Viv Wilder has a problem. One that her cousin, Steven, thinks he can help solve. Viv’s unwanted suitor is not just making a nuisance of himself, but his behavior is worrying the family. Steven feels that if a very large fiancé were in the picture the guy would get scared off—and he knows just the very large guy for the job. His best friend and business partner is having some trouble of his own trying to keep his meddling mother out of his personal life. The perfect setup is a fake engagement.
Convincing Viv and Jonas is a bit of a trial, but the two agree after objecting to the absurdity of the suggestion. As it turns out, the situation is more dangerous for Viv than anyone realizes. Soon one of them will fight for their life and jeopardize the love that has unexpectedly ensnared the fraudulent couple.
Jonas Mackenzie’s day had already begun to show signs of impending catastrophe. He’d woken to the sound of his mother’s cultured voice outside the door of his suite. “Darling,” she’d called, “hadn’t you better get down to breakfast? I’d like a word before you leave for the office.”
He’d rolled over onto his back and groaned as her footsteps receded. Thinking that this word was going to be a repeat of the conversations that had become routine, he groaned again. Eleuthera would subtly hint that she was feeling her age sneaking up on her even though she looked much younger than her fifty-seven years, and he—dutiful son that he was—would listen with half an ear while she described a list of eligible daughters of friends who would be attending Saturday night’s dinner party. This event she would have planned in detail, right down to the seating arrangements that sandwiched him between a couple of opportunistic females with an eye to the Mackenzie fortune.
If he hadn’t been feeling run down and generally lousy, he’d have been in his office by eight. Unfortunately, having overslept and then been waylaid by the matchmaker from hell, he was stuck in traffic on Duckworth Street in the downtown area of St. John’s. He eyed the colorful old storefronts, joined like row houses and each painted a different hue. The aged structures were symbolic of the character-filled city and stood quite cheerfully in the late September sun. The fog that often cloaked St. John’s, particularly in the downtown, had burned off early in the warmth of the Indian summer that the residents rarely had the opportunity to enjoy.
When his silver sedan inched slowly toward the building that housed his electronics firm, he grimly reflected that his mother was not so bad. He supposed she felt obligated to assist him in something he showed no interest in—wife hunting. She was welcome to it. After being engaged to a woman who’d dumped him for an even bigger fish, he wasn’t eager to be made a fool of again. For that had been what had stung the most, that he should have known that Cheryl only tolerated his company, suffered his lovemaking—but he hadn’t. Or, at the very least, he hadn’t bothered to look past what everyone considered the perfect social union of two prominent local families who ran in the same circles.
If he’d felt clumsy and uncomfortable with the intimate aspects of the relationship, that should have been an indication that all was not as it appeared. Now, almost two years later, he realized he’d always gotten the feeling that Cheryl had wanted the scattered sexual encounter over quickly. Which it invariably was.
Jonas figured he could never be described as sexy or any of those things women found attractive. He was big, gruff, and he had a temper to match his fiery, dark-red hair. Although everyone knew he wouldn’t harm another living thing, he could roar like a lion when he was angry and shoot the bravest men down with a look.
He smoothed a hand over his neatly trimmed moustache and beard while he waited for another light to change. Eyeing himself in the rearview mirror, he thanked the powers above that he didn’t have the freckles to match his already ridiculous appearance. That banged-up self-image was Cheryl’s legacy. Heads turned when he walked by, and it had nothing to do with attitudes of ridicule. His proud bearing impressed men and women alike…if for very different reasons.
Tiredly, he flexed his aching muscles and wondered if he was coming down with a bug. The faint darkness under his eyes signaled too much work and not enough sleep.
After he tidied up the Gilbert deal he’d been working on with his partner, Steven Kincaid, he promised himself a good two days on his little boat fishing. Right. He knew he would pass on the chance to drive himself nuts with his own company. He would probably end up as he usually did, avoiding his mother by finding something to do in the office that didn’t need doing.
Maybe he’d talk Steve into going fishing. Jonas grinned a bit. His friend was one of the rare breed of Newfoundlanders who got seasick at the sight of a bathtub, let alone a pond or, God forbid, the Atlantic Ocean. Jonas had once teased, “No self-respecting Newfoundlander or Labradorian would admit that!” and was shown a large middle finger for the comment.
His eyes drooped for a second, and he located the small parking lot and turned in to it. He was unprepared for the sickening crunch of metal when another car collided with his.