The Man Must Marry

By: Janet Chapman



That was why Bram hadn’t been able to choose among them. He didn’t want to turn his business over to just one of his boys; they all owned shares in Tidewater, and they all were wealthy men in their own rights, thanks to the Sinclair drive. To pick one to head his company was clearly too hard for the old man.

The limo pulled up to the Marriott, where Willa was waiting in the lobby. She reminded Sam of an absentminded professor, whose body was having trouble keeping up with her brain. Willamina Kent ’s head was too far into the clouds to see the everyday details of life. And her heart, apparently, was her own worst enemy. Why else would she have come on this mission for a man she’d only known for six weeks?

As soon as she saw him get out of the car, she headed for the revolving door. She’d traded her saddlebag of a purse for a clutch with a long strap that dangled from her fist. Sam watched in stoic resignation as she pushed through the door, snagging her purse in the sweep of the door behind her. The strap snapped, and the purse landed on the ground, unceremoniously pushed along by the door behind her.

Her ankles wobbled as she reached down to get it. Sam grabbed her elbow to steady her, then retrieved the purse himself.

“Thank you,” she murmured, clutching the mangled purse, the long strap dangling like a tail as she headed for the car.

Sam settled her into the silent limo. Getting in beside her, he saw her cheeks were flaming red. They matched her dress.

The dress looked as if it had come from a thrift shop, the style even older than the suit she’d worn earlier, with a high collar in danger of choking her. Ruffles grazed her chin, and the hem was nearly at her ankles.

At least her shoes were better this time. They were black, again with two-inch heels, and matched the wide belt cinching her waist. The purse she was industriously trying to repair was tan. Sam reached over and took it from her. Upon examination, he quickly decided the thing was a lost cause and broke off the strap. “Now you have a hand clutch,” he said, handing it back to her. Her gaze, which had widened when he’d popped the useless strap, lowered to her lap. Turning the small handbag over and over, she finally looked up at the others in the car and gave them a shy smile.

“Hello again,” she said to Jesse, who couldn’t quit staring. Ben quietly kicked him.

“Ah…hello,” Jesse answered. “I guess I should make the introductions. This is my friend, Darcy. And this is Paula, Ben’s friend. Ladies, this is Willamina.”

Everyone smiled graciously, then Willa turned to Sam. “Are we going to pick up your date next?” she asked.

“No. I drew the short straw.”

Her face flushed, and her head bent down, causing her precarious topknot to loosen. Aw, hell. He hadn’t really meant to say that. He knew she didn’t want to be there any more than they did. But despite what he had said to his brothers about Willa’s courage, she was also husband hunting. Only someone hoping to marry into the Sinclair wealth would agree to come toNew York to vote on something she knew nothing about.

Well, by the end of this evening, Willamina Kent would be more than ready to fly home after a triple dose of confirmed bachelorism. They’d all sent better women than she down the road shaking their heads. Bram was going to have to go to his grave without getting a granddaughter-in-law. Sorry for hurting her feelings but determined to stand firm against the threat she posed, Sam turned away and stared out the window.

The man may as well have slapped her face. She didn’t want to be the arrogant jerk’s date. She didn’t want to be anyone’s date. Especially not one of these three puffed-up baboons parading as men. They were just like their grandfather—and Willa didn’t consider that a compliment. Abram Sinclair was a bossy, arrogant old goat, even if she did love him. But that didn’t mean she had to love his grandsons. She didn’t even have to like them.

She was there on a mission of mercy and nothing else, despite what Abram hoped. Oh, she knew he had matchmaking up his sleeve. He’d been blatant enough with his praise and subtle hints that his boys were all lonely, misunderstood men.

Well, they could damn well find their own wives. Which shouldn’t be hard; they were gorgeous. But even if they were butt ugly, they were wealthy enough to have women drooling at their feet. Willa eyed the women in the car. They were beautiful. Elegant. Skinny. Everything she was not. She hated them; she hatedNew York . And she hated anyone named Sinclair. The restaurant they arrived at was over-the-top fancy and the only nonlimos pulling up were foreign and expensive. Willa felt like a wren in a house of predatory cats. Sam Sinclair wasn’t helping matters.

“If you take my elbow again, I’m going to drive my heel into your shin,” she softly warned when he reached for her.

He drew back as if she’d bitten him, then his eyes narrowed. “If you fall flat on your face, I’m going to leave you there.”

Chin raised and with all the dignity she could muster, Willa followed the other women inside—into an Asian country.

Damn. Foreign food. And if they expected her to use two little sticks to eat with, she’d starve first. She was aMaine girl; she ate meat and potatoes and seafood. Pronounceable seafood. They were soon seated around a large circular table in a room so dimly lit she could barely see across it. Not knowing what else to do with her…clutch purse, Willa set it on her lap, only to have it slide down her satiny dress, fall onto the floor, and bounce off her foot. She heard Sam sigh. The damn purse could damn well stay where it was; all it held were some tissues. Willa hated purses. Doing errands at home, she wore jeans and sneakers and a small fanny pack. She didn’t have time to chase down a purse whenever she wanted something. Since she’d leftMaine , she’d spent more time babysitting her purse than anything else. The floor sweeper could have this one. They were given menus, and everyone ordered drinks. Willa got stared at again when she ordered a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks. A double.

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