This was a detour worth taking . . .
For as long as she can remember, Meilin Wu has had her life mapped out, and she's well down her chosen path--which had no warning signs about a tall, golden Brit who would bowl her over the night before her arranged marriage . . .
Drew Robinson has nearly finished his formal education and is ready to face the world when he meets Meilin, an exquisite beauty with Chinese ancestry. He doesn't mind she's ten years older, and the fact she knows Mandarin only makes her that much more a perfect fit for his upcoming adventures in China. He just has to get her to dump her fiancé and convince her that a trip in China will only enhance her established design business.
Easy for a guy who's known for seeing sunshine wherever he goes. Right?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Her Unexpected Affair
The Robinsons Series
By Shea McMaster
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Shea McMaster
All rights reserved.
"I don't know, Jack...." Drew grimaced as he rubbed the back of his neck. Normally he was all for going out and blowing off the steam of studying. Only this wasn't just ordinary studying. He'd survived the grilling, passed the grueling exams, and earned his degree. Soon to be supplemented with a ten week crash course in Mandarin Chinese. Five weeks at Stanford, five weeks at Peking University in Beijing. Not like he would be leaving Stanford in the immediate future. Graduation ceremonies in a week — his parents were arriving from London tonight for it and a recreation of their spring break wedding for the California friends — and then the following Monday he dove right back into studying. Absolutely no rest for the wicked or exhausted.
Yeah, he really could use a night out. But he was so damn drained he barely knew his name. All he wanted to do was sleep for the next week, waking only to cross the stage and accept his Master of the Science of Law degree.
"Come on, Drew. You're the party animal. Besides, I have a place in mind where the women are beautiful and you can get a head start on your Chinese course." Jack spread his hands as if pleading his final argument. One guaranteed to win the hearts of jurors.
"Chinese women specifically?" He frowned. "Why does that matter? Do they speak Mandarin?"
Jack nodded so much his over-long straight, black hair flopped in his eyes. "Look, you're headed to Beijing in, what? Six weeks, right? These ladies are the closest you'll get to the real deal here. The high caste, the cream of the society. The ones with true traditional values, including speaking Mandarin at home, while also embracing the modern times. A hundred fifty years ago these women would have come straight out of the Imperial Court."
While his interest was piqued at the possibility of finding people to practice Mandarin with, Drew wasn't sure he was up to high society. A burger and beer, or three, down at The Oasis Beer Garden sounded more his speed tonight, but it was still second choice to a six pack in the apartment while zoning out to whatever movie was on TV. Something violent, but other than that, he didn't particularly care. Possibly the O, where other students were sure to be blowing off the steam of exams, would provide enough of a party atmosphere. Lord knew he'd barely survived the last week when he'd probably had a total of four hours sleep combined. Most of that acquired in thirty minute blocks.
Drew ran a hand through his hair, ending at the back of his neck. "Sounds pretty interesting, but awfully tame. I'm close enough to falling asleep on my feet as it is."
"Nah. These girls love the music loud, the drinks frothy, and the lights bright. No sleeping there, unless you're truly dead."
One last ditch effort. "Look, my folks fly in tonight. I need to get out to the house in San Ramon and help with arrangements for next week. Graduation Saturday morning, then their second wedding and my grad party immediately after. Sort of a two-fer. Then the following Monday it's back here bright and early to check in for the next five weeks. I'm sure tomorrow night or a night during the week will work as well."
Jack slid him a sly look. "I'll teach you some more phrases guaranteed to get the attention of a lovely Mandarin princess."
Just what he needed. Right. Drew sighed. "Who would be interested in a bloke from England ... why?"
"Because you're nothing like the men they're used to. Men like me." He gestured at himself. "Men who are American to the bone. Many barely civilized and trying to hide it under Armani. You, you're civilization personified. Polite, classy, refined, mildly humorous, in a tasteful way. You're like Prince William to them. Tall, blond, killer accent which should make your Chinese accent adorable to them, and you're not hidebound by Chinese tradition. Only English tradition."
"Amusing, Jack." Sure, Drew had been raised with formal manners, but was he really anymore civilized than the next man? Not sure he liked that description, he rested his head on the back of the sofa in the apartment he'd started sharing with his sister in January. If only she were home at the moment, she'd distract Jack and Drew could escape the pressure to go out. And the self-introspection Jack seemed determined to force on him.
"Birdie should be back in a minute. Why don't you take her to dinner?"
Jack's dark eyes flew open in surprise. "Really? Now you give me permission to ask her out?"
Yeah, so he wasn't thrilled about Jack, or any of the other guys he'd met in California, asking out his sister. If that wasn't a sign of his desperate need for sleep, he didn't know what was.
"She had a tough quarter too and still has her exams next week. Treat her like an English princess and I'll grant you this one favor."
Jack sat back on the other end of the sofa and frowned. "Seriously?"
The fact Jack questioned the offer showed he was tempted. Seriously tempted. Then Jack threw out his next idea. "Why not just bring her with us? She can help vet any woman you meet."
A groan started at the base of his stomach and crawled up his throat. That's all he needed. Chaperone his sister while having Jack hunt down a woman for him. Nope. Not happening.
"Look, I'll contribute a hundred bucks to a nice dinner. Something low key. Just leave me alone tonight. I have a date with a six-pack and my suitcase. If I know my folks, they'll swing by here when they leave the airport before heading home." Come to think of it, he wasn't sure how happy they'd be if Birdie were out with the Chinese American version of Slick Eddie. Jack Ling was just a touch too smooth, too practiced, too oily. A nice enough guy, really, and not seriously a jerk, but just one of those guys who always seemed to be working something to his advantage. Sort of like the furniture salesman on TV. The one who looked like Carrot-top and had a crazy deal every week. Only more subtle.
Jack stared at him through narrowed eyes. The wheels grinding in his head searching for the angle could almost be heard from the other end of the couch.
God. What was he thinking? He'd spent all spring warning his friends off his sister. And now he'd throw her to the most opportunistic of the bunch? Birdie was still adjusting to their new family dynamics and had plenty of her own friends to hang out with.
"Nah, never mind, mate." Drew tipped his beer bottle to his lips. "I can't do that to her."
Jack drew back in mock affront. "What? What's wrong with me? I'm a nice guy. I know the classiest places to party. Nice, clean fun with drinks, dinner, and dancing. Besides, it's your entrée into the local Chinese-American society I'm talking about, man. These are connections you'll need."
"I know, I know. Just not tonight, Jack. I'm whipped. Usually I'd be the first guy to put on his dancing shoes to go meet lovely ladies, but I doubt I'd be good company." That was the truth. He wanted to be sharp when meeting the high brow of society, if that truly was who Jack meant to introduce him to.
An hour later, with Birdie in the back of Jack's spit-shined hybrid SUV, the three were headed into the City. San Francisco's Chinatown to be exact. Or a place on the outskirts of it. They'd had a quick dinner of deli sandwiches while showering and dressing for a night on the town, much to Drew's disgust. Further proof of how tired he was. Normally he didn't let himself be persuaded against his gut feelings, but Jack had insisted and Bird had flown through the door in time to catch closing arguments and added her pressure as well. At least she and Jack kept up the conversation all the way up the peninsula while the energy shot he'd guzzled worked into his system. It was nearly enough to make a grown man cry.
While Jack piloted the vehicle and Birdie bombarded him with questions about their destination, Drew pulled out his cell phone and sent a text to both his father and shining new stepmother. Their plane was due to land in an hour, and he didn't want them to make the stop by the apartment to find it empty. At the same time, he set the phone to vibrate. He probably wouldn't be able to hear it wherever they ended up, but hopefully he'd feel it when a return text came through.
"So what's this about another wedding?" Jack tossed the question back at Birdie. "Thought your parents were already married? Isn't that why you two flew back to London over spring break?"
"This one is for the friends here who couldn't be there," Birdie explained. "Mom's lawyer says he wants proof before he starts rewriting the will. I think he just wants a party and a chance to get to know Dad a little more."
"This is all so confusing." Although Drew had given Jack the brief overview, the man thrived on details. Something that had served him well in many a mock court. "So back in the late 80s, your father" — Jack glanced in his direction — "met her mother, had an affair that resulted in Birdie. But your mother — at the time your father's ex — was already pregnant with you, unbeknownst to anyone. Right?"
"Right." Drew gave the one word answer, knowing there was no avoiding the topic.
"And when she found out she was pregnant with Birdie —"
"My name is Courtney. It's far more appropriate for the business world."
"Right, forgive me — Courtney. Your mother didn't stay to fight for her man?"
"No, she didn't." Courtney leaned forward more, her head now between the two front seats so she'd hear Drew better. "She'd overheard the announcement that my father was marrying my mother because of her pregnancy with me. She didn't want to make our father choose between children. Randi didn't know anything about my mother's circumstances and figured she'd have a better chance of making a go of it as a single mother. Which, while entirely noble of her, may not have been in everyone's best interest."
"So you and Bird — excuse me, Courtney — are half brother and sister, separated in age by only a few months."
"Three months." The clarification came from the back seat. "Which doesn't mean he's any wiser or smarter than I am." A sharp-nailed finger poked Drew's shoulder in emphasis. An argument they'd had many times since learning of their blood-tie.
"You're younger, smaller, and far more sheltered than I ever was, Bird. That makes me your big brother with all the rights and responsibilities therefore attached."
"Oh brother. I'm so glad I missed all that misogyny while growing up. I'm an independent woman, Andrew."
"Then explain why we're sharing an apartment, sister dear."
"Because Dad is paying for it —"
"So I can keep an eye on you."
"So I can keep an eye on you."
Drew snorted and Jack grinned. "Right."
"Ah, sibling love." Jack sighed dramatically, hand over his heart. "Nothing like it in the world. You two are such amateurs. I should take you both home for Sunday dinner at the Ling household sometime soon. There's where you'll get a real lesson in how siblings act."
"Oh?" Birdie leaned forward. "How many do you have?"
Jack glanced at her in the rearview mirror. "I'm the eldest of eight. Three sisters, four brothers. All overachievers. You two don't know a thing about sibling competition."
"We're learning," Drew muttered. He loved his sister. Absolutely. No question. But she was far from the sweet, shy, biddable creature he'd first imagined her to be. Back before he knew he had a sister. Back when he'd been almost stalking her across campus trying to find out who she was, trying to find a way to meet her that didn't seem creepy.
Like that had worked. After learning her name, her schedule, even a little about her from some of the guys he'd met while playing a pickup game or two of rugby, who were also attracted to her, he'd finally seen his chance one morning at a campus coffee shop. She'd tripped over his size twelve foot and nearly broken her arm. So smooth. But it had worked. They'd met the next several mornings for coffee in the same spot before she'd invited him to her home for Thanksgiving as a stray. A foreign student without family connections for one of the biggest American holidays of the year.
Only to find out she was his unknown half-sister not even his father had known about and never expected to find when looking for the elusive love of his life from twenty years earlier. Surprise, surprise. Although Drew never let on, it still choked him up. His new stepmother, Randi, was all he could have hoped for in a mother. Not only did she make his father ecstatically happy, she'd brought a light of love and warmth into his world unlike any he'd ever known. In some ways it made him feel twelve again. Not just the stereotypical California friendly sort of warmth, but genuine love radiated from her entire being. Something sorely missing from his life up to then.
Where Randi had been open, loving, and accepting from the get-go, Birdie had a tougher time accepting the secrets of her past. Sometimes it still took her aback, leading to snark instead of easy going cheer. The girl just didn't fall in with the program of him being her protector. She didn't appreciate him vetting her dates and trying to steer her away from some of the more obnoxious suitors clamoring for her attention. Didn't she realize that he knew those guys? What they thought when they looked at her? What they wanted from her? It had been bad enough watching her those first weeks with those sharks disguised as law students, MBAs, and jocks circling her at the beginning of fall semester. But once they'd realized she was connected to him, connected to the Robinson international money, it had added a level of frenzy to the chumming around her. Not only did they see a beautiful, lithe blonde with a cheerful smile, they also saw connections to be made. The very idea of networking with someone as renowned as Courtland Robinson, the head of Lynford International Importers based in London, had opened up the sky of future possibilities for those in the International Law program. They were not only horny buggers, they were conniving networkers.
However, he never let Birdie's lack of appreciation for his help deter him from his accepted role of big brother. With calm and logic, he stayed the course and gently herded her along the path he thought best. If she broke from the herding, he merely sidestepped her and eased her back to the trail. Usually without her realizing his aim. Of course, her own graduate work mostly made his job easy. Like him, she didn't have much time for dating or carousing. She'd shifted from the plain old MBA program to International Business. In fact, she'd stay on in their apartment over the summer and take summer classes to move her along that much faster toward her goal of getting to London as their father's executive assistant. Hell, she'd probably end up in the CEO position when the old man was ready to retire. Drew grinned at the thought. Although he was also up for the position, there was one other in the wings. The nephew of a family friend. With three of them vying for the top spot, the future promised to be mighty interesting.
However, for tonight, all he had to do was survive a few hours of drinking and dancing with some Chinese beauties. He'd keep an eye on old Jack Ling and his ambitions to move in on Birdie, and perchance he'd meet someone for himself.CHAPTER 2
Meilin Wu placed her order for a Napa Valley red wine and looked around the Golden Phoenix Club while her friends shouted their orders to the waitress. As usual, the place was hopping for a Friday night. Many of the faces were young, barely legal as far as she could tell. Probably new graduates celebrating their freedom from college. She'd been there ten years earlier and recognized the relief on the faces around her. The scent of wild celebration permeated the air. The music was faster, louder, the roving lights a tad brighter tonight. The dancers moved wildly, out of control, or as much out of control as the tightly restrained Asian upbringing allowed them to be. Mostly Chinese, there were a few other mixes in the crowd. White, black, and other Asians.
"Meilin!" One of her friends shouted over the music. "Let's dance!"
She rolled her eyes and made a shooing motion to the table of friends. "Go! I'll watch the table!" she shouted back.
Like a colorful flock of birds, they rose as one, grabbed each other's hands, and ran for the crowded dance floor. Half of them were married women out for a night of girls-only partying, their husbands at home with the toddlers and infants. They were far more excited about tonight than she was.
Unofficially, this was her last night as a single woman. The very thought was depressing. Instead of holding out for true love, as nearly the last single daughter of her parents' social circle, she'd finally caved to the pressure to marry. Tonight was her last night to be free from the five thousand years of tradition that had suffocated her most of her life.
Excerpted from Her Unexpected Affair by Shea McMaster. Copyright © 2016 Shea McMaster. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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