Authors: Janet Elizabeth Henderson
Six Months Ago—Las Vegas
When Josh McInnes realised it was time to settle down and start a family, he did what any self-respecting celebrity would do and called his manager.
“This better be important,” Mitch grumbled down the line. “It’s four in the morning over here.”
Josh glanced at the clock and winced. He hadn’t thought about the time in New York. In his mind’s eye he could see his best friend with his hair standing on end and a scowl on his face.
“I want to get married,” Josh said instead of apologising.
There was silence for a beat.
“Thanks for the offer, Josh, but you’re not my type.”
“Not to you, fool, to a woman.”
“Please tell me that you aren’t planning a Vegas cliché? The world doesn't need another celebrity with a drive-through marriage license.”
“You don't seriously think I'd do something that stupid?” There was no reply. Josh frowned at the phone. “No, dumbass, I’ve decided that it’s time to start a family, before I’m too old to play football with the kids.”
“You’re only thirty-five.” Mitch sounded fed up.
“And by the time I find a wife and start churning out the kids, I’ll be older. I don’t have time to sit around waiting for it to happen. That’s why I’m calling. I need you to find me a wife.”
The line went dead.
Josh’s lips pursed as he listened to the dial tone. Then he hit redial.
“Go to sleep,” Mitch said by way of hello. “Or at least let me go to sleep. I was in meetings all day; I’m beyond beat and don’t have the energy for whatever the hell this is.”
Sleep? Josh scoffed at the phone. It was barely one a.m.—Vegas was just getting started.
“Did you hear me? I need you to find me a wife.”
“Yeah, I heard. Are you drunk? Why the hell would I find you a wife? Find your own woman.”
“You’re my manager.” From his room high above the city, Josh watched lights flicker on the Vegas Strip.
“Exactly. I manage your career. Your life is your business.”
“You’re also my best friend.”
“That doesn’t mean I want to play matchmaker. Marry one of the many women who throw themselves at you.” Mitch paused. “Just don’t do it in Vegas.”
“I don’t want one of them. They’re factory made. I feel like I'm a product tester for Mattel. One more Barbie look-alike and I'm going to lose it. I don't need another date. I need a wife. Someone different. Someone real. I want you to arrange a marriage for me. You know, like they do in India.”
“Like they do in India?”
“Why are you repeating everything I say?” Josh was losing patience; Mitch was supposed to be the one with the brain.
“Seriously? You have to ask me that? You call me up in the middle of the night and ask me to get you married and you wonder why this is hard to follow?”
“Look,” Josh said, “I thought this through.”
“Yeah, that’s what worries me.”
“You know me better than anyone else, so you’re the best person to find me a wife.”
“What about romance, attraction, crap like that?”
Josh waved a dismissive hand, even though Mitch couldn’t see him. “You know I don’t believe in that stuff.”
“You make millions from that stuff.”
“Singing about romance is different from actually believing it exists. It’s the same as singing about Santa. He doesn’t exist either. There’s no such thing as romantic love, only hormones and lust.”
“That’s a great quote,” Mitch told him. “Should we put that on your next album cover?”
“So you don’t want to love your wife, just bang her and get to the baby part?”
“I didn’t say that.” Josh kicked off his shoes. Dealing with Mitch was using all his energy. Suddenly the party he’d planned to attend didn’t seem like such a great idea. “I believe in love. But love doesn’t happen instantly. You start with commitment and then you get love. And what’s more committed than marriage? The love will come later.”
“Commitment my ass. You should be committed,” Mitch mumbled.
“I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been around all that romance stuff since I was a teenager. I know every soppy ballad out there. I’m telling you, there’s no such thing as romance. I want a wife.”
“A non-romantic wife?”
“A wife with family values who doesn’t care about her career?”
“She can have a career, just not one that involves using me to get ahead.”
“Carry on.” Josh grinned at his reflection in the window.
“Basically, you want a relationship from the fifties?”
“Yes!” He thought about it. “No! Wait a minute; you’re putting words into my mouth again.”
There was a long sigh in his ear. “Don’t worry. I get it, buddy. You want me to vet some women and find you a wife, and”—there was a grin in Mitch’s voice—“if she happens to be Doris Day, even better!”
Present Day—Invertary Castle, Scotland
Caroline Patterson pursed her lips at Invertary Castle’s main entrance. It made her sick to her stomach that a celebrity had bought the place. He would probably paint the interior gold and throw orgies in the grand room. She stepped back to look at the building and smiled. Not big by castle standards, it was more on the scale of a grand house. Caroline loved the pale grey stone; she was tempted to run her fingers over it while she waited for the lord of the manor to open the door. Instead she let her gaze follow the sleek lines of the building up over four floors to the twin turrets at the top. Gorgeous. Like a tall, lean sculpture, full of grace and life—and, unfortunately, Americans.
Her admiration of the building was interrupted when the heavy wooden door swung open. Standing before her was Josh McInnes,
magazine’s sexiest man alive. He was taller than he’d looked in the photos she’d seen. His shoulders were broad, his hips slim and his legs long. Black hair flopped towards one of his brilliant blue eyes. They were electric. And they were amused. Caroline blinked hard. He was smiling at her—a lazy, confident smile. Caroline pushed back her shoulders, took a step forward on wobbly legs and thrust out her hand.
“Caroline Patterson.” Her voice was a little huskier than usual. “I represent the Council. Your friend Mitch met me in my office at the community centre. I have the forms he asked me to drop off.”
She cleared her throat and resisted the urge to fidget. She never fidgeted.
“Josh.” He captured her hand in his.
He held it a moment longer than was polite, and Caroline could swear she felt the heat from his touch slide across her body like honey on warm toast.
“Come on in, Caroline Patterson.” He flashed his award-winning grin. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
Caroline followed him into the castle and promptly forgot all about him. It was worse than she’d imagined. Not only had the previous owners covered the beautiful wood panelling in the hallway with smooth board, and the marble floor with grey carpet—they’d lowered the ceiling to hide the plaster moulding that wound around the top of the walls.
“This way.” Josh put his hand on the small of her back.
Caroline stepped away from his touch as her heart sank further. The grand room was no longer grand. The walls were cream, the old stone fireplace had been covered over, only to be replaced by the biggest TV screen she’d ever seen, and the chandelier was now a modern spotlight system.
“Please, sit down.” Josh pointed to one of the twin blue sofas.
Caroline perched on the edge of an overstuffed cushion, holding her briefcase in her lap. She wanted to weep. From the inside of the castle, you wouldn’t know it was a beautiful nineteenth-century building. The character of the place had been stripped away.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Josh said.
Caroline pulled her attention away from the utilitarian blinds on the bay window long enough to reply. “Tea, please.”
“Ah.” Josh scratched his head. “I’m not sure we have tea.”
Then why ask?
“Don’t worry.” Mitch entered the room carrying a tray. “I have tea.”
He put the tray on the monstrous modern coffee table.
“Nice to see you again, Caroline.” Mitch handed her tea in a large mug with “Party Hearty” written on it. “Sorry.” He winced. “Josh hasn’t gotten around to stocking the place yet.”
“It’s perfectly okay.”
She tried not to grimace as she sipped the tea. Basically, it was a delicious mug of hot, watered-down milk. She put it on the ugly glass table, before reaching into her briefcase.
“I have the paperwork that you need to fill in to obtain permission to renovate the castle.”
She held the paperwork out towards Josh, who sat opposite her on a matching sofa. The ankle of one of his legs was perched on the knee of his other leg. He was watching her. No, studying her—in a way that was almost predatory.
“I’ll take that.” Mitch reached for the paperwork.
Caroline smiled gratefully. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that Josh was still staring at her. She wriggled uncomfortably before picking invisible fluff from her skirt.
“So, what do you plan to do to the place?” She flicked a glance at Josh before turning to Mitch for the answer.
“We’re going to convert this room into a sound studio,” Mitch said.
Caroline felt the blood drain from her face. “You’re going to convert the grand room into a sound studio?”
Mitch shrugged. “It seems to be the best space for it.”
Caroline bit her tongue as anger bubbled inside her. It made her feel sick to think that the castle was now in the hands of people who didn’t recognise its value.
“Well, if that’s all.” Caroline stood. “I’ll get back to work.”
And start proceedings to stop you messing up the castle any further
. She flicked through her contact list in her mind, planning what strings she would pull to save the castle. “Thanks for the tea.”
She took a step towards the door.
“Actually.” Josh stood up. “There’s one more thing I’d like to discuss.”
Mitch shot him a pointed look. “Don’t you want to think about that first, buddy?”
“Nope.” Josh grinned widely. “I’m sure.”
Caroline didn’t know whether to sit or stand. Mitch sighed and rubbed his face. Caroline’s stomach clenched tightly. Whatever was coming, she wasn’t going to like it. If he told her he was going to replace the lead windows with aluminium, or paint the exterior pink, she’d have to resort to violence.
“It’s like this,” Josh said in that melodious voice of his, before peering out from under lashes that were thicker than hers. “I’m looking for a wife, and I think you might be it.”