Wife by Wednesday (Chapter Three)

The plane reached cruising altitude and the pilot told them they could remove their seatbelts for the forty-five minute flight to Las Vegas. Blake took advantage of the freedom to move about the cabin of his private jet and open a bottle of champagne.

Samantha said very little once they boarded. After she had agreed to be his wife for a year, he solidified his plans for a wedding chapel visit in SinCity. He believed a seemingly romantic wedding in Vegas would appear more legitimate to Parker and Parker than a drive to city hall.

When he glanced at his fiance, he noted how her hands twisted in her lap. Funny, he was the one with everything to lose, but she was the one fidgeting. "Here, maybe this will help." He handed her a tall flute and sat across from her in the oversize, plush leather chair.

"Am I so obvious?"

"The white knuckles give you away."

Samantha swallowed half the wine in one drink. "I never wanted to be an actress."

"I'd bet the studios would pay top dollar for you to do voiceovers."

She shrugged. "If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that."

He could only imagine. "You do have an amazing voice."

Samantha's eyes scurried away from his and her cheeks started to take on a rosy glow. "I think this marriage thing will work out better if we didn't find anything about the each other amazing. Nothing personal, anyway."

"You're probably right, but being honest is something we both agreed to. And your voice is sexy as hell." Watching her squirm under his compliment was worth him showing his cards. She wore a full-on blush now and it was nothing short of adorable.

Just like that, her glass was empty. "I'm not sure if I should thank you or encourage you to be less shallow."

"Ouch."

"You wanted honesty."

He watched her toe off her high heels and tuck her legs under the seat. Some of the color started to return to her fingers. Obviously dissing him put her at ease. He wasn't sure how to take that. "The only person in my life who's called me shallow is Carter."

"Your best friend?"

"My one real friend."

"Really? I'd think a man with your wealth would have an entourage of friends."

"Money brings people, not friends," he said.

"Amen to that. I take it Carter knows about us. Our arrangement I mean."

"He does."

"What about your girlfriends? Do they know?"

Now it was his turn to squirm. Even though their marriage would be a sham, talking about his lovers with his wife didn't feel right.

"Telling my girlfriends, as you call them, would be equivalent to calling the Inquisitor and giving them a full page interview." Blake finished his wine and stood to refill their glasses.

"You don't trust them?"

"Not with this."

"How do men do it?"

"Do what?"

"Sleep with women they don't trust?" Samantha thanked him for the wine and sipped it slowly this time.

"It's called attraction."

Laughing, she said, "It's called lust."

"That, too." Blake's insides started to warm. When was the last time he'd held a conversation with a woman about the motivations of men? Never. He found he liked it.

"So what did you say to your… what do you call the women in your life, lovers?"

The title of lovers started to feel too personal. "I haven't told them anything… yet."

She lifted her manicured eyebrows high. "I'd like to be a fly on the wall during that conversation. Oh, darling, by the way… I got married over the weekend." Samantha laughed at her own joke.

"I don't think I'll tell them like that." He wasn't sure how he would break the news and honestly hadn't given it a second thought.

"You do realize you stand the risk of losing them both, right?"

"How did you know there were two?" He shook his head and put a hand in the air. "Never mind. I forgot about your intensive background check. You don't have to worry about either of them. You'll never meet."

Samantha placed a hand over her chest and smiled. "Shallow and a tiny bit naive."

Lord, there she was calling him names again. "Excuse me?"

"If you and I were dating, and you suddenly up and married another woman, as much as I'd hate myself for doing it, I'd figure out a way to meet the woman I didn't measure up to. Women are emotional creatures, Mr. Har… Blake. I might fight that gender trait with a nine iron, but still can't beat down certain impulses. I highly doubt Vanessa and Jackie – "

"Jacqueline," he corrected.

"Excuse me, Jacqueline, are any different. Which one is most likely to be heartbroken?"

The honesty thing was going too far. Even if the casual trek through his personal life was lifting the edge of unease from his fiance's frame, he wasn't comfortable. Samantha had tucked her feet under her bottom and was relaxed for the first time since he'd met her. The smile on her face didn't look forced and her green eyes glistened with a spark of mischief. He would have liked to put her in this mood by something other than a discussion about his previous lovers, and previous is what they'd have to be. He thought for a moment what Vanessa and Jacqueline would say once told of his marriage. Vanessa would be prone to slapping him and walking away. Jacqueline wouldn't be as dramatic, but continuing his relationship with her would be risky. "Both women knew about the other."

"But which one wanted more?"

"I can't believe my fiance is asking me these questions."

"Which one, Blake?"

Samantha was relentless.

"Vanessa. Though I doubt she'd seek you out. Besides, she lives in London and only visits New York for short periods of time."

"Right, and Jacqueline lives between New York and Spain."

The pilot's voice sounded over the loudspeaker announcing their approach to the Nevada airport. "You've done your homework." Blake moved to the seat beside to her.

"Always." She looked proud of herself.

"You'll inform me if either of them end up on your doorstep?"

Samantha straightened her legs and clicked her seatbelt. "You'll be the first to know."

The jet started to descend and Samantha glanced out the window. Between the wine and the conversation, she no longer looked like she'd run from the altar. Blake took her hand in his and felt her jump. "You might try to control that," he suggested.

She glanced at their hands and took a deep breath. "I'm trying."

Blake left his hand on hers and made a mental note to hold it often. Did she jump because his touch bothered her, or because she liked it? Maybe she liked it and that bothered her. Oh well, he mused, she'd have to grow used to it.

As the plane descended from the sky, and the wheels skidded on the runway, Blake watched a play of emotions cross over Samantha's face. Her pouty pink lips that had been smiling moments ago grew into a straight line. With any other woman, he'd lean over and kiss the worry away. The unexpected desire to do just that welled inside him. How would she taste? Sweet from the wine he decided. The thought of her sexy voice whispering into his ear, encouraging him to do more than kiss her, surged to his groin. He forced his gaze away from her face and squeezed her hand.

When the pilot told them they were clear to unbuckle, Blake turned to Samantha. "Ready to get married?"

She turned her hand over and laced her fingers with his. "What the hell, I didn't have anything better planned for today."

Blake tossed his head back and laughed.

****

After a short limo ride to the newest resort hotel on the strip, Samantha stood at the altar holding Blake's hand. He'd given her a ring to give to him and gasped when he'd slid a four-caret diamond encrusted sapphire on her finger. "For his Duchess," he'd said. Even the minister gaped at the ring. Somewhere between the limo and the ring, Samantha realized that Blake would likely kiss her at the completion of the ceremony. Why wouldn't he? If the lawyers questioned the minister and the witness, Blake would want them to believe that they were madly in love and eloping. So, instead of considering her marriage vows, vows neither of them planned on keeping, Sam couldn't stop thinking about Blake's impending kiss.

The room started to feel too warm, and her palms started to sweat. Samantha repeated her vows and listened to Blake promise to forsake all others.

"… I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."

She gulped.

Although she was ready to fall into a heap on the floor, Blake was a statue of control. He wrapped one arm around her waist and dropped his gaze to hers. Grey eyes sparkled and his perfect lips pulled up at the corners.

She licked her lips and forced them to smile. Her stomach twisted as he drew her closer. Blake used his free hand to hold her cheek. He hesitated over her lips. Samantha felt the heat of his breath and let her body relax into his embrace.

Then his lips were there, moist, firm, and completely intoxicating. Electricity zapped her brain and wiggled down her body. Even in heels, she tiptoed to meet his kiss. His arm crushed her body to his, her breasts pushed against his taut chest. She gasped and his tongue slid into her mouth.

Samantha forgot about the minister, about the strangers watching, and simply gave into the pleasure Blake Harrison evoked inside her body. It had been eons since she'd been kissed, and certainly no one compared. Maybe it was the fact that she was learning Blake's touch after exchanging wedding vows, or maybe it was the man himself. Perhaps all Dukes kissed like him.

Someone cleared his throat and Samantha felt Blake pull away. Something close to confusion settled in his eyes. Was it possible that Blake felt that kiss as deeply as she did? She thought of the two women he'd have to give an explanation to, and decided that the kiss couldn't have affected him nearly as much. Blake, her husband, was a player. She'd have to remember that.

"Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Harrison. If you'll follow me and sign a couple of papers, the two of you can begin your honeymoon." The minister ushered them from the small chapel where Samantha signed her name next to Blake's.

Just like that, she was a married woman.

****

Blake wasn't sure what he pictured his wedding night to be like, but the previous night hadn't been it. He'd secured a honeymoon suite at a luxurious resort and casino and slept on the couch, all the while listening to his wife mill about the bedroom until she finally settled sometime around one in the morning.

Their kiss had unsettled him. It started out as an act, a public display of affection that, if needed, could be reported back to the lawyers. But the performance was something he'd wanted to repeat since he and Samantha left the chapel. The way her face lit up and her inability to meet his eye proved she was as turned on as he. Dammit, he shouldn't be lusting over his wife. A wife of convenience. A wife that often put a smile on his face and made him question his playboy ways and superficial pastimes.

He remembered her warning about "keeping it in his pants" or something to that effect. He needed to get far away from Mrs. Harrison and soon, or keeping it in his pants would be impossible.

Blake tucked away the blanket and pillow he'd tried to use the night before and waited for the light to filter into Samantha's room to wake her up. He'd already sent notice to the offices in London about his "whirlwind" wedding to his "love at first sight" bride. It wouldn't take long for word to spread. Chances were he'd have to retrieve his wife within a couple of weeks to convince those who watched that their nuptials were heartfelt. He'd use those couple of weeks to build a few fences around his libido. He didn't worry about his heart, but if he screwed up Samantha's, he risked losing everything. That risk was entirely too high.

A soft knock on the door alerted him that room service had arrived.

Blake opened the door and ushered the uniformed staff to wheel the cart into the center of the room. The rich smell of coffee arrested his senses and made his mouth water. As the waiter handed him the bill to sign, the door to the bedroom opened and out walked the smoky eyed, sleepy vision of a wife wrapped in a fluffy white bathrobe.

"Is that coffee I smell?" Samantha's bedroom voice ripped through him and he groaned. Even the kid shuffling the room service tray forgot what he was doing as he turned toward the voice.

"I ordered breakfast."

"Oh, good, I'm starving." Sam's bare feet pattered closer, her petite legs peeked through the slit in the robe. The kid dropped the bill and Blake moved to stand between Samantha and the waiter.

The kid turned red as he picked up the bill and handed it over. Blake signed it quickly and pushed the kid out of his room. The hair on the back of Blake's neck stood on end. He took a deep breath and stiffened his spine before her turned around. His bravado didn't work. Samantha was peeking under the silver lids with one hand and pushing her rumpled hair back with the other. She was sexy as sin.

She lifted the coffee and started to pour. "How do you like it?"

Blake closed his eyes and forced his naked thoughts out of his lust-filled mind. "Black."

He crossed to the table and sat.

Working quietly, Samantha handed him a cup before she sprinkled a little sugar in her coffee.

As the first sip met her lips, she sunk into her chair with a sigh. The sound was throaty and brought another wave of awareness over his skin. He needed to get the hell out of Vegas or all bets for not bedding his wife were off.

Not realizing her effect on him, Samantha lifted her legs and sat them on the opposite chair. The robe gapped open revealing a flash of thigh.

Blake's body responded with a vengeance. His hardened length pushed to painful levels, forcing him to shift in his chair to avoid Samantha's notice.

"How did you sleep?" she asked, not bothering to cover her alabaster skin.

"Okay," he lied, trying hard to divert his eyes from her thighs.

"Really? I toss and turned. I'm more keyed up about this marriage than I thought I would be."

How difficult would it be to tell her he felt the same? But then, that would sound as if he wasn't in control. Blake had to have an iron fist on everything in his life, including his marriage.

"I'm sure you'll get used to it. Especially after I leave for London."

She reached forward and removed a piece of toast from the plate. "When are you leaving?"

"Tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" She sounded surprised.

"I'll take you back to LA, introduce you to my staff and Carter, and then prepare to go."

She nibbled on her bread. "Won't that look suspicious, you leaving so soon after our marriage?"

"It might, so we'll have to make things look good. Daily phone calls, something that proves we're talking to each other. My father's lawyers are merciless. They hired private eyes on behalf of my father when I was in college to report back about my transgressions."

"Isn't that extreme?"

"My father offered kickbacks, lucrative kickbacks for every offence they found. I doubt anything has changed since his death." Because Blake didn't want to dive into more family history quite yet, he asked, "Do you have a passport?"

"Not since I was twenty and the Feds took it. There shouldn't be a problem with me obtaining one. In any event, it will be a good excuse as to why I'm not with you." She was smiling now, waking up as she finished her first cup of coffee. He didn't think his switch of subjects went unnoticed, but she kept any questions she had to herself. "I'll start the paperwork on Monday."

"Sounds good."

"I was thinking, last night when I couldn't sleep, if I should change my name or not. A lot of women keep their names even after they marry. It might be easier." She sat forward and dished up some scrambled eggs.

He didn't like the sound of that, and would question why later. "If we had married for love and not for convenience, would you have taken my name?"

"But we didn't."

"But what if we had?"

She glanced down at the family ring he'd placed on her finger the day before. "Yes, I probably would have."

He finished his coffee with a smug sense of satisfaction. "Then you change your name. I don't want anyone questioning anything. We'll have enough obstacles to overcome with you and I living the majority of this year on different continents."

She looked like she wanted to argue, but sighed instead. "You're probably right."

"I'm going to set up an account for you before I leave, and give you the keys to my house here." The thought of her walking around his house in a fuzzy white robe brought a smile to his face.

"That isn't necessary."

"I disagree," he said, dishing up his own eggs, sausage, and toast. "I wouldn't leave a wife without resources."

"Fine, but I won't use them. I don't need your money, at least not now that you've taken care of Jordan, and I have my own place." She chewed her food slowly before swallowing.

"I still owe you your twenty percent. Use the account, Samantha. My wife wouldn't go without and I won't have people saying I'm not taking care of you."

She dropped her hand to the table. "I won't ruin your image, Blake."

"You will if you're driving an old car and skimping on personal items. I'm not suggesting you buy a yacht, just don't shop at the big box stores." He pictured the media catching her in WalMart and cringed.

"You realize how snobby that sounds, right?'

"I don't care. My girlfriends shopped at designer stores, my wife won't be taking dresses off the sale rack." Blake noticed her jaw tighten and prepared himself for an argument.

"Is there something wrong with how I dress?"

Oh, boy… he was walking in a minefield without a lead jacket. "I didn't say that."

"Oh, yes you did."

He stopped eating. "You know I'm right about this."

Her lips twitched but she didn't deny him. "Fine."

"Good." I won. Lord, when was the last time he'd argued with a woman about not wanting to spend his money? He found a smile on his lips.

"What's so funny?"

Her eyes were sparkling with unreleased fury. They were drop-dead gorgeous.

"I think we just had our first marital spat."

Her shoulders slumped and folded in with laughter. "I guess we did."

"And I won," he pointed out.

Samantha fixed him with a heated stare. "Don't expect that to continue."

No, he mused. He wasn't delusional enough to think he'd win every time. However, winning the first placed a certain amount of whip cream on top of his marital pie.