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The Texas Billionaire's BrideTHE TEXAS BILLIONAIRE’S BRIDE

Silhouette Special Edition #1981
The Foleys and the McCords
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0373654635

As the eldest son of a legendary Texas dynasty, Zane Foley had a legacy to live up to. But right now the single dad had a more pressing concern: finding a nanny for his little girl.

Melanie Grandy seemed made to order. She’d already enchanted Zane’s daughter— and now she was working her magic on the wary widower.

Talk about getting the royal treatment!

The minute Melanie met father and daughter, it was instant love. But her Cinderella story came with a secret—one she could never reveal or she’d lose her chance to be part of a real family. Unless Zane was willing to forgive the past for a future...with her.

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Excerpt from THE TEXAS BILLIONAIRE’S BRIDE

When Zane came to the personal shopper’s boutique, where Melanie had evidently gone to put on one of her new makeover outfits with the sales associate’s encouragement, a few women were in front of the mirror, flittering about and doing what women often did over new clothes.

Zane had just opened his mouth to ask if the nanny was set to leave when the women parted to reveal her in the midst of them.

The words lodged in his chest, then began pumping like a conflicting heartbeat.

Ms. Grandy?

Her blond hair was swept back into a graceful chignon, which complemented the slim lines of a short jacket and long cigarette skirt worthy of Jackie O. Her makeup was elegant, bringing out the breathtaking blue of her eyes and the lovely heart shape of her face.

She fit the role of a princess, not a nanny, and for a taboo instant, he envisioned her on his arm at a charity event, shining like the brightest of stars.

Seconds must’ve passed. Maybe even minutes. And during each escalating heartbeat, he kept himself from saying something he would regret to this new woman, even if, under the makeup and clothing, she was still the same lady who’d hooked his attention that first day.

She just had an extra sparkle in her eyes, and that was what took his breath away.

She was staring right back at him with something that resembled hope as she folded her hands in front of her—a nervous gesture he was just starting to recognize.

Melanie, he thought. Not Ms. Grandy. Not “the nanny.”

Not now.

“You…” He trailed off.

Surely he could find a comment somewhere in his brain. Any comment. Zane Foley was the last man on earth who should’ve been searching for words.

A couple of the sales associates laughed softly, and heat crept up Zane’s neck.

He pushed his hands into his suit pockets as he addressed his employee. “Looks as if you’re ready.”

His back-to-business tone seemed to douse Melanie—no, it had to remain “Ms. Grandy”—back to reality, too. But as she nodded at him, then thanked the women around her, he could tell that she’d lost the glimmer that had made her more beautiful than ever, and he hated that he’d done this to her.

But what was new?

He turned to leave, getting the hell out of there, and she caught up just as they were crossing the marble floors and coming to the baby grand piano near the escalators. The musician was playing that song from Casablanca.

He hoped she didn’t notice.

“Mr. Foley,” she said, “I didn’t tip them yet.”

“It’s taken care of.”

Without looking at her, he motioned for her to climb aboard the “down” escalator before him.

Cold, he thought. Didn’t he have it within himself to be more than that?

She got on the conveyance, turning around to face him while holding the moving handrail. “But shouldn’t I--?”

“It was my treat, Ms. Grandy. Besides, I know the owners and my credit’s good to them.”

“Oh.” She patted the side of her hairdo, as if not knowing what else to do. “Of course you know them. You probably know every top tax-bracket entrepreneur in the country.”

“I know them because I helped develop this center.”

At the news, she went silent, as if he’d intentionally reminded her of his station in life and hers—and the chasm between them.

But he hadn’t meant to.

Even so, the sudden space between them bothered Zane. God knew why, because it wasn’t as if they would ever be close.

They got off the escalator and moved through the men’s shoe department toward the exit, where Monty would be waiting. Zane couldn’t help noticing that the suited-and-tied salesmen were watching Melanie Grandy, and he wanted to take her arm and link it through his in a show of…

He stopped himself before he used the term “possession.”

Not him. Not for her.

Nevertheless, he didn’t appreciate the staring, so he shot the men subtle back-off looks while approaching the doors to the valet and pick-up area.

When they got out there, Monty hadn’t yet arrived, and Zane guessed it was because his daughter Livie was probably going through her new purchases and making it nearly impossible for the softhearted driver to get the packages in the trunk.

He would give them three more minutes before calling.

As they waited, a couple valets were giving Melanie the eye, just as the guys inside had been doing. With one extra long look at them, Zane persuaded the boys to go back to being valets instead of slobbering dogs.

Melanie didn’t seem to notice any of it. She stood there, face forward, the silence deafening.

Luckily, she broke it.

“And how did Toys ‘R’ Us go with Livie?” she asked.

In spite of himself, a smile captured his mouth, and when it stayed, it surprised him a little. “She was really excited. They had a Ferris wheel in the middle of the store. We went on that thing three times.”

“Good.”

A smile broke out over her face, too. My, wasn’t she content about her schemes to get father and daughter together?

Yet her happiness would end soon enough when she realized that tonight wasn’t going anywhere beyond this.

He shifted under the weight of the thought…and under the heft of the tension that remained between them.

But she still seemed to be in a positive mood. She even laughed a bit, yet it sounded more self-aware than anything.

“What is it?” he asked.

She gestured to her dress, her face and hair. “This whole night. Me getting made over at your pleasure.”

He almost coughed.

She caught herself. “That’s not exactly what I meant.” Sighing, she shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with… Well, I heard that you make sure all the Foley nannies have looked good to one extent or another.”

What was this about? “Meaning…?” he asked.

“Rumor has it that, in the past, most nannies were easy on the eye.”

That heat began its slow crawl up his skin again, from his neck to his face. “And who told you this?”

“You’re not confirming or denying my comment.”

He knew she wouldn’t give up the information, and even though that got to him, he also had to respect her loyalty. It was a decent quality for anyone to have. Besides, if he really cared about the mild gossip that much, he could narrow it down to one of a few other employees with whom she had regular contact.

“Pretty has nothing to do with it,” he muttered. “It’s never been a job requirement.”

And that was the truth. Even now, he couldn’t say if the other nannies had been good looking or not. All he knew was that Melanie Grandy affected him like none of the others had, and it didn’t sit well.

“If appearances don’t matter,” she said, “then why give me a makeover, even as a thank you?”

She’d turned to him in her direct manner, as if she was only comfortable around him when they were butting heads. And he couldn’t disagree with that notion.

He faced her, too, and out of habit, he actually thought he might be able to make her look away if he stayed quiet long enough.

Yet she stood her ground, and he was the one at the disadvantage, overtaken by the depth and color of her eyes. There was a vivid strength in her gaze, like the undertow of the sea, and he’d noticed it even prior to the makeup bringing it out.

Before he knew what he was doing, he raised his hand and rested it on her cheek, where there had always been a natural blush, even without the aid of all these cosmetics.

Then, realizing what had just happened, he rubbed his thumb over the makeup as if to take some of it off.

“You don’t need all this,” he said.

And it was true. Achingly true.

Her eyes had gone wide. He’d shocked her, he knew, and he wondered if it was because of his brash move or because she could feel the same current that sizzled when his skin met hers.

He could see her throat working as she swallowed, and his breathing picked up.

What if he moved his fingertips down over her jaw, to her neck, where he could brush over the delicate, smooth lines of her? What would she do then?

What would he do after that?

Nothing around them stirred, the air seeming to hover in place while locking everything in to this one moment, this one touch. Locking them in to each other’s gazes, where he could see a different world, a livelier one hued with the laughter he’d heard on the roof of his townhouse a few hours ago.

But then he remembered how he’d put an end to the gaiety, just because he was Zane Foley—bad husband, bad father.

He’d promised he wouldn’t add any more “bad”s to his list.

Slowly, he removed his hand from her face and turned back front, going for his cell phone to see where in tarnation Monty was.

As he accessed speed dial, he could feel Melanie beside him, awkward in the aftermath. And he hated himself for doing that to her—putting this otherwise self-assured woman in a place where she had no firm footing.

That’s right, he thought. Once again Zane Foley had made a mess of things.

But he was going to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Ever.

 

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From the book: The Texas Billionaire's Bride
By: Crystal Green
Imprint and Series: Silhouette Special Edition
Publication Date: 07/09
ISBN: 978-0-373-65463-5
Copyright: 2009
By: Chris Marie Green
R and TM are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com