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His Indecent Proposal

By:Lynda Chance

Chapter One


"What you need is a wife."

David Bennett leaned back in his chair, crossed his hands behind his head and gave his best friend and legal counsel the kind of look that indicated he was insane.

Craig Brantley continued. "Don't look at me like you think I've lost my mind. Think about it, man. The board of directors is trying to fuck you. You know it." He paused and then continued with his opinion. "You should have this shit wrapped up tight. The presidency should be yours. You've got the education and the experience. Fuck, you've got the family dynasty behind you. Your family owns the goddamn corporation. Not to mention you've been single-handedly running the business for years."

David contemplated the other man in silence. What his friend was voicing out loud was nothing new to him. He was experiencing a reversed form of nepotism. The reason the board of directors were dragging their feet was because he was family. He was a Bennett.

The old bastards were taking it one step too far. They were considering handing the job to a younger man with much less experience. A good, valuable employee, true. But Troy Johnson didn't have the backbone it would take, much less the ruthless drive to expand when the time was called for. It was a fine line. Always a fine line. If you didn't expand, you were sunk. If you expanded too quickly, you were sunk. Johnson didn't have the knowledge or the balls it would take to advance the company.

It was a private corporation, and David's frustration and resentment rose when he thought about the risk the old dinosaurs on the board were taking by not seeing the forest because of the trees. They were not only fucking around with him, they were fucking with his preferred stock, his inheritance, and his family name.

He steadily concentrated on the man sitting in front of his desk. "How do you think a wife would help me?" David asked.

Craig leaned back and crossed a large, booted foot over his knee. "It's simple, man. They see you as a risk because you're not settled. You're nothing but a player to the old geezers. A liability. They listen to the rumors. Your exploits get magnified ten times before they get back to the board. Johnson's steady. He has a wife and the designated two-point-five kids. A house with a yard. A goddamn dog." He paused and crossed his arms over his chest for emphasis. "You've got to get that shit, David. You need to get a wife, and quick-fast."

David raised a semi-amused eyebrow. "And where the hell am I supposed to find her? 1-800-HOTWIFE?"

Craig raised his eyebrows and responded seriously. "You've got women coming out of the damn woodwork. Just choose one."

David scowled. "I pay you a shitload of money to keep you on retainer. Is this the best idea you can come up with?"

"Yeah. You pay me a ton of money to have your back. I'm telling you what you have to do to win this fight. I'll have the pre-nup ready in two days. Choose a girl, man."



Jenna Marie Hardin sat at her desk at work and rummaged through her bottom drawer. It was past lunch time, she was starving, and as usual, she didn't have any money. She usually kept ramen noodles, microwave popcorn and cups of macaroni and cheese for such occasions. The problem was, she had been having a lot of such occasions lately. Her drawer was depressingly empty.

Frustration gripped her. She liked to think of herself as relatively smart. How the hell she had ended up in this situation was a mystery. Not a complete mystery, but as time passed, her debt had only grown, and her circumstances were dire. Why the hell didn't they make seniors in high school take a basic financial class? Then maybe she wouldn't have listened when everyone told her to take out student loans. It's okay. Go to a good college and take out loans. Then when you get an awesome job, you can repay them. Sure. That was working out real well for her.

Now, the whole college thing just seemed like a scam. And had she gone to a state school? No. Private college was for her. At the time, the smaller setting seemed more conducive to studying. She had been a serious student, and didn't feel the need to party as much. And look where she had wound up. Over a hundred grand in debt with a fine arts degree that apparently meant nothing.

Oh, the irony of it all. She had actually had to dummy down her resume to get this job. As far as the people she was working for knew, she didn't have any college under her belt, much less a degree. After months and months of looking for a job that made good use of her degree, the recession had finally forced her to take anything she could get. And she was damn glad to have it. A girl had to eat. And now she sat all day in front of a terminal, inputting information for accounts receivables for this wholesale safety distribution network.

She looked up from her bare drawer and glanced around the office. She worked in a large central room, at one of many open desks lined up and surrounded on two sides by cubicles. The cubicles were the offices of mid-management and were adjacent to the executive corridor that was better known as mahogany row. That was where the offices of the corporate executives were located. Where the guys sat at mahogany desks all day. The men that controlled the business. The guys in suits. She had worked here for six months now, and had never spoken to any of them. She would recognize them on the street, but that was about it. The highest ranking employees she had ever had a conversation with worked in Human Resources.

Her stomach rumbled, and she knew with a sinking heart that she wouldn't get to feed it until she got home. But she was young and strong and she had gone without meals before, so this wouldn't kill her. Still, a cup of coffee would dull some of the hunger pains. Coffee with lots of creamer and sugar. She needed some carbs, and if empty carbs were all she could get, oh well.

She stood up and made her way to the lunch room. It was almost two o'clock, and the small room was deserted. She poured the last dregs of the coffee into a Styrofoam cup and dumped three sugar packets in. She upended the creamer container, but it was empty. Opening the cabinet below her, she knelt down and began opening a new box of coffee supplies.

She heard the door shut, the shuffle of feet and an irritated male voice. "Goddamnit, let it go. What the fuck am I supposed to do, post a job opening for a wife?"

Jenna heard the disgusted words and amusement came to the fore. Advertise for a wife? How funny was that?

She stood to her feet and turned in a graceful movement to face the men she realized hadn't seen her when they entered. Her eyes landed on the first man, a tall, good-looking blond with an easy-going expression on his face. She vaguely recognized him from mahogany row. Before she could stop herself, she heard the words that impetuously popped from her mouth. "Do I apply in H.R.?" She gave him a teasing smile and moved her eyes to the next man and the smile fell from her lips. David Bennett.

She froze by the countertop as she recognized the man that ran the company. She had seen him from a distance many times, and the girls in accounting had certainly pointed him out when she was first hired. They all thought he was freaking God's gift, but Jenna didn't see it. Whenever she saw him, the only thing she felt was vaguely threatened. She had found his eyes on her more times than she could count when she glanced up from her computer screen as he walked to the elevators. As if they were connected by an invisible live wire, she could feel when he watched her. And he watched her often.

When it came to men and attraction, she had encountered two types of men in her life. One type looked right past her to the blue-eyed, skinny blonde girls of the world. The other type of men saw her and stared. They stared at her C cups, down her hourglass shape, and back to her C cups as if they'd died and gone to heaven. David Bennett was one such man. She'd known from the first day she saw him. It made her stomach tighten and her breath hitch. It also made her uncomfortable.

He had an aura of ruthlessness that chilled her. He was tall and brawny and his face held a hawkish countenance that was only magnified by his cold, assessing eyes. Eyes that were directed on her now.

She shifted restlessly and mortification spread through her when she realized he had been the one that made the cutting comment. She seriously doubted the blond man would have used that tone of voice to the boss. So that meant that she had just teased David Bennett about applying for the role of his wife. Agitation filled her and all she wanted was to slink from the room.

The men stood in a frozen tableau by the door and the quiet after her question was deafening as they continued to stand and stare at her.

Her hands shook slightly as she grabbed her coffee sans creamer and turned to go. The atmosphere was tense, and she felt the need to say something before she got the hell out of there. She looked at the handsome blond because he was infinitely the less dangerous of the two. "I'm sorry for interrupting you. I'll get back to work."

The blond man smiled at her lazily and gently teased, "No problem. He's the one that needs a wife."

Her eyes skittered to his companion and the bottom fell out of her stomach as his piercing eyes watched her with a feral, territorial look that froze the air in her lungs. She shifted restlessly as nerves tightened into distress. He was looking at her with a punishing intensity that she didn't think the situation called for. Like she had committed a gross infraction and was going to have to pay for it. She cleared her throat and looked away. "Yes, well. . . g-good luck with that."

Jenna balanced her coffee carefully in her hand and side-stepped the men in front of the door. She twisted the handle, squeezed through it, and fled for her life.

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