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Excerpt: Ruthless Boss, Hired Wife

Cormac Douglas needed a wife. Tomorrow. Irritation and impatience thrummed through him in beat with the drumming of his fingers on his desk. Outside the crenellated turrets of Edinburgh Castle were shrouded in a thick and gloomy October fog.

He needed a wife. How? Who?

The women he knew were not wife material. Tramps to be used or aspiring socialites to be avoided. No one who would be suitable to act as his wife, weekend engagement only.

No one he could entice, bribe, or blackmail. Bend to his will.

His narrowed hazel gaze scanned his office, a large, spare room on the top floor of a restored building on Cowgate. He’d gutted the place when he’d bought it five years ago, turned the old, pokey rooms into a wide, open space filled with light and exposed brick.

Normally the sight of the office he owned and the memories it banished gave him a satisfaction that replaced his usual restless discontent.

Now they just seemed to mock him. He had the perfect commission, ripe for the taking, meant to be his, and he wouldn’t get it unless he had a wife.

The conversation a few days ago with an architectural colleague replayed in his mind.

“The Hassells finally want to develop a resort in Sint Rimbert,” Eric had said. “Something ecofriendly and luxurious, aimed particularly at families.”

“Families,” Cormac repeated without any intonation.

“Yes, they claim it’s a needed niche in the market—luxury for the little ones.” He chuckled. “It’s a plum commission.”

“Indeed.”

“I’d go for it myself, but they want to start work in the new year, and I’m already booked.” He paused, laughing ruefully. “I’m also out of the running for another reason—I’m not married.”

“Married?” Cormac’s voice turned sharp. “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“Apparently the Hassells are a close knit family. They want someone dependable to design this resort, with family values, seeing as it’s a family resort. Preferably a married man. Of course, that’s just the word in the street—they’d never say as much officially.”

“Of course.” Cormac injected a dry note into his voice. “Presumably that’s why I haven’t heard of it.”

“Exactly,” Eric agreed, laughing. “You’re not on the shortlist, Cormac.”

“Not yet.”

“What are you thinking of? A trip to Gretna Green?”

Cormac knew Eric was joking, so he chuckled along with him. “Not a bad idea.”

“You know your own reputation,” Eric said with a careless laugh. “But I didn’t think you were quite that ruthless.”

   After the telephone call Cormac  spent a long time staring out at the gloomy skies, the crawl of cars intent on avoiding the traffic of Old Town.

   He imagined the shortlist Jan Hassell would have compiled: smug married architects with their happy home lives and uninspired designs.

   It was absurd that the Hassells wanted a married man to design the resort. Family values had no effect, at least no positive effect, on one’s work. He should know. His work was his life, his breath. And as for family…

He stifled a curse, one hand balling into a frustrated fist. He wanted that commission. It was a fantastic opportunity, but it was more than that. It was a chance to prove who he was… and who he wasn’t.

He was the best man for the job, could be the best man if given the chance, if he grabbed it.

He wasn’t married.

A few hours after the call from Eric, Cormac had made some calls of his own, and finally connected with Jan Hassell. After faxing his CV and some designs to Jan, he’d been invited to a weekend house party on Sint Rimbert, along with two other architects. It was a stone’s throw from complete success, and now all he needed was a wife on his arm, an ornament to prove he had all those damn family values.

To get the commission.

To grab it.

He glanced at some letters on his desk his secretary had left for him to sign and irritably pulled them towards him. He was just scrawling his name on the bottom of the first page when he stopped. Smiled.

Considered.

He had the perfect idea. The perfect wife.

She just didn’t know it yet.

Excerpt From: RUTHLESS BOSS, HIRED WIFE by Kate Hewitt
Copyright © 2008 by Kate Hewitt
Permission granted by Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved.

January 2008