Title: Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Author: Mariah Ankenman
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cassandra Brown is desperate. Thanks to her grandmother’s last wishes, she has six months to nab a husband or she’ll lose Gran’s house, the only place she’s ever called home. But is she desperate enough to accept Delta Jackson’s offer of marriage? She can’t marry her best friend’s little brother…can she?
Del knows Cassie is in a pickle, but so is he. He wants to expand the family distillery and open a restaurant. It’s his one chance to prove he’s not the unambitious bartender his family believes he is. He just needs cash, a task that proves harder than he imagined.
Marriage could solve both their problems. Del will play the doting fiancé and husband, and Cassie will give him the startup money he needs. It’s a business agreement. A temporary ruse. Totally fake…
Until it isn’t.
After years of bickering and avoiding their true feelings, Cassie and Del find themselves facing a volcanic attraction that’s poised to explode, taking their fake relationship into very real territory.
Taking another sip, she closed her eyes, a soft moan escaping her full, pink lips. Damn if it didn’t hit him low in his gut. One slim finger reached out to push back a dark brown curl that had fallen from her upswept hairstyle. He loved her hair, wild and gorgeous. Like the woman herself. The kind of hair a man dreamt about wrapping his fingers around in the throes of passion. The woman was sexy as all get out, even when berating his ass. Maybe that’s why this idea appealed to him. They could have so much fun with it.
“Okay, talk,” she said.
Taking a deep breath, he launched right in. “I have a proposal for you.”
She waited a beat, taking another drink from her martini before waving her fingers. “What?”
“That’s it.” He shrugged. “I’m proposing. Marriage.”
Her jaw dropped, green gaze going wide. Then her lips twitched, and she began to laugh. He started to smile, but his humor died when she doubled over, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
“Oh my God, Del. Thank you.” She sat up, wiping the tears that had leaked out. “I needed a laugh.”
“I wasn’t joking.”
Her mirth dissipated. “Wait…what?”
“I’m serious. Do you want me to get down on one knee?” He started to bend when she lurched over the bar, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and dragging him back up.
“Stop it.” She glanced around, but no one paid them any attention. “What the hell, Delta?”
Leaning in close, until their noses were inches apart, he spoke in hushed tones. “Look, you need a husband. I need cash. We can solve both our problems.”
She shook her head. “Are you suggesting I buy a husband?”
“People mail order brides, don’t they?”
“Yeah, but those are strangers they’ve never met. I know you. We’re…friends.”
She didn’t sound too sure about that.
“Besides,” she continued. “What the hell do you need money for?”
He shoved a frustrated hand through his hair. “I need a down payment for a restaurant.”
“Restaurant?” Her brow furrowed. “You’re leaving the distillery?”
“No, I want to add a restaurant to the distillery, but my brothers want me to have the startup funds and…no one will give me a loan.”
Chapped his ass to admit it, but desperate times called for humiliation. He needed money, and she had plenty available.
“So you’re offering to be my…?”
“Investment.” He glanced around, but no one was paying them any attention. “Look, you need a husband. I need startup funds. I’ll pretend to be the doting hubby if you loan me the cash to prove to my brothers this restaurant is a good idea. You’ll be a silent investor and make your money back within five years. Plus more. It’s a win-win.”
“But, we don’t even like each other.”
“From what I gather, most married people don’t.”
“Del.” She pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes tight. “Be serious.”
At his stark tone, she glanced up.
“Think about it, Cassie. You need a husband. One who isn’t a total dick like the douches you’ve been meeting in here the past week.”
“Hey,” she protested. “They weren’t all bad.”
He raised a brow, and she grimaced.
“Okay, fine. They were all terrible.” She dropped her head onto the bar. “Ugh, I hate online dating.”
“Then stop. Ditch the profiles and marry me.”
She turned her head to the side, glancing up at him. “A husband for hire?”
He shrugged. If that’s what she wanted to call it, he didn’t care. She could call him anything she wanted as long as he got his investment money.
“What would this offer entail? If I were to accept.”
Her head lifted, gaze roaming down his body. She plucked the toothpick from her drink, placing the olive skewered on it between her teeth and sliding the fruit slowly off the wooden sliver and into her mouth. His dick hardened at the sensual move. She probably didn’t even realize she’d done it. Green eyes heated as she glanced him over.
Or maybe she had.
Rather than be insulted by Cassie suggesting he basically be her man-whore, the idea intrigued him. He couldn’t deny Cassandra Brown had starred in more than one of his late-night fantasies. Her small stature conjured up images of him lifting her against the wall, pressing her firmly against the hard surface and his hard body as he sank into her warmth. Her dark, curly hair could never be controlled, no matter how hard she tried, but he loved it. It made her look wild, untamable.
And who would want to tame her? Cassie had a fire in her that burned bright. Every emotion shone from those emerald eyes. The woman was a terrible poker player, hence the bet he won. She couldn’t bluff her way out of a paper bag, but she could bring a man to his knees with just a look.
Or a smile.
Cassie had a great smile. Lit up a room whenever she graced people with it. He hadn’t had the pleasure of receiving it too many times. She mostly scowled or rolled her eyes in his presence, but to be honest, that was his fault. He liked to rile her.
“Are you saying you want a full-service marriage?” He leaned closer, so close he could smell the briny olive on her breath. It made him want to take a drink of her. “Cause that can be arranged, Sassy.”
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