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Logan McKenzie liked his life exactly how it was—with no surprises, and without a wife.
Then Logan learned his mother was about to marry for the third time, and that Darcy, his very pretty stepsister-to-be, was in danger of being hurt by that marriage. So he found himself getting involved—not only in trying to prevent the forthcoming nuptials, but with Darcy herself...and his carefully controlled existence ...
Logan McKenzie liked his life exactly how it was—with no surprises, and without a wife.
Then Logan learned his mother was about to marry for the third time, and that Darcy, his very pretty stepsister-to-be, was in danger of being hurt by that marriage. So he found himself getting involved—not only in trying to prevent the forthcoming nuptials, but with Darcy herself...and his carefully controlled existence was turned upside down!
Logan looked up from the letters he was signing, his expression one of puzzlement as he heard first the crash of what sounded like glass, quickly followed by the expletive.
Crash! `Double damn!'
Logan's expression turned to one of bemusement as he put down his pen to stand up, moving in the direction from which the sound of breaking glass was coming: the boardroom that adjoined his vast office.
He and a couple of business associates had lunched in there earlier, discussing contracts while they ate; Logan had found this to be a good way of doing business. The table was still partially set for the meal, he now discovered, but the room itself was empty.
`Damn and blast it,' a disembodied voice muttered impatiently. `That's two glasses I'll have to replace now. I - ouch!' The last was obviously a cry of pain.
Logan was even more intrigued now, walking slowly around the long mahogany table, to find himself peering down at the top of a head of bright red hair. Ah, the puzzle was solved: this was the girl - woman? - who had served their lunch to them, an employee of Chef Simon. Logan hadn't taken too much notice of her during the meal, having been intent on his business discussions, but he did remember the occasional glimpse of that gleaming red hair as she'd moved quietly round the table.
The girl straightened, frowning down at her left hand, where a considerableamount of blood had appeared at the end of one of her fingers.
`Did you cut yourself?' Whatever reaction Logan had expected to his sympathetic query, it was not to have the girl jump almost six inches in the air in her nervousness, knocking over one of the water glasses as she did so!
Logan managed to reach out and catch the glass before it rolled off the table - to join the two he could see now were already shattered on the shiny wood-tiled floor.
`No point in your having to buy three replacements instead of two,' he murmured dryly as he righted the glass on the table. `Is it a bad cut?' He reached out with the intention of looking at the girl's hand.
Only to have that hand snatched out of his grasp as it was hidden behind her back. The girl looked up at him with stricken grey eyes. `I'm so sorry if I've disturbed you, Mr McKenzie,' she gasped. `I was just clearing away, and - and - I broke the glasses.' She looked down at the shattered pieces. `And and -' Whatever she had been about to say was lost as she suddenly dissolved into floods of tears.
Logan recoiled from this display of emotion, frowning darkly. `Hey, it's only a couple of glasses. I'm sure Chef Simon isn't that much of an ogre that you have to cry about it.'
The outside catering company of Chef Simon had been taking care of the occasional business lunches Logan had in his boardroom for over a year now, and Logan had always found the other man reasonable to deal with. Although he hadn't seen this young girl before, so perhaps she was new, and feared losing her job because of those breakages ...?
`You could always tell Chef Simon that I broke them,' he attempted to cajole; weeping women were not his forte!
Well ... not when they were weeping because they were worried or upset, he acknowledged ruefully as he remembered that last meeting with Gloria a couple of weeks ago. The frown deepened on his brow as he recalled the tears she had cried, tears of anger and frustration because he had told her their year-long relationship was over. She had even thrown a vase of flowers at him when he'd refused to change his mind, Logan remembered with distaste.
`Oh, I couldn't do that,' the girl instantly refused. `Then he would put it on your bill, and that wouldn't be fair at all.' She shook her head.
Fair ... It wasn't a word Logan heard too often, either in business or his personal life. Besides, the cost of a couple of glasses would hardly bankrupt his multimillion-pound, multifaceted company ...
The girl reached up to wipe away the tears staining her face, inadvertently smearing blood over her cheeks instead. `Oh, damn,' she muttered frustratedly as she realised what she had done, searching unsuccessfully in the pockets of her trousers for a tissue.
`You like that word, don't you?' Logan murmured, his head tilted as he looked at her properly for the first time.
She was a tiny little thing, barely reaching up to his shoulders, black trousers and a cream blouse emphasising the slenderness of her body, that shoulder-length bright red hair framing a face that, at first glance, seemed to be covered in freckles. On second glance, he saw the freckles only covered her cheeks and nose; her grey eyes were framed by thick dark lashes, her mouth wide, although unsmiling at the moment, her chin pointed determinedly.
Not exactly - Where had that smile come from? Logan wondered dazedly as he found himself instantly reassessing the opinion he had just formed of this girl's looks being unremarkable. When she smiled, as she was doing now, those grey eyes became darkly luminous, dimples appeared in the slightly rounded cheeks, her teeth shone white and even in a softly alluring mouth.
Logan stared at her uncomprehendingly; he felt as if he had just had all the breath knocked out of his body!
`It's better than a lot of the alternatives,' she acknowledged. `And, while I appreciate your offer concerning the glasses ...' the girl continued to smile, appearing to have no idea of the effect she had just had on him `... as you said, it's not worth getting upset about,' she dismissed with a shrug.
`Then whatever were you crying about?' Logan rasped, angry with himself - and her! - for his unprecedented reaction just now.
The smile faded - and so did Logan's confusion. He shook his head. The girl was plain, for goodness' sake; just a load of freckles and smoky grey eyes!
`Well?' he snapped impatiently. She was looking up at him reproachfully with those wide grey eyes now. `I - I - I've cut myself!' She held up the damaged finger.
Logan scowled down at it. `It appears to have stopped bleeding.' Which it had. `And it doesn't look too serious.' Which it didn't.
And, he decided irritably, he had already wasted enough of his afternoon on this situation - whatever it might be!
`I'll have my secretary bring through a plaster,' he bit out abruptly. `In the meantime, I would suggest you give that finger a wash. And your face,' he added with an impatient glance at her bloodstained cheek.
She put a hand up self-consciously to her cheek. `I said I'm sorry for disturbing you.' She frowned, looking on the verge of tears once again.
She could have no idea how - momentarily! - she had disturbed him!
`What's your name?' he asked.
`Darcy,' she said miserably.
`Well, Miss Darcy -'
`Darcy is my first name,' she corrected, even as she sniffed inelegantly.
Oh, no, she was going to cry again! And wasn't Darcy a boy's name ...?
`Your father wanted a son, hmm?' Logan murmured mockingly.
Those grey eyes flashed angrily. `What he wanted, and what he got, are two entirely different things,' she clipped.
`It usually is where women are concerned,' Logan drawled derisively.
Darcy looked up at him beneath those long, dark lashes. `Are you married, Mr McKenzie?'
Logan's surprised brows shot up beneath the dark hair that fell lightly over his brow. What did his married state have to do with anything?
`As it happens - no,' he answered slowly.
She nodded - as if she had already guessed as much. `Women, I've invariably found, often respond in character to the men they are involved with. For example -'
`Darcy, I believe you were here to serve a meal and then depart, not to psychoanalyse the client!' Logan cut in scathingly, his jaw tightly clenched.
Excerpted from To Marry McKenzie by Carole Mortimer
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted April 1, 2011
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