|Название||Wedding His Takeover Target / Inheriting His Secret Christmas Baby|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Desire|
Hell. Ask anything else of him and he’d be all over the deal. But marriage? “I’m sorry, Mr. Caldwell. I’m not your man.”
“Sabrina’s all I have left. And you might have noticed, I’m not a spring chicken. I’m seventy-five, and my health ain’t what it used to be. But that’s between my doctor and me and now you. Sabrina doesn’t need to know. Once I’m gone there won’t be anyone around to look after her since my head-in-the-clouds son and his wife can’t be bothered. I want to see to Sabrina before I’m gone.”
The genuine concern in the tired blue eyes yanked at something in Gavin’s chest. Sap. He’s playing you like a fiddle.
“I’m not the man for the job,” he repeated.
“I think you are. The fact that you turned me down despite the fact that Sabrina could inherit everything I have only reinforces my opinion. I ain’t talked to you more than ten minutes, Gavin Jarrod, but I can already tell you’re twice the man your daddy was. He used the land, stripping away whatever got in his way, without thought for anything more than the profit he could make. You, with the way you took care of one good-for-nothing hole in the ground, proved you’re smarter. You respect the land and nature.”
True. “That’s a broad assumption, Mr. Caldwell.”
“But a valid one. You’ll treat my girl with the same respect.”
Gavin backed toward the door. “The answer’s still no.”
“If you’re thinking you can wait ‘til I drop dead and buy the property from Sabrina, think again. If I die before she marries I’ve willed that plot to the National Parks Service.”
Damn. The park system would condemn land to get road access to the mine. Jarrod Ridge would end up losing even more property and have to deal with tourists wandering off the path. Their secluded retreat atmosphere would be shattered.
“If you agree I have one more stipulation. I don’t want our girl knowing anything about our little agreement. Ya hear? You’ll court her like a woman deserves to be courted. She won’t marry ya without loving ya. That much I know.”
In Gavin’s opinion, making a woman fall for him under false pretenses was about as low as a man could get. How could he respect himself if he pulled that kind of crap? Refusal hovered on his tongue.
“Son, if you want that five acres, this is the only way you’re gonna get it. That’s my deal. Take it or leave it.”
Man, this was insane.
A tap on the door preceded Sabrina returning with a laden tray. Gavin’s pulse thudded harder and faster.
There are worse things than being married to a beautiful woman.
This had to be flat-out the craziest scheme he’d ever heard in his life. So why was he still standing here?
If marriage was the only way to get the land back, to succeed where his father had failed and to keep his family from losing even more acreage, what choice did he have? For the good of his family and Jarrod Ridge, he had to accept the deal.
But the marriage would be temporary. Once he returned to his regular job nature would take its course and, aided by his long absences, the relationship would die a natural death—as had all his previous liaisons.
Hell of a way to start a relationship—planning its demise.
But he was attracted to Sabrina and the idea of sharing her bed appealed tremendously.
He’d need an ironclad prenup.
“Can I get you anything else?” Sabrina asked, her suspicious gaze drilling his. The familiar clench of desire fisted in his gut and pounded through his veins.
“This’ll do, love,” Caldwell answered.
She left the room, her protectiveness of her grandfather clear in her reluctant steps.
Gavin took a deep breath, willing sanity to return and offer him a better option. It didn’t. “I’ll do it.”
Her grandfather had closed the door.
Sabrina couldn’t remember any other time in her life when Pops had shut her out of a conversation. She blamed their unexpected visitor—one who couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment—for the exclusion.
Gavin Jarrod epitomized everything Sabrina disliked about the soon-to-be-arriving ski season guests. Rich guys like him, with their perfectly tousled hair, flawless faces and gym-buffed bodies swaggered into town like they owned the place. They threw around their money and entitled attitudes, expecting the world to revolve around their wants and acting like the local businesses should kiss their expensively-shod feet and be grateful for whatever crumbs the rich guests threw their way.
Well, not her. She’d had enough of that holier-than-thou behavior throughout school from the wealthy snobs who’d attended the elite private college where her parents had taught. Those snotty students had made sure Sabrina knew she was not one of them. As if being a professor’s daughter made her somehow genetically inferior to someone born to money.
She swished the cleaning cloth over the countertop and tried to ignore the anger and worry making her stomach churn. She knew her grandfather’s health wasn’t as good as it had been when she’d arrived three years ago. He slept more, ate less and had trouble keeping up with the inn’s routine maintenance—a job he used to tackle with enthusiasm. But he wouldn’t let her hire anyone to help him. He always claimed he’d get to the tasks, but the to-do list kept growing and the clock ticked down on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday when the ski slopes would officially open and the guests would arrive—whether the inn was ready or not. Unless a miracle happened, this year the inn wasn’t going to be ready.
Was Gavin Jarrod here to try and buy the inn? She couldn’t imagine her grandfather handing over the reins, but that day was coming, she realized with a heavy cloak of sadness. She’d hoped—prayed, really—he’d let her take over, but a few months ago while cleaning his office she’d come across a pamphlet on his desk on donating property to the historic trust. When she’d asked him about it he’d told her not to worry, he had everything under control. But how could she not lose sleep? If he donated or sold the inn she’d have to find a new home and job.
In the meantime, the only thing she could do was try to help more. She glanced at her sore thumb. Carpentry wasn’t her strong suit, but she’d get better with practice.
The sitting room door opened, and footsteps—too sure and firm to be her grandfather’s—approached.
“Thanks for the coffee and snack.”
Who was Gavin Jarrod and what business did he have with Pops? Reluctant to face the brown, gold-flecked eyes that seemed to see straight through her, she turned slowly. “You’re welcome.”
“Your coconut cake is probably the best I’ve ever tasted.”
Pleasure sent another blast of heat through her already warm body. She struggled to suppress the reaction. No doubt his charm and flattery combined with his money and looks made it easy for him to coast through life. “It’s my grandmother’s recipe.”
“Henry said you don’t have any guests tonight.”
Why would Pops volunteer that? “No. Early November is like the lull before the storm.”
“It’s been the same back at The Ridge ever since the Food & Wine Gala ended. I’m exploring the area restaurants before the tourists hit town. Show me your favorite tonight.”
She fought a grimace. He wasn’t the first of his kind to assume she could be had as easily as booking a room. “I don’t have a favorite, and I’ve already prepared dinner for myself and my grandfather.”