Wife by Wednesday (Chapter Six)
But dammit! Someone had watched her dress, watched her sleep. Samantha revealed to Blake the conversation she'd had with Eliza, the only one that might hold a hint of their deceptive marriage. The cameras were most likely planted by the guys posing as telephone repairmen. Or perhaps someone had snuck in while she'd been out jogging.
After that, the conversations were on her cell phone and usually when she was out. Not that it mattered, they'd only talked about the reception and the people she'd meet. Admittedly, they talked like an old married couple, which was surprising considering they hardly knew each other.
Blake drove the town car with Sam guiding the way to her house.
As the townhome drew closer, the reality of what they were doing spread worry throughout her limbs.
"You're wringing your hands together," Blake told her. "What's wrong?"
"Honest answer?" she asked him, knowing what he'd say.
He snuck a glance behind his glasses and returned his eyes to the road. "Kissing me is wrong?"
"Yes," she blurted out. "I mean, no."
He chuckled. "Which is it?"
"Ugh. What if I choke? What if I don't look convincing?" What if she screwed up and gave the camera exactly what they wanted and Blake lost his inheritance?
Blake removed one hand from the steering wheel and placed it over her cold ones. "Samantha?"
"Relax. Let me take charge here."
She shook her head. "I'm not used to men taking charge in my life."
"I know that. But you can trust me."
She wanted to trust him. But her hands shook as they pulled into her driveway. He removed the key from the ignition and shifted in his seat. "Let's just go inside and start packing."
"Are you going to kiss me the minute we're inside?" God, she had to know… so she could prepare herself.
Blake leaned forward and removed his sunglasses. "Come here," he whispered, staring at her lips.
She inched forward, thinking he wanted to whisper something important.
Instead, he leaned over the seat and placed his lips softly on hers. The heat was instant and sizzled all the way to her toes. Her eyes fluttered shut as she eased into his kiss. Then he moved away. "Kissing will be the easy part," he said over her opened lips. "Pulling back will prove much harder."
Blake bushed his thumb over her lower lip before turning and opening his door.
Samantha stepped on wobbly legs and allowed Blake to hold her arm for support.
He glanced up and down the block with an obviously disapproving glare. "This neighborhood doesn't feel safe to me. How long have you lived here?"
"Two years," she told him as she placed her key in the lock and opened the door.
They stepped inside the foyer and Samantha placed her purse on the table. "I have some boxes in a shed out back."
"I'll get the ones from the car."
As they went in opposite directions, Samantha found her eyes traveling to the camera she knew was hidden in her bookcase. Walking by it, she headed out through her kitchen to the shed and came back with several dusty cardboard boxes in various sizes. She dumped them on the coffee table and glanced around the room.
Blake brought a half dozen boxes still folded up and a roll of packing tape.
"Why don't we use those for my clothes since they're clean," she suggested.
"Okay," he said glancing up the stairwell.
Samantha led the way to her bedroom and had Blake dump the boxes on her bed. He picked them up one by one and tucked their edges together. After a little tape, the boxes were ready to go.
"Where do you want me to start?" Blake asked.
"In the closet."
After several minutes of packing, Samantha forgot all about the cameras and found her head deep inside her dresser. She grabbed a simple band and tied her hair back out of the way.
"Should I be worried about all these shoes in here?" Blake asked from her closet.
She laughed. "You're the one who told me to go shopping," she teased.
"Looks like I'll be hiring a handyman to build another walk-in just for you." There was laughter in his voice.
"Women love clothes."
"And shoes, apparently. God, I didn't think anyone needed this many."
Samantha tucked her panties into a box and reached for more. "I'm short, in case you haven't noticed. I need heels to see how the rest of you live."
Blake's voice moved closer. "You're not short," he said.
She turned to see him holding a pair of four-inch pumps.
"Vertically challenged, then." She stood to prove her point. "See?" Beside him, the top of her head met his chin. "Short!"
His eyes seemed to drag her into his frame. "I wouldn't change anything about you," he told her. Blake reached out and tugged the band from her hair. His fingers brushed over the ends and Samantha forgot to breathe. The closer he moved into her personal space, the less air was available for her lungs. She tilted her head as he moved in and allowed his mouth to move over hers. Blake's hand dropped the shoes and wrapped around her waist, holding her close.
Her breasts pushed against the hard plane of his chest as Blake angled his head to deepen their kiss. Only when his tongue licked her lips open did she remember the cameras pointed at them. She stiffened, but Blake didn't let her go. Instead, he glided his hand down her back and rounded over her behind.
Her body buzzed and his tongue started a slow dance with hers. His pine scent and heated breath easily distracted her from everything but the feeling of him holding her, touching her.
Liquid started to pool in her belly as desire swept up her spine. She hadn't been kissed in so long she'd forgotten how good it felt. And had it ever felt this good? She didn't think so.
Blake moaned, or maybe she did as his lips left hers and started to trail over her jaw, her neck. He might be playing for the camera, but his body didn't know the rules. The heat of his erection sat against her belly, displaying a need she felt.
"I missed you," he whispered in her hair.
Samantha reached around his shoulders and clawed at the edges of his shirt. "I missed you, too."
His eyes caught hers and a sparkle of mischief there made her smile. When her hand found the bare flesh of his back, his eyes darkened. He kissed her again, this time with more desperation. She felt his hand cup her breast through the fabric of her shirt. She wanted to feel him closer, wanted him to taste her skin where his hands wandered.
"Oh, God," she whispered. This is dangerous. Their desire was real, or at least it was for her.
"You know what I want?" he asked when he let her lips go.
"What?" She kissed his jaw and started to undo the buttons on his shirt.
Blake bent down and lifted her into his arms.
She squealed and grasped onto his shoulders to avoid falling.
"I want to have you in the shower."
Samantha smiled and crossed her ankles as Blake walked them out of the room and away from extra eyes.
When they reached the bathroom door, he placed her back on her feet and took her lips again. The back of her legs bumped into the cheap Formica countertop as they squeezed into the small space. Blake lifted her until she sat next to her sink, all the while his lips kept dancing with hers. He wedged himself between her thighs and her hips rocked forward to find more contact.
The sound of the door closing registered in a small corner of her brain, but her lips kept themselves glued to Blake's.
They were alone. No cameras, no watchful eyes.
The soft comfort of Blake's mouth left hers and came to rest on her temple. She whimpered at the loss. He kept his arms wrapped around her body, kept her tucked firmly in his embrace. Reality slowly seeped in as they both searched for control.
She shouldn't be so at home in his arms. How was she going to stay out of his bed if they continued to play Russian roulette? Samantha started to pull away but Blake held on.
"I need a minute," he breathed into her ear, voice rough with desire.
She leaned into him and loosened her grip on his broad shoulders. For several minutes, they stood still, neither talking. Blake ran his hands up and down her back with slow, even strokes.
"Shouldn't we turn on the shower?" she finally asked, not sure if Blake was ever going to let her go.
Blake's smoky gaze met hers and his brow lifted. "Is that an invitation?"
"For the camera," she said in a rush.
Was that disappointment flashing in his eyes? "Right." He shook his head and pushed himself away from her arms. The room chilled instantly.
The tiny bathroom didn't leave much room for either of them, so Samantha stayed on the counter and watched as Blake turned on the water in the shower. When he turned toward her and rested his back against the door, he attempted a smile but it didn't reach his eyes.
"This is crazy, isn't it?" she asked him, wanting desperately to know what his thoughts were.
He ran a hand through his hair in a gesture Sam started to recognize as a sign of stress. "What's crazy is how much I want you, and how much effort we're going through to convince people we're sleeping together when we're not."
She tried smiling, to lighten the mood. "When you put it that way, we sound certifiable."
The steam from the shower started to fill the room. For the first time since they'd met silence stretched before them as big as the Grand Canyon.
"How long should we stay in here?"
Blake glanced at the shower stall as if it held the answer to her question. "Well, if I was in there making love to you, I'd spend a lot of time learning every inch of your body."
Samantha sucked in her lower lip and pictured his lips licking paths and creating friction. "Talk like that is going to get us both in trouble."
"Why are we sitting out here and letting all that hot water run down the drain again?"
Hell if she knew… oh, yeah. They were married, and being intimate wasn't in their plans.
"Because we're both mercenaries, and sleeping together isn't part of the overall plan. Impulsive actions could ruin everything." Her words made sense, but her heart wasn't listening. The room filled with steam and her clothes started to stick to her frame.
"We can change the plan," he suggested.
Her body tingled with the possibility. "Are you suggesting a year long affair?" Could she do that?
Now his smile reached higher and lit his eyes. "We're both adults with an obvious attraction."
Which still boggled her mind. What could Blake possibly see in her? Compared to Vanessa or Jackie… excuse me, Jacqueline, Samantha was a black duck in a pond filled with white swans. Maybe he was realizing that marriage to her for a year was going to put a serious dent in his sex life.
"I've never embarked on an affair with an end date in mind."
"Neither have I." As he spoke, he moved closer, his hand coming to rest on the counter beside her.
"Right! Then why is it your relationships never last longer than six to nine months."
His eyes widened in fake horror. "You wound me."
"It would take more than that to wound you."
Blake ran a finger over her chin and lower lip. "You know me so well already. We're a lot alike, Samantha. What would be wrong with a satisfying physical relationship that has a beginning and an end?"
His gaze lowered to her lips and he slid closer. The undeniable pull of the man made it hard to think. And that was the problem. Sex was clouding her brain just like the fog in the room. She may have married him for money, but could she keep her heart out of it if they started sleeping together? "Are you this convincing in all your business deals?"
"Am I convincing you?" His hands found her waist and his fingers kneaded her flesh.
"Asking me now when I'm keyed up isn't fair. You know that, right?"
His other hand came to rest on her thigh and started a slow ascend. "I seldom play fair. I never play when I don't think I'll win."
It was a warning. One she really needed to heed.
Reluctantly, Samantha stopped his hand from moving up her leg. "I'll think about it," she told him, because saying no wouldn't have been possible and saying yes was reckless.
Blake let a grateful smile linger on his lips. "I'll take that."
She pushed against his chest, hopped down from the counter, and started to pull her shirt over her head.
"Done thinking already?"
Samantha rolled her eyes and flung her shirt to the floor. Underneath was a pink lacy bra. "Give me your shirt," she demanded.
"What?" Blake's eyes never left her breasts. Men are so easy. A set of boobs rendered them speechless.
He blinked, twice, three times and then unbuttoned his white dress shirt to reveal a span of pure masculine chest.
Tearing her eyes away, Samantha moved around Blake and pushed the shower curtain back. The water had turned cold while they spoke, which served her well. Keeping the rest of her body out of the water, she ducked her head under the spray and shivered as the water wet her hair.
"What are you doing?"
Poor Blake was having a hard time catching up. The fact she'd managed to keep him in a semi state of confusion brought a wave of feminine pleasure over her. "Sorry you missed it, but we just made love in the shower. Leaving here dry would be a dead giveaway." Her eyes drifted down his frame to his obvious state of arousal pressing inside his slacks. "That and… other things."
Blake glanced down and moaned.
Samantha pushed her arms into his shirt. After buttoning it up, she carefully removed her bra and then leaned down to remove her jeans. When she kicked free of her clothes and straightened to her full height, Blake's eyes were riddled with desire so thick she felt sorry for him. The cool water dripping off her hair and down her back did a decent job of chilling her libido.
"You're wicked." Blake's hungry words made her laugh.
He reached for her but she squealed and managed to duck away. He let his hands drop.
"Take a cold shower, Blake. I said I'd think about it."
"I'll get naked and we can think about it together."
She laughed. "Even if I decided to go for your completely foolish proposal, I wouldn't act on it now… not with a camera in the next room."
Blake's rubbed his hands down both sides of his face. "But we're trying to convince whoever is watching that we did… why not just – "
"Not gonna happen," she cut him off. "Take a cold shower." Wearing her underwear and Blake's shirt, Samantha slipped from the bathroom and smiled as she continued with her packing.
They packed a minimal of things, mainly clothes and personal items Samantha needed immediately. Then Blake suggested they hire a moving company to do the rest. He went out of his way to mention his intention in front of the camera in her livingroom. With any luck, whoever planted the surveillance cameras would scramble to remove them before the movers had a chance of finding them.
Neil had already hired some friends to watch the house to follow and record whoever came and went. They might get lucky, find the culprit, and put an end to their watchful eyes.
Back at his Malibu home, Blake informed his staff that any and everything Samantha needed was to be taken care of immediately. She had complete charge of his house and expected her to be treated like the duchess she was. He considered her small role here a launching pad for what was to come.
"It's been a long time since I had a maid," Sam told him once they were alone.
"I can't have my wife doing housework." He was prepared for her fight, and smiled when she didn't challenge him.
"I never liked mopping floors. You'll get no argument from me."
Such blatant honesty and about the simplest of things, pleased him.
"You won't have time for that anyway," he informed her. They sat out on the veranda and watched the sun setting over the Pacific.
"I need you to talk to the caterers and designers about the reception at Albany Hall."
"You want me to plan a party for a place I've never been, for people I've never met?"
Blake sent her a sympathetic look. "I need you to approve what they come up with. I trust my staff there completely, but I need them to be prepared to ask you about these things when we get there. It's best we start that relationship now."
She stretched her legs out on the chaise and tucked them under a blanket. "Is this the first party you've thrown at your home?"
"Then who planned them before? I can't see you doing it."
Her mind was so sharp. "My mother did most of the party planning." Although his mother would want to continue planning everything in his ancestral home, he wanted to make certain Samantha had choice over everything.
Sam's curiosity didn't sit long before she started asking more questions. "Where does your mother live?"
"She lives in your house?" There was a small amount of surprise in Sam's voice.
Blake wondered how much he should reveal, how much truth he could trust his wife with. He started with the facts that would be easily obtained if Samantha bothered looking.
"My mother was the Duchess of Albany for the time she'd been married to my father. After his death, she kept the title, until I married you."
"Ouch. Talk about a wedge between a mother and a daughter-in-law. This can't be a good thing."
Blake shifted in his seat to look at his wife. "It's expected. She knew the day would come sooner than later. Once my father's will was read I'm sure she realized I'd do everything in my power to secure my inheritance."
"How close are you and your mother?"
"We do okay."
"That doesn't sound hopeful."
The air around him started to chill. There was a time when he and his mother had been close. When they had a common goal of hating his father. "You don't have to worry about her."
Samantha seemed to gather the information, process it, and then kick out a solid assessment. "But there is someone I need to worry about, isn't there?"
He wanted to lie, but couldn't. With Sam, if felt wrong to let white lies begin and possibly wedge between them. "My cousin. He's on my short list of people who might have planted those cameras in your home."
"I wish I was. Howard stands to inherit a hefty sum should our marriage fail."
"I take it the two of you aren't chummy."
"Barely tolerate each other is a better description. He stays at Albany as often as he can manage. My mother is too kind to send him away."
"Why don't you?"
"I'm not there enough to care. Though now that will change."
"How so?" Samantha said.
"My mother has the right to live in the house until the estate turns over to me next year. It's understood that once I took a wife, she, you, would take on the duties of Duchess and my mother would move to the smaller estate on the grounds." He didn't expect Sam to take all this in and understand it. But he wanted her to grasp most of it before they left for Europe.
"I don't think I've done enough research on your family home. I assumed Albany Hall was a convenient name for a manor house. Something you British used to make things grander than they are." Samantha played with a lock of her hair as she spoke. Her eyes kept drifting toward the sea.
"Once you see Albany Hall, you'll understand my reluctance to choose a bride."
"Hmm, you know, something has bothered me since we met."
"Why don't you have a British accent? You grew up there, right?"
Memories of hearing his father scold him for not speaking properly chased around in his head. Blake did everything he could to go against his father's wishes, right down to speaking American English and not the Queen's English.
"I spent summers at Albany when I was in boarding school. Every chance we could, my mother took my sister and I here to the States. I immersed myself in American culture." Blake noticed the fog bank drifting closer as his mind drifted with it. "I rebelled against my father on many levels."
"Do you think that dissension between the two of you prompted him to make it more difficult to collect your inheritance?"
Blake gave a curt shake of his head. "My father had to have the last word. Even in death."
"Was he that awful in life?"
"My father was a typical British Royal. Old money filled his pockets and awarded him with the ability to be a pompous jackass whenever he wanted. He married my mother knowing he'd be unfaithful." He remembered the first time he'd seen his mother crying over his father's infidelity. A British tabloid splashed his father's face over the cover with a woman ten years younger on his arm. That was when the trips to America began to shape Blake's life. "He thought he was entitled to walk on people."
"Why didn't your mother leave him?" The softness in Samantha's voice forced Blake's attention away from the sea. Her bright green eyes watched him through lowered lashes, as if she were an intruder carefully trying to avoid detection.
"I don't know. Money, probably. They never spoke of divorce. They lived separate lives most of the time. After my sister was born they stopped sleeping in the same room."
"So was your hatred for how your father treated your mother what pushed the two of you apart?"
Did he really hate his father? Blake never put such a strong word to his emotions. He didn't like the man, no doubt about that. "My father wanted me to be just like him. 'Go to school, get an education, but don't think you have to work more than a day a week.'" Blake let his father's accent bleed into his mockery.
A sad smile spread over Samantha's face. "So your rebellion was to make your own fortune."
Blake sat taller. "I funneled my allowance into stock in the shipping company I now own. Halfway through college, I made my first million. My father was furious."
"He wanted to control you," Samantha said. "He couldn't do that if you were a self-made man."
Blake stared at his wife and had an overwhelming sense of pride. He couldn't remember anyone every diving this deep into his past and concluding everything so perfectly. Samantha listened and truly heard what he said. "Exactly."
"Tell me then, why work so hard to hold onto his money? It isn't like you need it."
"I considered walking away. But my sister, who only knows the lifestyle we were raised in, and my mother for that matter, don't deserve to have their life ripped away. Not to mention we're talking a hell of a lot of money." He laughed, trying to put the somber walk down memory lane behind them.
Samantha appeared to simmer on the information for a few minutes as the last rays of the sun sizzled into the ocean.
"You know something, Blake?" she asked, her eyes left his and stared into the fading sun.
"I'm starting to think you're more martyr than mercenary."
He huffed out a laugh, reached over, and took her hand in his. "This coming from a woman who married me to secure her sister's care."
Samantha snapped out of her haze and squeezed his hand. "Oh, no. Jordan." She started to push up from her comfortable position.
"What is it?"
"It's Saturday. I forgot about my weekly visit with my sister." Samantha pulled her hand out of his. "I've got to go."
"Isn't it too late?"
Samantha waved his question away. "Of course not." She sent him a curious glance. "Do you want to come with me? See where all your money's going?"
Blake had a dozen things he should have been doing instead of revealing his past to his wife. He didn't want to do any of it. "I'd love to meet your sister."