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

By: Katy Regnery

“Yeah. Okay.” He chuckled softly, nodding at her with grudging admiration for her candor. “Yeah. I was cutting her in. I would get fourteen million. I promised her one. Not that it matters now because—”

“One million dollars.”

“Yeah, but she didn’t—”

“One million dollars,” she repeated.

He nodded. “Yep. But—”

“I’ll do it.”

Tom’s head jerked back as he stared at her in shock. “What? You’ll do what?”

“I’ll marry you for a million dollars.”

Laughter bubbled up inside him, and he let it rip for several seconds until he realized she wasn’t joking. She was staring at him unblinkingly, her hands folded on the table as if they were working out a business deal at a conference room table.

“You’re serious.”

“I don’t joke about money.”

He chuckled, this time nervously. When she didn’t join him, his grin faded. She was completely serious.

“I don’t think you understand. It was an arrangement, and yes, I was giving her a portion of my inheritance, but Diantha was actually planning to marry me. Our families have known one another for ages, and we’d been friends since grade school. Everyone believed that we’d started dating last summer and fallen in love. It took some planning, you know?”

She didn’t say a word, just stared back at him, her eyes owl-like in their intensity.

“I don’t even know you. My family doesn’t know you. We just met twenty minutes ago.” He tried to keep his voice gentle because he really didn’t want to hurt her feelings. “I just don’t think it would work.”

“You don’t think I could pull it off,” said Eleanora candidly.

Tom shifted in his seat, placing his arm along the back of the booth between them and facing her.

Her blonde hair was natural, and her face was pretty. He didn’t know if she’d had braces or just been blessed with good teeth, but he suspected the latter. She was trim and bright and interesting, but . . .

His eyes slipped to the collar of her uniform, then to her chewed-up nails, and finally to her white tights and sneakers. She was a “breakfast-all-day” waitress from Colorado, not a viable contender for the wife of Thomas Andrews English. She wouldn’t last a minute in Main Line society, and more important, his grandfather would see right through her.

As his gaze skated up to her face, he found her eyes glistening, but she lifted her chin proudly. “Forget it. It’s a completely ridiculous idea. I . . . I’m going to go.”

She started sliding around the booth to escape him, but that strange feeling of desperation encroached again, and Tom stood up quickly to move around the table and block her way. He squatted down, looking up at her. “Wait. Just . . . please. This got weird so fast. We can still talk and there’s wine and—”

She swallowed, shaking her head and pulling her coat more snugly around her. “No, thanks. I feel really foolish. It was an absurd suggestion.”

“Not absurd, just . . . unrealistic. No one will buy it. They all believed I was in love with Di. They all know I was just stood up by her.”

“I get it,” she whispered, still looking down at her lap. “Please let me go now.”

“What would you do with it?” he asked softly. “The million?”

She relaxed a little, lifting her eyes to his. “I’d buy Evie a nice little apartment here so that she’d feel secure and stop—well, you know—hooking up with random men. And then I’d go to college somewhere like Princeton. Like you and Brooke Shields.”

“And then?”

“I’d buy a business . . . or start my own.”

“What kind?”

“I don’t know. I know how to waitress, so maybe a restaurant. Although what I’d really love is a bookstore. Or a chain of bookstores maybe. And also . . .” Her voice took on a slight edge, and she averted her eyes. “I’d knock down the library in my hometown and have another one built. A good one. A better one.”

Because it saved you. The thought tiptoed across his mind, and he knew, in his gut, it was true.

He knew what Diantha had planned to do with the money: she would have financed a new wardrobe, buy a convertible Ferrari, and rent a villa in Monaco for a year. But Eleanora? She’d buy herself a whole new life. A better life. And suddenly, more than his own inheritance, more than anything else on earth, Tom wanted her to have that chance.

“We’d have to go to Vegas,” he said quickly before he could rethink it.

Her neck whipped up, her eyes wide and surprised as she searched his face.

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