Beneath Griffin’s cool, polished veneer lurked a heated passion that was capable of melting all her defenses.
* * *
"Congratulations again!" Marcus said heartily, extending a snifter of amber liquid.
Griffin accepted the glass from the older man.
He’d just arrived at the Tremont estate. After being shown in by the housekeeper, he’d waited in the front hall while she’d gone in search of one of the Tremonts.
Evidently, while the housekeeper had returned to inform him that he could join Marcus in the living room, the older man had taken the opportunity to pour them both drinks.
Griffin looked down at the glass in his hand and then back up at Marcus. "Brandy?"
"Only the best," Marcus responded, lifting his own glass. "To your good health, a long marriage and many grandchildren."
Griffin took an obligatory sip. "If Eva heard you talking that way, she wouldn’t be pleased."
Marcus winked. "That’s why I saved that little toast for this occasion."
Griffin looked around. "Where is Eva, by the way? We were supposed to meet here for dinner and to discuss more wedding details."
"Still out with her mother," Marcus responded. "Finding a dress or some other wedding paraphernalia."
Griffin felt disappointment hit him. He’d been hoping Eva would be at the house before him. In fact, in the past two weeks, he’d had an itch to see her, be around her and touch her all the time.
Marcus slapped him on the back. "I don’t know exactly how you did it, Grif. I admit I thought everything was lost," the older man said, "but you got rid of Carter, and convinced Eva to marry you, all in record time!"
Griffin felt a prick to his conscience at the older man’s words. He hadn’t just manipulated Eva for his own ends.
"Eva wants a baby."
"Yes, I know," Marcus shot back, "but better you than Carter as the father of my grandchild."
"I just want it understood."
He wanted it understood he was in this marriage for Eva’s sake. And for the sake of his now insatiable need for her.
Marcus, however, seemed oblivious to his thoughts. He sipped his brandy, and his expression became thoughtful.
"I’d like to offer you a piece of Tremont REH," the older man said. "You’ve certainly earned it. You can take the lion’s share of the credit for REH’s recent successes."
Griffin’s lips quirked up on one side. "My answer’s the same as last time. No."
He and Marcus had been down this road at least two or three times.
"I’m marrying Eva because I want to," he said, his expression bland. "She’s not just some pawn in a bigger game."
After a moment, the older man cracked a smile, as if something had been settled in his mind. "That’s all I needed to know."
They both tossed back some of their brandy.
Marcus gave him a wry look. "You know, Eva is—"
Perfect. Sexy as hell. The missing jigsaw piece to his puzzle.
"—strong willed. It’ll take a strong man to be married to her."
"Since I’ve endured you as chairman of my board of directors," Griffin replied sardonically, "I should be up to the job."
Marcus roared with laughter.
"It’s what I’m counting on," the older man responded, a twinkle in his eye.
* * *
Griffin felt a tightening in his gut as the music struck up. It had been a crazy three weeks since Eva had accepted his proposal, and now here they were.
From behind French doors, Eva appeared on the large veranda that ran behind the Tremont mansion.
Griffin couldn’t take his eyes off her as she started down the makeshift aisle created by folding chairs, her arm linked through her father’s, a tight, round bouquet of calla lilies caught in one hand.
Her simple, spaghetti-strap gown flowed over her curves, hugging in just the right places. Her upswept hair was dotted with white flower buds.
Though he was dressed in a charcoal suit paired with an ivory silk tie, he felt like a rough-hewn escort for such elegant perfection.
When Eva reached him, she turned to hand her bouquet for safekeeping to Beth Harding, who was sitting nearby.
As he took in the back of her gown—or rather the lack thereof—he fought the urge to scoop her up and whisk her away to start their honeymoon right then.
The ceremony was brief, highlighted with music from a string quartet. They exchanged simple platinum bands inscribed with the date. And before he knew it, it was time to kiss the bride.
He didn’t give Eva a chance to back away. He tilted up her chin and placed his lips firmly over hers, intending to give her a kiss full of sensual promise—slow, deep and thorough.
Instead he was pulled under her spell. Her lips parted beneath his, and with a sigh, she melted into him. Her soft curves molded to him and her arm slid around his neck.
He felt his desire roar to life.
Hearing the guests begin to laugh and applaud, however, he reluctantly lifted his head and stepped away.
Eva looked a little flustered, but she smiled at their audience and retrieved her bouquet from Beth.
As he walked down the aisle with her, her body brushed against his. He was tempted to keep going beyond the French doors that led into the Tremonts’ living room, straight through the mansion, into his car and on to their honeymoon destination, where he could ravish her at his cottage in wine country.
Instead, once inside, he fixed a smile on his face as they posed for pictures and accepted the congratulations of their assembled family and friends.
Afterward, Eva left his side to go freshen up, only to stop to speak with the Hardings.
As he watched the late-afternoon sun bathe her in an ethereal light, Griffin felt an enormous sense of satisfaction wash over him.
Eva was now his wife. He’d meant to have her and he’d gotten her.
"Contemplating your newly shackled state?"
He turned to look at his brother, who’d approached while he’d been focused on Eva.
"Shackled? Is that what it’s called?" he murmured.
If he was tied, then he was handcuffed to a desirable siren who was dy***ite in bed.
It was a torture he could live with.
He shook his head as one of the waitstaff invited him to sample from a tray of salmon and lox hors d’oeuvres. The wedding reception was being catered by one of the companies regularly employed by Occasions by Design.
"I’ll admit to being surprised," Josh went on. "It wouldn’t have been a bad bet to wager you were a confirmed bachelor. Since you already got a double dose of responsibility with me and Monica, I figured you wouldn’t be out looking for more anytime soon."
"Eva’s hardly a responsibility," he returned, somewhat surprised by how readily the response came to him. "She’s an independent woman who owns and runs her own company."