FREE ONLINE READ: A Prequel and Excerpt from Kostas’s Convenient Bride
by Lucy Monroe
Over the years, I’ve received countless questions from readers about what happened to this or that character, did they have a baby, was the baby a boy or girl, what are they doing now?
Some characters have gotten cameos in other books, like Leiandros Kiriakis from The Greek Tycoon’s Ultimatum. He showed up in The Greek’s Christmas Baby, but was also mentioned in Not Just the Greek’s Wife. Sebastian Hawk showed up in other books, both before and after his own book (Forbidden: The Billionaire’s Virgin Princess) was written.
In fact, he has a cameo in my upcoming May release, Kostas’s Convenient Bride.
For my compassionate and patient readers, and particularly those who have asked over the years: What ever happened to so-and-so, was their baby a boy or a girl, will their children grow up and get their own stories?” These vignettes peeking into the lives of past characters are for you!
These vignettes are not intended to be books, or even novellas. They do not follow typical story structure with a beginning, a middle, a story climax and an ending. The beginning for each vignette was the book it’s based on. Simply put, these are codas, the asked-for glimpses into the lives of favorite characters.
Each of those glimpses is different. Some are very short, others are near novella length and the rest fall somewhere in between. A few are sexy and sensual, all are a bit emotional, but a couple will take you on a new heart-wrenching journey with the characters.
All answer the question “What happened after the HEA?”
I’ll be releasing a new vignette every couple of weeks so be sure to keep an eye on the Harlequin blog as there will be seven in total. It is my sincere hope that you will find as much joy reading these peeks into the lives of the characters as I had writing them.
Love and hugs,
Kayla & Andreas
from Kostas’s Convenient Bride (May 2018)
Six years before Kostas’s Convenient Bride
Kayla darted around her apartment. Andreas was going to be there any minute and she wasn’t ready for their date. She’d had a final test in her C++ class today. Taking the test was more of a formality, as 75 percent of her grade depended on the program she’d been working on all fall semester and had turned in two days ago. It wasn’t a complicated program, but it was elegant. She could program C++ in her sleep.
Still, she hadn’t wanted to be late for her final exam after a night spent in Andreas Kostas’s arms, so she’d skipped doing her breakfast dishes and they cluttered the sink. Continuing to ignore the undone dishes, she quickly tidied the books spread out over the two crates with a board across them that she used as a coffee table for her aged used sofa. Nothing glamorous in her college experience, but that was going to change when she graduated.
Kayla was building a life for herself and she could barely believe that Andreas Kostas was part of it. The best part.
She’d loved him since the beginning, but he didn’t want to hear the words. She was no more keen to say them, so that was all right. She found it nearly impossible to trust people, but Andreas had used his overwhelming sensuality and charm to sneak past the barriers she kept around her heart.
And while she might love him, that didn’t mean Kayla was all that eager to make herself vulnerable by telling him so.
The sound of a firm knock on her hollow door had her rushing to let Andreas in.
He stood there in a suit, all six feet four inches of him, looking way too gorgeous, his green gaze narrowed and stern. “You did not wait and look through the peephole, Kayla-love.”
“I knew it was you.” Warmth suffused Kayla and it wasn’t because he was chastising her over an old argument.
She adored when he called her Kayla-love. It was probably the closest she would ever get to his admitting his feelings for her. He maintained that theirs was a friendship with sexual benefits.
Amazing, mind-blowing, out-of-this-world sexual benefits.
“How could you be certain without looking?” He was still harping on the door thing.
She rolled her eyes. Wasn’t it obvious? “You have your own knock.”
“I knock on the door like everyone else.”
“Andreas, you don’t do anything like everyone else. It’s just not in you to be less than more.”
“That makes no sense.”
“On the contrary, it makes perfect sense.” Sometimes she just argued with him for the pleasure of seeing his green eyes spark with emotion.
Any emotion, even annoyance.
“Did you want to change before we go?” he asked.
From another guy, Kayla would have taken offense at the suggestion that her bargain basement scoop-necked peach T-shirt, gray hoodie the same color as her eyes and well-worn denim weren’t good enough. But even though he came from the super-wealthy Greek Georgas family, Andreas wasn’t like that. Not even a little.
If he was asking her about changing, he had a reason.
His neatly pressed suit and perfectly knotted silk tie implied they weren’t eating at one of their usual haunts.
“Are we going someplace special?” she asked. “To celebrate the end of the term?”
While Kayla still had another semester before she got her degree, Andreas would be finished with his MBA this one. She wasn’t sure he had plans to walk in the graduation ceremony in June, but she hoped he would. She wanted to cheer for him. He deserved acknowledgement for graduating at the top of his class, if from no one else than from the school he was graduating from and from her.
“We can celebrate another successful semester, yes, but I have something important I need to discuss with you about our future. It deserves a special venue.”
What was he talking about? Something important? He couldn’t mean what it sounded like. “Where are we going?” she asked, doing her best to hide her confusion.
He named a restaurant on the top floor of a building in downtown Portland known for its amazing views and even more impressive food. She’d always wanted to go there, and he knew it because she’d let it slip a couple of months back.
To her, it was the pinnacle of romantic spots.
Kayla’s heart nearly stopped as the implications penetrated her mind. No, it couldn’t be that. He couldn’t want to talk about what she was thinking. He’d been so adamant theirs was just a friendship with benefits, nothing more.
But what else? “That is special,” was all she said. “I guess I’ll put on a skirt.” And try to get her breath back before she hyperventilated.
He followed her into the tiny nook that served as her bedroom, her clothes stacked neatly in plastic bins, her bed a double with no headboard. Kayla’d had a single, but then she’d met him, and she’d saved her money for a bed he would share with her.
Andreas’s hands landed on her shoulders. “Our reservations aren’t for another hour. I can have them pushed back.”
She turned around to face him, making no effort to get out of his personal space. “Why would we want to do that?” she asked, all provocation, her hands already mapping his muscular body.
The fact she had the freedom to touch this man was one of the greatest joys of her life.
“Oh, I can think of a few reasons.” There was a desperate quality to his kiss, like he was imprinting himself on her or imprinting her taste on himself.
Either way, she went pliant against him, giving him full access to her mouth, to her body. To anything he needed.
She could trust this man. He would never take more than she should safely give.
Not like other people. People who had hurt her, dismissed her, made her feel like she would never have her own place in the world.
But Andreas just proclaimed her place was with him and she believed him.
He touched her everywhere, stripping her clothes away from her body, caressing her with knowing hands that had long since learned her sexual hot buttons. Now he used them without compunction, driving her desire higher and higher.
She went after his shirt, yanking it over his head with little concern for wrinkles or the pristine tie he’d been wearing with it. She’d tugged that off first, tossing it over her shoulder.
The incendiary kiss went on and on, their tongues dueling, their lips moving against each other with a quality of emotion she’d never felt from him before. He stripped her. She did her best to return the favor, letting out a curse when his slacks gave her trouble.
He laughed, moving his mouth down her neck, nipping at her now-bare shoulder. “Impatient?”
“I’m already naked. You aren’t yet!”
He undid the buckle on his belt with a deft flick of his wrist, then shucked his slacks and sexy black underwear in one movement.
Andreas reached around her, grabbing her buttocks and lifting her body against his. “I need you.”
“You have me.”
He carried her to the bed, where he proceeded to blow her mind with his touch and his mouth on her body.
He surged up, reached down to the floor and grabbed his tie. “Will you let me?”
“You want to tie my hands?” She couldn’t think what else he’d want to do with it.
“I want to give you immeasurable pleasure.”
Kayla couldn’t even begin to think about letting another lover have her so vulnerable. But with Andreas? “Oh, yeah, I want it.”
He made a comfortable figure eight loop around her wrists and then guided her hands above her head. “Keep them there.”
“If you say so.”
His gaze sparkled with pleasure like the deepest emerald. “I do.”
Kayla had no idea how hard it would be to keep her hands where they were instead of touching her lover or using them to pull him to her.
Her body was slick with sweat, her nipples hard and aching from being sucked on and played with, her most intimate flesh hot and wet and ready for him.
“Come on, Dre! I need you.”
“I love when you shorten my name like that. No one else does.”
“You wouldn’t let them.”
“You’re special, Kayla-love. You’re my person.”
Oh…oh…man…he was going to ask what she’d been thinking earlier. They’d been together for two years. He never talked about the future, but that was going to change tonight, she just knew it.
Her thoughts splintered into a cascade of sparkling light behind her eyelids when he put his mouth on her, right where she was aching the most.
Her climax came roaring through her, making her buck under him, bringing forth a primal scream she made no effort to stifle. Andreas wasn’t done with her yet, though. He wiped his mouth on the sheet and then moved up the bed, kissing her along the way, taking a highly sensitive nipple into his mouth and first suckling, then nibbling, then suckling again.
The pleasure that had left her body limp began to build inside her again, this time in tsunami proportions. He surged inside her just as she came for the second time and rode her through the pleasure, forcing her body to a third, impossible orgasm that locked every one of her muscles and nearly took her consciousness, it went so deep.
Finally he came, as well, her name on his lips, his hold on her nearly bruising.
He fell beside her, the dark hair at his temples wet with sweat. “I think we’ll have to wait for tomorrow for that special dinner.”
She could wait. Knowing it was about their future. She could wait.
The next night, Kayla slid into her chair at the linen-covered table, the ambient lighting giving the expensive restaurant a soft glow. Andreas moved back around the table and took his own seat, his expression solemn.
“You’ve been quiet since you picked me up.” Kayla smoothed the napkin over the skirt of the apricot dress that hugged all her curves. She’d found it in resale shop and loved the way it made her feel sexy and feminine. “Are you nervous?”
She couldn’t imagine it. Andreas Kostas didn’t do nerves. Or fear. Or self-doubt. Or any of the other normal human weaknesses that plagued her so much.
“This, what I want to talk to you about, it is very important. My future, our future, depends on your answer.”
The air disappeared from the spacious restaurant, leaving Kayla gasping. “You don’t mean…you’re not asking…”
“Now, don’t go getting worked up, Kayla.” He jumped up and came around the table, cupping her face in both his hands and breathing with her until she was calm enough for him to return to his seat. “This is nothing to have an anxiety attack over.”
“It’s not?” It sounded pretty serious to her. Their future depended on her answer.
She tugged at one of her kinky black curls, a nervous gesture she’d never quite been able to rid herself of.
He reached across the table and took her hand in his, the difference in the skin tones showing his Mediterranean roots and her biracial ones. Not that she knew the origin of hers, having been abandoned by her mother at age three with no clear memories of the woman or her father, if she’d ever known him at all. Kayla had no idea which of her parents had donated the genes that gave her tight, curly black hair, a café-au-lait skin tone and eyes the color of slate.
Andreas tightened his hold on her hand, his green gaze going oh, so serious. “You know I’ve been building my investment portfolio so I could start a business.”
“Yes.” He had things to prove to his Greek family, the one he’d rejected when he went back to using his mother’s surname.
And he’d spent all of his college years living almost as frugally as she did so he could build up the capital to start his own business. His father had paid for Andreas’s school, but he had refused to accept anything else from the Georgas clan. She knew that, one day, he planned to pay his father back for the tuition investment, as well.
He let go of her hand but leaned forward, across the table, his jaw clenched with emotion. “I need your help to make my vision a reality.”
“Whatever you need.” How could he doubt it? Not only were they lovers, but he was the closest thing to family she was ever likely to have.
His smile was brilliant and maybe even a little relieved. He had been nervous! “I know you mean that. I’ve never had a friend like you, Kayla.”
“You said it. I’m your people. You’re my people, too.” She didn’t have anyone else. The only foster mom that had ever cared had died when Kayla was in high school. She’d been alone ever since, until she met Andreas and he’d pulled her into his life.
“I want you to go into business with me.”
“Wait. What?” Business? “I’m a programmer.”
“A brilliant one. The project you did for your PEARL class is the beginning of what could be the most effective cyber computer program any corporation has ever seen.”
“I don’t have any money to go into business with you.” Some months she didn’t have money for food, not that he ever let her go without.
Andreas always found a way to make sure Kayla had what she needed, and he never crushed her pride to do it.
No wonder she loved him.
“You provide the program and I’ll do the rest.”
“The rest is a lot.” Hiring people. Setting up an office. Selling the program that wasn’t yet ready for this kind of plan, so that meant financing a development phase. “That’s not anything like an equal partnership.”
“No, it won’t be,” he agreed unapologetically. “I’ll pay you a salary and give you five percent of the company and as much time as you need to develop the program before we take it international.”
He had thought this through, and while he was being fair, he wasn’t offering Kayla her dreams on a platter.
“Straight to the world markets, huh?”
“Naturally. I cannot outclass Georgas Shipping without taking risks.”
Finally, she understood. This was the important thing, the future he’d wanted to talk to her about. Not marriage. Not them. And while she was painfully disappointed, he was still talking about building a future with her in it.
“So, this business thing. That’s what you wanted to talk about tonight?” she clarified.
“What else? It’s our future, Kayla. I promise you, you will never regret taking me on as a business partner. I will make sure you are always provided for.”
She had no problem believing that. “What about us?”
Things shouldn’t change between them, but a sliver of unease made its way down Kayla’s spine at the look on his handsome young face.
“Unfortunately, last night will have to be our final time in bed together. We cannot mix business with a sexual relationship.” He looked truly regretful.
That didn’t help the shards of pain piercing her heart right then. “Is that one of your rules, like no long-term commitment?”
His eyes widened at her tone. “It is, yes. I know what I’m talking about. Sexual partners are temporary, but business partners are in it for the long haul.”
“You’re breaking up with me?” she asked, disbelief making a small barrier between the pain threatening to consume Kayla and her heart.
“We have always been friends. We will always be friends.” He frowned, as if offended by having to explain this. “That is not breaking up with you.”
“But you don’t want to have sex anymore.”
“We cannot continue to be sex partners and go into business together.” There was such certainty in his tone, she could not doubt he meant every word.
And would not be moved.
“And the business is more important to you?” she pushed, unable to accept that was the case.
Being with him was the most important thing in her life. How could he feel so differently?
“Building this business is the entire reason I got my MBA. You know my goals. I will prove to the Georgas clan that Melia Kostas’s son does not need them. Not in any way. And I will outshine them in the financial arena, in every way that matters.”
Even if it meant giving up their two-year sexual relationship to do it.
“I need to think about it.” A vice of pain was squeezing her heart and Kayla didn’t know if she could stay friends with Andreas, after all.
Andreas nodded. “Take all the time you need.”
Kayla hadn’t given him an answer a week later.
Her heart was fighting a battle with her brain and she didn’t know which one was on the side of walking away and which one wanted her to take him up on his business offer.
Andreas hadn’t pressured her to make a decision, but he hadn’t left her alone, either. He texted her throughout the day, like he’d always done. Only now there were never any sexual overtones to his messages. He’d come over with dinner twice, asking about her plans for the winter break.
Her plans were to stay in her poky apartment. Alone. She had no plans to celebrate the holiday. Holidays were for people with families, even made families. Kayla had no one.
A knock sounded on her door followed by a strange scratching against the battered wood.
She looked out through the peephole, no longer sure it would be Andreas on the other side. What she saw left her as confused as the maelstrom of emotions swirling inside her.
All she saw was something dark.
“Kayla, open the door.”
That was Andreas’s voice.
She pulled back the chain, opened the door and just stared. There was the man who called her his person with a Christmas tree, a box of decorations at his feet, some brightly wrapped gifts and, if the smells coming from the large brown shopping bag were any indication, a traditional turkey Christmas dinner for two.
“Andreas, what are you doing here?”
“It’s Christmas. Where else would I be, but spending it with my best friend?” The words were confident, but the tiny flash of vulnerability that showed in his green gaze hit her right in the heart.
And, suddenly, she knew her answer. She would go into business with Andreas. Because one day he was going to wake up and realize that they were better than best friends.
They were two halves of the same soul.
Here is an excerpt of Kostas’s Convenient Bride (May 2018)
Kayla Jones hop-rushed down the hall toward Andreas’s office, buckling her denim wedge sandal as she went. She’d stripped out of her clean-room bunny suit in less than a minute, but redressing took longer.
Late for a high priority meeting with the type A, ultra-alpha president of KJ Software was nothing Kayla wanted to be.
Even if he was her business partner. Technically.
He’d been weird lately. Cranky. Even more exacting than usual.
Andreas’s twentysomething, super-efficient male admin made a stopping motion with his hand. Kayla stopped but let her widened eyes let him know how little she wanted to.
“I know,” he mouthed, sympathy imbuing his expression as some complicated sign language finally clued Kayla in to the fact that her peach cardigan knit jacket was on inside out.
She flipped it with rushed, jerky movements and then Bradley waved Kayla through with a significant nod toward her waistband. She looked down and realized the button at the top of the zipper on her peach damask-on-denim skirt was undone.
With a harried smile of thanks, she quickly fastened it as she opened the door to the big man’s office. “Sorry I’m late, Andreas. I was supervising tests on Dolphin.” She preferred to name all their projects after marine life and Andreas indulged her whimsy.
Kayla stopped abruptly as she realized her boss wasn’t in his usual spot behind his big chrome and glass desk, but sitting at one end of the eight-person smoky-glass-topped meeting table.
A woman was with him. Blond hair piled in a sleek, professional updo and wearing a stylish white suit, she gave Kayla an assessing look.
“This is your business partner?” she asked Andreas, her tone tinged with disbelief.
“Yes.” Andreas frowned at Kayla. “I told you this meeting was high priority.”
“Technically, my smartphone told me. You flagged it.” Who was this woman and what kind of meeting were they having?
Andreas gave her that look, the one that said Kayla was being a tad too literal again. She stifled the urge to apologize. She’d been working on that.
Not apologizing for being herself.
“Well, she’s here now,” the other woman pointed out. “I presume we can get started now?” Her words were take-charge, but her expression toward Andreas was nothing but deferential.
“Get started on what?” Kayla asked as she settled into one of the leather high-backed chairs on Andreas’s left, across from the stranger.
Apparently he wasn’t done glowering about Kayla’s tardiness, because he did not answer.
Kayla rolled her eyes, absolutely refusing to utter the “I’m sorry” on the tip of her tongue. While he had marked the meeting as a priority, he’d had Bradley insert it into Kayla’s schedule when she’d already blocked off the time for the Dolphin tests. She could wait out Andreas’s snit. She’d done it before.
With a sound of impatience, the other woman spoke. “We are here to discuss how Andreas’s search for a wife will impact his business.”
Everything around Kayla came into sharp focus. The sound each of them made as they breathed in the quiet of the room. The floral musk of the other woman’s perfume that smelled out of place. The fingerprint smudges on the glass in front of the blonde that indicated she’d pressed her hands on the table for some reason. Kayla wanted to wipe them away, erase the evidence of the woman’s presence, even as she sat there.
Kayla shook her head. Denial a scream inside her. That could not be right.
Andreas was no help. He still sat there with the stony, you-were-late expression on his handsome, angular face, his green eyes snapping with disapproval.
“Search for a wife?” Kayla’s breath ran out on the final word, her entire body going cold and then hot with the implications.
Andreas finally deigned to nod, not one strand of his dark hair going out of place with the short movement. “It’s time.”
“It is?” Kayla hadn’t noticed Andreas being any less focused on business. Any more open to interpersonal relationships.
She would have noticed. She’d been watching for just such a change in him for the past six years.
In fact, lately he’d been more driven and working even longer hours than usual and expecting her to do the same, wanting Dolphin’s launch to be on time and without a single hiccup.
“I’ve exceeded my father’s net worth. A wife and family are next on the list.” He didn’t shrug, his perfectly tailored, suit-clad shoulders remained ramrod straight, but the sense of dismissal was there in his voice.
Like this decision wasn’t something life changing, monumental and the one thing Kayla had been hoping for since they broke up to become business partners.
Kayla looked at the woman who had informed her of Andreas’s plans. Who was she? And why did she know his personal plans when Kayla, a friend, had not?
A truly horrifying prospect popped into Kayla’s mind. Was this woman a matchmaker? It would be just like Andreas to hire a professional to find him a wife.
Not that he needed one.
While Kayla had been practically celibate the past years, the same could not be said of Andreas. He’d taken many beautiful women to his bed, each and every one a risk to Kayla’s hopes for the future. But he’d never gotten serious, his heart and Kayla’s deepest desires remaining unchanged.
“That’s what I’m here for,” the sleek blonde said confidently.
“You’re a matchmaker?” Kayla asked for confirmation, still trying to come to terms with that possible reality.
The woman nodded. “I own the Patterson Group.”
It sounded like a firm of lawyers, not a service designed to bring people together in wedded bliss.
“She specializes in millionaires,” Andreas added, like that was important.
“You’re a billionaire.” On paper, anyway.
KJ Software was obscenely successful, just like Andreas had said it would be. The company, of which he owned 95 percent, was valued at over a billion dollars. Not bad for six years of blood, sweat and sleepless nights working.
The matchmaker nodded, her expression showing how much she appreciated the distinction and the fact Andreas was her client. Kayla knew being a billionaire rather than just worth millions mattered to Andreas, too. A lot. That valuation was what had spurred this particular move toward domestic harmony, after all. He was finally worth more than his father, but still had more to prove.
Andreas was giving Kayla that look again. “Don’t be so literal. The point is that Miss Patterson—”
“Genevieve, please.” The blonde’s smile was all polish, no substance.
“Genevieve…” Kayla wondered if Genevieve noticed the short pause and the way Andreas’s square jaw tightened when using the more personal address “…specializes in matching wealthy men with women who will make them the ideal wife.”
Kayla was appalled and made no effort to hide it. “I don’t think it works like that.”
She wasn’t opposed to matchmakers, was sure that there were plenty in the business who really believed in matching two people meant to be together. But this woman? She was every bit as predatory in her way as Andreas. Kayla had learned to read people when she was very young.
If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have survived her childhood.
Genevieve of the Patterson Group did not read as caring about long-term happiness or emotional harmony by any stretch of the imagination.
“My track record speaks for itself,” the woman said now, superiority in her tone and the tilt of her head. So, impressed and happy to have Andreas as a client, but arrogant and utterly sure of herself, as well.
“If it didn’t, I wouldn’t consider your twenty-five-thousand-dollar retainer.”
Kayla gasped. “I’m pretty sure you can buy a bride who looks like a supermodel for that kind of money.”
Or, you know, just marry the woman who had loved him for the last eight years and waited in hope for the past six.
“Your employer isn’t looking for a trophy bride. He’s interested in finding someone to share his life with.” The matchmaker’s self-righteous rhetoric would have been a lot more convincing if she’d protested as vehemently at Andreas referring to finding a wife as the next item on his goal list.
If Andreas was really looking for a soul mate, he wouldn’t look beyond the one woman he’d called friend for nearly a decade. Would he?
They hadn’t broken up because they weren’t good together. They’d ended their sexual relationship because Andreas had very strict views in regard to business and personal relationships. They’d never had what one might term a romantic relationship.
It had been friends with benefits.
Kayla had thought that was changing, that their relationship had been morphing into something deeper.
She had been wrong.
Andreas had wanted to morph it, all right, but not into something more personal. He’d wanted her senior-project software as the cornerstone of his new digital security company. And he’d made it very clear that he valued her skills as a programmer above her willingness to share his bed.
The six-year-old rejection she’d thought dealt with and dormant erupted with the power to leave her heart in ashes.
She had to get out of there.
Forcing her emotions behind the blank face she’d carefully crafted during a childhood spent bouncing from one foster home to another, Kayla asked, “Why am I here? What do you need from me?”
“You are my business partner,” Andreas said, like that explained everything.
“Five percent ownership hardly makes me a material partner.” It was an old argument, one Andreas had never given in on.
The expression on the matchmaker’s face said she agreed with Kayla, though.
Andreas frowned. The man didn’t like being corrected and barely tolerated it from Kayla, but she never let that stop her from saying what needed saying. At least, when it came to the business.
“You are my partner and this change in circumstance will affect the business and therefore you, by default.” Andreas’s tone brooked no argument.
Kayla was still confused, though—something she was used to when it came to interpersonal relationships, but not their company. “Why?”
She wasn’t in the running. This whole pay-a-matchmaker-ridiculous-amounts-of-money thing made that very clear. And it hurt. Badly.
But she was confident Andreas had no clue. So why was he so convinced Kayla’s life was going to be impacted?
Once again, he was giving her a look that said she’d missed something. Since he’d missed the fact she’d been in love with him since the beginning, she didn’t feel as badly about that as she usually would have.
Genevieve spoke, her tone one you might use with a small child. “Marriage brings about significant changes in a person’s life, and since Andreas is the heart and blood of this company, it stands to reason his marriage will have a significant impact on the company and its higher-level employees.”
Andreas’s eyelid twitched at the familiar address, or maybe it was the reference to employees rather than partners, but he didn’t correct Genevieve.
“Are we going public, then?” They’d been discussing it, or at least Andreas had been telling her he was thinking about it for the past year.
Doing so would make him a billionaire for real, not just in net worth. Kayla wouldn’t do badly out of it, either. She’d be able to fund an entire chain of Kayla for Kids facilities instead of the single local group home for foster children with neighborhood after-school activities that she currently did.
“No.” Andreas frowned. “I answer to no one.”
Now, that didn’t surprise her. While she might have dreams of funding Kayla for Kids houses in every major city, she knew how unlikely that really was. Andreas did not want to answer to shareholders or a board of directors. His father had dictated things about Andreas’s life when he’d been powerless to stop the overbearing Greek tycoon, and no way would her Greek-American business mogul ever tolerate someone else having major say in his life again.
“Perhaps you should consider selling the company outright, as you spoke about at our first meeting. It would free you up to make your search for the right marital partner,” Genevieve suggested, her tone implying she thought it an imminently practical solution. “Being a liquid billionaire wouldn’t hurt your chances in the dating pool, either. I’m sure we could snag you royalty.”
So much for not looking for a trophy wife.
Kayla couldn’t get a full breath. “You want him to sell the company?” So he could buy a princess?
“It is one solution.”
“To what?” So far, Kayla didn’t see a problem that needed solving.
Except the whole buy-a-bride thing. And Andreas had plenty of money to do that without selling their company. Without ripping everything she’d spent the last six years building out from under her.
“Andreas cannot continue to put in twelve- to sixteen-hour days. It’s part of the agreement with my firm.” Genevieve tapped her tablet with one long fingernail.
“You signed an agreement?” Kayla asked Andreas.
He gave her that look. The one that implied she was a few steps behind in the business side of a discussion. It had happened before.
But this was crazy.
“That limits the number of hours you work?” she clarified.
“That doesn’t mean you have to consider selling the company.” Andreas wouldn’t give in on this particular issue, would he? It was too important.
He might not love Kayla. Heck, maybe he’d never even really cared about her as anything but a brilliant programmer with a new idea, but he cared about their company. It wasn’t just Kayla who’d found stability and a purpose with KJ Software.
Andreas had always been crazy protective when it came to the company and pure predator in his role as president. The idea that he would even consider selling it should be ludicrous. Only the calculating expression in Andreas’s green gaze made Kayla’s short nails dig into suddenly sweaty palms.
No. He’d made comments over the past year. Sarcastic one-offs about selling KJ Software that she’d given the credence they deserved.
Andreas might be the lifeblood of the company, but Genevieve had gotten it wrong. Kayla’s job might technically be Director of Research and Development, but she was KJ Software’s heart and she couldn’t be that if her own stopped beating. Didn’t they realize that?
“Are you all right, Kayla?” Andreas asked, handsome features etched with concern.
She stared at him, not sure she could answer. Her entire world was imploding.
“We’ve done what we set out to do with this company.” Andreas leaned back in his chair, his big body relaxed, his tone satisfied…like his words weren’t slashing jagged wounds right into her heart. “Sebastian Hawk has approached me about a merger with his security firm.”
“A merger or a buyout?” she demanded.
Andreas winced, perhaps recognizing his news was not as welcome as he’d expected it to be. “A buyout is the most likely final scenario.”
“Why?” Owner of one of the largest security firms worldwide, Sebastian Hawk was one of their biggest customers and had been since the beginning. “He already licenses our software.” For his own company and in a secondary capacity for his clients.
Andreas replied, “He wants to own it.”
“He’s a control freak, like you.”
Andreas shrugged. “He has three children and a legacy to leave them.”
“What about your children?” Presumably if Andreas was ready to get married, he was looking forward to parenthood, as well.
He had often said the only reason he would ever marry was to have a real family. Didn’t he want a legacy for his own children?
“I’m thinking about going into venture capital investments.”
“You’ve been watching that show again, haven’t you?” she asked, referring to a favorite reality television program of his.
They’d watched the show about venture capitalists who invested in and mentored startup businesses many times. Andreas prided himself on being able to guess which entrepreneurs were going to get multiple offers from the sharks and which would leave the “tank” without a single offer at all.
“As fascinating as all this is, we need to wrap this meeting up.” Genevieve’s voice grated in an unwelcome reminder of her presence as she glanced at her designer watch. “I have another client meeting.”
Really? Lots of super-wealthy guys were looking for bride pimps? “How many clients do you take on at a time?”
“That is privileged information,” Genevieve informed her haughtily.
But Kayla had spent most of her life in the foster care system. Haughty wasn’t going to intimidate her. “Not with the kind of retainer you charged Andreas.”
“I was under the impression you paid out of your personal account?”
Andreas’s expression filled with annoyance. “Of course I did.”
“Then I do not see where this is any of your business.” The matchmaker’s condescending tone might have annoyed Kayla, but she had concerns much closer to her heart right now.
She stood on shaky legs. “You’re right. It’s not. In fact, I still don’t know what the heck I’m doing here at all. If you’re going to sell the company, my tiny minority percent isn’t going to stop you. If you want to pay this woman more than a lot of people make in a year to find you some dates when I don’t see you struggling for company now, that’s none of my business.”
The cold inside her grew with every word, but so did Kayla’s resolve. “I do not appreciate being called away from my work for something you could have handled in a text.”
“You expected me to tell you I was selling the company in a text?” Andreas demanded, sounding shocked.
“I didn’t expect you to sell the company at all, certainly not to tell me about it as a fait accompli in a meeting with a third party.” Dismissing Genevieve’s presence, Kayla met Andreas’s gaze. “But I’m realizing now I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.”
He’d said this meeting was about the matchmaker. The selling of the company had come up as part of the discussion. Or that was how it had seemed. But apparently it had been part of his agenda all along.
Kayla turned on her heel and walked out of the office, the numbness spreading with the cold. She’d been like this a few times before in her life.
The day she realized her mom was not coming back. She hadn’t spoken for two years after.
The day her foster mom died and she was placed in the first of a string of homes.
The day she realized Andreas wanted her for her programming skills more than her place in his bed or even their friendship.
Andreas’s personal assistant stood up as Kayla came out of the office. “Are you okay?”
Kayla just shook her head.
“What’s going on?”
“He’s getting married.” Kayla wasn’t going to mention the possibility that he was going to sell their company. After all, that wasn’t supposed to have been the reason for the meeting.
“To her?” Bradley’s eyes widened, his face going slack.
“She’s the matchmaker.”
Bradley laid his hand on Kayla’s arm. “I’m sorry.”
He didn’t say anything else, but he’d been working for Andreas from the beginning. Other than Andreas, Bradley knew Kayla better than anyone else alive. Maybe better, because he’d realized the first year they worked together that she was in love with the oblivious Greek.
About the Author
With more than seven million copies of her books in print worldwide, award-winning and USA TODAY bestselling author Lucy Monroe has published over sixty books and had her stories translated for sale all over the world. While she writes multiple subgenres of romance, all her books are sexy, deeply emotional and adhere to the concept that love will conquer all. A passionate devotee of romance, she adores sharing her love for the genre with her readers.
Look for Lucy Monroe’s next title from Harlequin Presents:
Kostas’s Convenient Bride
Coming May 2018!