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Marrying the Boss
Harlequin American Romance
April 2008
ISBN: 0373752105
AR 1206
       


Book cover copyright © 2008 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Æ and T are trademarks of the publisher.

 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Of course the son of a bitch had to be buried in the rain. Leanne Fairbanks glowered at the mausoleum, then yanked her heel out of the mud and advanced toward it.

"Are they all gone, do you think?"

At her mother's question, Leanne surveyed Fields Grove Cemetery-the premiere spot for the dead elite of Chicago. Lionel Collins lay in the family crypt, a large domed building of gray granite, sporting Greek columns and two stone lions for guards. Leanne grimaced at the lions. The egomaniac.

 

No birds sang. Wet black trees supported branches thinly covered with April buds. Sprinkles of rain made hardly a patter. Dead silence, she thought, then quelled her ill-timed humor. The emptiness of the surroundings unnerved her. "I don't see anyone."

They hadn't attended the private ceremony held in the funeral chapel. Her mom had decided against seeing Gloria, Lionel's daughter-in-law, and her son, Mark, much to Leanne's relief. She'd have gone for support if her mom had felt the need, but personally, Leanne had no use for either of the Collinses. Much as they had no use for her.

They arrived at the mausoleum door, which Leanne was thankful hadn't been locked yet. Two workers turned at their entrance, then ducked out into the drizzle. Their portable floor lamps lit most of the fifteen by fifteen-foot-interior like high noon, illuminating the gaping hole in the wall. Shadows lingered in the corners. Leanne snugged her raincoat tighter.

Her mom closed the umbrella and smoothed her dark-blond hair back into its chignon. At fifty-four, she had only a few lines, although her green eyes had lost their sparkle during the past week.

Giving her mom a moment of privacy, Leanne inspected the crypt. Lionel would be interred above Helen, his wife of forty-seven years. Warren, their son-my half-brother-lay at rest across from them. She probed the thought like a sore tooth but experienced no pain. He'd been a stranger, no more than a name to her. Below him was a marker with Gloria's name and birth year chiseled on it.

Leanne frowned. There wasn't a place for Mark.

She started to mention this to her mom, but stopped at the sight of the grief on her face. Her mother's fingertips hovered just above the mahogany casket, tears slipping down her cheeks.

Leanne placed her arm around her mother's shoulders, offering support but no words. She had nothing to say about this man. Other than generous monthly checks, he'd ignored her existence. Conscience money, she thought, then corrected herself. It couldn't have been. Lionel Collins hadn't had a conscience.

Her mother sniffed and dabbed at her tears with a tissue. Leanne hugged her tighter. "He was a good man. He was," her mom emphasized, as though Leanne had argued the point. She wouldn't, not today. If she hadn't changed her mother's mind in the past, debating "the Lion's" questionable merits wouldn't help anything now.

"Yes, he was," a male voice said behind them.

They spun. A tall man filled the doorway, his silky dark hair absorbing the illumination from the workmen's lights. As he stepped forward, she noticed his deep brown eyes and had to repress a shiver. Chilly air, she told herself, wanting to believe it. She recognized him from the financial section of the newspaper.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I thought everyone had headed to the hotel already. My mother lost an earring and is afraid it dropped-" he eyed the casket "-somewhere in here." He leaned forward, hand extended. "I'm Mark Collins."

Leanne gaped when her mother reached to take his hand between both of hers and held on.

"Jenny Fairbanks," she said in her quiet, dignified way. "This is my daughter, Leanne. We're so sorry for your loss."

He placed his other hand over her mother's. He hadn't reacted at all to the introduction. Smooth, Leanne thought.

Mark gestured to the man behind him. "This is Todd Benton. He's come to help me-" again he glanced at the casket "-in my search."

"Leanne Fairbanks?" Todd asked. He stepped forward, his thin eyebrows creeping up on his forehead toward where his hairline should have been. "As well as being a family friend, I'm also the late Mr. Collins's lawyer. I have information of interest to you."

Leanne frowned. "What might that be, Mr. Benton?"

"Your inheritance, of course. I'd like to speak to you in private. Perhaps we could set up a time for you to come to my office."

"What inheritance?" Leanne and Mark said at the same time.

She looked at him, and he glared back. She tried to digest the news while he pierced her with his gaze. His dark eyes narrowed before he turned to the lawyer.

"I seem to be a step behind, Benton. Why is Miss Fairbanks named in my grandfather's will?"

Leanne's mouth dropped open. The nerve of the man. She hadn't expected to inherit anything-nor did she want anything from a man who'd abandoned her mother when she became pregnant. But for Mark to question Lionel's mentioning her was appalling.

"Because she's Lionel's daughter, of course."

"She's what?"

He hadn't known? Leanne would have accused him of deception if he hadn't gone pale beneath his tan. Emotions crossed his face, but on such short acquaintance, she couldn't interpret them. He frowned in what could have been confusion. His eyes widened, possibly with disbelief, and was that pain in the tightness around his mouth?

What had the Collins family been told? All these years she thought they'd known about her. If they hadn't, she could forgive their silence. She'd have only Lionel to blame. Perhaps they'd want to embrace her as a member of the family now that they knew.

"His daughter," Benton repeated. "You didn't.? Come on, Mark, you must have known."

Mark shook his head. Had he lost his power of speech? Leanne felt that way herself.

"Gloria and Warren never told you?" Benton asked.

"Mother knows?" Mark whispered, never breaking eye contact with Leanne.

"Of course she knows. Your entire family knew of Lionel's scandal."

A chill washed over Leanne. So much for being embraced.

Megan Kelly's latest rings with true wit and features a secondary romance that's just as deft as the primary relationship. Kelly isn't afraid to plunge to true emotional depths or confront the complexitities of nontraditonal families in this sure-to-be favorite!

Romantic Times BOOKClub - 4 Stars

Marrying the Boss was a story of love lost and found, family, and competitiveness. This was another refreshing palate cleanser that leave[s] you with warm fuzzies. Ms. Kelly has added a new fan to her list.

Simply Romance Reviews

Marrying the Boss is an engaging tale of love when you least expect it. The Apprentice-like competition kept me in stitches to see what Lionel had up his sleeve for these two remarkable individuals. For fans of pure romantic fun, Marrying the Boss is sure to please.

CataRomance Reviews

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