He stood close to her. His masculine scent invaded her senses. She knew he was strong, but being surrounded by him made it hard for her to concentrate.
No matter how many diets she went on she’d never been able to shift her extra pounds. While she was growing up her father had used to tease her about her extra weight. Over time it had been easy for her to stop thinking about her body and just hide away in books. When she was in a fantasy world no one could hurt her. In romance books for a short while she could pretend to be heroine. She knew it was naïve, but being consumed by the fantasy world meant she didn’t have to deal with the bitter sting of rejection, which hurt so much more.
She knew her body, and she was aroused at the sudden image of them together, naked. The chance of Duncan James ever wanting anything to do with her was incredibly slim. She shook her head to remove the erotic images from her mind. Never before had she felt intrigued by a man. He stood in front of her with his dominant attitude, which terrified her. He made her think about herself as a woman and not just someone else within the scheme of things. For the first time since high school she wanted to be someone other than Tess Williams, the motherless fat girl.
She moved around his desk to sit back in her seat. The more distance she put between them the better she’d feel. Her whole body quivered at the passionate possession still alive in her mind. No matter how hard she tried to shut it off, the images kept coming back. Her hands shook as she clasped them on her lap.
“All I have to do is marry you, and you will wipe my father’s slate clean. No debt and no charges?” He nodded his head. Tess knew it couldn’t be that simple. Nothing in life ever was. She had only come here to try to stop her father going to prison. She now got all the debt cleared provided she married the man with a reputation worse than the devil. Tess knew she should be celebrating. How could she celebrate? On the one hand her father would be free, while on the other, she’d be trapped with a man who had no respect for a woman.
“How long will we be married?”
“For as long as we wish.”
So vague, so tempting, and so obviously the thing to do. She could fight him, and then her father would be in prison.
Or she could be married to this man and be free within the next few years. Marriage to this man would be a hardship. From the short time she’d spent in his office she knew he liked to control. He didn’t give anything away. It’s not as if he would demand marital rights from her. He could have any woman he wanted, which left her free to fulfil her own responsibilities. He probably wouldn’t even want to share a house. Nothing in her life would have to change. Her last name and a ring on her wedding finger was all that was required of her. Tess felt her heart lifting. She could do this. It was the only solution, and it had been offered by Duncan James himself. All she needed to do was keep visions of them intimate together out of her mind and she would be fine.
She wondered what could possibly go wrong. It all sounded so clear in her mind. What other choice did she really have? Tess couldn’t let her father rot in some prison cell. Anyway she had heard enough of the awful things that happened in prisons from her own father.
The thought of him going to a place like that made her sick to her stomach. If she had to give up her freedom to protect the only parent she had then she’d do whatever it took.
Duncan watched her as she worked out his proposal in her mind. He knew she would accept his proposal. She didn’t have any other solution to her father’s immediate problems. He held all the cards. Just the way he liked it. Erik would see the inside of a prison cell if she refused. He’d make sure of it. Tess was on his radar now.