Matched to a Billionaire(5)

By: Kat Cantrell

Dannie forced a nod, though she wished she could disagree, and spared only a passing thought to Rob. She’d been so gaga over him.

Look where that had gotten her—brokenhearted and determined to make over her temperament so no man could call her opinionated and blunt again. She’d screwed up that relationship but good.

She wasn’t going to screw up this one. Her mother couldn’t afford it.

“Yes,” she agreed. “Security and companionship. What else could I possibly ask for?”

Fairy tales were stories about magical solutions to problems and full of people who fell in love, but whose relationships couldn’t possibly stand the test of time. In real life, women had to make sacrifices and Dannie was making hers.

Without any further melancholy and ridiculousness, she marched out the door of the room she’d stayed in during her transformation and went to meet her fate on a prayer that she and Leo would at least grow to care for each other. If there was more, great. She’d consider it a bonus.

Her mother and Elise followed. Dannie paused at the top of the sweeping staircase and took in the scene below.

With cheerful optimism, Elise had placed flower arrangements on the mantel and on each side of the fireplace. Dannie’s heart fluttered at the thoughtfulness of the woman who had become her friend. A photographer stood at the back of the room, poised to snap memories at a moment’s notice, and the gray-haired minister Elise had recommended waited in front of the fireplace.

To his right was Leo Reynolds. Her husband-to-be.

He looked up and met her gaze.

A shock of...something zapped across her shoulders. He looked exactly like his picture, but in person—hello. Dark, straight hair brushed his collar and an expensive, well-designed suit encased a masculine body Leo clearly kept in great shape. Classic, smooth features formed a face handsome enough to sell out an entire print run of GQ magazine. More Ashley than Rhett, which was appropriate since she’d banished her inner Scarlett O’Hara to a place where the sun didn’t shine.

Leo also looked kind, as though he wouldn’t hesitate to carry an elderly lady’s groceries to the car. Dannie almost snorted. If Leo Reynolds had ever seen the inside of a grocery store, she’d eat her bouquet. He was a busy man and it was a good thing for her that he was, or he wouldn’t need a wife.

Not for the first time, she wondered why he’d resorted to a matchmaker. He was good-looking, rich and well-spoken. By all rights, the eligible-woman line should be wrapped around the block.

Eyes on Leo, she descended the stairs with practiced ease—she’d done it in four-inch heels dozens of times and didn’t falter today despite the severity of the occasion. In far too few steps, she reached Leo. In her bone-colored pumps, she and Leo were nearly the same height.

She searched his expression as he did the same to her. What did you say to a man you were about to marry but whom you were seeing for the first time in the flesh? Hey, fancy meeting you here.

A hysterical giggle nearly slipped out. Not an auspicious start.

“Hello.” Well, that should be reasonably safe.

“Hello,” Leo returned and smiled, setting off a nice, warm flutter in her chest.

Up close, he was solid and powerful, capable of carrying a baby in one arm and taking out a carjacker with the other. The flutter that thought set off was a little warmer and little more south than the first one. In theory, she’d known Leo equated to safety. But reality was far more...real. And affecting.

They faced front. Nerves locked Dannie’s knees and she tried to loosen them without drawing attention. If she pitched over in the middle of her wedding ceremony, Elise would never forgive her.

“Let’s begin.” The minister raised a Bible in his wrinkled hands and began reciting the vows Leo had insisted Dannie select.

The words flowed from the minister’s mouth, sounding completely different aloud than she would have imagined. For better or worse, richer or poorer. None of that really applied, not in the way it did for most couples. Those vows were a call to remember the reasons you fell in love in the first place when marriage got tough.

From her peripheral vision, she tried to catch a glimpse of Leo to see how all this was registering. Suddenly she wished they’d had a few more conversations so she’d know better what he might be thinking.

It had just seemed so unnecessary. Elise wouldn’t have allowed her to marry someone awful. Her screening process was diligent and faultless, matching her with Leo on all forty-seven points of the personality profile. So long as he wasn’t a criminal or a wife beater, what did it matter if he had a good sense of humor or liked sweeping historical dramas?

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