She went into all they had to do in their temporary office in Santa Barbara. The builders at Cliff House had found mold in the basement, the masons rebuilding the stone walkways were behind schedule and the anchor tenant destined for their new mall in Austin, Texas, now had cold feet. The investors for a ski resort in Whistler were uneasy—global downturn, less disposable income, global warming—and their head of human resources was moving to the East Coast.
Yet all Jonas could think about was the hot kiss he’d shared with Katrina—Kat—and the fact that she had yet to cash his check. Damned stubborn woman.
Walking away from her instead of taking her where they’d stood had required every bit of self-control he’d possessed. He’d never become so lost in a kiss, so carried away in a woman’s arms. He’d loved kissing her, touching her, and would have loved to have done more.
So much more.
That was all well and good but he didn’t like the fact that Kat Morrison, hostess at the best restaurant in Santa Barbara—flat broke and currently celibate—had the ability to make him forget his own name.
He didn’t like that at all.
But he couldn’t stop thinking about her, remembering how soft her skin had felt under his hands, the spice of her mouth, those breathy sounds she’d made in the back of her throat. And her smell, something clean and natural, seemed lodged in his nose. He was also—and this was worrying—curious and, worse, concerned about her. She had a good job, why was she broke? Why didn’t she have a boyfriend? She’d mentioned an LCA final and, as he remembered from his college days, that stood for Leadership and Corporate Accountability—part of the MBA program. He could handle her beauty and her sex appeal but if she was as bright as he suspected, he was in big trouble.
There was nothing more dangerous than a gorgeous, brainy woman.
Sian’s small hand slapped his desk and he snapped back to the present. Talking about brainy, sexy women, this one was looking vastly irritated. “Will you please concentrate?”
Jonas nodded and quickly issued a list of instructions to, hopefully, address all the issues she’d raised. “Did I get them all?” he asked.
Sian nodded. “That is so annoying, especially since I didn’t have your full attention.”
“I can multitask.”
Sian threw her pen down and linked her hands around her knee. “Want to tell me what’s going on with you? And don’t tell me nothing—you’ve been acting like a bear for the last two weeks.”
“Jack,” Jonas stated, making his grandfather’s name sound like a curse.
“Oh, dear.” Sian stood, walked over to the small fridge in the corner of the room and pulled out two ice waters. She handed one to Jonas, who cracked the lid for her before taking the unopened bottle for himself.
“So, what did the old buzzard do this time?”
“He told me I have three months—two and three-quarter months now—to marry or else he is disinheriting me.”
Sian smiled, thinking he was joking. When he held her gaze, her mouth opened in shock. “You have got to be kidding me!”
“I so wish I was,” Jonas replied. He’d spent the past week trying to convince himself that Jack wasn’t being serious, that he was jerking Jonas around, but then Preston had sent him an official letter stating his client’s position and assuring Jonas that his grandfather was deadly serious about him finding a wife.
Jonas had to marry or he’d lose everything he’d worked for, everything that made sense to him. He felt the burn of a rumbling ulcer and took another sip of water.
And even if he hadn’t received a letter from Preston, he would’ve sensed Jack’s displeasure from the cold telephone conversations they’d shared since that breakfast, Jack’s terse and snappy emails. When circumstances went his way, his grandfather was congenial and charming, occasionally affectionate. When he was thwarted, he grew arctic cold and withdrew. Trying to stay on Jack’s good side was like trying to herd cats, futile and exhausting.
After five minutes of thoughtful silence, Sian lifted a shoulder and the scales of the inked dragon covering her skin rippled. “Well, it seems like you don’t have a hell of a lot of choice,” Sian said. “Marry someone.”
“Okay, pencil it in my diary and I’ll meet you at the courthouse.”
Sian’s laughter danced on the sunlight. “Ha, ha, funny man. Garth has been asking me to marry him for a year and I keep telling him hell, no! So the chances of me marrying someone I don’t love, even you, are less than zero. Besides, if you married me, Jack would definitely disinherit you.”
Jack, narrow-minded as he was, couldn’t look past the tattoos to see the razor-sharp brain Sian possessed. “Crap, Si, what the hell am I going to do? I need a wife. Where will I find someone to marry before the deadline? Maybe if I grovel, Gigi would take me back.”
Sian shuddered. “You wouldn’t need to grovel, you’d just need to crook your finger in her direction and she’d come skipping back. No! I absolutely refuse to let you do that. You’ll be divorced within six months.”
And why would that be a problem? If he went through with this crazy scheme, he intended to be married to his temporary bride for the least amount of time possible.
Sian stood and walked around so that she sat on the corner of his desk, facing him. “C’mon, Joe, there’s got to be someone else you’ve met lately who would be a better bet than that whiny, vain actress.”
Katrina’s face immediately popped into his head.
“You’re thinking of someone.” Sian pushed a finger into his chest. “Tell me! Who?”
Jonas shook his head, sending a glance at his monitor. “Nobody. C’mon, Si, back to work.”
Sian crossed her arms and glared at him. “No. Tell me who you are thinking of.”
He felt like he was ten years old and had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “It wouldn’t work. We’re too different.”
“Kat. Katrina Morrison,” Jonas finally admitted, meeting her eyes and daring her to laugh at him. Hell, he wouldn’t blame her if she did. If he wasn’t feeling so damn morose and confused and terrified, he’d be laughing, too.
But Sian just cocked her head and slowly nodded. “Yeah, I could see you marrying her. She’s really nice and, despite only meeting her once, I really like her. You’d also, might I point this out, make spectacular babies.”
Jonas felt like she was gripping his windpipe and squeezing. “Okay, let’s get one thing straight, I am not looking for a wife.”
Sian lifted a thin, cocky eyebrow. “I’m sorry, did I misunderstand you? Didn’t you just say... ‘I need a wife’?”
“A temporary wife. A pretend wife. Not a wife wife,” Jonas snapped.
This conversation was getting ridiculous. Jonas gripped the bridge of his nose, trying to control his temper. Sian was treading on dangerous ground, teasing him about this. “I plan on keeping her around long enough to satisfy my grandfather. As soon as I get the company shares transferred to me, she’s out of my life.”
A small frown appeared between Sian’s eyebrows. “Isn’t that a bit calculating?”
“Hey, I didn’t make the rules. I’m just playing the game!” Jonas retorted. “I want a woman I can stand being around for less than a year, someone who doesn’t think this is forever. But I don’t want