Unexpected pleasure, p.1

Unexpected Pleasure, page 1

 

Unexpected Pleasure
 


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Unexpected Pleasure


  Unexpected Pleasure

  Dara Girard

  Contents

  Unexpected Pleasure

  Dear Reader Letter

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Also Available

  About the Author

  Copyright Information

  Unexpected Pleasure

  Dara Girard

  * * *

  * * *

  Published by ILORI PRESS BOOKS LLC

  www.iloripressbooks.com

  Smashwords Edition

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.

  * * *

  About the Book

  When Tanna Ariyo gets dumped at her twin sisters’ wedding, she throws caution to the wind and asks a handsome stranger for a simple request.

  She expects him to turn her down.

  He doesn’t.

  Soon an evening she’d thought would be a disaster turns into something more. And before she knows it, Tanna finds herself falling for a man who could either break her heart or give her unexpected pleasure…

  The first book in the It Happened One Wedding series.

  Dear Reader Letter

  Dear Reader,

  The idea for the series It Happened One Wedding came to me out of nowhere. I was finishing up my book Just One Look, a story about a woman who meets the man she left standing at the altar, when another idea popped in my head.

  What if a woman got dumped at her sister’s wedding?

  The ‘what if’ question is a storyteller’s goldmine and before I knew it I had sketched out that story and two others—enough for a series. I found the wedding setting intriguing because it’s filled with emotion and I wanted to put a spin on a commonly used formula. Most romance novels end with a wedding, but as some couples know, weddings are just the beginning…

  I hope you enjoy Unexpected Pleasure.

  All the best,

  Dara

  Chapter 1

  “I don’t love you anymore.”

  Sticks and stones...

  “I know I should have told you this earlier.”

  May break my bones...

  “I thought I could ignore how I feel.”

  But words will never hurt me.

  “I’m so sorry.”

  Doran Gibson stared into the beautiful brown eyes of Megan Thurman, the woman who’d just taken a bite out of his heart and spat it on the ground. He tried his best to calculate what his next move should be. He shifted his gaze to one of the large castle windows where his reflection looked back at him. Funny, he didn’t look like a monster. He looked very ordinary—a well dressed black man in a dark suit, behind him the lush English countryside showing off all its spring greenery as dusk slowly settled over it.

  He could hear the gentle murmur of other guests and the soft gurgle of a brook where guests could go fishing, wind its way gently through the landscape a few yards away. No, he didn’t look like a monster, although he felt like one. Because no ordinary man would want to lift the glass table—fine china, white wine filled glasses, red umbrella and all—and smash it to the ground and stomp on it with such force that Megan would scream.

  And he wanted to hear her scream with bloodcurdling intensity just like in a horror movie, her eyes round as headlights in her perfect oval face. No, an ordinary man wouldn’t dream of doing something so destructive. Only a monster would want to grab his chair and fling it towards the brook and let his shout of rage mingle with screams of terror. An ordinary man would just…he wasn’t sure yet.

  “I just couldn’t come to the meeting alone,” Megan continued, her voice low and full of regret.

  He had flown with her to England to attend a meeting, where he’d helped her family business secure a major German supplier for half of the cost they usually charged.

  “I didn’t mean anything more by it.”

  Sticks and stones...

  She sighed, licking her rose colored lips, her blue blouse rising and falling with each breath. Blue was his favorite color. He’d thought she’d worn the blouse especially for him. He’d been an idiot. “Doran, are you listening?”

  May break my bones. But words will never hurt me.

  “Doran, this is important.”

  Lies. Lies. All lies. Words could hurt. Did hurt. They hurt so much that the air seemed to claw at his face, the slightest breeze felt like a band-aid ripping the hairs from his arm. She didn’t love him. She didn’t love him anymore. Maybe never had loved him. And she was sorry. Sorry for giving him hope. Was she also sorry for making him love her? For taking a year out of his life? A woman like her was use to men falling at her feet. Not only was she gorgeous and from an established family, she was kind and funny and…damn. He didn’t want to remember how wonderful she was. He wanted to hate her right now, but couldn’t.

  How could he blame her for what he felt? Wasn’t he the fool? Wasn’t he the one dumb enough to fall in love all by himself? A year wasn’t a lifetime. He snapped the red necklace box closed. A futile act since she’d already rejected what was inside: A necklace he’d had designed specifically for her, the one he imagined would complement the family ring he’d planned to give her when he asked her to marry him.

  “Doran, please say something.”

  She lightly touched his hand. She had no right to touch him. She could pity him, but touching him was crossing the line. He didn’t pull his hand back, but his dark gaze gave her warning and she quickly snatched her hand back realizing her error.

  He was only here in this fourteenth century castle because of her. Because she’d told him how important coming to this meeting was. How much meeting with the UK branch was essential to her success. She wanted to be promoted to a key position in her father’s company and needed his help in a business that was struggling against their more well-positioned competitors. He’d even paid for all the expenses, because he knew her family’s company was on shaky ground, but had not minded. He’d always enjoyed supporting her and only this morning, in a boardroom, he’d done just that. He’d even dressed up to take her to her favorite theater, he should have suspected her silence throughout the show meant something was wrong. Now with the deal sealed and them alone in the castle dining area, she didn’t need him anymore.

  “Doran please. Just say something. Even if it’s one word.”

  What the hell did she want him to say? That it was okay? That he understood? Did she want him to reassure her? He wouldn’t give her that pleasure. That was the only power he had left.

  He shoved his chair back.

  Megan quickly glanced around. “Please don’t make a scene.”

  Doran narrowed his gaze and she had the grace to look embarrassed. She should have known better, he wasn’t the type. He tucked the necklace box inside his jacket pocket. He’d hoped to surprise her, he’d been the one surprised instead. Now he didn’t know what to do with himself. He
stood and turned.

  Seconds later he felt her hand on his arm and winced as if she’d slapped him. She snatched her hand back, but held his gaze. “Doran,” she said in a soft plea. “I’m really sorry.”

  There were a lot of things he wanted to say, but his tongue wouldn’t move, his throat felt tight and he could feel the stinging of tears behind his eyes. No, he wouldn’t say anything because there was nothing to say.

  He turned.

  “Please don’t tell—”

  He spun around, halting her words. The note in her voice was new, the pleading was replaced by something different. Something he could use—fear. He knew what she was asking him and he’d comply. He just wouldn’t let her know that. Let her be a little nervous, anxious, worried. He lifted a brow, flashed a brief grin and walked away.

  Doran changed his flight to an earlier return then aimlessly walked the grounds. Walking around the castle as if he were a sentinel on guard. After doing that for nearly a half hour he went inside and headed up the main staircase and down the red carpeted hallway to his room. He turned a corner then stopped when he saw Megan in front of one of the doors. He couldn’t tell if she was coming or going. He’d wait until she left. He didn’t want to see her right now, he’d walk another half hour around the castle if he had to. He turned to head back downstairs.

  “Darling, I’m sorry.”

  He spun around at the sound of her voice. His heart lifted. Had it all been a mistake? Had she felt that she’d acted too hasty? He returned to the hall and saw a man standing in the doorway. Doran’s heart turned cold when he recognized the face: Adam Holbrooke, her father’s lawyer. A tall black man with a trim beard and boyishly handsome features who’d risen more by connection than intelligence. He’d been at the meeting–silent as the puppet he was—letting Doran negotiate most of the deal.

  He’d never suspected anything between them.

  “I’m sorry I kept you waiting,” she said.

  Doran watched them embrace, acid burning in his stomach.

  “How did he take it?” Adam asked, his arms wrapped loosely around her waist.

  “Better than expected.”

  “I didn’t think this would work. He didn’t seem the type and they were a hard group.”

  “I told you Doran is smarter than he seems. His mother has no idea, but I could see it. You were worried for no reason.”

  “If we didn’t make this deal happen your father was going to fire me, and my father would have served my ass on a platter.”

  She patted his backside and with a smile said, “You have a nice one.”

  “So do you.”

  They kissed then she pulled away and said, “Now we don’t have to worry about anything.”

  “But what if—?”

  She pressed a finger to his lips. “No one is going to ask any questions, you’re the main contact now. All correspondence will go through you so you can take the credit for this.”

  Adam shook his head. “I don’t know. We should give this some time.”

  “I want to be with you, I can’t stand pretending to ignore Doran’s little…” She paused as if searching for words. “Eccentricities,” she finished. “Especially when he’s upset. It’s better this way. There’s no more time to waste. Doran is not the kind to cause trouble. He’ll lick his wounds and disappear. He won’t mention this meeting. He’s too proud.”

  “You’d better hope so.”

  “I know it.” She smiled. “I know my men.”

  “We’re just little boys to you, aren’t we?” he said with affection.

  “Yes, and I have my favorites.” She kissed him.

  Doran turned away, though the image remained in his mind. Adam and Megan? They’d planned this? They were having an affair? She’d used him to get a deal so that her lover could take the credit?

  She couldn’t stand his eccentricities? Doran rested his head against the wall. He didn’t know what hurt more—a broken heart or the sense of betrayal.

  He’s too proud. Maybe he shouldn’t be. Maybe he should confront her and let her know what he thought, maybe he should call her father up and tell him who had really negotiated the deal. Who cared if it made him look pathetic?

  He sighed. He did. He didn’t like being a fool and he didn’t want anyone else to know it. Plus, telling her father would only reveal what he’d tried to hide for years. How smart he was. He’d played on his carefree, easy-going persona for years and it had worked for him so far and he planned to let it work for years to come. He’d cultivated it out of necessity—he’d learned early that nothing could please his mother so he quickly stopped trying. His brother paid the price of being the smart one, running the company that he planned to give to his son one day. He took his older brother role seriously leaving Doran free to be his mother’s favorite disappointment.

  “If only you’d apply yourself more,” she’d say whenever she saw his report card. He did his barest minimum for the company and had broken free seven years ago at age twenty-seven. Not even his siblings knew how quickly he could crunch numbers or that he could assess a situation and see nuances most people missed. When he’d noticed the pizzeria chain his family had sold to a larger conglomerate was back on the market, he’d casually discussed it with his brother, until his brother thought buying the company back was his idea.

  Doran didn’t mind not getting the credit. He hadn’t liked seeing how the corporate culture was affecting the workers or the reputation of a business his grandfather had taken over fifty years ago. He’d bought one struggling pizza place and with drive and ambition, Mamma Tolino’s Pizza had expanded into several outlets along the East Coast. Two new acquisitions, of smaller pizzerias that were folded into the Mamma Tolino brand, had been his idea, and he’d quietly arranged for certain favorable clauses in the contracts that made sure their workforce had one of the highest retention and loyalty rate in the region, but again, he’d given his sister credit for the idea and had learned it was easier to let others think he was stupid. No responsibility, no expectations, no disappointment.

  But he’d blown his cover for Megan. Because he’d loved her, because he’d wanted the best for her. He’d planned a future with her. And she’d played him. She knew he wouldn’t tell anyone, not just because of pride, but because of what it would cost him.

  He’d already bowed to the pressure to get married. He’d only looked in Megan’s direction because of his mother’s insistence and he’d fallen hard. He’d been ready to put his carefree life behind him. But not anymore. His mother could nag him, be disappointed with him, but he wouldn’t fall prey to his heart or sense of duty again. If he died a bachelor, so what? If his mother thought he was a reckless playboy, he didn’t care. He wouldn’t be made a fool of again.

  Doran took a deep breath. Fine. He’d miscalculated. He wouldn’t do it again. He glanced at Adam and Megan framed in the arched castle window down the hall, making them appear like newlyweds headed to their bridal suite, before they disappeared into the room.

  Doran shoved his hands in his pockets and said in a low voice, “I’ll let this go, but you’d better hope we don’t meet again.”

  Chapter 2

  Tanna Ariyo didn’t have a limitless bank account to pay for her deception. Graham Black, the man she’d hired to pretend to be her boyfriend for her twin sisters’ double wedding, was the best her money could buy.

  Perhaps if she’d paid more, he wouldn’t have gotten tipsy and hit on one of the bridesmaids. Tanna sat stoically among the scent of jollof rice and baked plantain as imported palm wine flowed along with the white and red variety. The white of the large cowrie shell centerpieces, representing fertility and prosperity in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria, caught the light of the expansive chandeliers overhead in the castle ballroom. The brides and grooms had already gone through most of the celebration before her humiliation. Ironically it happened soon after the ritual of tasting the four elements: Lemon, vinegar, cayenne and honey.

  The lemon sig
nifying sour feelings, the vinegar bitter experiences, cayenne for hot moments and honey for sweet, wrapping everything up. Life was like that, but right now Tanna felt as if her life was a gallon of vinegar and there was nothing to remedy that. She’d spent—wasted—money so that Graham would make her look good.

  So that she didn’t have to attend Feyi and Fola’s destination wedding alone. Everyone already felt bad that her younger sisters—yes both of them, they always liked to add in whispers—had married before her, and she’d despaired of having to endure another long evening of pitying stares. She’d thought of coming up with an excuse like the flu or malaria, but nothing seemed to work. Her sisters wanted her there and her absence would have been noticed.

  “You have to go,” her mother had said when Tanna had brought up the idea. “Not showing up will be just as pathetic as going alone.” They sat in the family house in suburban Maryland as her mother added even more names to a guest list that could rival Father Christmas’. Although the wedding would be in England, where a number of their relatives lived, it would also be broadcast online to Nigeria, Brazil, Canada and America. So her single status could be broadcast across continents.

  “So you see me as pathetic?” Tanna asked, trying to appear nonchalant, although it was difficult to have a serious conversation with her mother while her seventy-nine year old grandmother sang in the kitchen as she cut up red peppers, her words partly in English, Yoruba and another language all her own, when she forgot the lyrics.

  “No,” her mother said quickly. “Just unfortunate. If only…”

  “If only what?” Tanna prodded, although she didn’t really need to ask. Everyone felt they knew the exact reason why she was still unmarried.

  “You’re too picky.”

  “You’re too heavy.”

  “You’re not heavy enough.”

 
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