Jessica Hart

Bride for Hire

Release Date: 1997

A Little Bit Extra

Writing this book was a chance to indulge a lot of secret fantasies!  The hero, Seth Carrington, has his very own Caribbean island (the way you do!).  I based Cutlass Cay on the islands off the coast of Belize, but the house was lifted straight from the pages of a glossy magazine.  Sometimes when it’s raining and I’m tired and fed-up, I dream about being transported to a place like Cutlass Cay where I can sit on the verandah like Daisy, and listen to the birds while working up the energy to wander down to the lagoon for a swim...


Seth paused and looked across at Daisy who was listening with her wide, dark eyes and clear face. 'Are you the kind of girl who'd be prepared to do anything for money, Daisy Deare?'
She looked wary. 'Almost anything,' she said, and to her consternation, the unsettling amusement chased across his face again, warming his eyes, lightening the fierce lines of his face and lifting the corners of his mouth in a way that made Daisy wonder desperately what he would look like if he really smiled. Astra would know.

'Very wise,' he said. 'You're obviously the cautious type. No doubt you appreciate now why you wouldn't be an adequate substitute for the real Dee Pearce?'

Daisy saw her chance of finding Tom in the Caribbean slipping away from her. 'I don't see why,' she said stubbornly. 'It seems to me that all you want is someone to hang on your arm at a few parties. I could do that. If you're going to marry Astra Bentingger, it's not as if you would want ... you know ...'

'Sex?' Seth was clearly not a man to waste time on euphemisms. 'No, if I'd wanted a call girl I could get one easily enough, but I'm not reduced to buying women yet.'

'What's the pre-nuptial contract about then?' asked Daisy tartly, irritated by his arrogance.

For a moment she wondered if she had gone too far. Seth's eyes bored into hers and his mouth tightened ominously, but to her relief he decided to let her unwise remark pass. 'What I want is a girl who can put on a convincing performance,' he said in a gritty voice. 'I want a girl who can act as if she's in love with me without getting prudish or involved in messy emotions. A girl who will take the money and disappear discreetly as soon as Astra's divorce comes through in a couple of months. A girl who looks like the kind of girl I might fall in love with ... and I wouldn't have said that you'd fit into any of those categories.'

Was he being deliberately insulting or just rude? 'I'm just interested in the money,' said Daisy with a frosty look. 'I can assure you that I'm not in the least likely to fall in love with you myself, if that's what you were worrying about.'

'Why not? If it's money you're interested in, I ought to be just your type.'

Really, the arrogance of the man was unbelievable! 'I've already got a boyfriend,' she said coldly, mentally crossing her fingers and thinking of the ever-hopeful Robert. 'He's much more my type than you are!'

Seth's steel eyes had sharpened. 'What does that mean?'

'It means he's kind and considerate and not so puffed up with his own importance that he thinks every girl he meets is going to fall in love with him!' The words were out before Daisy could stop herself. Aghast, she cursed her quick temper, but after one frozen moment, to her astonishment and intense relief, Seth threw back his head and laughed.

Daisy's bones felt suddenly weak and she was glad that she was sitting down. Relief, she told herself firmly. Nothing whatsoever to do with effect of his laugh or the way his cheeks creased when he smiled. Nothing to do with the whiteness of his teeth or the extraordinary way he had changed into someone younger, warmer and more approachable, someone disastrously attractive.

'You've got a nerve, I'll give you that,' said Seth, speculation replacing the lingering amusement in his eyes. He got abruptly to his feet. 'Stand up,' he ordered.

If anything, Daisy was grateful to see the return of the old arrogance. It helped remind her that Seth Carrington was not a good man to start finding attractive. Taking a firm hold on herself, she tilted her chin in unconscious hauteur.

He sighed. 'Stand up please.'

Daisy stood, relieved to find that her knees would hold her after all. Eyes narrowed, Seth walked round her as if she were a car he was considering buying. At any moment she expected him to ask her mileage or demand to see under her bonnet, and she couldn't help stiffening under his critical inspection.

'Maybe you've got some potential after all,' he admitted grudgingly. 'Properly dressed, we might be able to make something of you. Different from my usual style, of course, but that may be no bad thing.' He came to a halt in front of her, studying her fine-boned face with a frown. 'Why are you so keen to do this?' he asked brusquely.

Daisy considered telling him the truth, but she didn't think Seth Carrington would want to get involved in her family problems. He was the kind of man who only understood one thing. 'I need the money,' she said baldly. It was true, anyway. She certainly couldn't afford to get to the Caribbean any other way.

'Hhmmnn.' Seth began his unnerving prowl once more. He even moved like a big cat, with that easy but somehow deliberate tread and the sense of a coiled strength that was liable to explode into action at any moment. 'What about this boyfriend of yours? What's he going to think when he sees pictures of you out with me?'

'I'll explain everything to him of course. Naturally once he knows that there's no question of us sleeping together, he'll understand.' Privately Daisy thought that Robert would be appalled at the very idea, but in spite of his years of dogged devotion, she had never given him any reason to think that she thought of him of anything other than an old friend.

'Will he?' Seth's expression was saturnine. 'I wouldn't let a girl of mine go out with another man, no matter what she told me.'

'Given that your girl is currently married to another man, I hardly think that puts you in a position to criticise Robert,' flashed Daisy and Seth's eyes narrowed dangerously once more.

'If you want this job, you're going to have to learn to hold that tongue of yours,' he said softly. 'Do you want it?'

Daisy decided that she had said quite enough. She nodded.

'If it wasn't for the fact that I haven't the time to start chasing over London for someone more suitable, I'd be tempted to tell you what you and your paragon of a boyfriend could do together,' he went on in the same menacingly quiet voice. 'Unfortunately your need and mine seem to coincide, so it looks as if I'm going to have to make the best of a bad job.' He scowled at the thought and sat on the arm of the sofa. 'Are you sure you can act?'

She was going to get away with it! He was going to take her to the Caribbean after all! Giddy relief lit up Daisy's face. 'Oh, yes,' she said breezily.

Seth didn't appear entirely convinced. 'Well, let's have an audition, shall we?'

'An audition?' Daisy's grin faltered. 'What sort of audition?'

'You haven't been giving a very good impression of a girl in love so far, have you?' he pointed out caustically. 'I want to know if you can convince other people that you've only got eyes for me.'

'What do you want me to do?' she asked warily.

He shrugged. 'Pretend there's someone else in the room. How would you show that you were in love with me?'

'I probably wouldn't if there was someone else in the room!'

'You're going to have to do better than that, Daisy,' he snorted. 'I'm not going to pay you to stand around being all English and repressed. Pretend that you don't know anyone else is watching if that makes it any easier!'

'Oh, all right!' Grumbling, Daisy walked over to where he was still sitting on the arm of the sofa. It was easier without him towering over her, but when she got close to him her nerve failed her. She stopped. Seth folded his arms and looked blandly back at her.


She was going to have to do something. Daisy edged a little closer and reached out a hand to touch his face. His skin was warm and brown, slightly rough, and her fingers tingled so much at the feel of it that she withdrew her hand sharply.

'Is that it?' Seth's acid question jerked her back to herself and she was conscious of a spurt of anger. He was making this deliberately difficult so that she would give up the whole idea! Well, she wasn't going to! She was going to go out the Caribbean and she was going to find Tom, and if it meant kissing Seth Carrington, then that's what she would do!

With an abrupt movement, Daisy placed herself firmly between his knees and put her hands on Seth's shoulders. She could feel the strength of his muscles, the warm of skin through the fine cotton of his shirt. Propped against the sofa arm as he was, his head was almost on a level with hers. For a long moment blue eyes looked into inscrutable grey, and then, before her courage failed her again, she leant slowly forward and touched her lips to the pulse that beat at the angle of his jaw and throat.

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