Between Daniel Garrett and Kenna Scott
Stay married one year
Fool the family
To claim his trust fund and launch a new career, Daniel needs to be married and no one can tick all the "wifely" boxes like Kenna. And since she's his best friend, the celibacy part should be a piece of (wedding) cake! Or so Daniel thinks until he hears the words that make him freeze: "You may kiss your bride." One official kiss has the former confirmed bachelor reeling and one unplanned night with his virgin bride has him staggering. Will it be the end of an era for the two best friends, or will a surprise pregnancy make the two become threefor keeps?
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Kenna Scott owed Daniel Garrett more than she could ever possibly repay him.
Not that he would agree. The first time he'd ever bailed her out of a difficult situation, he'd told her, "Friends don't keep score." And while she hadn't really kept score over the years, it was an undeniable truth that he'd come to her rescue more times than she wanted to admit. Now she was in the unique position of being able to help him.
Twenty-four hours earlier, she wouldn't have imagined there was anything he could ask of her that she would refuse.
Twenty-four hours earlier, she wouldn't have imagined he'd ask her to marry him.
As their taxi zipped through the streets of Las Vegas, her feelings were as much a blur as the scenery outside the window.
Was she really going to go through with this? Was she going to marry Daniel to help him gain access to the trust fund that was tied up until his thirtieth birthday or he was "lawfully married"?
And was a marriage under such circumstances considered lawful?
"You're having second thoughts," he guessed.
She looked at himthe man who had been one of her best friends for the past decadeand felt a little flutter of something she couldn't, or maybe didn't want to, define.
Daniel was the type of man who drew attention wherever he went. Not just because he was six-four with broad shoulders but because of the way he carried himself, with purpose and confidence. He was also undeniably handsome. He had thick dark hair that always seemed to be in need of a trim, deep blue eyes that could be intensely focused or sparkle with humor, a sexy mouth that was quick to smile and a square jaw that, even when unshaven, was somehow appealing rather than scruffy.
Aside from all of that, he was a Garrett, and with the name came a certain amount of power and prestige. But instead of working at the furniture business owned by his family, Daniel had chosen to pursue a career in the field of computer science and was presently a network security specialist.
In high school, he'd been the boy that all the girls wanted to be with. Now that he was a man, he was even more coveted. But just a few hours earlier, he'd put a ring on her finger, and her gaze shifted now to the stunning princess-cut diamond solitaire. She knew it would take some time to get used to the weight of the ring on her finger; she wasn't sure she would ever become accustomed to its weight on her conscience.
"I just wish there was another way," she admitted.
"For me or for you?"
"I told you I've got stocks and bonds worth at least two hundred thousand. I could cash some of those in to pay for your sister's surgery."
And he would do it for her, toono strings attached. Because that was the kind of guy he was. And as much as she hated taking anything from anyoneeven a loan from her best friendshe would do it for Becca.
Her fourteen-year-old sister had been in her boyfriend's car when Todd lost control of the vehicle, which slid thirty feet down an embankment before crashing into a utility pole. The passenger side had taken the brunt of the impact, so while Todd had walked away from the scene, paramedics had to use the Jaws of Life to get Becca out of the mangled vehicle. She was rushed to hospital with three cracked ribs, a punctured lung and a tibial shaft fracture.
Three months later, it was discovered that the surgeon hadn't properly aligned the broken fragments of the fracture, and now Becca walked with a limp. After several more doctors' appointments and specialist consultations, it was agreed that another operation would be needed if she wanted to correct the problem. But because this surgery was considered elective, neither it nor the subsequent physiotherapy sessions would be covered by medical insurance.
A conservative estimate of the cost: eighty thousand dollars.
Just thinking about the enormity of the sum made Kenna's stomach cramp. While she'd finally paid off her secondhand car, she'd barely begun to make a dent in her student loans and the doctor wanted a fifty percent deposit before he would even book the surgery.
She hadn't had the first clue how she might scrounge up that kind of money, but she'd promised her sister she'd figure out a way. A lengthy conversation with their mother had garnered nothing but tears and regrets. Sue Ellen Duncan had always been good at bothit was handling her finances that proved to be a struggle. So when Daniel had stopped by to see Kenna later that night, she'd been desperate for a solution.
That was when he'd suggested they get married.
She'd stared at him blankly, waiting for the punch line, certain it had to be some kind of joke. He'd assured her that it was not. Kenna needed money for her sister's surgery; he wanted access to his trust fund; a quick ceremony in Vegas would give them each what they desired.
They'd been friends for so long that she sometimes forgot about the drastic differences in their backgrounds and social status. Which was ironic, considering that it had been such an impediment to their friendship in the beginning.
Aside from the fact that Daniel's family owned Garrett Furniture, his maternal grandfather, Jake Willson, had made a ton of money in real estate in the sixties. He'd spent as much of it as he could in his lifetime, left a substantial amount to his only child and put the rest into trust funds for his three grandsons.
Kenna's initial response to Daniel's proposal had been equal parts intrigue and revulsion. She liked the idea of earning the money, but the method he was suggesting made her wonder if she'd be selling herself, a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. He immediately assured her that he was looking for a temporary marriage in name onlyjust one year out of her life in exchange for one hundred thousand dollars.
Or $273.97 per day to wear his ring on her finger. She'd finally said yes.
Now as the taxi pulled up in front of the Courtland Resort & Casino, Kenna tried not to gawk. She'd never been to Las Vegas. In fact, she'd never ventured any farther from her hometown of Charisma, North Carolina, than Daytona Beach, Florida, so she experienced a little bit of culture shock just looking around.
The opulence of the luxury hotel was unlike anything she'd ever seen. Glossy marble floors, life-size statues, spectacular waterfalls and exotic flowers. It was like a tropical paradise inside a hotel lobby that was probably bigger than any other hotel she'd ever stayed in.
Check-in was expedited, no doubt by Daniel's platinum credit card, and although they each had only a small overnight bag, the desk clerk called for a bellman to assist with their luggage. The man, whose nameplate identified him as Alex, led them briskly down a wide corridor to a bank of elevators.
Each door of the elevator had an ornately scrolled C etched into the polished surface, and the doors opened without a sound. She stepped inside and noted there were specific buttons for Spa and Casino, but Alex pressed 7 and the elevator began its ascent. The ride was as smooth as it was quick, and then she was stepping out into a long hallway. The gold-and-cream decor continued here, from the patterned carpet beneath her feet and luxurious silk on the walls to the sconces that illuminated their path and the elaborately framed artwork along the way. The bellman slipped a key card into the slot of Room 722, and the lock released with a quiet click.
The first thing she noticed, with no small amount of relief, were the two queen-size beds that Alex informed her were custom luxury mattresses triple-sheeted with five-hundred-thread-count linens. The tablet on the bedside table controlled the lighting, the forty-inch flat-screen LCD TV, the iHome music system, programmable coffeemaker and draperies.
"Draperies?" Kenna echoed, not sure she'd heard him correctly.
In response to which he picked up the tablet and tapped the screen a few times, which caused the thick brocade curtains to slide across the floor-to-ceiling windows.
He smiled kindly. "Is this your first trip to Las Vegas, ma'am?"
"Yes," she admitted.
"Then we hope it's the first of many," he said. "And if there's anything at all we can do to make your stay more enjoyable, please don't hesitate to let us know."
"Thank you," she said.
Alex opened the drapes again, and she moved closer to the window, taking in the view of the Strip. Even this early in the day, the streets were bustling with activity. She couldn't wait to see it at night, lit up as it always was in the movies.
"The directory on the tablet has all the information you will require about the hotelour three restaurants, spa services, shops and, of course, the casino."
He opened another door to reveal an Italian marble bath with deep soaker tub, separate glassenclosed shower, double sinks, exclusive designer toiletries and thick Egyptian cotton towels on heated bars.
Daniel pressed a folded bill into his hand.
"Thank you very much, sir," Alex said, making his exit.
Kenna turned in a slow circle in the middle of the room, still trying to take it all in. "How long are we staying?"
Daniel chuckled at her obvious pleasure. "I only booked one night, but we can extend that, if you want."
"I want." She dropped onto the closest bed and let herself sink back into the mountain of pillows. Then she sighed. "Unfortunately, I have to work on Mondayand so do you."
He shrugged. "I could finagle a few extra days if it was for a honeymoon."
She shook her head regretfully. "I can't."
He stretched out beside her, linked their fingers together. It was an easy, companionable gesture that nevertheless stirred something inside her. "You can't take a few extra days or you can't marry me?"
"I can't take even one extra day." She squeezed his hand. "But I wouldn't be here if I wasn't planning to go through with the wedding."
She could almost see the tension leak out of his body. She knew his eagerness to tie the knot had nothing to do with love or happily-ever-after but was an indication of how much he wanted to accept Josh Slater's business proposition. For a five-million-dollar investment, he could be his friend's partner in the ownership of a professional stock car racing team under the banner of Garrett/Slater Racing.
"Are you sure?" he asked, giving her one last out.
She nodded. "Let's do it."
His brows lifted. "Do it?"
Belatedly she remembered that they were lying side by side on a queen-size bed, and she felt heat rise in her cheeks.
"Get married," she clarified, ignoring the awareness that hummed through her veins.
"Isn't that why we're here?"
"Sure," he agreed. "But we only got off the plane half an hour ago. I thought you might want to relax a little, maybe indulge in some of the hotel spa services."
"I don't think I'm going to be able to relax until this is done," she admitted.
"The wedding or the year?"
She managed a smile. "The wedding," she said, though she suspected the truth was both. The wedding was just a ceremonya legal formality. Being married, presenting herself to their friends and families as Daniel Garrett's wife for the next twelve months, was going to be the true test.
"Did you want to at least go shopping first?"
"Shopping?" She looked at him blankly.
"The bellman mentioned there were shops downstairs, and since we're getting married, I thought you might want to wear something a little more weddinglike."
She glanced down at her white capris and sleeveless blue top with the ruffled placket, but shook her head.
His brows lifted. "No dreams of walking down the aisle in a white dress?"
She didn't let herself regret that she wasn't going to have the wedding she'd dreamed about since she was a little girl, because this wasn't a real wedding. "I don't want to pretend this marriage is something it's not."
"That's exactly what we're going to have to do," he reminded her gently.
"For everyone else," she acknowledged. "But not between us."
He shrugged. "Okay, then. Let's find a chapel."
He released her hand to pick up the tablet and found a link to a list of wedding venuesthe number of which was astounding. And then there were countless ceremony options: traditional or themed, including disco, rock 'n' roll, country and western, pirates, vampires and even zombies.
"Kenna?" he prompted.
"I'd have to say it's a definite no with respect to pirates, vampires and zombies."
"How about walking down the aisle with Elvis?"
She shook her head. "Is there anything a little more normal?"
He scrolled through a few more pages. "How about 'Traditional Elegance'?" He read from the description: "'This package offers a ceremony in our traditional chapel, with wedding music, bride's six-rose bouquet, groom's matching boutonniere, ten ceremony photos on CD, complimentary limousine service for the bride and groom to the marriage license bureau, and a witness, if required.'"
"That sounds good."
"Except that we were supposed to call at least forty-eight hours in advance to inquire about availability."
"Call," she suggested. "Maybe we'll get lucky."
He sent her a slow, heated look that had no doubt caused numerous women to tumble into his bed. Thankfully, a decade of watching him in action had immunized her to his charm and techniques. Mostly, anyway.
She smacked him in the arm. "Stop turning everything I say into a sexual innuendo."
"Stop saying things that sound like sex," he countered.
"You're a guyeverything sounds like sex to you."
"Probably true," he acknowledged unapologetically.
She looked at him now, her expression serious. "I know you want to get married, but are you sure you want to marry me?"
"I don't really want to get married," he reminded her. "But since that's what I have to do, I couldn't imagine marrying anyone else."
"A year is a long time to go without sex," she pointed out. "Especially for a man with a hedonistic reputation."
"My reputation is somewhat exaggerated."
"Maybe the real issue isn't my reputation but that you don't think you can hold out that long. Because if you're suggesting an amendment to the terms of"
"No," she said quickly, deliberately ignoring the leap of her pulse in response to his provocative statement.
He just grinned.
"I'm suggesting an amendment to the time frame," she clarified. "Six months should be long enough to convince people we tried to make our marriage work but realized we were better off as friends."
"Maybe most people," he acknowledged.
She knew he was excluding his parents from that list, and she knew he was right. After refusing his request for access to his trust fund only a couple of months earlier, David and Jane Garrett would definitely have suspicions about their son's sudden nuptials. And while she appreciated that Daniel didn't like deceiving his parents, she didn't understand how dragging the deception out over twelve months rather than six made it more palatable to him.
"Call about the chapel," she decided. "Let's make sure today is day one of my three hundred and sixty-five as Mrs. Daniel Garrett."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lived this story cant wait for more
Love the Garrett's and adored this story. Looking forward to reading more about them!
I so love pretending stories. And this one combines that pretending with friends turned lovers which I also adore. Kenna and Daniel have been friends for ten years, best friends. It seems like an easy thing to do - pretend to be married and claim what they both want. But living together isn't as easy as either of them thought. The closeness they have always felt turns to sparks that they can't ignore. Both are afraid of ruining their friendship but as their feeling deepen and Daniel deals with the fact that his bride is so inexperienced, things change. When surprises jolt them, Kenna gives Daniel what she thinks he wants but she may have never been more wrong. They are adorable together. They can't keep their hands off each other. They miss each other when they are apart. Daniel wants her in his arms in the mornings. Kenna wants him touching her forever. But both of them resist. It's so cute and I completely enjoyed watching them figure out what others around them had know for years. This is a fast read. Read it in an afternoon. If you love the pretending stories or the friends to lovers stories, then this one is a great pick. It's great romance.