Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Paper Marriage

By Peggy P. Parsons
Contemporary Romance, 401 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans

Chandler’s eagle gaze checked Analyn's compact living room. “Is your whole apartment decorated in red, white and blue?”
“What if it is?” He’d broken her heart. Would he insult her taste, too?
“At least you didn’t decorate in pink and lavender.”
“Why should you care what colors I use?”
A smug grin covered his handsome face. “Because I’m moving in.”

 “Look Chandler,” she said, trying to force a smile. “I appreciate your offer to marry me, but it isn’t necessary.”
“Yes it is.”
“No. I know you don’t love me and—”
“Who said anything about love?”
She squinted while he stared back, his expression calm, yet unreadable. “Isn’t that what marriage is all about?” she asked.
“Not every marriage. Not ours.”
Exasperated, she blurted, “You’ve always said you’ll never get married, so what’s going on?”
He caught her hands, pulled them to his chest. Then he spoke in the low, husky voice that still haunted her dreams. “It won’t be a real marriage.”
Another shock hurtled through her, but she managed to mumble, “I don’t understand.”
Chandler released her hands and shoved the stray lock of hair off his forehead again. “Our marriage will be in name only, although everyone except you and I will believe it’s the real thing. And it won’t last forever. When the time is right, we’ll get a quiet divorce or an annulment.”
“What makes you think I’m dumb enough to go along with such a stupid idea?”
To keep from touching her again, he stuck his fists in his pockets. “It’s not stupid and you’re not dumb.”
“I must be. I’ve been thinking about marrying Ron.”
Her bewildered rebuttal made Chandler’s heart sting. “I wouldn’t have let you,” he said, his voice as quiet as hers.
She laughed, a shrill bitter sound that made him feel like a rat. “That’s rich. You’re the one who told me I should find a husband and start a family.”
“That was before you met Ron, before I discovered he and Coral have been sneaking around behind our backs for weeks, maybe months. Probably the entire time you were in California with your sick girlfriend.”
Analyn shook her head, apparently still unwilling to believe Ron and Coral were capable of that kind of deception.
“I’ve never lied to you, have I?” Chandler demanded, then suffered an inward flinch. He had lied, and more than once. Every time she said she loved him, he’d claimed he didn’t love her. Tonight he had lied, too. But he couldn’t let her continue to date Ron or get engaged. She was too good for the two-timing, two-faced bastard.
Without giving Analyn time to reply, he added, “In your heart you know I’m not lying now.” He gentled his voice, regretting his callous outburst, but determined to have his way. “I may have severed our closeness and damaged our friendship, but I still care about you and want to help you.”
Analyn looked confused, not grateful, and he knew he had some convincing to do. But he’d never been more sure of himself. “You need protecting and I’m the best candidate, the only candidate, for the job.”
Taking her arm, he marched her into her bedroom where he hefted her monogrammed suitcase off the top closet shelf, and set it on her red bed cover.
“Start packing.”
Instead of refusing as he half expected, she obeyed his brusque order. Sliding a pair of black slacks off a hanger, she folded them neatly.
While he watched, a whiff of her fragrant scent attacked his senses. Her perfume was new and contained a hint of ginger. Why did he have to notice the change? Or be so physically aware of her?
Every time he saw her he wished things could be different. But they couldn’t. Before his twelfth birthday he had discovered that he had inherited the genes for Huntington’s Disease, and the debilitating illness would likely result in early death. He wouldn’t bog her down with his health problems, but he would do his best to steer her away from Ron, and men like him.

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