Marrying Mr. English:The English Brothers #7(6)

By: Katy Regnery



Van cleared his throat loudly, his voice raspy when he spoke. “I, uh, I think I left something in my room.”

“I’ll help you find it,” said Eve Marie, jumping up to follow him.

In a flash, Van and Eve Marie were gone, leaving Tom and Eleanora with four mostly full glasses of sickeningly sweet wine and a painfully awkward silence. Would she suddenly run away without the buffer of her cousin sitting beside her? It was surprisingly and unexpectedly painful to think of losing his chance to get to know her better.

Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed her hand. “Stay and talk. That’s all. Don’t—don’t go yet.”

Her face—her very lovely face—turned to him, her pink rosebud lips tilting up in a sweet smile. She searched his face, gently pulling her hand away when she replied, “I’ll stay a little longer.”

It occurred to Tom that he should stop staring at her, but he couldn’t. It was the first time she’d smiled at him, and his heart thundered from the way it made him feel to see her face light up. She was young and bright and ridiculously beautiful, and he’d been captivated from the first moment he’d laid eyes on her.

“A Moveable Feast,” he said softly, memorizing the unusual blue color of her eyes, a blue somewhere between cornflower and lavender. “By Ernest Hemingway. That’s my favorite nonfiction book. What’s yours?”

“How to Win Friends & Influence People,” she said. “By Dale Carnegie.”

“What?” A soft laugh escaped before he could stop it. “Really?”

She nodded, grinning at him. “Uh-huh. I’ve read it at least six times.”

“Amazing,” he murmured softly. “Why?”

“Besides the fact that it’s a good book?” she asked, with a hint of that sass he liked so much. “Well, I hope it’ll be helpful one day.”

“One day when?”

“When I start my own business,” she said quietly, reaching for her wineglass and taking a tiny sip.

“What kind of business?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know yet. I don’t—it’s a long way away. Really, it’s just a silly dream probably.”

He searched her eyes, wondering why it wasn’t more than a silly dream. She was going to college. She was obviously bright. His eyes slid to her threadbare, outdated coat and the cheap, plastic-looking pocketbook on the seat beside her. Money. She had none, or very little. And opening businesses took more than education and smarts. It took money.

She tilted her head to the side. “Why, um . . . I mean, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

“Nope. Go for it.”

“Were you kidding about getting married?”

“No.”

“Well, I mean . . . it’s just that you don’t seem very upset.”

“Well, it’s inconvenient,” he confessed. “But no, I’m not upset. I wasn’t in love with her.”

Eleanora sat back, her eyebrows furrowing, her smile fading. “What?”

“I didn’t . . . I mean, we weren’t in love with each other. That’s the truth.”

“Then why were you marrying her?”

“You can marry people for reasons other than love,” he said, feeling a little defensive.

“Like what?”

“Like . . . I’m about to lose my inheritance.” She stared at him, her face expressionless, her eyes rapt. “My grandfather, he’s, well, he’s a control freak, in addition to being crazy and old-fashioned. He has this theory that a good woman makes a man, well, a good man. So he promised to cut me off by my thirty-second birthday if I wasn’t married to a good woman. And I mean, I’ve dated a lot of girls, but I just haven’t met, you know, the one.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You believe in the one?”

“Everyone believes in the one, whether they admit it or not.”

“Go on.”

In for a penny, in for a pound. He might as well tell her everything. “Diantha is an old friend. She agreed to marry me before I turned thirty-two so that I could secure my inheritance. Our plan was to get a quiet divorce this summer.”

“Huh,” she said, taking another sip of wine. “When’s your birthday?”

“Tuesday.”

“Four-days-from-now Tuesday?”

“That’s the one.”

“You were born on Christmas Eve,” she said.

He nodded, pouring himself another glass of wine.

“What was her cut?” asked Eleanora.

It was the last thing he expected her to ask. “Wh-what?”

“I assume you were cutting her in? Since your—” She cleared her throat. “—your marriage was little more than a business transaction?”

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