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Winter Wedding In Vegas

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Winter Wedding In Vegas Janice Lynn HarperCollins EUR Waking up married!Single mum Taylor Anderson loathes playboys. So when she wakes up in Vegas to find Dr Slade Sain, the hospitals most notorious womaniser, in her hotel room, shes horrified! And then, she spots a ring on her finger!Marriage was never on the cards for Slade. But now he finds himself married to the most gorgeous woman hes ever laid eyes on! And when he meets her little girl, Gracie, his heart melts just a little further. Can a Christmas miracle turn this playboy extraordinaire into the perfect family man? Dear Reader (#ulink_8cdeb099-f3dd-5e91-b527-dac98edaf6a1), Weve all heard that old saying: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But it doesnt always Sometimes a girl marries the wrong man who might just end up being the right man! Slade Sain is about as opposite to what Taylor Anderson wants in a man as he can possibly be. Except that hes sexy as sin, makes her feel good about herself, and hes a fantastic, compassionate oncologist. Now hes her husband. So this year all she wants for Christmas is a quickie divorce and for what happened in Vegas truly to stay in Vegas. Slade dedicated his life to breast cancer research at the tender age of twelve, when his mother died from the horrible disease. He knows the path his life is destined to take. Getting married is a bump on that road he never intended to travel over. Sure, Taylor has always fascinated himbut hes a good-time guy, not a for ever kind of man. Shes vulnerable, a single mum, and still believes in Christmas. He should have known better. Only maybe his heart has been headed in the right direction all along I hope you enjoy their story, and that Santa stuffs your stockings with all the things you really want. Merry Christmas! Janice Winter Wedding in Vegas Janice Lynn www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk) To my favourite nurse, Joni Sain! You rock!!! Contents Cover (#ub8b7cd52-dbc6-5487-9275-a3c1fa72e1cf) Dear Reader (#ulink_64a940a5-3ed2-59bb-b3d0-a1efdf31c9a6) Title Page (#udc636234-8ec8-5ca0-ba8a-a35cb6137224) Dedication (#ud02795eb-f681-5d30-a59b-bac3887525d2) CHAPTER ONE (#ulink_ede6dfc1-d4fc-5df0-a6e4-5ccb3c609cc9) CHAPTER TWO (#ulink_da670adb-b8db-5431-8506-7d4f250c13fd) CHAPTER THREE (#ulink_29a0a693-802e-5738-b093-0e78be4da0bf) CHAPTER FOUR (#ulink_c077f092-9f15-5d64-8e78-2dbb967697e2) CHAPTER FIVE (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER SIX (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER SEVEN (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER EIGHT (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER NINE (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER TEN (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER ELEVEN (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER TWELVE (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER THIRTEEN (#litres_trial_promo) EPILOGUE (#litres_trial_promo) Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER ONE (#ulink_fff3ea12-ef4b-5bd2-a870-7e904aa951e0) DR. TAYLOR ANDERSON woke from the craziest dream shed ever had. Apparently sleeping in a glitzy Las Vegas hotel stretched ones inner imagination beyond all reason. Married. Her. To Dr. Slade Sain. As if. The man was such a player, she wouldnt date him, much less consider a more serious relationship with the likes of him. Sure, he was gorgeous, invaded her deepest, darkest dreams from time to time, but the mans little black book had more phone numbers than the Yellow Pages. If and when she married, no way would she make the same relationship mistakes she had made during medical school. Never again was she walking down that painful path of inevitable unfaithfulness from a man she should have known better than to trust. Yet her mind warned that last night hadnt been a dream, that she had married Slade. Last night shed drowned her awkwardness around him. She rarely drank, but shed felt so self-conscious surrounded by Slade and her colleagues in a social setting, that she had overimbibed. She didnt think shed been out and out drunk, but she hadnt been herself. These days, the real her was quiet and reserved, steady and stable. Responsible. Not the kind of woman to go to a tacky Sin City year-round Christmas-themed wedding chapel and marry a man she respected as a brilliant oncologist, had found unbelievably attractive from the moment shed first laid eyes on him, but thought as cheesy as the Jolly Old Saint Nick whod, apparently, also been an ordained minister. Who knew? Mentally, she counted to ten, took a deep breath, and opened her eyes. She was in her hotel room queen-size bed and Sexy Slade Sain was nowhere in sight. She glanced at the opposite side of the bed. The covers were so tangled, who knew if there had been anyone other than herself beneath the sheets? Just because she usually woke with the bedcovers almost as neat as when shed crawled between them didnt mean a thing. Really. She wasnt in denial. No way. Neither did the fact she was in the middle of the bed, sort of diagonally, and sprawled out. Naked. What had she done with her clothes? What had she done with her naked body? A knock sounded on the door leading out of the room. Feeling like she was suffering a miniheart attack, Taylor grabbed at the tangled sheets. Room service, a male voice called through the door. Room service? She pulled the covers tightly around her body. She hadnt ordered room service. The bathroom door opened and a damp, dark-haired pin-up calendar model wearing only a toweldear sweet heaven, the man had a fine set of shoulders and six-pack!undid the safety chain. Slade was in her hotel room. Naked beneath the towel and he was buff. The towel riding low around his waist, covering his perfect butt, his perfect... She gulped back saliva pooling in her mouth. Despite her desperate clinging to denial of the cold hard facts shed been willfully repressing, she knew exactly what shed done with her naked body. What shed done with his naked body. Why her bedsheets were so tangled. The details of how shed come to the conclusion that marrying Slade was a logical decision might be a little fuzzy, but shed known exactly what shed been doing when Slades mouth had taken hers. Hot, sweaty, blow-your-mind sex, thats what shed done. With Slade. As much as her brain was screaming No! her body shouted, Encore! That was quick, Mr. Multiple Orgasms praised the hotel employee pushing a cart into the room. He stopped the man just inside the doorway. Ill take it from here. The pressure in Taylors head throbbed to where at any moment she was going to form and rupture an aneurysm. Slades wife. This had to be a nightmare. Or a joke. Or a mistake they could rectify with an annulment. Could a couple get an annulment if theyd spent the night in bed, performing exotic yoga moves with energetic bursts of pleasurable cardio? She closed her eyes and let images from the night before wash over her, of Slade unlocking her hotel room door, sweeping her off her feet, and carrying her to the bed and stripping off her clothes. Shed giggled and kissed his neck when hed carried her across the threshold. Then hed kissed her. Really, deeply kissed her. Even now she could recall the feel of his lips against hers, the feel of his body against hers, his spicy male scent. Heat rose, flushing her face, ears and much more feminine parts. They so wouldnt qualify for an annulment. Wow at the moves the man had hidden inside that fabulous body. His hands were magic. Pure magic. His mouth? Magic. Just wow. She cracked open an eyelid to steal a peek. He tipped the man from Room Service from his wallet on the dresser, closed the door, turned and caught her staring. Morning, Sleeping Beauty. He gave a lopsided, almost self-deriding grin. Some night, eh? She groaned and pulled a pillow over her head to where she just peered out from behind it. Tell me that wasnt real. He shrugged his magnificent shoulders. That wasnt real. Dropping the pillow but hanging on tightly to the sheet, she let out a surprised sigh of relief. But if by that youre referring to our wedding at the North Pole Christmas Bliss Wedding Chapel the words came out with a mixture of amusement and shock, as if he couldnt quite believe what theyd done either well, according to our marriage certificate, that was very real. Keeping the covers tucked securely around her, Taylor sat up. A wave of nausea smacked her insides. He stood there looking sexy as sin and she was going to barf. Great. Just flipping great. One minute we were kissing in the limo surrounded by Christmas music and that crazy peppermint spray the driver kept showering us with, the next were getting married so we could have sex. Great sex, by the way. You blew me away. His blue eyes sparkling with mischievous intent, he moved toward her and she shook her head in horrified denial. Get back, she warned, covers clutched to her chest with one hand and the other outstretched as if warding off an evil spirit. Sure, there was a part of her that was thrilled that hed enjoyed their night as much as she had, but it was morning. The morning after. And theyd gotten married. Thats crazy. We didnt have to get married to have sex. Pausing, he scratched his head as if confused. Not that I dont agree with you, but thats not what you said last night in the limo. The movement of his arm flexed muscles along his chest and abdomen and sent a wave of tingles through her body, but that wasnt why she gulped again. She was just...thirsty? Parched. Still fighting the urge to barf. Forcing her eyes to focus on his face and not the rest of him, she blinked. The flicker of awareness in his blue eyes warned he knew exactly what she had been looking at, what shed been thinking, and he wasnt immune to her thoughts. You told me you wouldnt have sex with me unless we were married, he reminded her. She had said that. In the midst of his hot, lust-provoking kisses shed thrown down her gauntlet, expecting him to run or laugh in her face. So you married me? He glanced down at the cheap band on his left hand and shrugged. Obviously. Not that he sounded any happier about it than she felt, but someone should shoot her now. She was wearing a ring, too. A simple golden band on the wedding finger of her left hand. Because she was married. To Slade. Slade was not the man of her dreams, was not someone shed carefully chosen to spend the rest of her life based upon well-thought-out criteria. He was exactly what she avoided even dating because men like Slade didnt jibe with her life plans. How could she have had such a huge lapse of judgement? The metal hugging her finger tightened to painful proportions. At any moment her finger was going to turn blue and drop off from lack of blood flow. Seriously. She went to remove the ring, but couldnt bring herself to do it. Why, she couldnt exactly say. Probably the same insanity that had had her saying I do to a man she should have been screaming I dont at. Besides, shed probably have to buy a stick of butter before the thing would budge. We should talk about this. He glanced at his watch. But we have our presentation in just over an hour. You should eat. She glanced at the bedside tables digital clock. Crap. Shed slept much later than normal. Then again, shed stayed up much later than normal. Nothing had been normal about the night before. It had been as if shed been watching someone else do all the things shed done, as if it had all been a fantasy, not real. You have to go to your room, she told him, needing to be away from his watchful blue gaze. Im in my room. He shifted his weight and her attention dropped to where the towel was tucked in at his waist. His amazing, narrow waist that sported abs no doctor should boast. Abs like those belonged on sport stars and models, not white-collar professionals who saw cancer patients all day. Last night we arranged for the hotel staff to move my things into your room while were in class today. They had stopped by the front desk and requested that. Wincing, her gaze shot to his. No. She was going to throw up. Really she was. How was she going to explain this to Gracie? She grimaced. I dont want you in my room. Understood. He looked as if he really didnt want to be there either. But were married. Married had come out sounding much like a dirty word, like someone whod just been given a deadly diagnosis. Guilt hit Taylor. She had told him she wouldnt have sex with him unless they were married. But wasnt marriage a bit far for a man to go just to get laid? He had a busy revolving door to his bedroom so he couldnt have been that desperate for sex. He must have been as inebriated as she had. How did we end up married? she asked, pulling the bedcovers up to her neck. The less he could see of her the better. She already felt exposed. You told me you wanted to have sex with me, but that you wouldnt unless we were married. Our elfish limo driver said he knew a place that could take care of a last-minute license and we happened to be right outside it. We got married and had sex. You know this. You were there. If shed been into one-night stands, last night would have been amazing. But she wasnt. She was a mature, professional doctor who had learned her life lessons the hard way and had a beautiful little girl she was raising by herself to prove it. Shed vowed she wouldnt have sex again without being married first. Had she foolishly believed marriage would protect her from future heartbreak? Shed wanted Slade so much. Had possibly wanted him for months, although shed never admitted as much to herself. When their pointy-eared three-and-a-half-foot-tall limo driver had taken them to the chapel, shed looked at Slade, expecting him to laugh at her condition. When shed seen him actually seriously considering marrying her just to have sex with her, a big chunk of the protective ice shed frozen around her heart had melted, leaving her vulnerable and wanting what shed seen in his eyes. Whether it had been the alcohol, the Christmas magic everywhere, or just Vegas madness, shed wanted to marry Slade the night before. It made no logical sense, but shed wanted him to want her enough to walk down the aisle to have her. We were drunk, she offered as an out. We can get an annulment because we were drunk. His expression pained, he narrowed his gaze. Maybe. His hands went to his hips and, again, she had to force her eyes upward to keep them from wandering lower than his face. The man was beautiful, shed give him that. I wasnt sober, she persisted, clinging to the fact that she hadnt been in her right mind. She wasnt in her right mind now either. Her head hurt and, crazy as it was, she wanted him, but she couldnt tell him that. Regardless, I want a divorce. * * * Raking his fingers through his towel-dried hair, Slade eyed Taylor grasping the covers to her beautiful body as if she expected him to rip them off and demand she succumb to his marital rights whether she wanted him or not. Did she really think so poorly of him? Despite the fact hed not been able to say I do fast enough the night before, he didnt want to be married any more than she apparently did. Probably less. Sure, hed been attracted from the moment hed met her. But although hed have sworn she felt a similar spark, shed brushed off his attempts to further their relationship. Until last night. Last night shed looked at him and hed felt captivated, needy, as if under a spell he hadnt been able to snap out of. He took a deep breath. A divorce works for me. A wife is not something I planned to bring back from Vegas. Or from anywhere. He had his future mapped out and a wife didnt fit anywhere into those plans. Hed dedicated his life to breast-cancer research and nothing more. Marrying Taylor had been rashthe effects of alcohol and Las Vegas crazinessand wasnt at all like his normal self. Women were temporary in his life, not permanent figures. He preferred it that way. A divorce sounded perfect. His marriage would be one of those what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of things. Thank goodness she didnt harbor any delusions of happily-ever-after or sappy romance. Theyd chalk last night up to alcohol and a major lapse of judgment. Maybe there really was something about Vegas that made people throw caution to the wind and act outside their norm. Or maybe it had been the smiley little elfish limo driver, whod kept puffing peppermint spray into the car, telling them they were at the wedding chapel that had made the idea seem feasible. Had the spray been some type of drug? Good. Taylors chin lifted a couple of notches. Then were agreed this was a mistake and we can get a divorce or an annulment or whatever one does in these circumstances. Ill call my lawyer first thing Monday morning. Relieved that she was being sensible about calling a spade a spade and correcting their mistake, he pushed the room-service cart over next to the bed and stared down at a woman whod taken him to sexual heights hed never experienced before. Maybe that peppermint stuff really had been some kind of aphrodisiac. Even with her haughty expression, she was pretty with her long blond hair tumbled over her milky shoulders and her lips swollen from his kisses. Until the night before hed never seen her hair down. He liked it. A lot. He liked her a lot. Always had. Hed wanted her from afar for way too long. Despite the whole marriage fiasco, he still wanted her. Even more than he had prior to having kissed her addictive mouth. Shed tasted of candy canes, joy and magic. Kissing her had made him feel like a kid on Christmas morning whod gotten exactly what hed always wanted. Which was saying a lot for a man who hadnt celebrated Christmas since he was twelve years old. Now that thats settled, theres no reason we cant enjoy the rest of the weekend. Lets eat up before this gets cold. The covers still clasped to her all the way up to her neck, she crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes were narrow green slits of annoyance. Dont act as if were suddenly friends because we both want a divorce. Were not and we wont be enjoying the rest of the weekend. At least, not the way you mean. Fine. We wont enjoy the rest of the weekend. He wasnt going to argue with her. But were not strangers. Ignoring her I-cant-stand-you glare and his irritation at how she was treating him as if he had mange, he lifted the lid off one of the dishes hed ordered and began buttering a slice of toast. Ive been working with you for around a year. You see me at work. She watched what he did with great interest. That doesnt make us friends. Neither does last night. She had to be starved. While satisfying one hunger, theyd worked up another. Hed ordered a little of everything because he hadnt known what she liked. Other than coffee. Often at the clinic, he saw her sipping on a mug of coffee as if the stuff were ambrosia. Funny how often hed catch himself watching for her to take that first sip, how hed smile at the pleasure on her face once she had. Hed put pleasure on her face the night before that had blown away anything hed ever seen, anything hed ever experienced. You make your point. He sat down on the bed and waved a piece of buttered toast in front of her, liking how her gaze followed the offering. But as were in agreement that we made a mistake, one we are rectifying, I dont see why we cant be friends and make the most out of a bad situation. Scowling, she shot her gaze back to his. You and I will never be friends. She grabbed his toast and took a bite, closed her eyes and sighed a noise that made him want to push her back on the bed and, friends or not, taste her all over again. Perhaps shed prefer it if he told her how much he was enjoying how shed just licked crumbs from her pretty pink lips? How much, now that he knew disentangling himself from their impromptu marriage wasnt going to be a problem, he was anticipating making love to her again, because for all her blustering he wasnt blind. Shed looked at him with more hunger than she had the toast. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she was as affected by him as he was her. They had phenomenal chemistry. She leaned toward the tray, got a knife and a packet of strawberry jam, then nodded while she spread the pink mixture on what was left of her toast. Not an easy task because she refused to let go of where she clutched the bed covers, which seemed a bit ridiculous to him since hed seen every inch of her. Seen, touched, tasted. Slade swallowed the lump forming in his throat and mentally ordered one not to form beneath his towel. In case you need reminding, we had a good time last night. I didnt. Dont lie. Hed been there. She hadnt faked that, couldnt have faked her responses, and he wouldnt let her pretend she had. Yes, you did. Okay, she conceded with a great deal of sarcasm. Youre good in bed. Anyone can be good if they get lots of practice and we both know youve had lots of practice. Lots of practice? He hadnt lived the life of a monk, but he didnt go around picking up random women every night either. Sure, he never committed, but the women he spent time with knew the score. He wasnt the marrying kind and avoided women who were. You want to discuss my past sex life? Not really. Her face squished, then paled. Although I guess we should discuss diseases and such. He arched his brow. You have a disease? No. She sounded horrified enough that he knew she was telling the truth. They should have discussed all this the night before. And birth control. Because for the first time in his life he hadnt used a condom. Because for the first time in his life hed been making love to his wife. Slades throat tightened. Hed not only gotten married the night before but hed had sex without a condom. How stupid could he have been? Was that why the sex had been so good? Because theyd not had a rubber barrier between them? Because theyd been flesh to flesh? He didnt think so. There had been something more, something special about kissing Taylor. Besides, theyd used a condom the first time. It had been their subsequent trips to heaven that had been without one. Hed only had the one condom in his wallet and theyd still been high under the Las Vegas night airor whatever foolishness had lowered their inhibitions. Do you? she asked, sounding somewhere between terrified and hopeful his answer would be the right one. I havent specifically gone for testing recently. There hadnt been a need. He had never had sex without protection before her and didnt engage in any other high-risk behaviors. Its been a year or so since my last checkup, but I do donate blood routinely and have always checked normal. His answer didnt appease her and she eyed him suspiciously. When was the last time you donated? About two months ago. Relief washed over her face. No letter telling you about any abnormal findings? He shook his head. No such letter. What about you? Her gaze didnt quite meet his. Ive only been with one man and that was years ago during medical school. Ive been checked a couple of times since then. Im clean. As unreasonable as it was since he was no saint and they were going to end their marriage as soon as possible, the thought of Taylor being with anyone else irked him. A surge of jealousy had his fingers flexing and his brain going on hiatus. He didnt have to marry you to have sex with you? CHAPTER TWO (#ulink_0615a8bc-8604-5ab5-a6e1-b80a0a7cd223) SLADE INSTANTLY REGRETTED his sarcastic question, especially when, with a pale face and watery eyes, Taylor glanced down at the plain gold band hed put on her hand the night before. No, Kyle didnt marry me, but I did believe he was going to spend the rest of his life loving me. Silly me. The fact that shed been heartbroken by the jerk rankled Slade. Good thing she didnt want this marriage any more than he did. Hed hate to think hed hurt her like that fool had. Regardless of what the future held for them, he didnt want to cause Taylor any pain. That much he knew. What happened? She shrugged and the sheet slipped off one shoulder to drape mid-upper-arm. He didnt marry me or spend the rest of his life loving me. End of story. Hardly, but he wouldnt push. Such sorrow laced her words that his chest squeezed tighter. Im sorry. Im not. Masking her emotions behind an indifferent expression he suspected shed perfected over the years since her breakup with the guy, Taylor picked up a spoon and scooped up a mouthful of eggs. He was an arrogant jerk. Her lips were wrapped around the spoon and another jolt of jealousy hit him as she slowly pulled the utensil from her mouth. She picked up a strawberry and bit into the juicy fruit. Mmm. Thats good. Speaking of good... He watched her pop the rest of the berry into her mouth and lick the juice from her fingers, and struggled with the desire to do some licking of his own. Last night really was spectacular, apart from the whole getting-married thing. She met his gaze, nodded, then deflated. Oh, Slade, what have we done? Hearing her say his name caused flashbacks from the night before. Until then, hed never heard her say his first name. He liked the sound. We got married, but we can correct that. We will correct that. As soon as legally possible. Its crazy that we got married. Why did we do that? We arent in love, barely know each other and I dont even like you. He gave a wry grin. All this time I just thought you were waiting on me to win you over to my way of thinking. Professionally maybe, but not romantically. Professionally, Im a good oncologist. You are. She winced. I didnt mean it like that. Then what did you mean? Just that I always thought you were a flirt and didnt take life seriously. I take my job very seriously. His work was the most important thing in his life and always would be. I care a great deal for my patients and like to think I provide them the best care possible. You do. Its just that... Her voice trailed off. Its just what? I guess I let your personal life influence how I viewed you professionally. What do you know of my personal life? Her face reddened. Not much. Just gossip really. Not that you should believe gossip, but what do the gossips say? That you date a lot of different women. You think I shouldnt? She sighed and looked somewhere between disgusted and desperate. What I think about your personal life doesnt matter. Well get a divorce and no one ever need know about any of this. Thankful that she was so practical about the whole thing, Slade nodded. Agreed. Well figure the legalities out on Monday and end this as painlessly as possible. She eyed him, then gave a hopeful half smile. Maybe well get lucky and theres some kind of just kidding, Ive changed my mind because I was stupid in Vegas clause. * * * Thank goodness Slade felt the same as she did. Theyd made a horrible mistake, knew it and would make the best of a bad situation. Not that she could believe hed married her. The man was gorgeous, amazing in bed, could have any woman he wanted and usually did, according to her female coworkers who loved to discuss the handsome oncologists love life latest. Why would he have married her? Taylor was admittedly a stick-in-the-mud, boring homebody. Her idea of fun was a good book while soaking in a bubble bath or playing with Gracie. Her ideal life would bore him to tears. No confetti and blow horns anywhere in her reality or her ideal future. From what she knew about Slade, they couldnt be more opposite. Opposites attract. She winced at the inner voice in her head playing devils advocate. Okay, so shed admit she wanted to rip Slades towel off and have that encore performance. Not that she did anything more than wrap the sheet around her, grab the cup of coffee from the tray, and, head held high, strut into the bathroom to take her shower. Of course, that only reminded her that his naked body had been under this hot stream earlier and had she wakened in time she could have joined him. Her husband. What a joke. But right now she had to get her act together, because they were presenting to a group of oncologists, pharmacists, marketing representatives and others on the benefits of a new cancer-fighting drug theyd been researching. At some point today she should probably tell Slade that not only had he become a husband the night before, hed also become the stepfather of a precious six-year-old little girl. She winced. Yeah, that might shock Slade enough to have him scrambling around in hopes of finding a twenty-four-hour Vegas divorce court. Although she had a photo of Gracie on her desk at work, she doubted Slade had ever been inside the room, that hed ever had reason to be in her personal office. Yes, they worked in the same multifloor cancer clinic. But prior to their being chosen to go to this conference to discuss the research being done at their facility, theyd not really interacted except when hed sent her running by asking her out. Because she avoided men like Slade. Had for years. The last time she hadnt, shed ended up pregnant and alone. Nausea hit her. After their first time she and Slade hadnt used birth control. Hed only had the one condom, and theyd been too delirious to acknowledge the ramifications of unprotected sex. How stupid was she? Was he? The timing in her menstrual cycle wasnt right for pregnancy, but she wasnt so foolish as to think it wasnt possible. Her hand went to her bare belly. Was she? Had she and Slade made a baby? Dampness covered her skin that had nothing to do with the shower water. She loved Gracie with all her heart, would do anything for her precious daughter, but shed never planned to have more children. Not without finding a man who met all her criteria for Mr. Right, which included what kind of father hed be to Gracie. Then again, shed never planned to get married to a man she barely knew either, and shed done that. Her parents would be so proud. Ha. Not. Her actions this weekend would just once again affirm their disappointment in her. She finished rinsing her body, then stepped out of the shower and eyed the half-empty cup of coffee. She picked up the cup and, with great sadness, poured the lukewarm liquid down the sink drain. No more coffee or anything else that wasnt healthy for a pregnant woman until she knew for sure one way or the other that she and Slade hadnt created a new little life. * * * Slade leaned back in his chair and watched the impressive woman woo the crowd with her smiles and witty sense of humor. Taylor went through the slide presentation shed put together on the data their oncology clinic, Nashville Cancer Care, had collected on Interallon, a new experimental cancer-fighting drug theyd been successfully administering as part of a larger nationwide research trial. Remission rates of metastatic breast cancer had increased by 40 percent in patients whod received the trial medication over current treatment modalities. They were hopeful FDA approval would be soon so the medication could be administered more widely. Taylor pushed back a stray strand of pale blond hair behind her ear and pointed a laser at the current slide, referring to a particular set of data. Hed slid his fingers through that soft, long hair last night. Not that you could tell just how long or lush her hair was with the way she had it harshly swept up. Neither could you tell how gorgeous her big green eyes were behind those ridiculous black-rimmed glasses she wore. Definitely you couldnt tell how hot and passionate her body was beneath her prim and proper gray pantsuit and blazer. She epitomized a professional businesswoman presenting data to a crowd of health-care professionals who couldnt possibly appreciate how amazing she was. Slade scanned the crowd, noticing several of the men watching her with a gleam in their eyes. Well, maybe some of them did see just how amazing she was, but he pitied them. She was his. His wife. He couldnt believe hed gone that far. He usually had no problems with women, but Taylor had always been different. For months hed not been able to convince her to give him the time of day and he had tried. Repeatedly, hed struck up conversations only to have her end them and avoid him. She made a comment, misspoke a word and poked fun at herself, getting a laugh from their audience. Slade skimmed the crowd, noticing several of the men seemed to be further enchanted by the woman on stage. Green slushed through his veins, clogging the oxygen flow to his brain. Had to be since he sure wasnt thinking straight because his brainor was it just his male ego?was screaming, Mine. Mine. Mine. Now... She flashed another smile at the crowd, pulling them further under her spell. Ill turn the podium over to Dr. Slade Sain to present specific case studies and then well field any questions together. They walked past each other as he took the podium and she returned to sit in the seat next to his at a table that had been set up at the front of the auditorium. He tried to meet her gaze, to smile at her and tell her what a great job shed done, but she kept her gaze averted, purposely not looking at him. Which annoyed Slade. He stewed all the way to the podium and then did something almost as stupid as slipping a golden band around a womans finger when he had nothing to offer her but more broken dreams. Ladies and gentlemen, give my wife a round of applause for the great job she just did. Taylors face paled. Slades face probably did, too. What had he just done? Several of the people in the audience who knew them gasped in surprise. A few called out their congratulations. When their gazes met, Taylor looked annoyed, but then she pasted on a smile for the crowd. Their colleagues and class attendees settled down and, despite the horror bubbling in his stomach that hed just made their mistake public, Slade got serious. He believed in the benefits of Interallon and wanted others to have the opportunity to significantly benefit from the still-experimental medication. Despite whatever was going on in their personal lives, it was his and Taylors job to educate their colleagues, to get others involved in the medication trials, as the pharmaceutical company pushed to have the FDA expedite approval. He went over their case studies, answered questions, then pointed to one of their colleagues whose hand was raised with a question. The doctor had started out with him and Taylor the night before, but theyd ditched him and a handful of others when theyd left in the limo. Sorry to change the subject off Interallon, but when did you and Dr. Anderson get married? Last night. Slade glanced toward Taylor. Her green eyes flashed with anger beneath her glasses, but she kept a smile on her lovely face. No doubt he was going to get a tongue-lashing when the presentation finished. He deserved one. He wanted to scream and yell at himself for his stupid remark, too. Next question. The man raised his hand again and spoke before Slade could call on another person. You and Dr. Anderson got married last night? When you left dinner, you got married? Taylor stood, walked over to the podium, and took the microphone. Dr. Ryan, youll understand if Dr. Sain and I request personal questions be saved for a later, more appropriate time. Right now, we prefer questions regarding Interallon and the success our clinic and the other clinics involved in the trials taking place are having with this phenomenal resource in our battle against a horrific disease. Put in his place, the man nodded. Taylor immediately called on another person and fielded a question about the medication being used in conjunction with currently available treatments. At this time, the studies using Interallon in conjunction with other cancer-fighting modalities are just starting to take place. Nashville Cancer Care will be heading up one of those trials early next year. Another flurry of questions filled the remaining time and no one brought up their nuptials again until after the class was over. Several of their colleagues shook their hands, patted their backs and gave them congratulations. I didnt see that one coming, Dr. Ryan commented, looking back and forth between them. I didnt even know you two were seeing each other. Slade narrowed his gaze at the other man. Cole Ryan had been one of the men eyeing Taylor on stage as if she was a piece of candy to be devoured. A growl gurgled in Slades throat, but he managed to keep it low. Taylor closed her laptop and picked up a file folder with her notes inside. I prefer to keep my personal life private. Obviously, Dr. Sain and I disagree on that particular issue. Dr. Sain? Ryan chuckled, then slapped Slade on the back again. Your wife calls you Dr. Sain? Slade glanced at Taylors scowl, the stiff set to her shoulders and the tight line of her mouth. He was an idiot. He deserved her anger. He didnt even know why hed made the stupid announcement. Other than the fact that hed been overcome with jealousy. When shes upset. Trouble in paradise already. Thats a Vegas wedding for you. The man laughed again, not realizing just how much he was getting on Slades nerves. Odd, as he usually liked the doctor, who also practiced in Nashville. Well, congrats anyway. Cole gave them a wry look. For however long it lasts. Slade packed up his briefcase and followed Taylor from the conference room and down the long hallway that led out into the hotels main lobby. Ignoring the lush Christmas decorations and colorful slot machines scattered around the huge lobby, Taylor didnt say a word directly to him until they were alone in the elevator. Then she rounded on him, opened her mouth to speak, then stopped, closed her eyes in disgust and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again, anger still flickered there. How dare you make that little announcement during our presentation? I shouldnt have said anything. You made a joke of our presentation, she accused, practically snapping at him. No, I didnt. He would never intentionally do anything to take away from the importance of Interallon and the results they were getting with the medication. Yes, you did. Rather than paying attention to what you were saying, half the people in the room were busy Tweeting that wed gotten married. Youre exaggerating. He hoped she was exaggerating. Really? She dug in her bag and held up her phone. This thing has been buzzing like crazy since you made your little comment. Forget the fact that our marriage is a sham, but how dare you make a mockery of my work? Thats not what I was doing. Guilt hit him. She was right. They were getting a divorce as soon as it could be arranged. The fewer people who knew of their mistake the better. Hed been out of line to say anything. Thats exactly what you were doing. She looked as if shed like to hit him, but instead just gritted her teeth and made a sound that was somewhere between a growl and a sigh. Youre right, he agreed with sincerity and regret. I shouldnt have said what I did. Im sorry, Taylor. That seemed to take the steam out of her argument, as if she hadnt expected him to apologize. Rather than say more she just rolled her eyes upward, her long lashes brushing the lenses of her heavy-framed glasses. The elevator beeped and the door slid open. She practically ran out. Slade followed, his eyes never leaving her as she marched to her door, dug in her bag for her room key card, then slid the card into the slot. He got there just as she pushed open the door and went inside, not waiting for him. Slade hesitated only a second, then caught the door before it closed, and went inside to try to repair the damage hed done. He wasnt very good at this husband thing. Good thing he didnt plan to be one for long. CHAPTER THREE (#ulink_ad84c0c2-e2b6-5937-a00c-a3b6426177e5) TAYLOR GLANCED AROUND her hotel room and wanted to scream. Those werent her things. They were Slades things. Her blood boiled. How could he have been so stupid as to have announced that theyd married? Shed just wanted to have a quiet quickie divorce. She had not wanted anyone to know. Now everyone knew. Right before Christmas. Ugh. She threw her bag down on her bed, wincing when she recalled her laptop was inside. She clicked on her phone to see who the latest text was from. Her parents? No doubt theyd hear of her latest major life mistake soon enough. The text was from Nina. Great. Had her friend said anything to Gracie? She prayed not. No way did she want Gracie to know what an idiot she had for a mother. Married in Vegas to a virtual stranger. Brilliant example she was setting for her impressionable young daughter. Shame on her. No doubt her parents would remind her of that over and over. I just read that you married Slade Sain! Is that true? Hello, girlfriend, have you been holding out on me? I didnt know you two were an item and Im your best friend! We need to talk. Clutching her phone, Taylor spun at Slades words. You need to get out of my room. This is our room. Get out, she repeated. Taylor. He raked his fingers through his hair. Im sorry I messed up. Youre right that I shouldnt have said anything. Unfortunately, I did and I cant take the words back. I didnt want anyone to know I married you! Something akin to hurt flickered across his face. Not that I want to be married any more than you do, but am I such a loser that youre ashamed of me? Surprised that he sincerely looked offended, Taylor sank onto the foot of the bed and sighed. This is crazy. I dont want to argue with you, Slade. I dont want to say hurtful things. I dont want you here. I dont want to be married to you. I dont want anyone to know. I dont want to face our colleagues at this dinner tonight, knowing that theyre going to be watching us. Thats a lot of I dont wants, he mused, his voice gentler than before. He knelt down on the floor in front of her. His eyes searched hers. What is it you do want, Taylor? Although he wasnt touching her, his nearness made her insides tremble. Probably from disgust that shed married him. To forget this ever happened and to not be married to you of all people. Of all people? Ouch. Im sorry if Im wounding your ego, but dont pretend that its anything more than that, she pointed out, wishing hed move away from her. How was she supposed to not look at him when he was right there, kneeling in front of her? Yes, we had sex together and it was good. But we arent in love and we wont ever be. This was a mistake and whats worse is that its now a public mistake. Oh, how she hated that anyone knew how big a mistake shed made. And above all else I dont want Gracie to find out. Confusion furrowed his brows. Whos Gracie? She might as well tell him. My daughter. Shock registered on his face and for a moment she thought his knees were going to give way. You have a daughter? Yes, I have a daughter. She snorted. Just as well Slade wasnt the man of her dreams, because his reaction to the news of Gracie would have killed any chance he had. Face a little blanched, he shook his head. You dont have a kid. He sounded so confident in his immediate response that Taylor wanted to laugh. Only she wasnt feeling very amused at the moment. She was feeling crowded with him so close to her and annoyed at his reaction. Sure I do. She narrowed her gaze, hoping hed take the hint at how much she disliked him. Perhaps you noticed the stretch marks along my hips last night when we were... Her cheeks heated. Crazy after the things theyd done the night before that she couldnt bring herself to say the word sex. But whereas she was annoyed, his expression remained shocked. You have a beautiful body, Taylor. His tone was as gentle as it had been before, but there was a dazed look to his eyes. And no more stretch marks than other women have with fluctuations in weight of a few pounds. He would know. Ugh. She hated it that her mind went to him with other women. But, then, he did go through women just as fast as Kyle had, so why wouldnt her mind go there? He was a player. A player she had married and was going to divorce. Puh-lease. She didnt even attempt to hide her sarcasm. Ive given birth. I know my body changes. I dont know what game youre playing, but get real. You have a beautiful body, Taylor, he repeated, so matter-of-fact that something cracked deep inside even if his words only meant he hadnt really looked at her. The body of a woman who has had a baby. If youd paid attention last night, youd have realized that. He ignored her snap, stood and paced across the room. When he turned to look at her, he didnt meet her eyes. When? Gracie is six. The skin on his face pulled tight. His jaw worked back and forth in a slow grind. The guy in medical school? She nodded and couldnt hold in her bitterness. How dared Slade look at her with accusation in his eyes? He had no right to judge her! Give the man a prize. Of course hes Gracies father. I told you he was the only man Id ever been with. There are other ways women become mothers, Taylor, he pointed out, his voice level and patient, even though color stained his cheeks at her outburst. A strong, successful woman like yourself may have decided to have a child and sought a fertility clinic, for all I know. Strong, successful woman? Ha, what she really wanted to do at the moment was curl up into a ball and cry. How strong and successful was that? Because, like Ive said, you dont know me. This just proves my point. His jaw flexed again. A point I tried to correct on numerous occasions, but you didnt want to let me know you. Of course I dont want to let you know me. Youve ruined my life. She was crying now. She didnt want to cry, but from the moment hed made his comment about his wife during their presentation and her phone had started vibrating in her bag, shed wanted to cry. There was no more holding the tears back. Yep, strong and successful, that was so her. Just ask her parents. Please, dont cry, Taylor. He sounded almost as lost as she felt. I want to make you smile, not cry. The last thing she wanted was to cry in front of him, but she couldnt make the tears stop. She cried for her parents and how embarrassed they were going to be by her. Again. She cried for Gracie and how her mothers moment of stupidity would affect her. And she cried for herself, that shed been so easily led astray after six years of living an exemplary life. Tell me what I can do to make things better. Go away, she immediately informed him. He stared at her for long moments then gave a slight nod of his head. Im sorry Ive upset you, Taylor. Ill go for now. I have a meeting at noon anyway, but I will be back later to change for dinner. I hope youll be ready to talk, because whether we like it or not we are married, people do know and we need a game plan on how best to deal with this so that it has the least negative impact on both our lives. * * * I heard a rumor today. Slade winced. He should have known better than to answer the phone when hed seen who was calling. Hey, Dad. Is what Im hearing true, son? Depends on what youve been hearing. You married? How did he answer his father? The best man hed ever known through and through. A man who cherished the bonds of marriage, a man who had lost his precious wife, Slades mother, to cancer, and carried that bond still in his heart, despite the fact hed remarried several years back to a good woman. Slade couldnt lie to his father. Guess some rumors are true. Silence ticked over the phone line. Have to admit Im surprised, his father said slowly. More silence. She pregnant? Slades face heated. Not that he could blame his father for asking. Everyone who really knew him knew hed never planned to marry, that he had dedicated his life to medicine, to finding a cure for a disease he hated. Not that I know of. She does have a kid, though. Hadnt that one been a shocker? Not only had he married but hed also become an instant father. Not that it really mattered. He wasnt likely to meet Taylors daughter. Theyd divorce, pretend as if none of this had ever happened, and that would be the end of their Vegas mistake. Which was exactly what needed to happen, so why did the image of Taylors tears flash through his mind and make him wish life was different? That he was different? Then again, hadnt he learned at twelve years old that wishes didnt come true? If they did, his mother would still be alive because hed wished more than any kid had ever wished. He was sure of it. More silence. For a man who just got married, you dont sound very happy. You okay, son? Okay? Again, the image of Taylors tear-streaked face popped into his mind. No, he wasnt okay. Hed married a woman he wanted physically, cared for as a person and whom he didnt want to damage emotionally. Im fine. Youre not in some kind of trouble, are you? Worry weighed heavily in his fathers words. This is just so unexpected. Slade could almost laugh. Im not in trouble, Dad. At least, not the kind his father meant. Well, then, congratulations. Congratulations. Because hed gotten married. And become a father. Why did his tie feel as if it was strangling him? He couldnt even respond to his fathers comment. She must be something special, his dad continued. Images from the night before flashed through Slades mind, images of sharing laughter with Taylor, of holding her hand as theyd climbed into the limo to leave the hotel, of kissing her in the back of the limo, of how his heart had pounded in his chest as hed slid a ring onto her finger and promised to have and hold her forever... Maybe he was in trouble, because as much as he didnt want to be married, didnt want to think about the fact she was a mother, he did want Taylor in his life. If only she werent so complicated. If only they hadnt gotten married. Taylor is special, he admitted, then realized just how much hed revealed in his three softly spoken words. Im glad to hear that. After your mother died you avoided getting close to anyone. Im glad youve met someone worth the risk. Slades ribs threatened to crush the contents of his chest they constricted so tightly. He hadnt avoided getting close to anyone. Hed just made a conscious decision to dedicate his life to finding a cure for breast cancer. His father didnt understand that. Maybe no one could. But to Slade, doing all he could to prevent others from going through what his family had was his number-one life priority. Dad, I hate to cut you short. Not really a lie. He loved his father, enjoyed talking to him normally, just not today, not when he was reeling from the past twenty-four hours, from the fact hed woken up with a wife and a kid. But Im on my way to my dream job interview with Grandview Pharmaceuticals. A dream job that would give him every opportunity of achieving his number-one life priority. Ill give you a call next week when Im back in Nashville. * * * Hello, my darling, how was school today? Taylor said into the phone to her daughter. The first rays of happiness were shining that day. Good, the most precious voice in the world answered. Aunt Nina said I was very smart. Although she was no blood relation, Gracie had called Taylors best friend Aunt for as long as Taylor could remember. Aunt Nina is right. You are a smart girl. And a very pretty one. Gracie giggled. You always say that. Because its true. I miss you, Mommy. Gracies voice sounded somewhere between sad and pouty. Taylor could just picture her daughters expression, see the sadness in the green eyes that were so similar to her own. I miss you, too. More than words could convey. When are you coming home? Gracie demanded. Ill be flying home tomorrow evening. You and Aunt Nina are picking me up from the airport. Are you bringing me a prize? Aunt Nina said if I was good while you were gone that Id get a present. Aunt Nina said that, did she? So close to Christmas? Well, Im sure if she said that, then shes right. Gracie talked to her a few minutes more, then handed the phone to Nina. Shes something else, isnt she? Nina immediately said into the phone. I hope shes not been too much trouble, Taylor told her best friend. Are you kidding me? Ive loved having her here. Shes helped me decorate my house and you know me, Im one of those who never has things done the week after Thanksgiving. This year, Im way ahead of the game, and she and I have had a blast getting everything done. Taylor understood. Gracie was a blast and loved Christmas almost as much as her mother did. No doubt the little girl had garlands and lights strung all over Ninas apartment. Good. When they told me I would be going on this trip, my first thoughts were what Id do about Gracie. Ive never left her before. Are you sure your first thoughts werent about getting an early Christmas package from a certain sexy oncologist? Or perhaps the two of you just got carried away beneath some Vegas mistletoe? Taylor sighed. She had known Nina would ask about Slade. Especially since she hadnt answered a single text message from Nina or any of her other friends and colleagues. What was she supposed to say? Yes, I messed up again. Its what Im good at when it comes to the opposite sex. You might as well tell me, because you know youre going to. Best friend, remember? I remember. So whats up with you becoming Mrs. Dr. Sexy? Taylor winced. Please tell me you didnt ask me that in front of Gracie. Shes watching her favorite television program and is totally oblivious to what Im saying. Dont count on it. She picks up on a lot more than people give her credit for. Fine, Ill walk into the kitchen. There was a short pause. Now, tell me if what I read was true. Its true. Nina squealed. You and Dr. Sain got married? How romantic! Tell me everything. There wasnt anything romantic about it. Which wasnt exactly true. Drunk or not, hed been sweet when hed slid the wedding ring onto her finger, had lifted her hand and placed a kiss over the gold band. Just the memory goose-bumped her skin. You got married to the sexiest man we know and there wasnt anything romantic about it? She sank her teeth into her lower lip. Not really. Which means there was at least something romantic going on, Nina concluded. Hubba-hubba. This is huge. You got married. I cant believe it. That makes two of us. This is so unlike you. Youre, like, never spontaneous. I just... Nina paused and Taylor could just imagine her friend shaking her head while she tried to make sense of what was being said. So, tell me the details. How in the world did you and Dr. Sain get married? A bunch of us had dinner, went to watch a Christmas show and then I ended up in a limo with Slade. We drove to a cheesy year-round Christmas wedding chapel and exchanged vows. Alcohol was involved. Nina moaned. Please tell me it wasnt a drive-through ceremony. It wasnt. Although if it had been, would it really have mattered? Santa Claus married us. Santa? An impersonator, but, yes, Santa. There were even elves snapping pictures and throwing fake snow at us. Ugh. Taylor rubbed her temple. What am I going to do, Nina? I got married last night. Celebrate the fact that you married the hottest guy around and will be the envy of every female at the clinic? Im serious. Me, too. So, how was he? Nina! That good, huh? That good, Taylor agreed, unable to lie. Better than any man should be. Better than shed thought any man could be. Hed set her body aflame and made her ache for more. But I cant stay married to him. Why not? We never should have gotten married in the first place. We were under the influence and made a huge mistake. Besides, he is about as opposite from what I want in a man as possible. You want ugly, not sexy and not good in bed? You know what I mean. Would her temple please stop throbbing? Fine. I know what you mean, but you did get married. Show a little more enthusiasm, please. Didnt you joke last year after Christmas that you should have asked Santa for a man? Well, girl, you must have been at the top of the nice list this year for Santa to have delivered Slade Sain. She did recall joking with Nina that she should have asked Santa for a man. She didnt want to be alone, raising Gracie without a father. But shed much rather that than to have let the wrong man into her life. She sighed. Were going to get a divorce just as soon as it can be arranged. She twisted the gold band on her left hand. Why hadnt she taken it off? Why did it feel seared to her very being? Too bad. Taylor pulled back her phone to stare at it. I cant believe you said that. I made a horrible mistake last night. Can you imagine what my parents are going to say? Who cares what they say, Taylor? You cant keep trying to make up for disappointing them by getting pregnant out of wedlock. These are modern times. Women have kids without being married. You finished school and have made a great life for you and Gracie. If your parents cant see what a wonderful woman you are, then phooey on them. In theory, Taylor knew her friend was right. In her heart, she hated to disappoint her parents again. They were devoutly religious, had the perfect marriage, couldnt understand how shed let herself become pregnant out of wedlock and although they loved Gracie, theyd never let Taylor forget how disappointed theyd been. I know you, Taylor, Nina continued. Im not sure how you and Slade ended up married. There must have been some major Christmas magic in the air last night. But quit stressing and enjoy the rest of your honeymoon before planning your divorce. Reality will set in soon enough. Im not on a honeymoon and reality set in first thing this morning. Technically, you are on your honeymoon, Nina pointed out. You got married last night. Taylor dropped backward onto the bed. Crap. Youre right. Im so stupid. Youre the least stupid person I know. Taylor just groaned. Obviously, there was something between you two last night that triggered the I dos, Nina pointed out in her ever-optimistic way. You married a superhot guy who you had really great sex with and now hes your husband. Why not quit worrying about the details and the pending legal I donts and just enjoy your honeymoon? If only life were that easy. You dont mean that. Why wouldnt I? You never do anything for yourself, Taylor. Youre always working or doing things for Gracie. For the next twenty-four hours dont worry about anyone but yourself. The act is done. Youre married and on your honeymoon with a hunk. Take advantage of that, of him and his skills. Whats going to happen in the future is going to happen regardless of whether or not you grasp hold of what lifes presented to you on a silver platter. Or, in this case, what Santas wrapped up in a pretty bow. I say go for it, work off some long-overdue steam, and make some memories before going your separate ways. Ugh. Her friend almost made sense. Almost. Youre not helping. Sure I am. Im just not saying what your determined-to-be-a-prude ears want to hear. I hate it when youre right. Nina squealed again. So, youre going to do it? Youre going to let your hair down and rock Dr. Sains world? She wasnt so sure she could rock his world, but he had seemed to enjoy the night before. They had been hot. Im not sure I know how to let loose anymore, she admitted, positive it was true. She enjoyed life, but all her free time did revolve around Gracie. And I didnt say you were right that I should let my hair down. Just that what you were saying wasnt what I wanted to hear. You want me to tell you that you should hightail it back home and file for divorce without indulging in some fun with your husband first? File for divorce. Pressure squeezed her heart. People in her family didnt divorce. They didnt get pregnant out of wedlock and they didnt marry virtual strangers in Vegas and they didnt divorce. That was her family. But she would be three for three because she would be filing for divorce. To pretend otherwise was ridiculous. She and Slade had suffered lapses of judgement, clouded by lust and alcohol. That much she could admit to. Shed wanted him last night. When hed kissed her, shed melted and forgotten everything but him. Im waiting for an answer. Taylors grip on her cell phone tightened. Im a mother, Nina. Regardless of what I want, I cant just go around indulging in fun whenever I want to. Its not that I dont want to indulge in fun, because I do. Oh, how she wanted to imbibe more of Slade. He was amazing. An affair with him would be amazing, but I need to end this without doing anything that might complicate things. Too late. Things are already complicated. Taylors gaze shot to the open hotel room door and the man who stood there. Crap. When had he opened the door and how much had he overheard? Sorry, Nina, but Ive got to go. Her gaze latched on to Slades and she refused to look away even when thats what she wanted to do. How was it he made her feel so on edge with just a look? My husband just walked in. CHAPTER FOUR (#ulink_cb76e0d9-ce52-5b23-b788-0a4f0bf444dc) FRUSTRATED, SLADE STARED at the woman lying on the bed. Clicking off her phone, Taylor slowly rose to a sitting position. Which was exactly where hed left her. Shed left the hotel room, though. Hed gone to a presentation, had sensed her sneaking into the meeting room and had turned to catch her sliding into a seat in the back of the auditorium. When the meeting had ended, hed glanced her way. Shed been gone. Hed forced himself to go to all the programs hed marked on his agenda, even though hed had a difficult time staying focused on what the presenters had been saying. At noon, hed had an interview with Grandview Pharmaceuticals, the company that owned Interallon and that was renowned for their headway in the fight against cancer. John Cordova, the older man whod interviewed him, had commented on how they needed someone dependable, someone able to make long-term commitments, to see things through, to fill the position. The man had then congratulated him on his recent marriage. Slade had withheld the fact that his marriage wasnt a long-term commitment but a mistake. Hed gotten the impression that a divorce so quickly following his marriage wouldnt have won him any brownie points in Cordovas eyes. His phone call with his father played through his head. His father was going to be so disappointed in him when he told him the truth. His temple throbbed ever so slightly. He found himself wishing he could lie on the bed beside Taylor, talk to her about the interview, about his goals and dreams, about his mother and how much he missed her, about the concern in his fathers voice and how he hadnt had the heart to tell him that his marriage was over before it even started either. He wanted to talk with her the way they had the night before because talking to her, being with her, had felt so right. Too bad Taylor was staring at him as if he were a serial killer. Last night had been different. When shed looked at him, hed seen something more. That something more had triggered some kind of insanity. Shed wanted to have sex with him, and that knowledge had shot madness into his veins. Shed challenged him with her condition about marriage and, gazing into her eyes, hed lost his mind and the ability to walk away from the temptation shed offered. He had the feeling that before all was said and done, his insanity was going to cost him a lot more than hed bargained for. She cleared her throat, reminding him that he had been staring at her for way too long. I need to change for the dinner program. A semiformal conference farewell that was more socializing than anything else. Thats fine. She watched him from behind her big glasses, which hed really like to lift off her face so he could better read her expression. Not really, but I guess for the next day we dont have a choice. The hotel is sold out and I dont plan to move to another hotel. She nodded as if shed already known. Perhaps shed called the front desk and asked. Slade had never been an awkward kind of person. Usually, he could come up with something funny to say, something to smooth over any situation. This wasnt any ordinary situation, though. This was him standing in a hotel room with his wife, whom he didnt want to be his wife and neither did she want to be his wife. He raked his fingers through his hair then, shrugged. Ill just grab my suit and change. He opened the closet door and removed a garment bag. Ill hurry in the bathroom so I wont interfere with you getting ready. If youre going, that is. Im going. He nodded and turned toward the bathroom. With you. He paused, but didnt turn around. Why? As far as the world is concerned, were happy newlyweds. If we go separately, well have to answer too many questions. I dont know about you, but Ive dealt with enough questions about our marriage already today. Slade looked up at the ceiling, counted to ten, then turned. Thats my fault. Im sorry. Youre right. I prefer not to raise questions, but even if were together, people are going to be curious. Youre right, but at least if were together we can keep our story straight. I wont lie to anyone who asks about us. Youre going to tell people that you married me so you could have sex with me? When she said it out loud, he agreed the reason sounded ridiculous. Still... Isnt that why most men get married? he said, fighting to keep his tone light. Because they want to have sex with the woman they are marrying? I definitely want to have sex with you, Taylor. I suppose so, she responded, ignoring his last comment. Or we could just tell them that we were drunk and didnt realize what we were doing. He certainly hadnt been thinking clearly, but he distinctly recalled exchanging vows with her, promising to care for her forever, to cherish her and yet they were planning to end things before theyd even got started. He stared at her, wishing he could read whatever was running through that sharp mind of hers. Shall we tell them we married because we were drunk or because we wanted to have sex? Her gaze darted about the room as if seeking the answer somewhere within the four walls. Finally, she shrugged. Take your pick. Both are true. * * * Taylor pulled her dress out of the closet. Her gaze settled on Slades clothes hanging next to hers. Other than her father, shed never lived with a man, so seeing the mix of Slades belongings with hers had her pausing, had her eyes watering up again. What an emotional roller coaster she rode. Her safe, secure world felt as if it was crumbling around her. Shed quit taking chances years ago. Had quit living in some ways. Oh, she lived through Gracie, but what about for herself? Nina was right. She didnt do anything for herself, just lived in a nice controlled environment where she planned for all contingencies. Too bad she hadnt had a backup plan for an unexpected Vegas Christmas wedding. While Slade was in the bathroom, she changed into her dress, took her hair down from its tight pin-back and pulled it up into a looser hold. She had her contacts in her purse, but wasnt sure what it would say if she put them in when she almost always wore her glasses. How ridiculous was she being? What did it matter what she looked like? Still, she dug in her purse and put in her contacts. She was just blinking them into place when Slade stepped out of the bathroom. Wearing only his suit pants. Taylors body responded to his bare chest like a Pavlov dog to its stimulus. The man was beautiful. And hers. Not for long, but at this moment Slade Sain was hers more than any other man had ever been. Just as she was his more than any other woman had ever been his. Maybe. She frowned because she really didnt know that to be true. Have you been married before? Her question obviously caught him off guard. No. Why? Have you? Never mind, silly question with that one-guy thing. You havent. No, I havent, she agreed, averting her gaze from his intense blue one. I just wondered if you had. Despite the tension between them, he grinned with wry humor. Wondering if I make marrying a habit? Exactly. Something like that. He slipped his crisp blue shirt on one arm at a time, then buttoned his cuffs. Ive never been married before. He paused, stared at her with a serious look. Ive never even contemplated marriage. Her feet wanted to shuffle but she somehow kept them still. Why not? Smoothing out his shirt, he shrugged. I have other plans for my life besides a wife, two point five kids and a white picket fence. Her chest spasmed at just how different they really were, because once upon a time shed dreamed of being a wife with kids and that proverbial white picket fence. Im sorry. Dont be. Were human and made a mistake. People do it all the time. He wasnt telling her anything she didnt know. So why did his words shoot arrows into her chest? Not me. Not like this. She winced. I mean, obviously I have made mistakes before, but I thought Id learned better than to make this kind. Marrying me makes you realize you havent evolved as far as youd hoped? Something like that. We were practically strangers and got married. Sighing, she closed her eyes. Before last night you probably didnt even know my eye color. I knew. His answer was so quick, so confident, that she couldnt question the truth of his response. Staring at him, she asked, How? He shoved his hands in his pants pockets. I know more about you than you seem to think. Like what? Like how much you love coffee. She rolled her eyes. Lots of people love coffee, so thats just a generic assumption that could be said about a high percentage of the population. . . , (https://www.litres.ru/pages/biblio_book/?art=39925266&lfrom=390579938) . Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, , , , PayPal, WebMoney, ., QIWI , .
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