“Sold any big-ticket properties lately, Wheeler?”
Instantly, he stiffened underneath his custom-made suit, stretching it across his shoulders, and she hated that she noticed. He was well built. So what? She had absolute control of her hormones, unlike his usual female companions. His full package wasn’t going to work on her.
“What’s real estate got to do with your trust fund?”
She shrugged. “You’re in a bit of a fix. You need to shore up your reputation. I need a divorce. We can help each other, and I’ll make it well worth your while.”
No other single male in the entire state fit her qualifications, and, honestly, she didn’t have the nerve to approach another stranger. She scared off men pretty quickly, which saved her a lot of heartache, but left her with zero experience in working her feminine wiles. That meant she had to offer something her future husband couldn’t refuse.
“Hold up, sweetheart.” Lucas signaled a waiter, snagged two drinks from the gilded tray and jerked his head. “You’ve got my attention. For about another minute. Let’s take this outside. I have a sudden desire for fresh air. And double-plated armor for that shotgun you just stuck between my ribs.”
Lucas could almost feel the bite of that shotgun as he turned and deftly sidestepped through the crowd.
His brother, Matthew, worked a couple of local businessmen, no doubt on the lookout for a possible new client, and glanced up as Lucas passed. The smarmy grin on Matthew’s face said volumes about Lucas’s direction and the woman with him.
Lucas grinned back. Had to keep up appearances, after all. A hard and fast quickie on the shadowed balcony did smack of his usual style, but it was the furthest thing from his mind.
The gorgeous—and nutty—crusader with the intriguing curtain of dark hair followed him to the terrace at the back of the club. By the time he’d set down the pair of drinks, she’d already sailed through the door without waiting for him to open it.
Lucas sighed and retrieved the glasses, seriously considering downing both before joining the Spanish curveball on the balcony. But his mama had raised him better than that.
“Drink?” He offered one to Cia, and surprise, surprise, she took it.
Twenty-five stories below, a siren cut through the muted sounds of downtown Dallas, and cool March air kissed the back of his hot neck. If nothing else, he’d escaped the stuffy ballroom. But he had a hunch he’d left behind the piranhas in favor of something with much sharper teeth.
“Thanks. Much better than the frilly concoction I got last round.” She sipped the bourbon and earned a couple of points with him. “So. Now that I have your attention, listen carefully. This is strictly a business deal I’m offering. We get married in name only, and in six months, you file for divorce. That’s it. Six months is plenty of time to rebuild your reputation, and I get access to my trust fund afterward.”
Reputation. If only he could laugh and say he didn’t care what other people thought of him.
But he was a Wheeler. His great-great-grandfather had founded Wheeler Family Partners over a century ago and almost single-handedly shaped the early north Texas landscape. Tradition, family and commerce were synonymous with the Wheeler name. Nothing else mattered.
“You’re joking, right?” He snorted as a bead of sweat slid between his shoulder blades. “My reputation is fine. I’m not hard up for a magic wand, thanks.”
The little bundle of contradictions in the unrevealing, yet oddly compelling, dress peered up steadily through sooty lashes. “Really, Wheeler? You’re gonna play that card? If this fake marriage is going to work, know this. I don’t kowtow to the Y chromosome. I won’t hesitate to tell you how it is or how it’s going to be. Last, and not least, I do my research. You lost the contract on the Rose building yesterday, so don’t pretend your clients aren’t quietly choosing to do business with another firm where the partners keep their pants zipped. Pick a different card.”
“I didn’t know she was married.”
Brilliant, Wheeler. Astound her with some more excuses. Better yet, tell her how great Lana had been because she only called occasionally, suggested low-key, out-of-the-way places to eat and never angled to stay overnight. In hindsight, he’d been a class A idiot to miss the signs.
“But she was. I’m offering you some breathing room. A chance to put distance and time between you and the scandal, with a nice, stable wife who will go away in six months. I insist on a prenup. I’m not asking you to sleep with me. I’m not even asking you to like me. Just sign a piece of paper and sign another one in six months.”