Brett Westerly is his father’s golden child, but it’s come at a cost. As head of the family corporation, he throws himself into his work—hiding in his office is easier than confronting the reality of his broken family.
After a bitter divorce that split the family and divided loyalties, the wealthy Westerly matriarch offers an early inheritance to any grandchild who marries and invites the entire family to the wedding. Brett’s brother Spencer rashly gets engaged, and Brett knows it’s his duty to intervene. But he never imagined the unwelcome desire Spencer’s fiery fiancée would spark in him. Now the man who’s used to getting everything he could want has met the one woman he can’t have.
Ever since she was a girl, Alisha Coventry considered Spencer and his sister Rachelle the family she didn’t have. When Spencer asks for her help, Alisha has no problem becoming his fake fiancée—until she meets Spencer’s sexy older brother Brett. The chemistry between them is undeniable—forbidden—but as their relationship deepens, Brett is determined to have her.
Alisha only wanted to help the family make amends. Now she’s falling for the wrong Westerly.
She raced out the door and came to a skidding stop when she saw Brett leaning against a silver sports car parked behind her Honda Civic.
With his charcoal suit and dark glasses, he looked out of place in the driveway. Alisha’s breath caught in her throat as he pushed off the car and straightened. She didn’t appreciate the way her body warmed as he approached her. “If you’re looking for Spencer, he’s not here.”
Alisha almost took a step back, but she forced herself to stand her ground. He came to a stop a foot from her. Close enough to set Alisha’s heart beating wildly in her chest with an odd mix of nerves and excitement. He was really better-looking than any man had the right to be. “I’m not sure what you think we have to say to each other.”
He removed his glasses. There they were, those blue eyes she found impossible to look away from. She told herself she was imagining it, but she could have sworn there was sadness in them. Did his gruff exterior protect a man who’d experienced pain? In terms of worldly possessions and all things sought after, he had everything. But something had torn through him.
As one long moment dragged into two, she became sure he’d come to apologize and was having difficulty choosing his words. He probably felt horrible about the first impression he’d given her. She nodded at him in encouragement.
“How much would it take for you to not marry my brother? Fifty thousand? A hundred thousand? Name your price.”
Alisha gasped as his words sank in. I did not see that coming. “You should go.”
He leaned into her space. “Two hundred.”
You’re getting less attractive the more you speak. “Sorry to disappoint you, but not everyone can be bought. There isn’t an amount you could offer that would be enough.”
“I don’t believe you,” he said matter-of-factly.
“It doesn’t matter if you believe me. It’s the truth.”
“Everyone has a price.”
“Then you know the wrong people.”
He seemed to weigh her claim for a moment before saying, “You don’t love Spencer.”
“Wrong again.” She did, even if it wasn’t in a romantic way. He was the little brother she’d never been fortunate to actually have.
Brett straightened and frowned. “You were dating someone else until two weeks ago.”
As far as Alisha knew, Brett didn’t talk to Rachelle often, and she couldn’t imagine that her dating life was a topic of discussion when they did speak. “How do you know that?” Alisha decided it didn’t matter. Instead of waiting for an answer, she waved a hand at him and demanded, “Why are you so determined to sabotage your brother?”
His head snapped back. “I’m not.”
“He needs the money for his company.”
“My father would give him a loan. I’ve offered to invest in his company. He doesn’t have to marry you—” Brett was smart enough to stop there.
Had Alisha actually been dreaming of living happily ever after with Spencer, she would have been hurt by Brett’s stance. She took a deep, calming breath. Regardless of what a jackass he was, this was Rachelle’s brother. She remembered what Spencer had said about always hoping things would go better. She owed so much of the happiness she’d found to the Westerlys’ welcome. They taught me what a healthy family life could be like. Is this my chance to pay it forward? She called upon her kindergarten-teacher patience and said, “Coming here was wrong. Offering me money to leave Spencer is insulting and hurtful. If you love your brother at all, don’t do this. Leave now. I’ll pretend none of this happened, and you should try to support your brother in a way that leaves him with his pride intact.”
Brett’s face tightened with emotion. Alisha braced herself for what was likely going to be an even more offensive comeback, and considering he’d already implied her loyalty could be bought, that was saying something. He brought a hand up and instinctively Alisha flinched before she realized he was merely replacing his sunglasses. He paused and his eyes snapped to hers. No longer angry with her, he appeared to be angry for her.
How can that be possible? He doesn’t know about my past. No one knows all of it. She pushed back a twinge of shame and tensed defensively. When he finally spoke, it was in a deep,
gravelly voice. “I would never hurt you.”
Alisha didn’t have a ready answer for that. She didn’t want to think the past had any hold over her anymore. She looked away and adjusted her bag on her shoulder. “Please just go. I’m already late to meet Rachelle at the gym.”
He nodded, replaced his sunglasses, and without saying another word climbed back into his sports car and drove off. When he was out of sight, Alisha finally got into her own car and started it. She then seemed to lose momentum and simply sat there.
What was that?
Did he honestly think I’d take the money?
She remembered how he’d looked as he stood over her, still very much the arrogant man she’d met the day before, but with an underlying sadness that made her wish she knew how to help him connect with Spencer.
I don’t understand you, Mr. Angry Westerly.
She backed out of the driveway and pulled into traffic, unable to dislodge him from her thoughts. She had driven several blocks before she realized she was headed in the opposite direction from the gym. She used a side road to turn around and sighed. But if it’s any consolation, I understand myself even less.
About the Author
Ruth Cardello was born the youngest of eleven children in a small city in northern Rhode Island. She lived in Boston, Paris, Orlando, and New York before coming full circle and moving back to Rhode Island, where she lives with her husband and three children. Before turning her attention to writing, Ruth was an educator for twenty years, eleven of which she spent as a kindergarten teacher. She is the author of seven previous novels including Bedding the Billionaire, which was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.