“I have a solution,” Jett said in a guttural voice.
I was falling into his beautiful green eyes, temporarily mesmerized by the determination I could see in the depths of his stare. “What?” I murmured.
“Do you really want to pay me back?” he asked.
“Yes!” I said immediately.
Just ask me. I’ll do whatever you want.
Having sex with him wasn’t altogether unappealing, even though I had my doubts whether he’d really want a skinny homeless woman who hadn’t been able to do anything about her straggly hair, torn up nails, bad skin, or anything else that resembled self-care for years.
“Marry me,” he said in a husky tone that was a demand and not a question.
“What?” I was certain I’d misheard him during my temporary stupor.
My eyes widened as I realized I’d heard him correctly. “What?”
“Think about it, Ruby. I’m a well-known technical guy in my field. I have my own company and I’m a businessman. Nobody would ever know how we met, or why we’d married once it comes time to testify. You’d be my wife, and unless you have a criminal history, your background wouldn’t even be in question. I’d find a way to make sure it never even comes up.”
“I-I’ve never been in trouble,” I stammered. “To most people, I just don’t exist.”
“You’d have a home address, and a life nobody would bother to investigate since you’re just a witness.”
“I don’t really know what it’s like to have a real home,” I blurted out, my tone wistful.
“You’ll have one if you marry me,” he vowed. “You’ll never see another day on the streets again. I promise.”
My heart skittered as I looked at his sincere expression.
I was a realist, but the deeply buried hope inside me desperately wanted to say yes to Jett’s insane proposal.
I had very little to lose.
“I’d get so much, and you’d get so little,” I said breathlessly. “You’d be saddled with a woman who had been homeless her entire adult life.”
“I’d get a lot. I’d get you,” he answered simply. “And if you’re unhappy with the arrangement after your testimony, we’ll get the marriage annulled.”
So he’s not expecting to have sex if he’s talking about getting the marriage annulled. What is his motive then?
As crazy as it was, I actually was tempted. Would life be any worse as somebody’s wife than it was on the streets?
I’d be warm at night.
I’d have a roof over my head.
And if I was lucky, I’d have food to eat every day.
The only thing that stopped me from saying yes was the fact that Jett was getting far less from the deal than I would.
“I want you to say yes, Ruby,” Jett prompted as he cupped my face with his hands.
I nearly melted at the sensation of his touch. For a big guy with a cranky attitude, he was surprisingly gentle.
There was only silence as I debated what to say to him.
Honestly, I felt like I was in the middle of a dream, and nobody had kicked the park bench yet.
I didn’t understand his motivation, but I still desperately wanted to take a chance.
Was the proposal fair to Jett?
But then, he was the one who had brought up the idea, so he had to have his reasons for wanting the arrangement, right?
Could I really marry a guy I didn’t even know?
Confused, jumbled thoughts continued to run through my brain until I finally made my decision.
I broke eye contact with him as I muttered my answer in a barely audible voice, certain that it was the only answer I could give him.
But for some reason, that single word that had come out of my mouth had somehow felt so very wrong that I didn’t look at Jett again as the nurse entered the room with our discharge instructions and we were ready to leave the hospital.
A few weeks later, I did regret the fact that I hadn’t become Jett Lawson’s wife.
Well…for me anyway.
For Jett…it had been the right call.
I’d learned a few things about Jett Lawson over the past few weeks:
Number one, he was stubborn and he definitely liked to get his own way, but not in a selfish kind of manner. He was usually looking out for somebody else when he got bossy. Lately, that somebody had been me.