Price Of A Bride
JANUARY had arrived with an absolute vengeance. Standing in the window behind her father’s desk, Mia watched the way the wind was hurling the rain against the glass in fiercely gusting squalls—while behind her a different kind of storm was raging, one where two very powerful men pitched angry insults at each other.
Not that she was taking much notice of what they were actually fighting about. She knew it all already, so her presence here was really quite incidental.
Merely a silent prop to use as leverage.
‘Look, that’s the deal, Doumas!’ she heard her father state with a brittle grasp on what was left of his patience. ‘I’m not into haggling so either take what’s on offer or damn well leave it!’
‘But what you are proposing is positively barbaric!’ the other man hit back furiously. ‘I am a businessman, not a trader in white slavery! If you have difficulty finding a husband for your daughter try a marriage agency,’ he scathingly suggested, ‘for I am not for sale!’
No? Way beyond the point of being insulted by remarks like that one, Mia’s startlingly feminine mouth twitched in a cross between bitter appreciation for the clever answer Alexander Doumas had tossed back at her father and a grimace of scorn. Did he truly believe he would be standing here at all if Jack Frazier thought he couldn’t be bought?
Jack Frazier dealt only in absolute certainties. He was a rough, tough, self-made man who, having spent most of his life clawing his way up from nothing to become the corporate giant he was today, had learned very early on that attention to fine detail before he went in for the kill was the key to success.
He left nothing whatsoever to chance.
Alexander Doumas, on the other hand, was the complete antithesis of Jack. He was smooth, sleek and beautifully polished by a top-drawer Greek pedigree which could be traced back so far into history it made the average mind boggle, only, while the Frazier fortunes had been rising like some brand new star in the galaxy during the last thirty odd years, the Doumas fortunes had been steadily sinking—until this man had come on the scene.
To be fair, Alexander Doumas had not only stopped the rot in his great family’s financial affairs but had spent the last ten years of his life repairing that rot, and so successfully that he had almost completely reversed the deterioration—except for one final goal.
And he was having the rank misfortune of coming up against Jack Frazier in his efforts to achieve that one goal.
Poor devil, Mia thought with a grim kind of sympathy, because, ruthless and unswerving though he was in his own way, Alexander Doumas didn’t stand a chance of getting what he wanted from her father, without paying the price Jack Frazier was demanding for it.
‘Is that your final answer?’ Jack Frazier grimly challenged, as if to confirm his daughter’s prediction. ‘If so, then you can get out for I have nothing left to say to you.’
‘But I am willing to pay double the market price here!’
‘The door, Mr Doumas, is over there...’
Mia’s spine began to tingle, the fine muscles lining its long, slender length tensing as she waited to discover what Alexander Doumas was going to do next.
He had a straight choice, the way she saw it. He could walk out of here with his arrogant head held high and his monumental pride still firmly intact, but put aside for ever the one special dream that had brought him to this point in the first place, or he could relinquish his pride, let his own principles sink to Jack Frazier’s appalling level and pay the price being asked for that dream.
‘There has to be some other way we can resolve this,’ he muttered.
No there isn’t, Mia countered silently. For the simple reason that her father did not need another way. The Greek had called Jack Frazier barbaric, but barbarism only half covered what her father really was. As she, of all people, should know.
Jack Frazier didn’t even bother to answer. He just sat there behind his desk and waited for the other man to give in to him or leave as suggested.
‘Damn you to hell for bringing me down to this,’ Alexander Doumas grated roughly. It was the driven sound of a grudging surrender.
The next sound Mia heard was the creak of old leather as her father came to his feet. It was a familiar sound, one she had grown to recognise with dread when she was younger, and even now, at the reasonably mature age of twenty-five, she was still able to experience the same stomach-clutching response as she had in childhood.
Jack Frazier was a brute and a bully. He always had been and always would be. Man or woman. Friend or foe. Adult or child. His need to dominate made no exceptions.
‘Then I’ll leave you to discuss the finer details with my daughter,’ he concluded. ‘Get in touch with my lawyer tomorrow. He will iron out any questions you may have, then get a contract drawn up.’
With that, and sounding insultingly perfunctory now that he had the answer he wanted from the other man, Jack Frazier, cold, cruel, ruthless man that he was, walked out of the room and left them to it.
And with the closing