The Billionaire's Unwanted Virgin(10)By: Doris O Connor
With those contracts came a settlement figure so high her head still spun, and it would mean neither she, nor Mum and Beth would ever need for anything ever again. The debts accumulated through Beth's illness would be swept away as though they were nothing, her medical treatments taken care of for however long she needed them. If the little girl lived that long.
No, she would not allow herself to entertain any other possibility than Beth's full recovery. Alice blinked the rising tears away, uncomfortably aware that Lakota was once again watching her every move. She forced a smile on her lips, and his tense stance relaxed a bit. He sat back down and sighed.
She couldn't shake the feeling that he was as unhappy about this arrangement as she was. She could only guess at the demons that drove him. All that Percy would reveal was Lakota's need to get married to cinch an important business deal. It seemed even in these modern times and with a man as successful as Lakota, old values were held dear in the corporate boardroom of Lord Langton enterprises. Lakota was the major shareholder, yet the board would not appoint him as CEO unless he was married.
That's where she came in. A wife in name only, giving Lakota the respectability the board craved.
In return for her several million dollar settlement she had to be his dutiful wife in public and keep her mouth shut. No hint of scandal could attach to Lakota's name. His brother's car accident had attracted enough unwanted attention. And she'd signed up to twelve months of torture. Twelve months of pretending to be his loving wife, of giving the public appearance of wedded bliss, before she would be allowed a quiet separation and eventual divorce.
It was so far removed from what she had always hoped for in a marriage that her stomach churned with bile, and made it impossible for her to relax enough to eat anything. And this unreasonable awareness she had of Lakota as a man was so not helping.
"I still don't understand why you have to marry," she said. "This isn't the Dark Ages, and surely a man with your connections does not need the approval of the board. You control the company as it is. Why go through all this just to be the public face? I just can't get my head round it, and I have no idea how to explain this all to my mum."
"Surely the money will soften the blow." He ignored her probing, not that she'd really expected him to open up to her. As far as he was concerned she was just the means to an end. A problem caused by his brother that had to be taken care of. Had she not proved useful to him, she had no doubt she would ever have been allowed anywhere near him.
"You don't know my mother. To get married for anything but love is a sacrilege as far as she is concerned. Daddy and she were childhood sweethearts, and blissfully happy until his heart attack last year. She hasn't been the same since he died."
Her voice broke like it always did when she thought of Daddy, and this time she couldn't stop a tear escaping. She angrily swiped it away. Lakota had made it very clear that he didn't appreciate tearful breakdowns. By the time she had her emotions under control enough to look at him, his face was an unreadable mask. Only his dark eyes showed a swirl of emotion before he blinked, and they, too, turned to stone, making her wonder whether she had imagined that brief flash of compassion.
Lance Lakota Kemnay and compassion in the same thought process was an oxymoron to the extreme. Percy had let her research Lakota when he'd explained the terms of the contracts he was going to have drawn up. Whilst she'd appreciated the older man's kindness, what she'd learned about her soon-to-be husband had given her the chills.
A mega name in the corporate world, he'd worked himself up the ladder from the ground up. Ruthless, efficient, ambitious to the point of obsession, and intensely private, he was a force to be reckoned with. She hadn't been able to glean much about his private life. His brother’s escapades dominated the gossip pages, his unfortunate accident under mysterious circumstances only last week still the top of the news hags.
The pictures of Lakota at Zeb's funeral had broken her heart. Taken on the very day Zeb had won her in that auction, the pictures showed him standing to one side as he'd watched the proceedings with such an aloof expression the papers had branded him heartless. But Alice recognized the look of a man with such an intense grip on his emotion, that to show any would open the floodgates. She recognized it because she'd worn the same look over and over again over the course of the last year. She'd had to, because if she'd fallen apart, everything would have unraveled so much sooner. Beth and Mum needed her to be the strong one.