Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux is rich, gorgeous, and unbelievably rude to the staff at Chef Bianca Hardwick’s New Orleans restaurant. Bianca would sooner douse herself in hot sauce than cook for Jackson again, but when he asks her to cater his fund-raiser, Bianca can’t refuse, knowing the cash will help pay her mother’s medical bills. Then Jackson makes another outrageous request: Marry me. The unconventional offer includes an enormous sum—money Bianca desperately needs, even if it does come with a contract—and a stunning ring.
The heir to a family bourbon dynasty, Jackson knows the rumors swirling around him. The truth is even darker. Still, he needs a wife to secure his inheritance, and free-spirited, sassy Bianca would play the part beautifully. Soon, though, their simple business deal evolves into an emotional intimacy he’s built walls to avoid.
As the passion heats up between them, Bianca and Jackson struggle to define which feelings are real and which are for show. Is falling for your fake fiancé the best happy ending…or a recipe for disaster?
Rayford was already waiting at the curb with the car door open when I left the restaurant. That was a good thing, because in my current mood I might have torn the door right off its hinges.
Seething, I climbed into the back of the Bentley. Rayford shut the door behind me without a word. When he started the car and we drove away, I couldn’t tell if I was relieved or disappointed.
I’d never met such an irritating woman in my entire life. The mouth on her! The attitude!
The incredible heart-shaped ass.
I clenched my teeth and stared out into the rainy night. I hadn’t wanted a woman in a long time. Cricket had seen to that. After that disaster, all I could see when a woman looked at me were the dollar signs in her eyes.
But this firecracker Bianca Hardwick. Christ. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to kiss that smart mouth or put a gag in it.
“How was the food, sir?” asked Rayford, peering at me in the rearview mirror.
Still boiling with anger, I snapped, “Adequate.”
Well accustomed to my moods and knowing that was the highest praise I’d ever give anything, Rayford nodded. “Her mama was a great cook, too. Davina’s restaurant was around for, oh, twenty years I think before Hurricane Katrina blew through and wiped it out.” He chuckled. “I had many a meal there back in the day. Every time I came to visit my baby brother, I made sure to stop by. Never forgot Davina’s jambalaya. It was like havin’ a mouthful of heaven. And it wasn’t only the food that kept me comin’ back. Miss Davina Hardwick was one of the finest-lookin’ women I ever seen.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Even with no makeup, her dark hair scraped back into a severe bun, wearing a pair of hideous clogs, a stained apron, and a sexless white chef’s coat that covered her from neck to wrists, Bianca Hardwick was stunning. All flashing black eyes and glowing brown skin and ferocious self-confidence, she was a dead ringer for a young Halle Berry.
A young, aggravating Halle Berry.
I dragged a hand through my hair and exhaled.
It wasn’t all her fault I was on edge. I’d been on edge before I even set foot in the place. My personal chef—the fourth in six months—had left in a snit after I’d said the eggs were runny at breakfast, I was hosting a charity benefit for three hundred people in two weeks and would have to try to find a caterer since I didn’t have a chef, and Cody’s good-for-nothing junkie mother had just gotten thrown in jail on possession charges.
But it was the phone call from my father that had really put the cherry on top. The same phone call I’d been getting every week for going on four years.
When are you coming back to Kentucky? When are you going to stop this foolishness and take over your responsibilities? Boudreaux Bourbon hasn’t had a Master Distiller who wasn’t a family member in over two hundred years! You’re breaking your mother’s heart!
And on and on, until my ears bled. It didn’t matter how much he begged, though. I was never going back.
Returning to Kentucky meant returning to that world of privilege and power I wanted nothing to do with, that viper’s den of genteel, well-mannered people who smiled and shook your hand, then started sharpening the knives as soon as your back was turned. There wasn’t a single person in my social circle aside from my parents I could trust.
Money makes people greedy. A lot of money makes them ruthless. I’d learned that the hard way.
Liars, schemers, and snakes, all of them. It was safer in New Orleans. I didn’t have to fend off as many bullshitters trying to befriend me so they could get their hands on my bank account.
Bianca Hardwick definitely didn’t care about befriending me. And judging by the free dinner, she didn’t give a damn about my bank account. The only thing she seemed to care about was insulting me.
You’re the reason the gene pool needs a lifeguard.
Sassy goddamn woman. No one ever spoke to me like that.
My mouth was doing something strange. It took me a moment to realize my lips were curving up, another moment to remember that meant I was smiling.
“You feelin’ all right, sir?” asked Rayford, watching me in the rearview mirror with concern.
“Of course. Why?”
“Because you look a little funny. Sick, maybe.”
When I scowled, Rayford looked relieved.
How depressing. I’d better never think about Bianca Hardwick’s smart mouth or perfect ass again, or Rayford might think I was dying.
About the Author
J.T. Geissinger is an award-winning author of paranormal and contemporary romance featuring dark and twisted plots, kick-ass heroines, and alpha heroes whose hearts are even bigger than their muscles. Her debut fantasy romance Shadow's Edge was a #1 bestseller on Amazon US and UK and won the Prism award for Best First Book. Her follow-up novel, Edge of Oblivion, was a RITA Award finalist for Paranormal Romance from the Romance Writers of America, and she has been nominated for numerous awards for her work.
She resides in Los Angeles with her husband.