Matched to a Billionaire(4)

By: Kat Cantrell

Neither of them had any illusions about the purpose of this marriage—a permanent means to an end.

Why was she so nervous about what was essentially an arranged marriage?

Her mother smoothed a hand over Dannie’s hair. “Soon you’ll be Mrs. Leo Reynolds and all your dreams will come true. For the rest of your life, you’ll have the security and companionship I never had.” Racking coughs punctuated the sentiment and the ticking clock in Dannie’s mind sped up. Pulmonary fibrosis was killing her mother.

Dannie was marrying Leo to save her.

And she’d never forget what she owed him. What she owed Elise.

Her mom was right. Dannie had always dreamed of being a wife and mother and now she was getting that chance. Marriage based on compatibility would provide security for her and her mom. She had no business being sad that security couldn’t be based on love.

Maybe love could grow over time, along with intimacy. She’d hang on to that hope.

With a misty smile, Elise opened the door wider. “Leo’s waiting for you in front of the fireplace. Here’s your bouquet. Simple and tasteful, with orchids and roses, like you requested.”

The clutch of flowers nearly wrenched the tears loose from Dannie’s eyes. “It’s beautiful. Everything is beautiful. I can’t thank you enough.”

She still couldn’t believe Elise had selected her for the EA International matchmaking program. When she’d applied, it had all seemed like such a long shot, but what choice did she have? Her mother needed expensive long-term care, which neither of them could afford, so Dannie gladly did whatever her mother needed—doctor’s appointments, cooking, cleaning. Her father had left before she’d been born, so it had been the two of them against the world since the beginning.

Unfortunately, employers rarely forgave the amount of time off Dannie required. After being fired from the third job in a row, her situation felt pretty dire. She’d searched in vain for a work-from-home job or one with a flexible schedule. After hours at the library’s computer, she’d been about to give up when the ad for EA International caught her eye.

Have you ever dreamed of a different sort of career? Coupled with a picture of a bride, how could she not click on it?

EA International invited women with superior administrative skills, a desire to better themselves and the drive to become “the woman behind the man” to apply for a bold, innovative training program.

Who had better admin skills than someone managing the care of a perpetually ill mother? Without much to lose, Dannie sent her information into the ether and shock of all shocks, got the call.

It was fate that EA International was based in Dallas, where Dannie lived.

Elise polished Dannie until she shone and then matched her with a man who needed an elegant society wife. In exchange for organizing Leo’s household and hosting parties, Dannie could take care of her mother without any more financial worries.

A marriage that was little more than a contract seemed a small price to pay.

“You’re one of my most successful graduates.” Elise handed Dannie the bouquet and shifted a couple of flowers to face the outside. “I predict you’ll be one of my most successful matches, as well. You and Leo couldn’t be better suited.”

Dannie’s stomach lurched. She wanted to like him. To enjoy being married. Would she be attracted to him? What if she wasn’t? Would the intimate side of their marriage never happen? Maybe she should have insisted they meet first in spite of their mutual agreement not to.

It hardly mattered. Attraction wasn’t a factor here, but surely they’d eventually hold a great deal of affection for each other, regardless of what he looked like.

Nose to the bouquet, Dannie inhaled the sweet scent of her wedding flowers. “We have similar goals and both recognize the practicality of this union        . I expect we’ll be very happy together.”

Leo had gobs of money. She’d have been happy with half a gob. That level of wealth intimidated her, but Elise insisted she could handle it. After all, Dannie would have a valued place in his life and she might eventually be the mother of his children. Her training had made it very clear the woman behind the man worked as hard as women in other careers.

“Happy is exactly what you’ll be.” Elise pinched the clasp of Dannie’s necklace, dragging it to the nape of her neck. The open-heart lavaliere hanging from the chain had been a gift from the matchmaker when Dannie agreed to marry Leo. “My computer program is never wrong.”

Dannie’s mother chimed in. “This is the best kind of match, one that will last forever, because it’s based on compatibility, not feelings. It’s everything Dannie wants in a marriage.”

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