Holly blushes at the mere mention of Niall Wesley's name. Her teenage crush on her sister's handsome friend ended abruptly one humiliating night, causing her to vow that the next time she saw Niall, she would be stunningly beautiful and he would come begging….Years later, it appears Niall has indeed come begging—only it is Holly's sister he wants! In an effort to divert the media and his ex-wife he needs a pretend fiancée—fast. Holly is determined to prove she is up to the task, and Niall is enjoying every minute of it!
About the Author
Kim Lawrence was encouraged by her husband to write when the unsocial hours of nursing didn’t look attractive! He told her she could do anything she set her mind to, so Kim tried her hand at writing. Always a keen Mills & Boon reader, it seemed natural for her to write a romance novel – now she can’t imagine doing anything else. She is a keen gardener and cook and enjoys running on the beach with her Jack Russell. Kim lives in Wales.
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The Engagement Deal
By Kim Lawrence
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHOLLY pulled the pillow over her head and tried to ignore the strident peal of her sister's doorbell. After several minutes of teeth-clenching determination to remain asleep, she rolled over onto her back and stuffed her fingers in her ears.
Whoever it was wasn't going away. With a defeated sigh, she threw the pillow over her head. As luck would have it, the feather-filled item managed to ricochet off the wall and knock a porcelain pig off her sister's cluttered dressing table.
Holly looked at the broken pieces and decided optimistically that with a bit of superglue it would be as good as new - always supposing it wasn't actually antique and valuable. You never knew with Rowena; her up-in-the-clouds flat was filled with an eclectic mish-mash of tacky but fashionable rubbish and staggeringly expensive items.
She looked around briefly for a robe. Although she'd moved in a week ago, she still hadn't had the opportunity to unpack her clothes. On reflection, she concluded that her pyjamas covered everything - if not more - that modesty demanded, and the style was unlikely to drive anyone on the doorstep mad with lust.
"Yes!" she snarled, opening the door a crack on its security chain.
"I need to speak to Rowena."
You and about everyother male under ninety in the city, if my sister's answering machine was anything to go by, Holly thought sourly. This was the first one that had got past the building's tight security, though, so she assumed that under normal circumstances he was a welcome visitor.
Holly brushed a heavy hank of dark copper-red hair from her eyes. "Well, she isn't ..." she began impatiently, wrinkling up her eyes against the light in the brightly illuminated communal hallway. "Oh, it's you!" Disbelief rushed through every inch of her, from her untidy red head to her curling bare toes.
This wasn't how her dream went at all! A flicker of annoyance crossed her face as she brushed aside the inane thought.
Without thinking, she clicked free the bolt. Niall Wesley wasn't the sort of man you left standing on a doorstep; neither, she reflected, was he the sort of man usually to be found on her doorstep. Beautiful men - and this adjective was fully justified, in Niall's case - wearing dinner jackets didn't as a rule come calling on her at eight o'clock in the morning.
"Do I know ...?" The beautiful, disturbingly electric-blue eyes swept briefly over her diminutive figure, before illumination dawned in those azure depths. "Oh ... Polly, isn't it ...?" Long-legged, and elegant down to his fingertips, he walked past her into the bright open-plan living area.
I always knew I made a deep impression on him! And it did a girl's confidence no end of good to have her suspicions confirmed, she decided wryly. She looked with steadily growing resentment at the impressive rear view of his broad-shouldered, lean-hipped figure silhouetted against the full-height windows that ran the entire length of one wall.
"Holly," she corrected him coolly.
His smile was perfunctory and distinctly impatient as he glanced around the room. "Have you had an accident or something?"
She'd completely forgotten about that! Holly's hand went automatically to her right eye. She winced and rushed over to a mirror; there were quite a few to choose from in the flat her sister called home.
She gulped. "Or something," she confirmed drily, surveying the damage. It could, she concluded with stubborn optimism, be a lot worse. Nothing too dramatic; a bit of make-up should disguise the worse of the damage.
"When will Rowena be back?" He glanced at the metal-banded watch on his wrist.
Some people might have registered the expensive brand of this accessory automatically, but Holly was much more aware of the fine dark hairs on his forearm briefly revealed by the impatient gesture. Her stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch. For heaven's sake, she thought in exasperation, anyone would think I'm still a silly infatuated teenager!
She suddenly remembered that intense adolescent vow she'd made the last time she'd seen him in the flesh - far too much flesh, as it happened, for her fragile peace of mind at the time!
The next time she saw Niall Wesley, she'd vowed, she'd have no trace of teenage acne, no braces and her hair would no longer be a violent show-stopping shade of red. The first two criteria had been filled, and she'd made the surprising discovery since those far-off days that some people - of the male variety - actually liked red hair!
She seemed to have some hazy recall that he'd be struck dumb by her stunning beauty and witty eloquence. A black eye and pyjamas that didn't even register on the seduction scale - and which, into the bargain, made her look like an undersized gnome - had not figured anywhere at all! This was what came of accepting hand-me-downs from a frugal parent who was too polite to tell his elderly aunt that his waistline had enlarged a little since he was sixteen!
At sixteen, Holly had nourished wild, foolish dreams, but she'd grown out of them; reality was far too challenging and exciting - not to mention exhausting! All the same, she knew that had she known she was going to see this man, she'd have made an effort to look at her best. Which means what? she pondered. A woman knew that even in the twenty-first century, she would ultimately be judged on her looks - was she vain? Either way, acknowledging that her adolescent desire to impress this man hadn't entirely vanished made her frown with annoyance.
"I said, when will Rowena be back?"
Holly closed her half-open mouth with a snap. None of the plagues she'd so viciously wished upon him had come to pass, either. He hadn't grown short or fat and his head was still covered by a lustrous, nicely trimmed dark growth - the sort of hair a girl could really sink her fingers into! Her cheeks flamed hotly as she imagined herself in circumstances where sinking her fingers into his hair would be almost obligatory. Her imagination definitely needed a refresher course in obedience school!
"In six months."
"What?" he yelped, his dark brows forming a firm line of disapproval.
"Don't look at me like that." She sniffed. "It's not my fault she didn't tell you." She knew he had lovely manners; he was clever, witty, in a slightly cruel way. He walked into a room and people en masse fell under his spell. It only seems to be me, she thought, that can see past the high-voltage charisma and observe what a selfish, smug jerk he is. Although it seemed likely his ex-wife had caught on eventually, hence the ex!
"God, just when I need her and she's ... Where is she?"
There he goes - me ... me ... me. The man's so egotistical! She watched him slump down into one of the massive leather sofas with a small derisive smile. Her smile faded; she knew with gut certainty that he'd slumped there before! Was it the only thing he - they'd - done there? she found herself wondering.
"New York." With a gulp, she drew a firm curtain over her lurid imaginings. What her sister got up to with this man - or any other - in the privacy of her own home was none of Holly's business.
"That's it, then," he said with a grim finality. With one hand pulling at the tie around his neck, he sank his head into the deeply padded headrest and closed his eyes.
Excerpted from The Engagement Deal by Kim Lawrence Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of Kim Lawrence's best, which ranks it pretty high on the enjoyment scale. One note to the copy editor about a frequent misuse of words: An inference is an impression one draws from the clues. An implication is a hint one throws out to others. Same with the verb forms. If "infer" and "imply" were arrows, they'd be pointing in opposite directions.