The Texan's Contract Marriage - By Sara Orwig


Marek Rangel glanced at his watch and pushed aside the papers in front of him. It was the morning of the second day of April, a sunny, spring day. Two minutes until his appointment with the opera singer. He had no idea why Camille Avanole had requested to meet with him or even how she had gotten through to his private line. He didn’t attend the opera and it wasn’t on the list of charities of his family’s foundation. He had been tempted to refuse to see her, but, out of courtesy, he had decided he would meet her briefly.

He gazed around his corner office on the twenty-second floor in the building that was headquarters for his company, Rangel Energy, Inc. His secretary was to interrupt them if Ms. Avanole ran over the allotted thirty minutes he had agreed upon.

A light knock on the door brought him to his feet.

His secretary thrust her head into the room. “Camille Avanole is here.”

“Tell her to come in,” he said, stepping away from his oversize antique mahogany desk.

A vivacious black-haired woman approached him with her hand extended. A smile revealed white, perfect teeth; she had a sparkle in her enormous, thickly lashed blue eyes. The plain black dress she wore with a black scarf wrapped casually below her neck was striking. She had an inviting presence, as if she were about to share a delightful surprise. Suddenly, Marek’s interest stirred.

“Mr. Rangel,” she said. “I’m Camille Avanole.”

Her warm hand was soft, yet her handshake was firm. At the moment of contact, he was jolted by an electric response, an intense awareness that he had not felt with any woman since he had lost his fiancée. Realizing he was staring, he released her hand.

“Please have a seat.”

Marek focused on her interesting walk. As she crossed the room, he noticed her tiny waist. Her beauty had to be an asset to her career.

“Just call me Marek,” he said, certain this meeting would be brief and he would never see her again.

Two antique velvet wingback chairs stood in front of the mahogany desk. Marek sat down facing her. She crossed long, shapely legs that had to be the best-looking legs on the opera circuit.

“Are you in Dallas for a performance or is this your home?” he asked politely, noticing she had the largest eyes he had ever seen. Striking, spellbinding eyes.

“I’m back in Dallas this spring for a performance I’ll have soon.”

He had the feeling of being studied as intently as a bug under a microscope.

“So what is the mysterious reason you wanted to see me that we couldn’t discuss on the phone?”

Her smile vanished and she straightened. He could add the word compelling to his description of her. He couldn’t imagine her playing any part on stage except the star; she would steal the show even in the background. Even while sitting still, she exuded energy.

“You lost your brother and your fiancée a year ago this March. I’m sorry for your loss,” she said.

“Thank you,” he replied stiffly, waiting and wondering why she had brought that up.

“I knew your brother,” she said quietly.

Surprised, he focused on her. “How’s that?”

“We met at a New Year’s Eve party. You had a very charming brother.”

“Yes, Kern was charismatic, fun,” Marek said, his mind racing. Had she and Kern secretly married? He dismissed that notion immediately. Kern would have told him. “Let’s cut to the chase here. What does your knowing my brother have to do with your asking for an appointment to talk to me?”

“I’m going to give you a shock and I’m trying to lead into it instead of just hitting you with it all at once.”

“At this point, I’m ready for you to hit me with it,” he said, unable to fathom what she might be about to tell him.

She pulled out a picture to show him. He looked at a baby boy with big dark eyes who was smiling. Marek’s breath left him as if he had received a blow to his midsection. The picture looked like dozens he had seen at his parents’ home. The baby had big brown eyes like his brother, tangled black hair, the same color his brother’s had been, the same color as his own. Marek looked up. “Who is he?”

“I think you already know,” Camille answered quietly. “He’s my son. Your brother was his father.”

Even though that was what he had already guessed, it was another hard blow to his midsection to hear her declare it. “I can see a resemblance,