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Finn Sorensen had a wife. And apparently she was living in Australia.
What a god-awful mess.
Finn swirled the untouched bourbon and ice around in his glass, ignoring the flight attendant's flirtatious smile as she walked down the darkened isle.
This mystery wife had also inherited a ten percent controlling share of his father Nikolai's jewelry empire. That is, if he found the missing codicil. If not, Danish law decreed the controlling share go to his father's current wife.
Marlene, his selfish, image-obsessed, cold-hearted stepmother who'd hold on to those shares from beyond the grave if she could.
Focusing his attention out the window of the first-class section, he glared into pitch blackness, sixty thousand feet above the earth.
His life had been one surreal revelation after another since that December car crash had put his father in intensive care and wiped out much of Finn's memory.
From various photos and letters, he'd uncovered scant detailshe'd met his wife last year in Sydney,Australia. Love at first sight, his cousin Louisa had recalled, starry-eyed.
And for every glowing avowal of love, his stepmother had produced the flipside. Gold digger. Poor Irish immigrant. Secretive, sullen, argumentative.
His mouth thinned. Marlene's educated lilt had been heavy on the insults and light on the details. Yet when he'd called her on it, she refused to elaborate.
"She ran out on you, Finn. You've never dwelt on the past, so forget about her and focus on the company."
How could he focus when he couldn't remember?
That damned tingling, like ants crawling over his skin, started up at the base of his spine. Theundeniable sensation of half truths chewed and gnawed until a thin sheen of sweat broke out on his brow.
He swiped it away and took a shuddering breath. Marlene had been civil enough up until the day his father had died. Then she'd stuck her claws right in, undermining his ability to run the company, swaying many of the board to vote her way. Now she was demanding an immediate settlement of his father's estate. His visit to the head office in Copenhagen had only produced more questions. Despite Nikolai's deathbed confession of a codicil, he was still missing any hard evidence. The company lawyers had no record of it, nor was there anything in Nikolai's private papers. And Finn couldn't remember.
He knew one thingdoing nothing meant he'd lose the SØrensen legacy, his father's entire reason for living and breathing.
So he'd put his case to a sympathetic judge and received a two-month stay on the execution. And now he was chasing a long shot, flying twenty-six hours from Copenhagen to Sydney in hopes of triggering his memory and uncovering the truth.
Marlene's deceit continued to burn in his gut like a newly stoked flame. Until he knew more, until he could trust Allyif he couldhe'd keep the details of his father's bequest to himself. And when he did find that codicil, he'd offer her a good price. A win-win situation.
Yet, his conscience niggled, he must have trusted her oncehe'd proposed. She had accepted. There must have been something between them
Or Marlene could be right.
There was only one way to find out. Finn pressed a hand to his temple, rubbed at the throb that was slowing building momentum behind his eyes and whispered, "For helve, Father, what on earth were you thinking?"
The soft trill broke through Ally McKnight's foggy but promising dream, and with a groan she groped. After knocking over a book, a bag of M&M's and a notepad on the nightstand, she finally found the receiver.
"For the last time, Tony, it's late," she muttered, keeping her eyes firmly shut as she snuggled back under the sheets.
"I've been working all night and I don't need you checking up on me every hour just because I'm"
Shock hit her like an off-course meteorite; her eyes sprang open. Her breath gurgled in her throat and in the wake of stunned silence that followed, a dozen snappy comebacks teetered on her lips: "Who? Oh, right. The husband who didn't want our baby." Even, "Sorry, wrong number." All delivered with consummate cool that would have made an Antarctic wind feel tropical. Instead
"Call me back at a decent hour!" she choked out, then slammed the receiver down with a shaking hand.
She was still glaring at the phone when it rang again. "I've just charged my cell phone and I've got a pocket full of change," Finn said, unfazed by her rudeness. "I can keep calling all night."
"What do you want?"
"I need to see you." The deeply masculine voice, all warmth and sensual Scandinavian accent, sent a dozen unwelcome sensations shooting across her skin.
"I need to"
"See me, right."
What had happened to that touch of blasé she had perfected just in case this exact moment ever arrived? But now hell had frozen over and she sounded as nervous and awkward as a teenager.
She kicked off the sheets and stood. He was finally going to do it. Two months, three weeks and five days after she'd walked out on him, her husband had decided to sign those divorce papers and get rid of her for good.
"Ally? Are you still there?"
She waited. The silence just stretched loud and long until her curiosity threatened to snap. Finally she said, "Why?"
"I need a favor."
"A favor? What kind of favor?" "For starters I'm stuck at the airport because of the transport strike."
"You're here? In Sydney?"
Ally sat heavily on the bed, the mattress protesting beneath her weight, and resisted the temptation to hang up again.
"Why are you here?" she demanded.
"Look, Ally, I'm jetlagged and need a shower. Pick me up and we can argue about it then."
It was a typical Finn replya command tempered with that underlying "why are you being so difficult?" subtext. Yet the warmth, the sheer intimacy of his deep melodic voice invaded her common sense, stuck a knife into her heart and gave a vicious twist. And that traitorous mind of hers flashed back to Copenhagen International Airport.
It had been a cold December morning, the weather matching her moodovercast, drizzling, gray. She'd been so naive, so in love. How quickly it had turned into heartbreak. So she'd left. And now, after all that pain, you've finally shoved those memories into the past where they belong and he's back on your doorstep.
"We're over," she said, anger dashing away the memories. "You said" she nearly choked on her words, but pride refused to let her do it "you're with someone else. What makes you think I'm interested in anything you have to say?"
The line went silent. Outside her bedroom window a dog barked, followed by the screech of car tires. Her quickened breath echoed down the receiver, a harsh reality in her ear.
Finally Finn said, "I thought we left our relationship as friends"
"Friends don't fly across the world without giving each other notice." And friends don't rip each others' hearts out, she added silently. "We're not friends anymore, Finn. We're ex-husband and ex-wife."
"But we're not exes yet, no?"
Ally sucked in a breath, held it until dizziness forced her to exhale.
"Look," Finn said cautiously, "I understand"
"You've never understood me. Just one of our many differences you liked to point out."
"I've got your divorce papers," he said tightly. "You need them signed, yes?"
"I can file them without your signature." She rubbed her eyes, still gritty with sleep.
Was that an aggrieved sigh she heard? Sure it was. He was comfortable with predictability and she frustrated the hell out of him because she was exactly the opposite.
"Dammit, Ally, why do you leave me no choice? Your apartment"
"What about it?"
"I own the whole block."
Disbelief shot her to her feet. "How? What are you playing at?"
"I don't play, Ally. Meet me and I'll tell you what I want. The florist downstairs. I'll be waiting."
The dial tone buzzed in her ear. I don't believe it. He'd hung up on her!
Son of a
She slammed the phone back in its cradle so hard she thought she heard a crack.
He was joking. He must be. Damn him.
Clenching her hands by her sides, she forced herself to take a calming breath. Slowly, slowly, as she absently rubbed her barely noticeable twelve-weeks bump, their last argument reverberated in her mind like the bells of doom.
You never stay with one thing long enough, he had thrown in her face with all the fury and frustration written in his eyes. You can't commit. Especially to our marriage. What kind of mother will you be?
Did he want her back? She shook her head. Not this side of a millennium, not after what they'd done to each other.
Had he found out about the baby?
Panic kicked her heart into double time. He'd given no indication he knew.
What if she ignored him?
Bad move. He'd only take that as a challenge, turn on the charm and seduce her into agreeing with whatever he wanted.
That was how they'd ended up in bed.And married. She was a goner when it came to Finn. Persuasionlike his European good lookswere as natural as his devil-green eyes.
Ignoring her comfy slippers at the bottom of the bed, she walked into the bathroom, welcoming the cold chill of tiles beneath her toes.
Whatever he wanted, it was not a baby. He'd made it perfectly clear that his father's business took center stage.
Her face flushed bush-fire hot. Expected her to be unreasonable, did he? Well, he was in for a shock. She'd be the adult if it killed her. She'd hear him out, get those divorce papers back and leave. He'd be out of her life quickly, before he discovered how completely it had backflipped. Simple.
It would be one of life's little tests, as Gran was so fond of saying. No hysterics, no recriminationsdespite those frus could certainly handle it because all those old feelings were dead and buried.
She scowled at her reflection in the mirror, her features distorted by shadows and moonlight from the frosted window behind her. Of course they were over. There was nothing left except memories.
With doubts filling every dark and comforting space, she clicked on the light. The shadows fled like a cat caught in the headlights.
She dressed quickly in a pair of jeans and a long T-shirt, fussed with her hair and hid the faint circles under her eyes with concealer, all while her imagination clicked into overdrive.
The intense lovemaking, the urgent and consuming passion was a living, breathing memory, seared into her subconscious. He had stolen her heart in less than a month, left a lasting impression that no amount of willpower could erase. She'd never believed in love at first sight until Finn.
And she never would again.
Had his world shattered as completely as hers when she'd left?
Doubtful, she thought savagely. He's not the one pregnant and unemployed.
After padding down the hall to the living room, she yanked on her shoes then grabbed her keys from the hall stand.
As she locked her apartment then walked down the stairs to the car park, their naive promise when they'd met burned in the back of her mind. No matter what happens, no matter who we're with, we should always remain friends.
Friends. What a joke. Lovers can never, ever go back to being friends. Their history always ruins it.
For the sake of her sanity she tried not to think about how made her weak with wanting. How just one look, one touch, was all it took and they were ripping their clothes off in a sexual frenzy.
Ally unlocked her car, got in, then gunned the engine. She'd do well to remember that sex could only go so far in a marriagenot like trust, commitment. Compatibility based on mutual likes.
There was a logical explanation for his appearance. Despite his breathtaking arrogance that was as natural as his polished social skills, Finn didn't possess one illogical bone in his end of summer, cheap flights from Europe
Oh no. She slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a stop on the bitumen. What if he wasn't alone?
She winced as she pictured some leggy, blonde Dane called Helena hanging off Finn's arm. Maybe they needed a ride somewhere. Don't worry, darling, Finn would have assured her. She did say we should remain friends.
The scenario churned around in her head until a car horn startled her. Easing her foot off the brake, she drove down the street and took the next turn left.
Well, Grandma Lexie had encouraged her to stand up to those curve balls in life. And now it was throwing a gigantic one by the name of Finn SØrensen.