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Harlequin
July 1, 2015


Married For Amari’s Heir

She will share his bed… 

It may have been Charity Wyatt's father who stole from mogul Rocco Amari, but it's Charity who will pay the price of Rocco's vengeance.

Carry his heir… 

Relinquishing her virginity should have covered Charity's debt, but her one white-hot night with the enigmatic Italian has unexpected consequences.

And be his wife! 

Determined her baby will have a better childhood than she did, Charity asks Rocco for financial help. But Rocco has bigger plans in mind: to legitimize his heir by making Charity his wife!

When one night…leads to pregnancy!

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

You will meet me at The Mark at 1:30 p.m. You will wear the dress that was sent this afternoon. In this bag is the lingerie you will wear beneath the dress. This is nonnegotiable. If you do not comply, I will know. And you will be punished for it.

—R

 

Charity Wyatt looked at the very high-end shopping bag that was sitting on the hall table in her entryway. It was a deep gray color, innocuous, except for the famous lingerie label printed on the side. It had matching slate tissue paper inside, and underneath the very first fold of paper was a thick white envelope with a card inside. She knew, because she had opened it. Opened it and read the instructions that were printed on it while her cheeks burned with rage.

The card was now tucked safely back into the bag. She didn’t want to read it again. Once was enough.

The Mark. A clever location to ask for a meet-up, since, six months ago, that was what he had been to her father. And to her.

A mark, part of a con. A mark who now had her utterly and completely at his mercy. She hated that. Hated being on the losing end. Hated being at a disadvantage.

She should have sent her dad packing when, after nearly a year of no contact, he’d breezed back into her life.

One more, Charity. Just one more.

Just one more and it would all be golden in the end. How many times had she heard that? Always with his signature wink and smile, the charm that got him everywhere in life. Oh, how she’d craved the chance to be in his circle. To be a part of him. To be valuable enough to him that he would take her everywhere. No more time spent on her grandmother’s couch, wondering when her dad would be back. No more terrifying nights alone in an empty apartment while he went out and “worked.”

It would all end, once he had the perfect score.

He was so good at spinning golden stories out of straw. And she wanted to walk down into the glittering world he always spoke of. Where things were easy. Where they would be together.

But it always took just one more job.

All her life, her dad had promised there would be rainbows after the storms. So far all she’d ever seen was the thunder and lightning. She had yet to get her rainbow, and this time was no exception.

In this instance, he had left her standing in a puddle, holding a lightning rod.

The minute her father had left town she’d known she was up a creek. But she’d stayed. Because she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Because she had a life here. Had some friends. Had a job. And she’d been certain she would avoid detection. She always had.

Six months of silence. Six months of her life going on as it always had. Six months to get over her father’s betrayal. Six months for her to forget that she had made a powerful enemy.

And now this.

This demand.

It came one day after he’d made contact for the first time. A call to her cell phone from an untraceable number.

She knew what he looked like. Rocco Amari was famous, the media’s favorite businessman playboy. He had model good looks, shiny cars, shinier girlfriends. Basically, everything you needed to capture the attention of the public.

She had seen him before in print images, but she had never heard his voice. Until yesterday. Until he’d made contact. She’d realized quickly that she couldn’t outrun him, that she couldn’t hide from him.

Not without pulling up stakes and disappearing into the night. Leaving her little apartment, her restaurant job, her small group of friends. Becoming a vapor, as she’d been in her childhood. Invisible. With few enough things to stuff them all into one bag so she and her dad could run quickly if they needed to. Then her dad could drop her at his mother’s for “a while” at a moment’s notice.

No. She hadn’t been able to face becoming that person again. A ghost in the human world, never allowed to touch anything. Never allowed to be a part of anything.

So she’d stayed.

Which meant pulling a much more brazen con than she would like. One that would hopefully end this thing with him, and see her on her way. Free and clear. She had to go to him, convince him of her innocence.

But he hadn’t been playing by her rules. And then he’d finally called.

 

“Charity Wyatt?”

“Yes?”

“We’ve never spoken before, but you know who I am. Rocco, Rocco Amari. You have something that belongs to me, my pretty little thief.” His voice was deep, his Italian heritage evident in each syllable. It was the kind of voice that seemed to have a flavor all its own, something smoky, like scotch and cigars. It curled itself around her, around her throat, made it difficult for her to speak.

“I am not a thief,” she said, injecting a note of ringing conviction into her voice. “My father is a con man and he—”

“And you are his accomplice,” he said, the certainty in his voice squashing the false ring of conviction in hers.

“I need to explain. He lied to me. I didn’t know what I was doing!”

“Yes, yes. Very nice, hysterical cries about your innocence. However, I find myself unmoved.”

She bit her lip, trying to force herself to feel persecuted, to call up everything she’d felt when her father had left. So that he could hear a truth that wasn’t there. “But I didn’t mean to steal anything from you.”

“And yet, I find myself short a million dollars. And your father is nowhere to be found. Things must be made right.”

“If I could get hold of my father, I would see that he returned the money.” Even though she knew it had been put into other assets by now.

“But you can’t get hold of your father, can you?”

No. No she couldn’t. Even if she could, she doubted he’d be on hand to bail her out of trouble by putting his own neck on the chopping block. He’d left her to deal with this on purpose.

“However,” Rocco continued, “I find that I have a suggestion for you…a deal.”

“A deal?”

“Yes, but I do not discuss important business on the phone. You will receive instructions tomorrow. Follow them, or I will change my mind. And I will press charges. And you, Ms. Wyatt, will spend quite a few years in jail for fraud, and theft.”

 

And that was how she found herself here. With these instructions, with this bag, with the dress that was still sitting in its garment bag, because she was afraid to look at it.

But then, ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away. Ignoring Rocco wouldn’t make him go away. Wouldn’t remove the threat that had been placed on her freedom.

She would have to go to the meeting. She would have to comply with his instructions.

And after that, she had no idea what she would do. Her eyes fell to the lingerie bag again. A shiver of disgust wound down her spine. She didn’t know what his offer would be, but a suspicion was starting to form. One that didn’t sit well at all. One that, now it had entered her mind, would not be removed.

It was silly, of course, because she couldn’t imagine why he would want her in lieu of a million dollars, or justice. But there was lingerie. That fact remained.

No matter what her concerns, she had no choice but to comply.

It was either that or jail.

And as terrifying as the bag of lingerie was, an orange jumpsuit was far, far scarier. There were enough courtroom dramas on TV painting law and order as a great equalizer that Charity knew most people must see the justice system as something that protected them.

She never had.

Her father had talked about Robin Hood. Twisting tales where thieves were heroes and anyone in uniform was out to shore up the impossible walls built around the rich and elite. Walls that kept people like them down and out.

Yes. The law was nothing but evil. Jail, the worst fate that could befall someone like them because they could disappear in there. No one on the outside cared about people like them. The ones on the bottom rung of society. They had to take care of themselves, because no one else would.

There was a very large part of her that still clung to those teachings, was still shaped by them.

But she’d talked her way out of worse.

She just had to find her angle.

And once she found it, she would exploit it to the best of her ability. And her abilities on that score were pretty damn good.

Rocco might think he had the upper hand…and she would allow him to continue thinking that.



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