Jared's Counterfeit Fiancee(7)

By: Brenda Jackson

“I’m ready now,” Dana said, reentering the room. She smiled when she saw him holding her cat. “I see you’ve met Tom.”

Jared chuckled. “Oh, that’s his name?”

“Yes. I’ve had him for a couple of years, since he was a kitten. Now he’s spoiled rotten but great company.”

“He’s a handsome fellow,” Jared said as he continued to pet the animal.

“Shh, don’t say that too loud. He’s conceited enough already,” Dana whispered.

Jared smiled as he placed Tom back on the floor. When he straightened back to his full height he met Dana’s gaze. Desire shot all the way through him and with an effort he swallowed. “Ready?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“Welcome to our home, Dana. I’m so glad that Jared brought you.”

Dana suddenly found herself swept into strong arms as a woman who she figured to be Jared’s mother gave her a gigantic hug. She had expected a nice welcome but certainly not this outpouring of affection.

“Thanks for having me,” Dana said once the woman released her. She glanced up at Jared. Their gazes met and held. His expression was unreadable and she couldn’t help wondering what he was thinking.

Dana noticed a sudden thickness in her throat when she remembered how she’d felt when Jared had arrived at her place, exactly at noon. The only thing she could think was that even dressed in jeans and a pullover shirt he looked polished, suave, debonair and sensual.

“You two can give each other that dreamy-eyed look later,” Sarah Westmoreland said, beaming. “Come on in, everyone is anxious to meet Dana.”

Jared shook his head, catching himself and regaining his concentration. The last thing he wanted was for his mother to get any ideas that Dana was more than just a dinner date. “I take it that we’re the last to arrive,” he said, placing his hand at the small of Dana’s back while his mother led them through the foyer.

“Quade isn’t here but he called to say that he’s on his way.”

Jared nodded. His brother Quade was involved in security activities for the Secret Service and often missed family gatherings because of it. But it wasn’t from lack of trying to be present. Like all Westmorelands, Quade enjoyed family get-togethers.

Jared could hear voices coming from the living room and took another look at Dana. He had intended it to be a quick look but even in the daylight, the soft glow from the crystal chandelier overhead seemed to enhance her beauty. There was something about the shape of her mouth—he wondered how it would feel under his when he…

“My goodness, Jared, will you stop staring at Dana like that!” his mother scolded in a chuckling voice.

Damn. He hadn’t realized he’d been staring again. He kept forgetting just how observant his mother was; her eyes missed nothing. His mother was smiling and for the first time he wondered if perhaps he had made a mistake in inviting Dana. If his mother noticed his attention to her, he could just imagine what the other family members would think. That meant he had to keep his cool and not appear so taken with her.

“It’s about time you got here.”

Jared’s head jerked around and he frowned. His brother Durango, the man who thought all women were made for his pleasure unless they had another man’s stamp on them, was talking to Jared, but looking at Dana.

“Durango,” Jared acknowledged when his brother came to join them.

Durango nodded but his gaze went straight back to Dana. “And who is this beautiful creature?” he asked smoothly, as a smile touched both corners of his mouth.

“This is Jared’s girl. And she’s off-limits to you, so behave,” Sarah Westmoreland spoke up.

Jared’s girl. Jared rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the heat already.

“Are you sure that you don’t want any more birthday cake, Dana?”

Dana smiled at Sarah. “Thanks for asking but I don’t think I can eat a single thing more. All the food was wonderful, Mrs. Westmoreland.”

Dana was completely overwhelmed when Jared had escorted her into the living room and introduced her to his family. The house had been decorated with birthday streamers and balloons from corner to corner. It didn’t take long to see that the Westmorelands weren’t just a clan but a whole whopping village. The love and warmth between them was easy to see and feel.