Yours for the Taking


“Karma Kincaid, will you marry me?”

Ben Walsh sat on the weight bench in the home gym of his Columbus Avenue loft after spending the morning flipping through his not-so-little black book for the hundredth time. The pressure of a deadline was taking its toll. He had a book full of names of women he’d dated over the last ten years, none of whom he would ever consider marrying. Not that he ever wanted to marry anyone in the first place, but his grandfather had taken that decision out of his hands. He didn’t have a choice—well, not one he could live with anyway. He adjusted his Bluetooth to make sure they were still connected, and picked up a twenty-pound dumbbell, working his biceps while he waited for her reply.

“Benjamin Joseph Walsh, do you have any idea what time it is?”

He smiled and counted his reps silently. “Two hours earlier than it is here in New York. Did I wake you?” Sheets rustled over the phone, feet stomped, and then if he wasn’t mistaken, he heard peeing. “Do you always go to the bathroom when you’re on the phone?”

“No, you’re just privileged. You have some nerve calling me at seven twenty-two in the morning. I closed the bar last night and didn’t get to bed until after three.” The toilet flushed.

“Well, are you going to marry me or not?”

“How many times do I have to tell you I can’t marry you? Not only is it illegal; it’s disgusting. You’re my cousin.”

“I am not.” Ben switched hands to work his left arm. “We’re like cousins but we’re not blood relatives. There’s no law against marriage between two unrelated people who grew up like family. It’s perfectly legal.”

“Maybe, but I remember you in Spiderman underwear—”

“It was Superman.”

“Whatever. I have no interest in ever seeing you in your underoos again, and even less interest in seeing you without them. Besides, even if I did marry you, which I won’t, Grampa Joe would never buy it. Like he’d ever believe, after knowing each other our entire lives, we chose this highly convenient time to fall madly in love.”

Ben placed the weight on the floor and lay back on the bench, curling his arm under his head. “Gramps never said anything about love. He said I had to get married and start working on producing an heir or two—”

“Can I just say one thing? Ewww! Not unless it’s artificial insemination and even then, it’s gross. No way. Sorry. I love you, Ben, but not that much.”

“Come on. Gramps is old. Maybe he’s finally losing it and going senile.”

Karma snorted. “Right. Big Joe Walsh is anything but, and you know it. Besides, he just turned eighty. That’s like sixty in human years. He’s probably going to live to be at least one hundred and ten. Did I tell you I almost ran into him the other day on Castle Rock skiing? I swear the man acts like he owns the mountain.”

Frustrated, Ben stood and picked up the dumbbell to return it to the rack. “I think he does. So, that settles it. I’m going to ask her, Karma.”

“Ask who what?”

“Gina, I’m going to call her and invite her over.”

“That friend of Annabelle Ronaldi’s who you’ve met how many times? Twice?”

“It’s Annabelle Flynn now, and yes, I’m going to propose to Gina.”

“Then why the heck did you bother proposing to me?”

“Last-ditch effort, I guess.”

“You’ve made up your mind?”

“It’s the only logical conclusion. I have to marry someone. The only question is who. Since you have so unceremoniously rejected me, what choice do I have?”

“You can call Big Joe’s bluff.”

“And let him sell my ranch to the highest bidder? No way. That’s my home.”

Karma let out a groan that sounded wrought with frustration. “It’s just land.”

“It’s my land, or it will be as soon as I talk Gina into marrying me.”

“What makes you think you can trust her?”

“I’ve done my research. Gina’s made no bones about never wanting to marry.”

“Yeah, that’s before she met you and your family’s billions.”

“You haven’t read her dossier. She has a very interesting and impressive background.”

“I don’t care what her background is. Greed is not discriminatory; people from all walks of life suffer from it.”

“That’s what pre-nups are for.”

“Good luck with that. What famous lawyer said he’d never seen a pre-nup he couldn’t break?”

“Your brother, Trapper.”

“He’s not so famous, but he knows what he’s talking about—usually.”

“I have a team of lawyers working on it and I’m paying through the nose for the best legal advice I can buy.”

“Okay, so let’s say this pre-nup is air-tight. What’s going to keep Gina from falling for you? All your women do, you know.”

Ben laughed. “All but you and Annabelle.”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself. This is a big deal, Ben.”

Ben moved on to the treadmill and started a mountain hike. “You think I don’t know that? Gina’s never had a relationship last more than a month or two, and from what I’ve learned, she has ample reason not to trust people enough to let them get close—especially men.” He pumped up the incline and speed. “She’s young and she’s making a real name for herself in her field. My sources claim she has no interest in ever getting married.”

“What about sex?”

Ben laughed. “Karma, I don’t know what your mama told you, but you don’t have to be married to have sex.”

“I’m just saying it’d be nice to wake up with the same person every day. Don’t you think if that happens over a period of time you’ll both become more committed to this relationship than you bargained for, pre-nup or not?”

“No way. I’m not going to sleep with her. I’m just going to marry her. Besides, I make sure I don’t wake up with anyone. Ever. I leave in the middle of the night so I don’t have to deal with any morning-after awkwardness. I thought you did the same.” When there was no comment on Karma’s part he added, “I don’t remember you ever bringing anyone home.” Not that it was a major concern; still, he always tried to keep an eye on her.

“We’re not talking about me.”

Ben guessed he deserved her wrath. He did wake her up, after all, and he knew damn well Karma wasn’t Little Miss Sunshine in the morning. He should feel guilty but he didn’t. Something beeped, probably her coffee pot. He pictured Karma, wearing a ripped sweatshirt and sweatpants—her normal sleepwear. Her long, curly, blonde hair would be sticking out in all directions as she made coffee in the kitchen of her small apartment. She gulped and then let out what sounded like a sigh of contentment. Yep, she just poured her coffee.

“I’m going to ask Gina to marry me, not live with me. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll get married and then she’ll go her way and I’ll go mine. We never have to see each other again. Hell, we can even let the lawyers deal with the divorce.”

“And why would Big Joe buy that?”

“Why wouldn’t he? Gina has a career in New York. It’s not as if she’s going to quit her job and move to Idaho. Gramps will think we’re together when I’m here. You know Gramps; he hates New York. He’ll never come out here. But even if he does, what’s it going to take? Gina will go out to dinner with us, maybe take in a play. One night and Gramps will be back on a plane to Boise, I’ll have the ranch, and Gina will have whatever is agreed upon in the pre-nup. Gramps will be none the wiser.”

“I don’t like it, Ben. I love Grandpa Joe. I hate the thought of you lying to him and I hate that I’m going to have to lie to him even more. I can’t help but think that maybe he’s right.”

“About what?”

“About you. It might be good for you to have someone who loves you, someone to share your life with.”

Women. They were always matchmaking. “You of all people know how I feel about this. I’m happy being single. I have friends all over the world. I have the best family—you, Trapper, Hunter, Fisher, Kate, and Gramps. You’re all I need. And you know my relationships tend to be physical and temporary.”

“You’re a dog.”

“No, I just have a short attention span when it comes to women and thankfully, most of the women I date have relationship ADD as well.”

Karma let out something between a sigh and a growl. If Ben had been in her presence, she probably would have given him a shot in the arm. “Joe wants an heir.”

“Gramps said I have a year to get married. Although he mentioned an heir, it wasn’t part of the deal. I’ll get married, I’ll get the ranch, and I’ll get a divorce. End of story.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing.”

She sounded doubtful, but then again, so was he. He hated being forced to do anything. “Me too.”


Gina Reyez sat at her desk looking out over lower Manhattan while doing a mental Snoopy Happy Dance. She achieved yet another goal—finally getting a window office. She was one step closer to finding Rafael, one step closer to helping sister and brother-in-law buy a decent home to raise a family, and one step closer to her dream of having a place of her own. Gina’s desk phone buzzed and without even turning her head, she answered. “Yes?”

“There’s a call for you on line one, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Laura.” Gina blew her bangs out of her eyes. She’d have to have a little talk with her new assistant. She’d already asked Laura to call her Gina, but Laura still called her ma’am. Gina was way too young to be considered a ma’am. Heck, she wasn’t even twenty-seven yet. She picked up the handset and pressed line one.

“This is Gina Reyez.”

“Gina, I’m not sure you remember me. It’s Ben Walsh, Annabelle Flynn and Becca Ronaldi’s partner in the Ben Walsh Gallery.”

His voice oozed through the phone like warm honey. He had a strange accent she couldn’t place, strange but sexy. To think that she, or anyone else for that matter, could forget Ben Walsh was laughable (not that she’d admit it). The man was rather unforgettable with his dark mahogany hair, slate blue eyes that looked lit from within, and a face that was a combination of boy next door and fallen angel. He was tall, broad, and built like a model, not to mention incredibly well-dressed, rich, successful, and funny. Unfortunately, he was also gay. Gina sat back in her chair, slipped off a shoe, and tucked her foot underneath her. “Didn’t we meet at Annabelle Flynn’s wedding?”

“Yes, we did.”

She smiled to herself. “That’s right, I remember now.”

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m calling.”

Gina sank further back into her new leather high-backed chair. “The thought had occurred to me.”

Ben cleared his throat. “I’d like to meet with you about a mutually beneficial business venture.”

“You’re not going to try to get me involved in some pyramid scheme, are you, Ben?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Gina spun around in her chair and found her boss and best friend, Rosalie Romeo, leaning against the doorjamb eavesdropping without a hint of remorse or embarrassment. Gina wondered how much she’d heard. She twirled the phone cord around her finger. “What kind of business are we talking about?”

“I don’t mean to sound cryptic, but this is something I would prefer to discuss in person.”

Ignoring Rosalie’s presence, even when she set a venti Starbucks cup on the desk, Gina pulled the cord from around her fingers and shook her mouse, waking the computer before opening her calendar. “When would you like to meet?”

“As soon as possible. I’m flying out the day after tomorrow and won’t be back for a week.”

Rosalie’s eyes bored a hole through Gina as she looked over her calendar; it didn’t look good. “I can do lunch tomorrow. That’s all I have free during the day.”

“This might take more than a couple of hours. Are you busy this evening?”

“It can’t wait until you return from wherever it is you’re going?”

“I’m going to Idaho, and no, timing is everything. The clock is ticking.”

Gina wasn’t too happy about meeting tonight, even less happy to have her boss sitting across from her while she set it up. Still, Ben Walsh was very successful and would be a great contact. Besides, it wasn’t as if she had to worry about him being interested in more than just business. Which, when she thought about it, was a damn shame. “We can meet at my office.”

“I thought you might come here. I live right over the Gallery on 82nd and Columbus. I’ll make dinner and we can talk.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“If all goes well, this could take quite a while. We both need to eat and I don’t want to discuss it in public.”

“Okay, but if it’s not working for me, I’m leaving.”

“Gina, you have the right to leave at any time. I just hope you’ll hear me out before you do.”

“I’ll come with an open mind.”

“Shall we say seven?”

Gina typed it into her calendar and shot off an email to her sister, Tina, saying she most likely wouldn’t be home for dinner. “Seven it is, I’ll be there.”

“Thanks. You won’t regret it.”

Gina wasn’t too sure about that. “You’re welcome. I’ll see you tonight.”

Rosalie crossed her arms and gave Gina her you’re-so-busted look. “Dinner with Ben Walsh?”

Gina shrugged and closed her calendar. “He said it’s business. He’s a good contact.”

Rosalie walked around and inspected Gina’s desk; there was nothing on it but the computer monitor, the telephone, and her Starbucks. “Does business usually occur over dinner at his place?”

“You have exceptional hearing. And yes, it sounds as if Ben does business at his place. Since he’s one of your sister’s best friends, I’m sure he’s not an ax murderer so there’s nothing to worry about. Besides, the man is gay.”

Rosalie whipped her eyes away from the credenza she’d been examining to stare wide-eyed at Gina. “He is?”

Standing, Gina slipped her foot into her pump, and paced her office. It really wasn’t big enough for a good pace, but she had short legs so she couldn’t complain. “The man owns an art gallery, for Pete’s sake.”

“Part of an art gallery.”

“So, that doesn’t make him any less gay.”

Rosalie put her hands on her hips and stepped directly in front of Gina. “I’ve met Ben several times and my gaydar never went off.”

Gina shrugged. “Well maybe you’re getting sloppy since you married Nick. He has enough testosterone for a dozen men. Ben’s too perfect to be straight. Believe me, all the good-looking, rich, single, metrosexual men are gay.”

Rosalie sat at the chair opposite Gina’s desk, which was strange. They always met in Rosalie’s office because until today, Gina didn’t have one of her own. Seeing Rosalie on the other side of her desk would take getting used to.

Rosalie leaned back while Gina paced. “If you’re right, it’s a true blow to womankind.”

“Tell me about it.” Gina sighed. “He is somethin.’ Though, I’m surprised you even noticed, Mrs. Romeo.”

Rosalie rolled her eyes. “Just because I’m happily married doesn’t mean I’m blind. As a very good nurse once told me, ‘Just because the store’s closed doesn’t mean you can’t window shop.’”

Gina stepped around her desk, picked up her coffee, and held it up. “Amen to that. I guess I’ll be window shopping tonight because his store is only open to men.”


The intercom buzzed from the gallery downstairs. “Ben, Gina’s on her way up.”

“Thanks, Kerri.” He opened the apartment door and leaned against the doorjamb waiting for the elevator. Gina stepped out and Ben swallowed hard. Damn, if Gina did marry him, it would be a very good idea never to see her again. Physically, Gina was about as far from his type as he could get which, in his book, was a good thing. He had always gone for the tall, blonde, cover-girl types. Gina was gorgeous, but a far cry from supermodel material. She couldn’t be more than five feet tall, and even with the ridiculously high heels she teetered around on, the top of her head still didn’t reach his shoulder. Gina was beautiful in a sexy-as-hell Latin pixie way. The only thing missing was the fairy dust. She had a huge personality and an even larger attitude; the fact that it was all contained in such a tiny and delicate package was mind-blowing. Everything was tiny, well, except for her mouth—it was a bit too wide with full red lips, which looked as if they were picked out in a cosmetic surgeon’s office along with her breasts. There was nothing small about those either, not that he was thinking about her lips or her breasts. Especially not her breasts. No. He had gotten up close and personal with more than one off-the-rack pair and even without touching, he knew hers were the real thing. “Gina, thanks for coming.”

Watching Gina walk toward him was like watching a three-ring circus. He didn’t know which ring to pay attention to. In ring number one, short-cropped, black hair framed her face and fell over copper eyes that flashed with equal parts intelligence and mischief. Her wide mouth painted a hot, wet red was set in a strained yet polite smile. In the center ring were her amazing breasts showcased in the turquoise twist bodice of a color block business dress and black jacket that, on her, looked sexy as sin. In ring number three was the rest of her—her small waist, the tight black skirt hugging her hips and thighs, and her tiny feet encased in fuck-me pumps making her legs look a mile long­—creating a hell of a show.

Gina stopped in front of him and looked up. He supposed she had to. “The last time I was at the gallery, Annabelle was complaining about you moving her office off the main floor and up here.”

“She took her old office back and is downstairs since Becca Ronaldi joined the partnership.”

“Where’s your office, Ben?”

“I don’t have one for the gallery. I’m more of a silent partner.” He stepped out into the hall and held the door open for her. “Come on in.”

She walked in ahead of him, which was probably a mistake on his part. It was bad enough watching her walk toward him. Damn, when it came to a fine ass, J-Lo had nothing on Gina. She stopped in the middle of the postmodern, minimalist living room—a spark of color, curves, and heat among the cold, hard lines, white leather, and chrome—and turned in a circle “Wow, this is beautiful. It looks like something out of a magazine. Who’s your decorator?”

“I didn’t use one. Can I get you a drink?”

Gina shook her head, her bangs rearranging themselves over her copper eyes as if to clear her thoughts. “Club soda, if you have it. We’re talking business and I don’t believe in three martini lunches.”

“It’s dinner.” Ben caught Gina’s eye roll and laughed. “Make yourself at home. I’ll just be a minute.” Instead of using the wet bar, he went into the kitchen to check on the hors d’oeuvres. The tarts needed another minute or two. He closed the oven and wished Gina had asked for a mixed drink because he could really use one right about now. Ben poured the sodas and brought them along with a cheese tray and a tray of assorted sushi. When he returned, he found Gina studying a piece from his personal art collection. It was by one of his favorite up-and-coming artists. He watched her reaction to the mixed media painting. “It’s called ‘New York Subway.’”

“It’s amazing.” She continued studying the work; there was a lot of it to study. The piece was five feet tall and more than four feet wide. After a moment, she turned to face Ben and looked surprised when he handed her a plate.

“The tarts will be out in a minute.”

Gina walked back to the coffee table, picked up her glass, and motioned to the food. “You didn’t have to do all this.”

Ben shrugged. “I said I’d feed you. We’re having salade nicoise with tuna steak for dinner.”

“Sounds wonderful.”

Ben held up his glass to toast. “To a very profitable business relationship.”

Gina clinked her glass against his and took a sip all the while eyeing him. “Why don’t you tell me about it?”

The kitchen timer went off and Ben held up a finger. “Hold that thought.” He strode to the kitchen, pulled out the tarts, and with all the speed of a seasoned chef, placed them on the serving platter. When he returned, Gina walked back to him from studying another piece in his collection. He took a deep breath and began. “My grandfather is Joe Walsh. Ring any bells?”

“I’ve heard the name before, but I can’t place it.” She picked up a piece of cheese from the tray and nibbled.

“He’s probably the richest man in Idaho. Last I checked he was on the Forbes List above Donald Trump, Stephen Spielberg, and T. Boone Pickens.”

“That’s nice for you.” Sitting on the couch, Gina crossed her legs, and looked bored. “What does this have to do with the business venture?”

Ben took a hot tart—the irony didn’t escape him—and popped it in his mouth. The air-light pastry melted as the savory flavors melded together to perfection. “My grandfather owns more leased land than anyone in the United States. He owns the one piece I want. It’s the ranch in Idaho where my parents and I lived before their deaths.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your parents.”

“Thanks, but it was a long time ago.”

Gina leaned forward to inspect the food. “What are those?”

“Spinach, leek, and goat cheese tarts.”

“They look like something they have at that great market.” She snapped her fingers. “I think it’s called Grace’s. Do you know it? It’s on East 71st between 2nd and 3rd.”

He sat on the other side of the couch. “Thanks, but I didn’t get the tarts there.”

“Where? That shop on 32nd?”

“No. I made them.”

She took a bite and covered her mouth with a napkin. “You’re kidding,” she said around a mouth full of food.

Ben grinned at her shocked look. “No, why?”

With a wave of her hand, Gina continued. “Never mind, go on with your story.” She took another bite of a tart and moaned. “These are amazing.”

Ben wished she’d stop moaning; it was distracting. “I’m glad you like them.” He took another sip of his drink. “Gina, have you ever wanted something so badly you’d do just about anything to get it?”

“No.” She was serious.


“Not badly enough to do anything.” She studied her nails before gazing at him. “I have my standards.”

He moved closer and looked her straight in the eye. “What is the one thing in the world you’ve always wanted and haven’t been able to get?”

“A home. I want to own my own home. I want it bought and paid for, so that no one can take it away.” Gina covered her mouth, either to keep from saying more or in an attempt to catch the words that had escaped. She stood and paced the room. “In a few years, I’ll have enough money for a nice down payment. If all goes according to my plan, I’ll own it outright in twenty years. That’s my goal, anyway.”

Ben got the feeling she wasn’t telling him everything, not that he’d expect someone he hardly knew to spill her guts, but she seemed more evasive than most. Nonetheless, he had no choice but to work with what little information she gave him. “What kind of home?”

Turning to face him, she crossed her arms under her breasts, which did nothing for his concentration. “Why do you want to know?”

He raised his hands. “I didn’t know your choice of home was a national secret. Do I need a security clearance?”

She seemed to dig for patience. “That’s personal.”

“If we’re going to be in business together, I’ll need to know personal information. I already know a good amount about you or you wouldn’t be here.”

She turned again and paced the length of his living room. She was not happy sharing. “I’d like something similar to Rosalie’s brownstone apartment.”

Ben had been to Rosalie’s apartment when her sister, Ben’s partner, lived there before she married Dr. Wonderful. It was quaint and charming and in a trendy yet affordable section of Brooklyn’s Park Slope. “Isn’t that a little small?”

“It’s plenty big for me. It’s a two-bedroom and has a beautiful garden. I don’t need much.”

“You don’t have very high expectations.”

She stopped dead and faced him. “You have no idea who I am or what I want, and you’re in no position to make judgments.”

Maybe not. But he knew where she came from, and although she’d come a long way, he figured she’d want more. “I’m sorry, you’re absolutely right. Forgive me.”

For a second Ben thought she would leave. He stood and moved close enough to stop her in case she did, but she stayed. After a moment, she gave him an almost imperceptible nod.

Relieved, he took his keys out of his pocket, flipped them into the air, and caught them. “My grandfather just turned eighty and it sounds a little crazy, but he’s holding my ranch hostage. If I don’t do what he wants, he’s going to sell it to the highest bidder.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“He wants me to get married.”

“You still haven’t answered my question.”

“I need a woman to marry. Someone who won’t see the marriage as anything more than a business deal. In return for marrying me, I will give you an annual income and buy you the home of your dreams—within reason.”

“You want to buy me?”

“No. I’m willing to pay you to facilitate the acquisition of my ranch. Much like a homebuyer pays a Realtor.”

Gina sashayed across the room. “What do you consider reasonable?”

Ben watched as she paced, wishing he could read her mind. “Excuse me?”

“You said you’d buy me the home of my dreams within reason. Give me a dollar figure here because I have a feeling my definition of reasonable and yours are light years apart.”

“How does something in the neighborhood of ten million sound?”

Gina turned on her heel and placed her hand on her cocked hip. “Ten million dollars? What, are you nuts? Get a clue, cowboy, you could pay a woman a whole lot less than ten mil to pretend-marry you.”

“Yes, but should you accept, you will legally be my wife—”

“Wow, Ben, you’re making it sound like Marriage Impossible.” Gina hummed the theme to Mission Impossible, which really got on his nerves.

“Hardly. I’m a wealthy man and as my wife, you’ll be due no less. Any lawyer worth his salt will tell you as much.”

Gina didn’t even blink.

“I don’t want to take the chance of my grandfather discovering through the pre-nup that this is a hoax. It has to be legitimate in every respect. For a man of my net worth, this is a fair pre-nup. I’ll make monthly deposits into your account equaling a half million dollars annually for the duration of our marriage. After the uncontested divorce, you will receive alimony payments in the range of a quarter of a million a year for a period of five years for every one year of marriage. All of this is negotiable, of course.”

“Of course. Just so I understand this, you want to pay me to be your wife?”


“I’m assuming you don’t expect me to sleep with you. I mean, why would you? You’re gay.”

Ben stared at her back as she paced away from him and choked on the tart he’d just stuffed in his mouth. She thought he was gay? What is it with women? They think every man who dresses well and doesn’t burp and fart in public is automatically gay. It took him a moment to keep from choking to death, and once he took that first precious gasp of air, he remembered the only hole in his plan—the hole Karma pointed out. If Gina thought he was gay, she wouldn’t go and do something stupid like fall in love with him.

When she turned back she saw he was red in the face.

“Are you okay?”

Ben cleared his throat. “Sorry, I just choked on the tart.” He took a sip of his drink wishing he’d chosen straight vodka because he was about to tell the biggest lie of his life. He could picture Karma laughing her ass off over this. “Most people don’t know my sexual orientation; not even my business partners and certainly not my family. I’d appreciate it if you keep that to yourself.”

“Sure, okay.” She looked skeptical. “What about your boyfriends… and mine for that matter? Oh, and just so you know, there’s no way I’d ever consider living with you. That’s a deal breaker. I don’t do roommates.”

“Yes, well, our living arrangements won’t be a problem. You’ll live in your dream home, and while I’m in town, I’ll continue to stay here. To satisfy my grandfather’s curiosity, should it rear its ugly head, my legal residence would have to be the home we purchase together. Until the divorce, the deed will be in both our names.”

“What about our social lives?”

“I’m not in a relationship at the moment, are you?”


“I’d appreciate it if, for the first year, you would go without dating in case Grandfather does something sneaky like send someone to check up on us. I plan to do the same. After that, should the marriage even last that long, I’d ask you to be discreet. The only other thing I’ll ask of you is that you’d be available in case I should need a date in a situation in which I might be photographed—openings, benefits, that sort of thing. It wouldn’t look good to end up in the society pages with another woman on my arm.”

“I’ve never been a beard before. Will the press know we’re, you know,” she motioned with her hand as if she couldn’t come up with the word.


Gina shook her head, “Yeah, that.”

Ben had to keep his temper when it came to the beard comment. As if he needed one. He didn’t like that he had the urge to show her just how gay he wasn’t. What he needed to do was control his male ego. Shit, if Karma and the guys knew what he was doing, he’d be the laughingstock of the family. “I usually fly well under the press’s radar. I’m sure if we give them your name, chances are they’ll just use that and not dig any deeper. There is always a chance they will; it’s slight, but it’s there. Are you hungry?”


 Gina couldn’t believe he was talking about food at a time like this. “Why me?”

He took his keys back out of his pocket and tossed them in the air again. She crossed her arms to keep from snatching them so she could put an end to that very annoying habit and tapped her toe. “I’m waiting.” He gaped at her as if she’d just stripped in front of him.

“Why not you?”

“Come on, Ben. You just don’t ask a veritable stranger to marry you. What about your other friends?”

“I asked Annabelle but she married Mike instead.”

“The nerve. So that was it?”

Ben looked as if he was deciding whether or not to tell the truth. She gave him the Bronx stare, which made men much bigger than him go crying to their mamas.

“I asked my only other good female friend.”

“And she said no?”

Ben sat on the metal and leather chair and crossed his long, long legs at the ankle in front of him. He was so gorgeous, the fact that he was gay was a real shame, but then Gina had never met an ugly gay man.

“If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be talking to you, now would I? I’m not trying to rush you, but I have a time limit. When do you think you can tell me your decision?”

“I don’t know about this. I have goals and I’ve met every one of them on my own. Marrying you would feel like cheating. Not only is it a lie, which always catches up to you, but I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder if I could have made it on my own.”

Ben shot out of his chair. “Let me get this straight, you’re going to refuse me because you want to struggle when I can easily give you whatever you want?”

“I’m not for sale.”

“Gina, this is a business transaction, plain and simple. You’re getting paid to marry me and put your social life on hold for up to a year.”

“One year of my life is going to cost you twelve point five million dollars. That’s roughly thirty-five thousand dollars a day. That’s insane.”

“That’s what a typical pre-nup would state for a person of my income and net worth. Why are you complaining? I’m not. I don’t care what you do with the money. If you feel guilty, give it to charity.”

With that much money, she’d finally be able to afford to hire a professional to search for her  brother, Rafael. She wasn’t sure how she’d find him, but she knew better than most that money made almost all things possible. She could buy her sister Tina and her brother-in-law their dream home in the suburbs, and after the divorce, she could sell whatever castle Ben bought, buy a normal home for cash, and invest the rest.

Gina had spent her life worrying about Rafael and fighting to keep her and her sister safe and fed. She might be overly proud, but she wasn’t stupid. She’d be crazy not to marry him. “So, Mr. Richie Rich, how did you get from Idaho to New York, and where’d you get all this money you talk about?”

Ben looked up to the heavens as if he were praying for mercy or patience, probably patience, but at this point Gina couldn’t care less.

“I went to NYU and majored in business and art history. Since I turned eighteen, I’ve been given a monthly allowance from my trust. I saved a lot. When I saw an opportunity to buy this building and start my gallery, I jumped at it. I’ve been living between here and Boise ever since. When I turned thirty, I was given control of the trust and the rest is history.”

At least he wasn’t some kind of high-class drug dealer—just a well-funded art dealer. Gina crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her toe. “We’d have to have a time limit. Your grandfather could hold this land over your head forever unless he put something in writing, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life married to you.”

“Okay. What do you think is fair?”

“Three years, max?”

Ben stood and held out his hand. “Deal?”

Gina looked up at him and shrugged. “As long as my lawyer doesn’t have any problems with the pre-nup, I guess we have a deal.” She shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and thanked God he was batting for the other team. If he were straight, Gina would probably end up making a fool of herself over a guy like Benjamin Walsh.