Marriage of Inconvenience


Chapter One

"I'm so stupid," Jamie Warren wailed, tossing the crumpled tissue over her shoulder. Rich Manning, who was sitting across the kitchen table from her, held out a fresh one. "I trusted Tony, and he's nothing more than a...jerk."

She yanked the tissue from Rich's hand and ingloriously blew her nose. That tissue took the same path as the previous one. "I feel like the biggest fool who ever lived."

"It's Tony who's the fool."

"Oh, right. Then why am I the one sitting here crying my eyes out?" Jamie really didn't expect him to answer. Calling Rich at an ungodly hour, sobbing out her tale of woe, wasn't the most considerate thing she'd ever done, but she had to talk to someone and he was the first person who'd come to mind.

He was the kind of friend she felt comfortable calling in the middle of the night. The kind of friend who'd immediately drive over if she needed sympathy or consolation. They'd been close ever since they'd worked together on their yearbook in high school. Although they didn't see each other often, Jamie had always felt their relationship was special.

"At least crying's better than getting drunk, which is what I did when I found out Pamela was cheating on me," Rich admitted with a wry twist of his mouth. He got up and poured them each another cup of coffee.

"You haven't seen her since, have you?"

"Sure, I have. I wouldn't want her to think I was jealous."

Despite everything, Jamie laughed. "You're still dating her? Even after you learned she was seeing another guy behind your back?"

Rich shrugged carelessly, as though the entire situation was of little consequence, something Jamie knew not to be the case. Although he'd been devastated, he'd worn a nonchalant facade. He might've fooled everyone else, but not Jamie. His flippant attitude couldn't camouflage the pain.

"I took her to a movie a couple of times," Rich continued. "I played it cool. But as far as I'm concerned, it was over the minute I heard about that other guy."

"It's over with me and Tony, too," Jamie murmured. Just saying the words produced a painful tightening in her chest. She was truly in love with Tony and had been for nearly a year. They'd often talked about getting married and raising a family together. Jamie wanted children so badly. The weekend before, they'd gone shopping for engagement rings. Her mother, who was crazy about him, had been thrilled. Since Jamie was over thirty her mom tended to worry about her marriage prospects, but even she said that waiting for a man like Tony Sanchez had been time well spent. Sharing the bad news with her widowed mother had been almost as upsetting as learning about the betrayal itself.

"You're sure the other woman's baby is his?" Rich asked, reaching for her hand. "She could be stirring up trouble."

"He didn't bother to deny it." In the beginning, Jamie had hoped the woman was lying. She'd searched Tony's face, praying it was all some malicious joke. His beautiful dark eyes had turned defensive, but gradually the regret, the doubt, had shown, and he'd slid his gaze away from hers. It had been a mistake, he'd told her, a momentary slip in judgment. A one-night fling that meant nothing. He felt terrible about it and promised nothing like this would ever happen again.

Tony was cheating on her before they were even married, and Jamie didn't need a crystal ball to know that pattern would almost certainly continue.

"This isn't the first time," she admitted, biting her lower lip to control the trembling. "Margie, in New Accounts, mentioned seeing Tony with a blonde a month or so ago. He'd told me he was out of town and I ... I was sure it was just a case of mistaken identity. I should've known then."

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Rich said, bending to brush a wisp of dark brown hair from her temple. "There were plenty of signs that Pamela was playing me for a fool, too, but I was so taken with her - "

"Bust line. Which was always your primary interest."

"That's probably why I never dated you," he countered, grinning.

Jamie smiled. The joke was an old one between them. When they'd first been assigned to work together on the yearbook, Rich had been a popular football player and she'd been a nondescript bookworm. They'd clashed constantly. One day, after a particularly nasty confrontation, she'd shouted that if she had a bigger bust, he might actually