The Man Must Marry(6)

By: Janet Chapman

“You think I’m bad with elevators?” she said, her smile crooked. “You should see me with escalators.”

Well, hell. A partridge with the laugh of an angel.

If there was one weakness in Abram Sinclair, it was women. The old man had always liked them plump, laughing, and warm, which was why he was forever preaching to his grandsons that breeding, beauty, and bank accounts didn’t matter. Full bosoms were nice, and backsides built to cradle a man were necessary.

Which explained exactly why Willamina Kent was there.

Sam escorted her to the car in the underground parking garage in silence, where Ronald was waiting. He gave his driver instructions to take them to the Marriott, and they rode throughManhattan in silence. Willamina spent the trip with her nose nearly pressed to the window, watching the city go by. Sam passed the time watching her.

Her shirttail was untucked again. And the suit, which looked as if it had been made in the late seventies, was wrinkled beyond repair. She’d unknowingly knocked over the heavy purse at her feet, and half the contents had spilled out.

Sam silently sighed. He couldn’t figure her out. For all of Miss Kent ’s artlessness, he definitely had seen intelligence in her eyes during the meeting.

A less astute person might only notice her appearance, but Bram always tried to see past the mask a person wore, just as he was always trying to see beyond the ocean’s horizon. Sam felt he’d inherited his grandfather’s talent, which was why he would bet there was a lot more to Willamina Kent than first impressions. Abram Sinclair never would have left the fate of Tidewater—or his grandsons—in the hands of a twit.

So, was she merely the dying whimsy of an old man? Bram wouldn’t be averse to shaking up his family or his business to achieve an end, which meant the old wolf had an ulterior motive for sending her here. Marriage, most likely. It wasn’t beyond Bram to have fallen in love with Willamina himself; and who

better, he would figure, for one of his grandsons to marry? Willamina seemed like a sympathetic creature, if a person could get past her antics.

Although her chosen profession was…weird.

Well, hell. He guessed somebody had to build caskets.

But Bram was building his own. Sam still couldn’t shake off that macabre vision.

“Do you need help checking in?” he asked when they pulled up to the Marriott.

“No, thank you. I’ll be fine.” She frowned down at her purse, then started shoving everything back into it. “Will we all be going to dinner tonight?”

“We’ll pick you up at seven,” Sam told her. He stepped out of the car behind her and watched with wry amusement as Ronald handed her defeated luggage to the porter, noticing some kind soul had wound it shut with packing tape. The porter, bless his training, didn’t even bat an eye when he took it. Once Miss Kent was safely on her way, Sam climbed back into the car and headed back to the office. Maybe he could salvage something of this hellacious day—as well as do an Internet search for a casket company inMaine .

As the elevator doors were closing back at the parking garage, Sam saw a scrap of material caught in the door track. Shoving against the doors to open them again, he reached down and retrieved what turned out to be a pair of iridescent lilac panties.

They were a little larger than he was used to.

With a smile of anticipation for the evening to come, Sam shoved them into his pocket. It appeared the little partridge didn’t always wear brown.

Chapter Two

Willa dropped her ruinedbag onto the floor of her hotel room, only to watch it break open and spill her laughable wardrobe onto the carpet.

What a mess. And not just her clothes, either, but the bigger mess she was in—including what was sure to be the evening from hell. She was going to have to sit through dinner facing three hostile men who likely wanted to tar and feather her and put her on the first plane north. After each one tried to charm her vote.

Damn Abram Sinclair. This was all his fault. She didn’t belong here. Those people in that boardroom today, and his grandsons, they were all way out of her league. She was a small-town girl. The biggest business decisions she made were what new designs she could carve into the covers of her caskets. She had no business deciding who should head a multibillion-dollar company. Willa moaned in frustration, kicked off her shoes, collapsed onto the bed, and rubbed her forehead. She’d gotten a pounding headache within minutes of sitting between those monstrous props on the plane, and she still had the damned thing, only now it had gone from pounding to splitting. Hell, even her hair hurt.