Bought:One Bride

By: Miranda Lee

He could retire right now on his portfolio of property and shares.

But of course he wouldn’t. He enjoyed the cut and thrust of the financial world; enjoyed the power of his new position, and the prestige that went with it.

Richard wondered momentarily what Joanna would have made of his success, if she’d still been alive. She would have liked the money, and the social life his new job required of him. But would it have kept her solely in his bed?

Richard doubted it. Any woman who took a lover within two years of her marriage had to be unfaithful by nature.

If it hadn’t been for the autopsy report, he would never have known the awful truth about the woman he loved. He’d questioned the coroner at length about the age of the child Joanna had been carrying when the car accident had claimed her life, but he’d been told there was no mistake. Six weeks, give or take a few days.

Richard had been overseas on business for over a month surrounding the time of conception.

The child was not his.

Richard’s hand closed even more tightly around the keys. He’d wanted a child with her so much. But Joanna had kept putting him off, saying she wasn’t ready for dirty nappies and sleepless nights.

The thing that tormented him the most—now that he could bear to think about it—was the way she’d greeted him when he’d returned home that last time. As if she’d truly loved him. As if she’d missed him so much. She hadn’t been able to get enough of him in bed, when all the while she’d been carrying another man’s child.

Clearly, she’d been going to pass the baby off as his.

What kind of woman could do that?

Richard had buried both of them with a broken heart, then buried himself in his career.

They said time healed everything. Perhaps so. But Richard knew his life would never be the same, post-Joanna. He could never fall in love again for starters. That part of him had died with her.

But he didn’t want to continue living alone.

And he still wanted a child.

It was definitely time to move on. Time to find himself a new wife, the way Reece had found Alanna after his fiancée had dumped him.

“You have that look on your face,” Reece said, breaking the silence in the bedroom.

“What look is that?”

“The one you get when you’re about to ask me endless questions, usually on the new project I’ve just come to you with.”

The corner of Richard’s mouth twitched. “You’re a remarkably intuitive man. I do have some questions for you. And, yes, it’s about a project of yours. But not a new one. One you completed last year. Shall we go out onto the terrace and sit down?”

“I’ve never known you to be so mysterious,” he said as he followed Richard through the sliding glass doors out into the sunshine.

Richard pulled out one of the chairs of the nearest outdoor setting and sat down. There were several arrangements dotted around the various terraces. This was made in cream aluminium, with a glass-topped table and pale blue, all-weather cushions on the chairs.

Richard waited till Reece was settled opposite him before he spoke.

“I’ve decided I want to get married again,” he began.

“But that’s great!” his friend proclaimed. “I didn’t realise you were seeing someone.”

“I’m not. But I hope to be soon, once you put me in touch with the woman who runs Wives Wanted.”

Reece’s mouth dropped open before snapping shut again. “But you didn’t approve when I told you about that.”

“I was surprised, that’s all.” A reasonable reaction, in Richard’s opinion. Reece was not the sort of man one would ever imagine using an introduction agency. His confession to his best man and groomsman just before his wedding last year that he’d found his beautiful new bride via an internet website had come as a shock.

The agency was called Wives Wanted, its aim being to match professional men with the kind of women lots of them wanted to marry, especially those of the “once bitten, twice shy” brigade. Apparently, its database was chock-full of attractive women who were only interested in one career. Marriage. Women whose priority was not necessarily romantic love, but security and commitment.

A lot of them had had previous marriages, or relationships, that had failed to deliver what they wanted in life. Some were currently career girls, but were prepared to relegate their careers to the back seat, for the right man.

“It was Mike who didn’t approve,” Richard pointed out. “But don’t forget, he hadn’t met Alanna at that stage.”

Thankfully, Richard had stopped Mike from repeating to Reece at the reception that he thought all women who put themselves out like that were nothing but cold-blooded gold-diggers, looking for a gravy train to ride. He’d voiced that opinion to Richard, however. More than once.

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