[BookStrand Contemporary Romance, HEA]
While on vacation, Marcus Paxton rescues Fiona Stewart from the loving ministrations of a large, furry dog. He has never been so drawn to a woman, and for Fiona it is love at first sight. Marcus sweeps her off her feet and they marry.
However, Marcus neglects to mention a condition in his father’s will insisting he marry and produce an heir. When Fiona inadvertently finds out, she is devastated, feeling used and betrayed. She is grateful she has not yet conceived, but a routine doctor’s appointment determines otherwise.
Fiona tries to leave Marcus, but he will not let her go because he loves her. Fiona no longer believes him and is determined to get away. She then has nowhere to go, for her own family members betray her and unite with Marcus. Feeling like chattel, and powerless, Fiona sinks into despair. Marcus must prove his love beyond a doubt, and sets out to win Fiona’s heart all over again.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
“I admit she’s a stunner. You always did have terrific taste in your women, Marcus. But she’s hardly Paxton material. She’s so friendly and happy or something. Impetuous, too. She even talked to the hired help in front of the guests! And took that tray from the maid when it looked too heavy or something. The look on people’s faces! Does she even know the condition of the will and why you married her?”
Marcus’s cold, angry reply actually struck a little frisson of fear into Fiona’s heart. She had never heard him talk like that, and never to her. But it was the content of his response that hurt.
“I assure you Fiona will become everything I hope for in a wife, Andre. Just as Celia did for you. And it is for me to decide what I share with Fiona or not, and my business as to why I married her.”
Fiona couldn’t hear Andre’s muffled reply, although she thought it sounded vulgar. But it didn’t matter. Marcus hadn’t defended her. He hadn’t told Andre to drop dead, that he married her because he loved her with all of his heart and soul, just as she loved him, that he loved her just the way she was. Come to think of it, Fiona couldn’t remember Marcus ever professing his love for her, at least not in public. He said romantic things like her being his world, and his destiny, and he called her sweet names. He certainly was attentive to her, seemed to adore her and was always at her side whenever they were together. And he showed his ardor for her in the privacy of their bedroom, and sometimes in other rooms when people weren’t about. But he hadn’t said he loved her, hadn’t actually used those words, unless in the heat of passion. Funny how she missed that important little piece and how significant it now seemed.
She heard their voices fade and a door close in the distance. She listened intently for another moment before stepping out, brushing the little tendrils of green plant life from her silky dress. The greens and golds in the fabric blended perfectly with the foliage to hide her from view, and the camouflage effect made her feel sneaky and anxious about her actions. She stood stock-still and then shook it off. Marcus was obviously hiding something from her, something causing an issue between him and his younger brother, and there was that talk about a will.
Fiona was no stranger to squabbles over inheritances in families. Aunt Veronica led many of her nieces and nephews around by the nose because of her inherent wealth and their anticipated gain, even if Fiona wasn’t one of them. That was the revelation when her mom died. Just as her thoughts veered away from the memory, her belly clenched at the thought she was embroiled in something similar in Marcus’s family.
She made her decision and stepped into the den. She would look around quickly, and if it was inappropriate and an invasion of privacy, well, Marcus could write it off to her impetuousness and friendliness. Become the wife he wanted indeed! What he had seen he had received. Fiona knew she put it all out there because she hated subterfuge and pretending, and people could take it or leave it. Most took it, but Marcus took it all, and her body shivered at the memory. Fiona banished that erotic thought, too.
His laptop sat dead centre on his huge wooden desk, made from what appeared to be a solid slab of some exotic hardwood. His desk chair was leather, well worn and probably comfortable, but Fiona nervously perched on the edge of it as she lifted the lid of his laptop. It sprang to life with what seemed like an abnormally loud sound of its cooling fan in the quiet room, and she bit back a guilty squeak. The programs were minimized across the task bar, and she clicked on the documents, reasoning anything legal would be stored there. She wasn’t disappointed, but what she found made the blood drain from her head and rush down the length of her body to boil in her toes, causing them to ache in her narrow shoes. She found she couldn’t take a deep breath, and her vision swirled. She thought she might pass out.
The legal babble aside, the terms of Ramon Ignatius Paxton’s Last Will and Testament, Marcus and Andres’s father, were very clear. Aside from some bequests to various relatives and employees, and a house, funds, and a ranch bequeathed to Andre, Marcus assumed complete control of the bulk of Ramon’s fortune and the family home and business. The numbers astounded Fiona, but it was the stipulation she read that exceeded even that shock. There was just the one condition, and it leapt off the screen to stab her between the eyes and give her a blinding headache. Marcus had a year following his father’s demise to marry and start a family, to sire an heir, or lose his inheritance. There were some qualifications to this outrageous demand, but Fiona couldn’t read them, let alone comprehend them, being stuck on the condition.
She had met Marcus Ramon Paxton exactly one week after his father’s death, and married him one month later. Good old impetuous, free-spirited, sunny-natured, stupid, naïve Fiona Maeve Stewart was now humiliated, devastated, stupid, naïve Fiona Maeve Paxton. No, scratch the naïve. That part was gone forever. All it had taken was a little unethical detective work to replace that particular character defect with one that would probably have been far more useful, if only she’d discovered it earlier. Fiona closed out of the document and gently lowered the laptop lid, ensuring the harbinger of her destroyed self-esteem was placed back exactly where she had found it. How could she have been so stupid?