Bound By Marriage(2)

By: Nalini Singh



“Are you?”

Picking up the edge in his tone, she turned from the window. “What kind of a question is that? We’re getting married…unless you’ve changed your mind?” Maybe he’d actually fallen in love with one of those sensual, confident women who graced his bed in an ever-changing parade. Her hands curled into fists at the thought.

“I’m ready.” He made a small adjustment to the controls. “It’s you I’m worried about.”

“I promised I’d return ready for marriage. And I have.” Shell-shocked by the twin blows of her father’s death and the foreclosure of Randall Station, she hadn’t had the strength to be anyone’s wife twelve months ago, much less that of a man like Gabriel.

“Damon and Kayla have separated.”

Her mind couldn’t make sense of the words. “What? But I thought you said Kayla was pregnant.”

“Heavily. Your boyfriend walked out on her three months ago.”

It was a slap. “Damon is my friend, nothing more.” Her fists tightened hard enough to hurt.

“No matter how much you wish otherwise?” He glanced at her, eyes so icy she could see nothing except her own reflection.

“Yes. No matter how much I wish otherwise,” she admitted, in spite of her humiliation. “He never loved me, not like he loves Kayla.”

“Doesn’t much seem like it. The boy’s running around with anything in possession of a pair of breasts.”

The blunt words brought heat to her cheeks. “He’s hardly a boy. He’s the same age as me.” And twenty-six was plenty old enough to grow up and grow up hard.

“He’s acting like a child right now.” Gabe ignored her statement. At thirty-five, he was nine years older and the gap was never more apparent than at times such as this.

“How did it happen?” she asked, white noise crashing through her mind. “And why didn’t you tell me before?”

He gave her an odd look. “Didn’t Damon?”

“What?” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “No, we haven’t talked since I left.”

“Never?”

“No,” she lied, trying not to think of that single phone call Damon had made from a bar four months ago. He’d been drunk, but he’d said things no married man should have said…things she shouldn’t have listened to. “Is it looking bad?”

“Rumor is they’re heading for divorce.”

“Poor Kayla.”

“Hypocrisy, Jess? I didn’t expect that from you.”

Her cheeks blazed anew. “No matter what you think, I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on any woman. Unless…did she ask for the separation?”

“Not from the way she’s looking.”

“I can’t believe Damon would walk out on his marriage.”

“Maybe he finally realized what he’d given up.” There was no mistaking the challenge in Gabe’s voice. “What are you going to do?”

“Do?” She was still reeling from the implications of his first sentence.

“We’re getting married tomorrow and I plan on us staying that way. So if you’re intending on chasing off after Damon, you sure as hell better tell me now.”

Jess took a shuddering breath and let it out again. “How am I supposed to make any kind of decision right this second?”

“The same way you decided to marry me and use my money to go to L.A.”

“Don’t you throw that in my face! You agreed to me leaving the area for a year.”

Tanned skin pulled tight over the ruthless angle of his jaw. “Answer the damn question. Do you want to get married or not?”

In truth, she didn’t really have a choice. If she backed out, she’d lose her last fragile grip on the land that had once been Randall Station. “How much to buy back Randall?” Gabe had never particularly wanted it. The only reason he’d stepped in during the foreclosure was because she’d gone to him begging. But that didn’t change the fact that he now owned it. Owned her.

He snorted. “You didn’t have that kind of money then and you don’t have it now.

Neither does Damon.”

Both undeniable facts. She also owed Gabe for the year in L.A.—a year she’d so desperately needed to grow up. And growing up was exactly what she’d done. She might love Damon, but she’d made a promise to her father on his deathbed and she would keep it. A Randall would always remain on Randall land. “I’ll marry you.”

“You’ll be signing a pre-nup.”

She heard the unsaid statement loud and clear. “I won’t be trying to get the land back in a divorce. You bought it free and clear.” And in doing so, he’d saved it from the developers who would have destroyed it completely.

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