Marriage of Convenience by Katy Kaylee

Chapter 21

Chase

After lunch, I sent Sara home and took a minute to regroup. A lot had happened today, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it all. I was disturbed that a man tried to grab her off the street and bothered that she didn’t seem to take it very seriously.

I was concerned that she wasn’t up to having a party, and yet, I knew my brothers were right: I needed to make it official if only to control the message. I also needed to tell my father. I was sure that the news would get out in the office and he needed to hear it from me, not Alex.

At five, I made my usual stop by his office.

“I’ve got your drink ready,” my father said, handing me my usual. It occurred to me that I’d done a lot of drinking today.

I set the glass down without having any. “I’ve got something to tell you.”

“That Florida deal isn’t going well,” my father said.

“It will. The owner is an ass. That’s not what I need to talk to you about.”

“That ass is trying to renege on some aspects of the deal.” My father took a seat behind his desk. I always thought he did it to remind me that he was still the boss.

“It’s handled. He’ll back off when he gets served papers suing him for breach of contract.” I sat in my usual spot in front of his desk.

My father sighed. “What’s that going to cost?”

“Nothing. He doesn’t have the money to fight. His pride is a problem but his greed will win out. He’ll take the money and leave. When I have I not come through?”

“You always come through, but I worry you’re overconfident.” He sat back in his chair.

“I know people. This guy won’t be a problem. I want to talk about something else.”

“Okay.”

“I got married.” There was no sense in a lead up. “We’re having a party on Friday to make the official announcement.”

My father quirked a brow. “I wasn’t invited to the wedding.”

I shrugged. “It was a spur of the moment thing.”

My father shook his head. “I hoped you’d take my purpose behind this new deal seriously.”

“I did. You said get married and have a kid. Chances are good that in nine months you’ll be a grandfather.”

“Jesus, Chase.” My father rose from his chair and I had a moment of worry that he was going to change the rules again. He looked out the window. “I loved your mother when I married her. Despite what you boys think, I loved her up until the day she died. Still do.” He turned to me. “That’s what I wanted for you.”

“Who says I don’t love her?”

My father laughed. “It doesn’t bother you that you’ve basically taken a sacred vow and bastardized it? I can only imagine the type of woman that would enter into whatever deal you’ve set up. I don’t want gold-diggers in the family, Chase.”

I shot up from my chair. “She’s not a gold-digger, and I’ll expect you to treat her with respect.”

My father’s eyes widened for a second and then narrowed as he studied me. “Of course. Leave Alex with the details of your party. I’ll be there.”

Feeling antsy, I left my father’s office, wondering why I was all bent out of shape by Kade and my father calling Sara a gold-digger. She wasn’t one, but she had married me for money, so it wasn’t much better.

I spent the rest of the week wanting to know Sara’s every move to make sure she was safe. But I caught on that she worried about being controlled, as I suspected her ex had done. I wasn’t a stalker nor was I worried she was doing something that would displease me. All I wanted was for her to be safe, especially if she was pregnant.

Dealing with my brothers was a different issue. In an effort to extend the olive branch, Kade volunteered to have our party at one of his restaurants. I agreed as a way to make amends, but told him to not do a full formal menu or setting, knowing that would make Sara anxious.

I would have taken a half-day off Friday to spend it with Sara and arrive at the party with her, but issues with the Florida deal kept me at the office later than I wanted. I called and told her I’d meet her there. I heard worry in her voice, but she assured me she’d be there. She was often anxious, but extremely courageous, I decided. She had to be brave to come from what seemed like a sheltered life to New York City alone and then agree to take on the Raven family.

I arrived at the restaurant which Kade closed for our private party. Hunter’s guy had decorated it beautifully with white and silver, which I guessed were popular wedding colors, but they looked sophisticated. The tables were decorated with colorful tulips, which I learned from Hunter’s guy were Sara’s favorite.

Delicious aromas were coming from the kitchen and the bar appeared to be well stocked. Kade moved around the restaurant giving last-minute orders to the staff, Hunter checked the doors and his men were looking out for Sara’s ex.

Ash handed me a drink. “The only thing missing is Sara.”

“I agree.” Where was she? I checked my watch. She was only five minutes late, but I wanted her there before my dad got there. I pulled out my phone and texted James to find out where they were. I didn’t want to stress Sara out more by suggesting she was late to her own party.

We’re out front. She’s working up courage, I think, was James’ response.

“I’ll be back.” I left Ash at the bar and exited the restaurant. James was pulled up in front.

“She asked for a moment,” he said standing by her door.

I nodded for him to open it. “I’ll talk to her.”

James opened the door. Her eyes were surprised and then ashamed when she saw me. She looked so beautiful, that it stopped me for a moment. Her hair was up but loose tendrils framed her face. Little sparkles of what looked like diamonds shimmered in various spots in her hair. Her dress was a pretty color that made me think of champagne.

“I’m sorry Chase.”

“Move over,” I said getting in next to her.

“I’m so afraid I’m going to embarrass or disappoint you.”

“Hey,” I took her hand. “I have absolutely no fear of that.”

“You should. I don’t have a lot of experience in social situations in general, but none with rich and powerful people.”

I shifted so I could turn and look at her. I cupped her cheek with the palm of my hand. “You took on my brothers, so yes, you have what it takes to handle the rich and powerful. Everyone else is cake compared them. Especially Kade. He stepped up because of you.”

“What if your father doesn’t like me? What if he doesn’t think I’m good enough to be your child’s mother?”

“Fuck him.” It was surprising how quickly anger rose at the idea that anyone would think she was unworthy. “However, I don’t think that will happen. You’re smart and sweet, and genuine. Just be you, Sara and everyone will love you.”

She nodded. “You see more in me than I do.” She said it like I was some sort of God.

“Someday you’ll see it too. It starts by coming into the restaurant with me and letting everyone congratulate and celebrate you.” I pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the few tears that had fallen on her cheeks.

“I haven’t ruined my makeup, have I? I watched a YouTube video to get it just right.”

I decided letting her know that she could hire a stylist and makeup person for parties if she wanted could wait until another time. “You look beautiful, Sara. Really.”

I opened the door, stepping out and then helping her to the curb, not hiding my appreciation for her shapely legs. I put my arm on her lower back as I led her to the door.

I leaned forward, next to her ear. “Looking like you do, I suspect we won’t be here for long.”

She shivered and turned her head to me with a coy smile. I opened the door and escorted her in.

“There they are: Mr. and Mrs. Chase Raven,” Ash said. “How about champagne?”

“Champagne for everyone,” I said.

“None for me.” Sara looked at me. “Just in case.”

“So soon?” Ash asked.

I didn’t get a chance to respond as the door opened and my father walked in. I hoped I told Sara the truth and that my father would treat her right.

My father made his way to me and Ash. As he got there, Kade and Hunter arrived as well.

“Dad, I’d like you to meet Sara, my wife.” I kept my hand on her lower back. “Sara, this is my father, Cameron Raven.”

“It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Raven.” Sara held out her hand.

My father studied her. “Do you work for me?”

“She was an intern,” Kade said.

My father’s gaze flicked to mine, and I knew whatever thoughts that were in his head, they weren’t good. Fortunately, he kept them to himself, probably to be shared when I had my meeting with him on Monday.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Ms…”

“It’s missus,” Sara correct him, and I wanted to give her a big kiss.

“Yes, of course.”

“But you can call me Sara.” She smiled, but I saw the worry in her eyes.

“Okay, Sara. Do you love my son?”

What the hell dad? “Our guests are arriving,” I said as several other people came into the restaurant. I took Sara’s hand and led her to the group. As more people showed up, I worked to introduce her and stay close, partly to offer her support, but also to keep my father away.

Within a half-hour, Sara seemed to have settled down, and acted more herself. She was chatting and laughing with our guests, mostly people from other prominent families as well as some people from Raven Industries. At first, they seemed curious about her since she was so young and the marriage came out of nowhere, but within moments, Sara had charmed them. Several of the women invited her to various volunteer groups and other activities. A few men ogled her, which had me wanting to punch them.

“If looks could kill, half the men here would be dead,” Hunter said.

“People shouldn’t look at her like that.”

“I imagine it’s a curse for her.”

I looked at Hunter. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that’s probably all people see. They don’t see a smart woman who’s willing to stand up to a Raven.”

She’d said as much to me once before, but I hadn’t really thought about it.

My father made his way to her. I started to join them but Hunter stopped me.

“She can handle him.”

“She’s nervous.” The need to protect her was fierce in my gut.

“She needs to handle him,” Hunter rephrased his statement. “He’ll respect her for it.”

Hunter was right. Since Sara didn’t seem to be looking for me to come save her, I acquiesced and headed to the bar for a drink with Hunter.

“I’ve got some info on her ex,” Hunter said.

That got my attention. “What?”

“He went to the same school as her. Apparently they were engaged.”

“What?”

“But she left. She didn’t seem to have a lot of friends, but some acquaintances suspected he was controlling. He was also fucking her roommate while they were supposedly engaged.”

“Not her though.”

Hunter’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

“She was a virgin.” I wasn’t sure why I told him that.

“Really? Wow.” He looked over at Sara. “She gave you her V-card, huh? She must really like you.”

I had twin feelings of guilt at having taken her virginity without much care, but also warmth that she’d chosen me. She constantly surprised me. She was young and innocent, and yet smart and brave. She entered into a business deal with me, but she didn’t act like it. She was ready to mother a child we didn’t know if we’d made yet. She put up with my brothers, and me, with wit and grace.

From across the room, my father laughed, something I hadn’t seen him do in a long time. Sara smiled at my father. It was radiant, and my heart turned over in my chest with pride and something else. Jesus, was I falling for her?

I remembered how earlier in the week I’d reminded her she had an out in this relationship, and for the first time hoping she wouldn’t take me up on it.

“You okay?” Hunter asked.

I nodded, even though I felt a little unsteady at the prospect that I was falling in love with my wife.

“I’m going to check on something in back,” he said.

“Yeah, sure.” I turned to the bartender and ordered two seltzer waters, with the intention of taking one to Sara, and drinking the other. As I waited, I saw an unfamiliar middle-aged man approaching Sara. She caught sight of him too and her face dropped, moving quickly to unease.

Immediately, I made my way to her, but couldn’t reach her before he did.

“You owe me,” he said as I finally reached him.

“Who are you and how do you know my wife?” I demanded, pulling Sara close to me.

The man jerked back in surprise. “I was her professor. I wasn’t aware you were married to her.”

I looked at Sara wondering what the hell her professor wanted with her and why she looked so unsettled that he was here. “Did you invite him?”

She shook her head. “No.”

I turned to him. “You’ll need to leave.”

The professor’s demeanor turned ominous. “She owes me.”

“Send a bill to the Rookery.” I scanned the room looking for Hunter.

“This is a bill only she can pay. She seduced me to get her internship. I guess she’s worked her way up and you fell for her innocent and helpless scam too.”

Rage fired through me, although I wasn’t sure which I was pissed about more; that this man just called Sara a whore and gold-digger, or that she might have duped me.

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