The Right Bride - By Jennifer Ryan
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SHELLY SWIPED THE lip gloss wand across her lips, rolled them in and out to smooth out the color, and grinned at herself in the mirror, satisfied with the results. She pushed up her boobs, exposing just enough flesh to draw a man’s attention—and keep it—but still not look too obvious.
“Perfect. He’ll love it.”
Ah, Cameron Shaw. Rich and powerful, sexy as hell, and kind in a way that made it easy to get what she wanted. Exactly the kind of husband she always dreamed about marrying.
Shelly grew up in a nice, middle-class family. Ordinary. She desperately wanted to be anything but ordinary.
She’d grown up a plump youngster and a fat teenager. At fifteen, she resorted to bingeing and purging and starved herself thin. Skinny and beautiful, boys took notice. You can get a guy to do just about anything when you offer them hot sex. By the time she graduated high school, she’d transformed herself into the most popular girl in the class.
Destined to live a glamorous life in a big house with servants and fancy cars and clothes, meeting Cameron in the restaurant had been a coup. Executives and wealthy businessmen frequented the upscale restaurant. She’d gone fishing and landed her perfect catch. Now she needed to hold on and reel in a marriage proposal.
* * *
NIGHT FELL OUTSIDE Cameron’s thirty-sixth floor office window. Tired, he’d spent all day in meetings. As president of Merrick International, long hours were the norm and sleepless nights were a frequent occurrence.
The sky darkened and beckoned the stars to come to life. If he were out on the water and away from the glow of the city lights, he’d see them better, twinkling in all their brilliant glory.
He couldn’t remember the last time he took out the sailboat. He’d promised Emma he’d take her fishing. Every time he planned to go, something came up at work. More and more often, he put her off in favor of some deal or problem that couldn’t wait. He needed to realign his priorities. His daughter deserved better.
He stared at the picture of his golden girl. Emma was five now and the image of her mother. Long, wavy, golden hair and deep blue eyes, she always looked at him with such love. He remembered Caroline looking at him the same way.
They’d been so happy when they discovered Caroline was pregnant. In the beginning, things had been so sweet. They’d lay awake at night talking about whether it would be a boy or a girl, what they’d name their child, and what they thought he or she would grow up to be.
He never thought he’d watch his daughter grow up without Caroline beside him.
The pregnancy took a turn in the sixth month when Caroline began having contractions. They gave her medication to stop them and put her on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy.
One night he’d come home to find her pale and hurting. He rushed her to the hospital. Her blood pressure spiked and the contractions started again. No amount of medication could stop them. Two hours later, when the contractions were really bad, the doctor came in to tell him Caroline’s body was failing. Her liver and kidneys were shutting down.
Caroline was a wreck. He still heard her pleading for him to save the baby. She delivered their daughter six weeks early, and Caroline suffered a massive stroke and died without ever holding their daughter.
Cameron picked up the photograph and traced his daughter’s face, the past haunting his thoughts. He spent three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit grieving for his wife and begging his daughter to live. Week four had been a turning point. He felt she’d spent three weeks grieving the loss of her mother and decided to live for her father. She began eating on her own and gained weight quickly. Ten days later, Cameron finally took his daughter home. From then on, it had been the two of them.
Almost a year ago, he decided enough was enough. Emma needed a mother. He’d dated several women since Caroline’s death. More so, he took a few women to bed and felt no emotional connection to any of them. They provided a physical release. Nothing more than empty encounters between two consenting adults. Perhaps that’s what made him feel emptier each time. He didn’t want to examine it too closely. It hurt too much, this loneliness.
He didn’t know if he was capable of giving anything more than his body