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His E-Mail Order Wife
By Kristi Gold
Harlequin EnterprisesCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Is she really coming, Nana Lilly?"
Lilly hugged her cherished great-granddaughter securely against her chest as they sat before the computer. "Yes, Amanda, she's really coming."
Lilly Connelly was an old dog short on new tricks, at one time believing the almighty Internet was the spawn of the devil. But she'd recently found that surfing the Net was pretty darned nifty at that, especially when she discovered Chicago's latest matchmaking website, a place to scan prospective young women looking for male companionship. Much like a high-tech coming-out party minus the caterer.
As far as Lilly was concerned, one young woman definitely fit the bill for the perfect wife for her grandson, Drew, and a suitable mother for his little Amanda. This particular candidate loved children, logical since she was a Montessori teacher - and also wanted a steady relationship and marriage. She was a far cry from the succession of women who had marched through Drew's life for the past five years since his wife's death, women who only had designs on his fortune and all the status that came with the Connelly name.
Darn that Drew, Lilly thought. He didn't know what was good for him. Fortunately, she did. Still, he was a considerate man and an excellent father. Oh, he might be a trifle mad when helearned what she had done. But if luck prevailed, he'd come to realize that grandmother always knows best.
Lilly pressed the send button on the final email, setting in motion a plan that had been weeks in the making. This should probably be the moment Lilly felt a little nip of guilt, but she didn't. The Connellys were a stubborn lot; Drew was no exception. He needed a little push, something Lilly was more than happy to provide, with or without the benefit of her cane.
She brushed a kiss across Amanda's cheek and gave her a gentle nudge. "Hop down, dear heart. I have to go now. Grandpa Toby's expecting me home soon."
Amanda scooted off Lilly's lap and swiveled the office chair so that Lilly could stand. Lilly grasped the cane and rose on uncooperative legs, her eighty-three-year-old joints groaning in protest. She'd been sitting too long, and she was too creaky to stay in the same position for minutes, much less hours.
Looking down on sweet, sweet Amanda's trusting green eyes so full of hope, the guilt finally hit Lilly fullforce. Had she done the right thing? Entirely too late to turn back now.
Lilly wished she could kneel at Amanda's level but she might never get up if she did. She settled for touching the top of Amanda's head covered in fine white-blond hair. "Dear, you realize this might not work between your father and Kristina, don't you?"
"It will work," Amanda said adamantly, topped off by a determined jut of her chin. "She'll love my daddy, and my daddy will love her, too."
Lilly's heart took a little tumble. Although Amanda might look like her mother - God rest poor Talia's misguided soul - she had her father's tenacity. Luckily she'd been blessed with Lilly's optimism. "We'll hope your daddy and Kristina get along, but I want you to know that sometimes adults don't see eye to eye on things. We also have to keep this our little secret for a while." And, she hoped, by the time Kristina Simmons did learn the truth, all would be settled with love.
"Kristina says she likes puppies," Amanda replied as if she refused to consider the possibility that the arrangement wouldn't work. "Maybe she'll talk Daddy into getting me one."
"One step at a time, dear. She has to meet your daddy first." And convince him to let her stay.
Lilly prayed she had, indeed, done the right thing. Prayed that Drew would give the young woman a chance. Prayed that Kristina Simmons possessed a strong heart and the ability to heal Drew's shattered one.
One could always hope that that would be the case.
* * *
Drew Connelly dropped his bags at the bottom of the staircase leading to the second floor - and landed the largest on his foot. He muttered a string of curses directed at his stupidity, the late hour, the sound of the nanny's grating voice coming from the kitchen while she gabbed on the phone with God only knew who.
When Mrs. Parker had abruptly left his employ to move in with her ailing daughter out of state, Drew had been desperate. The agency had sent him Debbie Randles, a young au pair with minimal experience. One week in her presence and he'd had his doubts about her abilities, but because of urgent business in Europe, he'd had no choice.
At least he'd been assured that his grandmother would stop by to check on Amanda daily. Thankfully nothing out of the ordinary had happened during his absence.
After the weekend, he'd contact the agency again and demand that they find him a suitable replacement, someone a little older with more experience. Someone who liked Amanda, and whom Amanda liked.
God, how he'd missed his daughter. A month was entirely too long to be away from her. The daily phone calls had been sorry replacements for seeing her vibrant smile, hearing her contagious laughter. He recalled their last conversation in which she'd told him she had a surprise for him. At least the nanny had followed one of his mandates - bedtime for Amanda no later than 10:00 p.m. since it was summer - otherwise he would have been greeted by his squealing six-year-old, a bundle of energy and joy wrapped up in one delicate dynamite package. The very light of his life, and the reason why he got up every morning to face his grueling schedule as Vice President of Overseas Operations for Connelly Corporation, his family's legacy.
Unfortunately, the responsibility was rapidly aging him. Tonight he felt two hundred years old, not twenty-seven.
Trudging up the stairs, Drew planned to go immediately to Mandy's room and kiss her good-night, take a quick shower, then pass out in bed. But he stopped short when he heard a giggle coming from his second-floor study. Amanda's giggle.
So much for his daughter being tucked soundly into bed. Yeah, he had to find another nanny, and soon.
Drew dropped his bags once again, this time avoiding his toes, and strode down the hallway and into the office to find Amanda perched on her knees in his chair, her face lit by the glow of the computer screen and sheer amusement.
"Young lady, you're supposed to be in bed," he said with all the sternness he could muster.
Excerpted from His E-Mail Order Wife by Kristi Gold Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.