Home > Marriage For One(6)

Marriage For One(6)
Author: Ella Maise

“Why not marry someone you love? Someone you’re dating? Someone you actually know? Why would you even consider asking me? You know nothing about me. We’re nothing but two strangers.” Seemingly trying to hold back her emotions, she took a deep breath. “Call me old-fashioned, Mr. Hawthorne, but I’m a romantic. I believe in marrying someone for love and only for love. Marriage is… Marriage means something completely different to me than what I think it means to you. I don’t want to be insulting, I don’t know you, but you don’t strike me as someone who necessarily puts much meaning…”

“You can finish your sentence, Miss Coleson.” I jammed my hands back into the pockets of my pants.

“I think you get where I’m coming from.”

I nodded because I did get it. “I don’t have time for personal relationships at the moment, and I’m not going to marry someone who’ll end up expecting more than what I’m offering. I’m not offering you something I’m not ready to give, and you can’t be that naïve, can you? You can’t think I only want to marry you to have someone hang on my arm on appropriate occasions and pay me a small amount of rent.”

Her spine straightened, her eyes shooting daggers at me. “Naïve? Trust me, Mr. Hawthorne, I’m not that naïve. If I was married my husband would own the property, that’s what the will says. So if you’re my husband…” She paused and then shrugged. “I get that you’re after the property as well, but I’m still waiting to hear about the part where you’d help me. So far all I’ve heard is you getting everything you want out of this. I’m failing to see how marrying you will help me save the—to you, very meager, I’m sure—life savings I’ve already spent to buy everything for the coffee shop. Where does me opening the coffee shop fit? In this scenario, you get the fake wife and the property, a property I’m assuming you can buy from my cousins if they’re considering selling it, if that’s what you want.”

“I don’t think they’re interested in selling. Even if they were, why would I spend so much money on something I can get for free? And to give you more context on the subject, I wasn’t actively searching for someone to marry, but when I was asked to read the will to advise on a few subjects, I found out about your situation and thought we could help each other out. To expand on another thing you mentioned, we’re not complete strangers. We did meet before—once, a year ago. It was just a brief encounter at one of your uncle’s parties, but it still helped me put a face to your name. As vague as it was, I had an idea of who you are, and as for the rest…I had enough time to learn what I needed to learn about you, and I’m sure you’ll have the same opportunity regarding me.”

“We met? Where? I don’t remember.”

Uncomfortable, I shifted in place and, not wanting to go into too much detail, waved her question off. “If you don’t remember, there is no point in repeating it. Like I said, it was nothing more than a brief introduction anyway. Anything else you’d like to know?”

“You’re genuinely being serious about this? Really?”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. Time was wasting. “I’m not going to keep repeating myself, Miss Coleson. If you accept, we’ll get married and the property will be transferred to me. After that, I’ll honor the initial contract terms and you can go ahead with your plans.”

She sighed and seemed to mull my words over. “That’s it? That’s all? The property, attending events, and acting like we’re married in front of other people? Nothing more?”

“That’s exactly it, and only for two years. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Glancing away from me, she worried her lips between her teeth. “Two years—right, because that’s nothing. Isn’t this illegal? Wouldn’t it be illegal?”

“Why would it be?”

She gave me an exasperated look. “Fine. What about Jodi and Bryan? There is no way they’ll believe it was a real marriage. Can’t he dispute, challenge, or whatever it is people would do in this situation to stop me from opening the coffee shop and you having ownership?” With a frown on her face, she shook her head. “I’m not saying I’d do this, but if for some insane reason I accepted your offer… I can’t even believe I’m thinking this, let alone saying it out loud.”

It wasn’t hard to see the hopeful look on her face. Knowing it was the right time, I gave her another small push.

“It’s not a hard decision, Miss Coleson. If I suspected there would be blowback, for me or for you, I wouldn’t make this offer. I’m the best at what I do, and no one will be disputing anything. If you accept, I’ll handle your cousins. They won’t be an issue, I can assure you of that.” I lifted my shoulder in a careless shrug. “It’s no one’s business but ours, and you don’t owe anyone any explanations.”

Her eyes focused on the ground, she kept shaking her head. I already knew what her answer would be—she was asking questions, which meant she was considering it. It was already a done deal. If I hadn’t already been sure of the outcome, I wouldn’t have come to her with the offer. She had spent all her savings on her dream, and I didn’t see her passing on my offer, which would benefit us both. I also knew it didn’t mean I’d get her answer with no resistance.

Startled, we both looked at my assistant, Cynthia, when she knocked on the glass door and stepped inside. “Your next appointment is here, Mr. Hawthorne, and you wanted me to inform you when the other meeting had started.”

“Thank you, Cynthia. I’m going to need a few more minutes here.”

As Cynthia nodded and closed the door, Rose Coleson headed back to her chair and picked up her bag. “I’m going to leave…and I’ll think about—”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to give me your answer now.” I didn’t move from my spot.

She stopped messing with her bag and met my gaze. “What? Why?”

“Because as Cynthia just let us know, your cousins are in the meeting room at the moment, discussing how to handle the properties. If you accept my offer, we’ll go join them and announce our situation. If you don’t, you’ll lose your last chance.”

“You can’t really expect me to decide right now. Do you think they’re just going to believe we fell in love at first sight? And then decided to get married in a week?”

“And how would they know that? How would they know when or how we met?” I took my hands out of my pockets and shrugged, moving back toward my desk. “It’s not our problem if they assume we met weeks or months ago.”

“My fiancé just left me a few weeks ago, Mr. Hawthorne. Out of the blue. For no reason whatsoever. They know me enough to know I wouldn’t marry someone else that quickly.”

“Your point being?”

“My point being?” Frustrated, she shook her head. “I can’t believe this is happening right now.”

Overwhelmed and looking confused, she dropped down on the chair. I felt like a bastard for forcing an answer from her, but I had a million things to do and not enough time to do them. If we were going to go forward with this, I needed to know immediately because I wouldn’t put myself in this situation again. “I’m going to need that answer from you, Miss Coleson.”

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