The Husband Hazard
by Vivien Paige
Ebook ISBN: B00LNMMYE4
[ Billionaire Romance, MF ]
Olivia Adams has her life plan all figured out. One, answer a call-out for a bride from a billionaire. Two, dazzle the billionaire into proposing to her. Three, make her mother happy. Cakewalk. Except for one infuriating and delectable, six-foot-three glitch standing in her way.
Olivia Kelly Adams had everything she needed to put a smile back on her mother’s face.
Ticket, toothbrush, and Tino—as in the Valentino gown draped over her arm. Come tomorrow morning, she would be an engaged woman.
After she procured the fiancé, of course. Totally doable.
Her hair sucked big-time, thanks to running out of conditioner that morning, but once she landed, a twenty-minute shower and lots of hairpins could fix her up in no time. Plus, she had a killer dress to wear. So what if fifteen other people had worn it fifteen other times—who counted these things? She’d gotten it at a steal, not to mention the label spelled authentic.
Her plan was simple. Follow the queue at the boarding gate, get onto the plane, transfer from Cape Town to Johannesburg in two hours max, and do it all without a single crease in her dress.
She planned to knock the rich, prominent socks off the very handsome Victor Meyer, leaving him no choice but to slip his family heirloom of an engagement ring on her finger tonight. She couldn’t impress him in a rumpled dress.
She just needed to keep moving forward. Move forward….
Why wasn’t she moving?
She turned her head, shrieking as the tip of a huge, boot-clad foot stood on a trail of pink-and-gold fabric sticking out of the plastic dress bag. Panic raced through her veins, but she forced herself to calm down, afraid any sharp movement would sever the cloth under his weight, beyond the damage he might already have caused. Easing around, she craned her to neck to meet her dress trespasser’s eyes. What was he, like six-three or something?
“Please. Get. Off. Me.” She pronounced each word with growing hysteria combined with anger. Nothing could happen to her dress. It was the only dress she owned for getting engaged in—both hers and her mother’s entire future depended on it.
His so-not-subtle, unapologetic gaze raked her from bottom to top. She swallowed around her dry throat as his blatant perusal continued, annoyed at his audacity but aware of a warm flush erupting wherever his attention grazed her skin. Nope, it was the result of an overdose of coffee, chocolate, and insomnia. Nothing more.
He stroked the stubble on his square jaw. “If you were beneath me, princess, ‘get off me’ is the last thing you would say.”
She opened her mouth to speak. Words dissolved into nothingness as her cheeks seared with hot blood once his meaning sank in. She raised her chin, desperate to go for the “your innuendos are so trivial. I’ve heard better,” look.
“I meant get off my dress. You’re stepping on it.” With your Sasquatch feet.
He glanced down then up at her again. “Say please.”
“I already said please. Okay, fine. Please, get off my dress.”
He stepped aside. “You’re welcome.”
She didn’t bother with him after he freed her dress, too relieved the giant hadn’t marred the fabric with his shoe print but horrified to find a deep tear in the plastic bag. She placed the cool silk, with great care, back into the bag then rummaged through her handbag, finding a heavy-duty hair clip to seal it all in. There.
Really, whoever in this world has that color eyes? She fumed. Blue, but not quite. Jade, maybe just a little. Amber, perhaps more than a hint. What was that? Still, he was nothing but a mild hiccup. She’d saved her dress. Proposal ahead, as scheduled.
Satisfied her gown would not meet a similar fate in the near future, she looked up and gasped. Almost destroying her dress was not good enough for him. He’d decided to take her place in the queue as well, flirting with the attendant as he handed her his ticket.
Nice, just nice.
He turned, gave her a mocking smile then continued on his way. She bit her tongue to stop from sticking it out at him. She didn’t have time to deal with obnoxious local travelers. She had bigger plans, life-changing plans.
She forced herself to envision the evening ahead. Victor would steal her away to the scented garden on his massive, landscaped, hundred-million, big-money mansion. He’d propose under the stars. She would say yes. Tears would gather in her eyes. But she’d have to cry in a pretty fashion—or risk testing whether her cheap version of waterproof mascara did what it claimed.
She’d take pictures of her engagement ring, calling her mother straight afterward to relish the happiness in her voice again. Then they’d put closure on the last eight years of their lives forever. She could so do it.
She fumbled her way to the plane, weighed down by her handbag and her overnight bag, while ensuring her dress came to no further harm. Every thought about her encounter with Bigfoot muddled her thinking, which didn’t make any sense since she planned never to set eyes on him again.
She stopped in the middle of the aisle. “You?”
She floundered with her ticket to make sure she had the right seat number, glared at it, and glared at him. Of all the people…him? She chewed her lip as her gaze whizzed around the plane packed to bursting.
“Hello, again, princess,” he said without rising from his seat.
The rough gravel in his voice steamed her nerves—not in a good way. She knew no one would swap places with her. She groaned. Did she have to sit next to him, too?
He gave her a lopsided grin, almost challenging her to take her seat beside him. Fine. She could do this…for 120 minutes or so.
She dallied a bit then opened the already overpacked overhead compartments with one hand while holding her dress in the other. If she assumed he’d stand to help her put away her overnight bag, since it was quite a stretch, she assumed wrong. What a gentleman.
Refusing to part with her dress, she strained on the tips of her shoes to shove her bag into the compartment. Cool air slid across the skin of her tummy as her shirt rose. She shut the door to find the imbecilic man leaning forward in his seat, trying to get a glimpse of her behind.
What? Oh, the nerve.
She straightened her shirt with one hand, pulled down her skirt with the other, and cheeks blazing, scowled at him. She needed to stop getting so flustered about everything he did to her. Sitting back, he trailed his fingers over his jaw as a soft chuckle escaped his lips, not a bit embarrassed she’d caught him gawking her.
Did he get up so she could take her place in the middle? Of course not. It would have been out of character. She stood immobile for a few seconds, wondering how she could get into her seat. Go over his knees facing the front, showing him her behind, or face him, presenting him her breasts. Either way, she hoped her sharp heel pierced his foot—by accident naturally.
“Oh, for goodness sake. Can you get up, so I can get to my seat, please?”
Maybe that wasn’t quite the right thing to ask of him. Unfurling himself, he rose to his full height in slow, arrogant motion. She could see the slight outline of his abdominal muscles through his T-shirt, but when he came closer, she took a step back as he confined her with the entire brute force of his body.
The aisle didn’t allow for any sort of space between them. Her breasts brushed against his chest, her thighs swept against the warm brick walls of his. Her breath broke down somewhere in her throat as heat waves sluiced through her. Her heart threw a loud tantrum in her chest.
God, what was she doing?
She was okay.
But, oh, she wished he would pick on someone his own size.
She surged onto her seat before she caused a traffic jam. She then arranged the gown over her knees, careful to fold it in just the right place, ignoring the ridiculous tremble in her hands. Just 7,200 seconds to go.
“So, what’s with the dress?” he asked as he folded himself back into the economy-class seat beside her.
“You….” She cleared her throat to get it working again. “You mean the one you almost ripped to shreds?”
“I didn’t see it.”
“It’s a Valentino Garavani in Thulian pink with goldenrod detail. How could you not have seen it?”
“It’s a what with a what?”
“Oh, never mind. Let’s just forget it and get through this flight. Then everything will be back on schedule.” She squashed her knees together, anxious not to touch his thigh again—hard to do since his legs were so freaking long.
Oh, his cologne. Why did she want to put her head into his neck and sniff his skin? What’s up with that? Nothing. She was tired, over-extended, and under-slept. Not to mention famished. This stranger just tickled her cranky side to no end.
But then, he wasn’t an ordinary stranger. He’d stepped on her lucky “getting engaged” dress. He’d also set her pulse alight with just a gaze. She really wished he didn’t. If they both kept quiet, she could pretend he didn’t exist and that her body didn’t perk up in all her secret places. Then she could concentrate on her four-night stay at the Meyers’ mansion.
She supposed she could do worse in the marriage field. Hmm…yeah, no. Victor was considered the catch of a lifetime. Women queued to marry him, but he chose to invite Olivia to his home. She had a chance—blow it, she could not.
The man, oozing some sort of sex appeal with overbearing confidence next to her, seemed unperturbed by her silence. Instead, he leaned his head onto the headrest and closed his eyes. Could he be asleep already?
Well, good. That suited her just fine. She strummed her fingers over her dress, veering her mind toward her wedding, to be dubbed as the wedding of the century. Her wedding dress? Stunning all the way. But her thoughts kept reverting to her left—the complete wrong direction. His thigh touched hers, the contact singeing her again. Did he have electricity for breakfast?
“Um…. What do you do…exactly?” Her words sounded strained, screechy. So not good for polite stranger-on-a-plane conversation. “When you’re not ruining dresses, that is.”
Better if they spoke. Then, perhaps, she could take her mind off his body, every long, solid muscle taunting her from beneath his clothes. She couldn’t stop looking at his hands. His forearms. The ultra-thick, faded leather band of a huge watch with a severe crack in the glass on his wrist, which just made him look so much more unrefined. Indiscreet.
So not her type.
She preferred men in suits, men who were gentleman, men who didn’t sit by, eyeing her behind. Men who didn’t step on her clothes …. Gosh, she needed to let go.
“Nothing. I’m a lazy billionaire.” He didn’t bother opening his eyes.
Great. A smartass, too. Why would she think otherwise? Oh, she wished the plane would take off already. She glanced at the empty window seat, desperate for some distance from him, for her dress’s sake, she insisted. What were the odds of the seat being taken? If she could scramble over there—
A cheerful elderly woman, with two wicker baskets in hand, came to claim her place.
The lady didn’t wait for either of them to get out of their seats but, instead, maneuvered herself over their knees, banging Olivia on the head with her basket en route. Olivia, in an attempt to save her gown from being crumpled under one of the baskets the lady decided to place on her lap, sprang up from the seat. Everyone in the world was out to get her dress.
With the tight confines of economy class against her, she stumbled straight into his lap. Oh, God.
The impact stunned her. She forgot her precious gown as his large hand spanned her lower spine. His fingertips reached around her hip, her clothes no barrier for the branding touch. She refused to think where or what her backside nestled against. Couldn’t fathom a thought with all the heat flooding her body, clouding her mind.
“Ah, thank you, dearie. Just give me a minute to arrange myself then I’ll give you your seat back. Don’t you two look adorable together? Ah, young love.” The old lady sighed then placed her baskets on Olivia’s seat, a huge sparkle of a smile on her lips as she got herself comfortable.
Words floated around Olivia’s ears, but she failed to understand them. How could she when all her senses had melted into a puddle? The scent of his sultry cologne wafted into her nose, enflaming her blood. Fire zinged off her skin. She shifted, unable to bear the tightness between her legs and the sudden, unbearable twinge in her nipples.
Gliding his right hand underneath the dress bag, he laid it on her thigh bared by her skirt, which had ridden way up. Rough calluses tickled her skin. The weight of his palm on her body blasted her resolve to ashes.
“We’re so in love, aren’t we, sweetheart?”
What was he saying? Why didn’t she stop him to rectify the situation? He leaned in. Olivia thought he would kiss her. She just died right there.
Instead, his breath whispered against her ear. “Don’t move again.”
She moved again. The uncanny but no less crazy restless feeling dictated she do nothing but move.
He grasped her flesh, so close to the throbbing warmth at the center of her thighs. Her heart hammered as she turned to look at him. His gaze flicked over her lips and down to her nipples spearing through her white cotton shirt.
“There. All done,” the old lady said.
Olivia dare not breathe, think, or absorb the last minute of her life in case it changed the course of it forever. She was going to get a man to marry her. A man she needed for his status and money alone. One she’d met a total sum of three times. Yes, it was warped, but it was her sole choice if she wanted to take her mother out of the eight years of depression she’d suffered. That was her life’s course.
She held on with a death grip to the moment before she fell into his lap, when everything had been perfect, planned to a faultless degree. Get in, get out. With a husband. She needed to get her thigh out from under his hand. Remove her butt from his nether region pronto. But he stopped what would have been her ungraceful dive from his lap to her seat. A strong forearm tightened around her waist, tugging her toward his chest.
“I told you not to move, princess.”
“Well, well, well,” Matthew Kane murmured to himself. So, this was the lucky Olivia Kelly Adams in the flesh, the soon-to-be bride of Victor Meyer, prodigy son of none other than software giant Horace Meyer himself.
Since Matthew had taken a personal interest—although to an outsider it probably looked more like an obsession—in the Meyers’ lives the last fifteen years or so, Victor’s attempt at marriage hadn’t fazed Matthew much. He smirked at the numerous reports about Victor Meyer, landing on his desk. The dreamy bachelor—some starry-eyed daytime talk-show host’s words, not his—had put out an international call for a bride. The handsome twenty-seven-year-old—again, not his words—thought he’d reached the point in his life where he wanted to settle down. Produce heirs to one day take over MeyerTech, the mammoth computer company he ran alongside his father.
So, the crème-de-la-crème with their daughters had attended a fancy lunch hosted by Victor’s mother where he had his choice of beautiful women. Matthew had remained unconcerned throughout it all until he glimpsed a photograph of what could be Victor’s future wife. Then he couldn’t help himself, he needed to see her for himself. That she’d be catching a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg suited him fine because, suddenly, so would he. Sitting next to her had cost him nothing but a small bribe—his phone number.
The scent of her skin, a mingling of baby powder blended with rose-scented soap, lingered on his hands. He couldn’t stop from messing around with the gorgeous gold digger hoping to plant her nails into the good old fortune of the Meyers, no less. She intrigued him.
Tilting his head to the side, he peered at her sitting rock-rigid beside him, still amused at how she’d flown out of his lap back into her seat. Her dark hair, a wild river of fragrant tresses, covered her face from his view. She hugged the voluptuous dress to her chest. He remembered what seemed to have been paw prints on her white shirt.
He grinned when he thought how stunned she’d been to find herself in his lap. He’d told her not to move. What had she done? She’d moved, placing herself in direct contact with his groin. What did she expect?
Okay, he’d summoned an extraordinary effort, in the nick of time, to stop the blood from flowing in the wrong direction but still, he’d felt her melt against him when she pressed into him, hard not to mistake his brave knight. He wanted to laugh at her. She seemed so put out by the whole episode.
Leaning over, he lifted a handful of silky-soft hair to whisper in her ear. “You okay?”
She quivered, whipping her head around to face him. Her lips trembled. Mini bolts of lightning sparked in her more-green-than-gray eyes. Pretty. No, she was luxurious, beautiful, and mad. Together, the combination made her sexier. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“What did you think was going to happen?”
“I’m not listening to you.”
“Someone throws a pretty woman into my lap with an ass as round as yours, well, things are bound to happen.”
She released a perfect gasp of indignation—he supposed—and opened her mouth to speak, closed it, then tried again. “A real gentleman would not have…would not have responded.”
An etiquette lesson? Did those words come out of her mouth? Not the a real gentleman part, but the part where she thought he’d responded?
“Relax,” he whispered back. “Nothing happened. But just so you know, if I responded, you’d tick Mile High Club off your lists of things to do.”
“You’re insufferable. Please refrain from speaking to me again.”
“Please refrain from falling into my lap again.”
“Jerk,” she said under her breath.
She didn’t even bother to gasp this time, just shifted in her seat to give him her back. Smiling, Matthew closed his eyes, hoping to catch at least an hour’s sleep before they landed. He had people to meet, privileges to annihilate, entitlements to destroy, basically lives to obliterate. Long time coming.
Olivia Kelly Adams was on the wrong side of the war.