The Inconvenient Bride - By Anne McAllister


“YOUR father on line one.”

They were the words Dominic Wolfe least wanted to hear.

He sighed and shut his eyes. It had already been a hellish morning.

He liked a brisk walk to his office. The mile trek downtown from his Fifth Avenue apartment was ordinarily exactly what he needed to compose his thoughts, run over his mental list of to-do’s and psyche himself up to tackle the day.

Today he’d got drenched halfway there. The “early morning shower” predicted by the weather service had become an eight a.m. cloudburst instead. And by the time Dominic had decided it was more than a sprinkle, taxis had become nonexistent.

He’d arrived, damp and annoyed, to a message that the president of the company with whom he was negotiating a buyout had chosen this moment to rethink his options. While he was trying to sort that out, a supplier in Japan sent a fax saying the shipment would be delayed. His secretary, Shyla, was morning sick, pale and wan and gasping, although trying to mask it with ruthless efficiency.

And Marjorie—the woman he’d been quite sure would never want more from him than his presence in her bed—had just banged the receiver in his ear after delivering an ultimatum: if he wanted to see the inside of her bedroom again, she expected an engagement ring.

And now the old man was on line one?

Dominic did not want to talk to the old man.

“Did you hear me, Dominic?” His secretary, Shyla, interpreted his silence for distraction, not reluctance. “He said it was urgent.”

It was always urgent now that his father was no longer running things.

Douglas Wolfe had far too much time on his hands since he’d retired. He’d gone merrily off to Florida eighteen months ago, telling Dominic he intended to catch up on his reading, fishing and all the other things his years at the top of corporate America had never permitted him to do.

Shuffleboard, Dominic had thought. He’d expected his father to fish and read, to play games and eat Egg McMuffins with his friends.

Instead the old man had spent his every waking moment researching new strategies for the company he was no longer running and attempting to assure its future. That meant he was determined to find the woman who would tempt Dominic to leave bachelorhood behind.

It wasn’t going to happen.

Dominic had told him that. They’d been over it a hundred times. More.

Douglas had tried his hand at matchmaking once before. He’d found Dominic a fiancée a dozen years ago. Carin had been absolutely perfect. Young, sweet, gorgeous, and the daughter of one of Wolfe Enterprises’ biggest suppliers. Dominic had been young, handsome, ambitious, and naive. He’d thought marriages like that worked out.

He’d never expected Carin to jilt him.

But she had. He’d been left standing at their Bahamas hideaway with a ring, a red face and two hundred intrigued wedding guests, but no bride.

He sure as hell wasn’t letting the old man have another shot.

For a dozen years, Douglas had lain low, had let Dominic revel in easy bachelordom. But retirement had apparently pricked his need to meddle again. For the past eighteen months, he’d showed up with a woman every month for Dominic to “look over.”

Dominic had assumed it was biological—some sort of urge to become a grandfather that hit men when they turned sixty-five. Thus he’d expected the old man to let up when his youngest brother Rhys had, just this past Christmas, inadvertently provided their father with twins.

But it hadn’t mattered. It was May now, and in the past five months Douglas had appeared with one woman after another—each as precise and tailored and businesslike as Dominic himself.

They wouldn’t have sex, they’d have mergers, he’d told the old man after the last one. There was no way on earth he would ever consider someone like that!

“Well, what do you want?” Douglas had sputtered.

“To be left alone,” Dominic growled and banged down the phone.

He had been for the past three weeks. He’d hoped his father had got the message at last. Now the old man was on line one.

Dominic punched the button and barked into the phone. “What?”

“And a lovely fine morning to you, too,” his father’s cheerful voice boomed in his ear.

“Not lovely here. It’s raining like hell.” Dominic scowled out the floor-to-ceiling windows of his office onto the gray damp dismal world beyond.

“I’ll tell Evelyn to pack my umbrella and rubber boots.”

“Pack—? Why?” Dominic sat up straight, his fingers strangling his Mont Blanc pen.

His earlier vague sense of foreboding was presently slamming