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As Zac’s car purred silently and powerfully through the streets of Manhattan for the first time in her life Rose felt a very rogue urge to rebel and do something she wanted. Which was to eke out another few illicit moments in his company.

She’d never felt so intoxicated. Heady. The way he’d looked at her, with such thrillingly explicit intent … No one had ever looked at her like that. Her heart still beat a frantic tattoo.

Was it so bad to want a little more of this man’s attention? Yes, because you know very well that if he knew who you were and why you were here he’d have you out of this car so fast your head would be spinning for a year …

That almost caused Rose to turn in her seat and ask for Zac to stop the car, but they were pulling up outside the club now.

Zac looked at her as the car came to a stop. She was transfixed by his mouth, and she imagined what it might be like on hers. On her skin.

‘I’m glad you came with me.’

And just like that all of Rose’s good intentions were blasted to pieces by wicked desire.

One Night With Consequences

When one night … leads to pregnancy!

When succumbing to a night of unbridled desire it’s impossible to think past the morning after!

But, with the sheets barely settled, that little blue line appears on the pregnancy test and it doesn’t take long to realise that one night of white-hot passion has turned into a lifetime of consequences!

Only one question remains:

How do you tell a man you’ve just met that you’re about to share more than just his bed?

Find out in:

Her Nine Month Confession by Kim Lawrence September 2015

An Heir Fit for a King by Abby Green October 2015

Larenzo’s Christmas Baby by Kate Hewitt November 2015

Illicit Night with the Greek by Susanna Carr February 2016

Bound to the Tuscan Billionaire by Susan Stephens March 2016

The Shock Cassano Baby by Andie Brock May 2016

The Greek’s Nine-Month Redemption by Maisey Yates June 2016

Look for more One Night With Consequences coming soon!

An Heir to Make a Marriage

Abby Green


www.millsandboon.co.uk

Irish author ABBY GREEN threw in a very glamorous career in film and TV—which really consisted of a lot of standing in the rain outside actors’ trailers—to pursue her love of romance. After she’d bombarded Mills & Boon with manuscripts they kindly accepted one, and an author was born. She lives in Dublin, Ireland, and loves any excuse for distraction. Visit abby-green.com or e-mail abbygreenauthor@gmail.com.

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I’d like to dedicate this book to the memory of Jimmy Devlin, who was known affectionately throughout the Irish film business as ‘Jimmy the Bus’. That was his job: driving a minibus to and from different locations, carrying everyone from cast to crew. He made everyone feel like a VIP, even if it was their first job. He was a true gentleman who oozed an old-world charm and respect for everyone around him—especially women.

Men like Jimmy Devlin make it easy to write about larger than life heroes, because he epitomised what a hero is. Ar dheis dé go raibh a h-anam.

Contents

Cover

Introduction

One Night With Consequences

Title Page

About the Author

Dedication

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

EPILOGUE

Extract

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

ROSE O’MALLEY’S HEART was racing. Her skin felt clammy, her palms were sweaty and she was light-headed. She was basically exhibiting all the signs of heading into a full-blown panic attack, or some kind of emotional and physical meltdown, right here on a closed toilet seat in one of Manhattan’s most exclusive hotel bathrooms.

Her surroundings, opulent as they were, were only making things worse. Highlighting the fact that she shouldn’t be here. Highlighting the fact that this was not her world. She was one generation removed from Ireland, by way of Queens, and to say she felt like a fish out of water was an understatement.

Her reflection in the mirror on the back of the cubicle door showed a stranger. A sleek, soignée stranger. Her normally wavy shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair was all straight and glossy and coiled up into a sophisticated chignon at the back of her head.

Rose acknowledged faintly that she had a neck. She’d never noticed it before now.

Only the bottom half of her face was visible because the rest of it was obscured by a delicately ornate black and gold mask. Her eyes glinted out, looking very frightened and green and almost feverish. Her mouth was painted a garish red. Her cheeks were flushed.

She put the back of her hand to one burning cheek.

Relief flooded her for a moment. That was it: she was coming down with the flu. She ignored the little voice pointing out that they were in the middle of an abnormally warm New York spring and rationalised that she couldn’t possibly go out there now—she’d infect all the most important people in Manhattan with her germs.

But just as she was about to stand up, with her sheer black dress shimmering in the mirror, the main door of the powder room opened and some women came in, chattering excitedly. Rose sat back down again, a feeling of futility sinking into her bones.

Of course she didn’t have the flu.

But she still wasn’t ready to come into actual human contact with anyone. Thankfully she was in the end stall, furthest away from the door. She’d wait till they left.

One of the women who’d entered—Rose figured there were two—spoke in a loud indiscreet whisper. ‘Oh, my God. Did you see him? I mean, I know he’s totally hot—but seriously? I think my ovaries just exploded.’

The other woman’s tone was dry and sardonic. ‘Well, that’s just a waste of good eggs. It’s common knowledge he doesn’t want anything to do with the inheritance his family have bequeathed to any child he might have—he even changed his name to distance himself!’

The friend was incredulous. ‘Who on earth would turn their back on billions of dollars and a family name that dates back to the Mayflower?’

Rose’s insides cramped painfully. She knew exactly who: the most infamous man at the party. Zac Valenti. He was here. She’d been hoping he might not be. But he was. And now the palpitations were back.

The women were still gossiping amidst the sounds of rummaging in a bag.

‘Everyone thought he was having, like, a breakdown or something after he left Addison Carmichael waiting at the altar, but the man literally rose from the ashes.’

 

The voices got lower, and Rose found herself straining forward towards the door to hear.

‘They say that he’s now the richest eligible male in the United States.’

‘But did you get the vibe he sends off? Seriously cold—and moody. Like, you can look, but you can’t touch.’

The other voice turned dreamy. ‘I know... Those silent brooding types are so damned attractive.’

There was a squirt of something that sounded like perfume and a derisive snort. ‘I think it has a little more to do with the fact that he’s a walking gold mine for any woman who can succeed in getting him to be her baby daddy. He might not want his family’s fortune, but I for one would not say no—and whoever has his baby will have access to the famous Lyndon-Holt fortune.’

As those words reverberated, Rose chose that precise moment to overbalance and fall against the door of the cubicle with a clatter. She stiffened in horror as an awful silence descended over the powder room, and then she heard frantic hushed whispering and the rapid clickety-clack of heels as the women left again.

She sat back on the toilet seat and rubbed her shoulder where it had connected with the door. Hysteria rose. As those women had just pointed out, Zac Valenti was probably the man least likely to father a child, thanks to his well-documented estrangement from his family—the cause of which no one knew. But that hadn’t stopped the endless speculation as to why. He hadn’t even gone to his own father’s funeral when he’d died almost a year previously.

After the rift and the death of his father, a new version of the Lyndon-Holt will had been leaked to the press. It had revealed that if Zac had a child, boy or girl, that child would inherit the entire Lyndon-Holt fortune in lieu of Zac—as long as it carried the Lyndon-Holt name, of course. Many suspected that the details of the will had been leaked on purpose.

So now, if Zac Valenti fathered a child, there would be immense pressure on him not to deny it its rightful inheritance, and the child’s mother would have a say in it—including the naming of the child... Something Zac Valenti was undoubtedly aware of and which was probably behind the conveniently leaked will.

Which brought Rose O’Malley neatly back to the reason she was there in the first place. She was here to cold-bloodedly seduce Zac Valenti—one of the most coveted bachelors in the world—with her aim being, however impossible it might seem, to try and become pregnant with his child.

Rose’s mind boggled anew at what she’d agreed to. It was only now, a day later, that the panic and fear that had led her to making that decision had faded a little, restoring her to cold, stark reality. And the realisation that she’d made a pact with the devil.

Rose’s conversation with her employer, Mrs Lyndon-Holt, was still vivid in her mind—as vivid as the beautifully preserved woman’s ice-cold blue eyes.

Zac Valenti’s mother had held up the signed contract and said, ‘You are now bound by the terms of this agreement, Rose. If you become pregnant with my son’s child, and ensure that it will take the Lyndon-Holt name on its birth, it will inherit everything. And once I receive confirmation of your pregnancy, your father will go to a clinic and receive the best medical care for his condition.’

Mrs Lyndon-Holt had continued, ‘But if you break the terms of the non-disclosure agreement and reveal these details to anyone, you will be prosecuted with the full force of my legal team. In the event that you do have a baby but you don’t comply with these terms, I will crush you. Needless to say a legal contretemps between me—’ she’d looked Rose up and down pointedly here ‘—and a maid isn’t a fight you’ll want to engage in.’

The magnitude of what was at stake had hit Rose. She’d blurted out, ‘What on earth makes you think a man like your son would look twice at someone like me?’

The older woman had stood back and narrowed those calculating eyes. ‘A man as cynical and jaded as Zachary...? He’ll look. He can’t fail to notice a fresh-faced beauty like you. You just have to ensure that it goes beyond noticing.’

Rose came back to the present and looked at herself in the mirror. She didn’t feel fresh-faced or beautiful. She felt ridiculous, tainted. Garish. With her hot cheeks and the slash of red lipstick. In a fit of self-disgust she grabbed some tissue and wiped the lipstick off her lips.

She couldn’t do this. She should never have agreed to such an outlandish plan.

She stood up, galvanised into leaving this place and informing Mrs Lyndon-Holt that she could find someone else to be her sick baby bait. But the reason she’d agreed to it in the first place came back like a slap in the face, and she sat back down again heavily.

Her father. His face full of pain. Pale. Losing hope. Far too young at fifty-two to be facing certain death if he didn’t receive the operation he needed.

The kind of operation that was far beyond the reach of an ex-chauffeur and a humble maid, with only the most basic of health insurance.

It was a fact that Mrs Lyndon-Holt had seized upon to use to her advantage, capitalising on Rose’s fear and panic. Her father had worked as the Lyndon-Holts’ driver until Mr Lyndon-Holt had passed away, after which Mrs Lyndon-Holt had taken on new staff, without so much as a thank-you for years of service. Rose had kept her job, however, and it had been a relief at the time.

Shortly afterwards her father had started to feel unwell, and this had culminated in the diagnosis of a rare heart condition, fatal if not treated.

Rose battled with her conscience. The thought of her father succumbing to an inevitable decline was too much to bear. She’d lost her mother already—far too young. Her father was all she had left. They had no other family in America. And he could be saved easily. If he had the operation. The operation that Mrs Lyndon-Holt had agreed to pay for if Rose did this...

She looked at her glittering eyes and hectically flushed cheeks. She told herself that she would make an attempt to find Zac Valenti, but if she couldn’t find him—or if she did and he didn’t look at her twice, which she fully expected—then she would go. At least she would know that she’d tried her best.

And then she would worry about what to do with her father. But at least she would have given it a shot.

* * *

Zac Valenti looked around the massive glittering ballroom from his antisocial location leaning against a pillar at the back of the room. The opulent space shone with a thousand priceless jewels that screamed the social status of their skinny owners like lurid neon signs over their heads.

One woman passed him, literally weighted down with baubles. Her hand looked barely strong enough to carry the enormous ruby cocktail ring on her index finger. Then she caught sight of him and he could see her eyes widen comically behind her elaborately feathered mask as she almost tripped over her feet.

Evidently his own understated black mask wasn’t an effective shield for his identity. Zac’s mouth tightened. As if he needed proof that he was still the enfant terrible of Manhattan, after delivering the biggest scandal to rock the island in decades when he, Zachary Lyndon-Holt—golden boy and heir apparent to become the uncrowned King of New York—had broken up with his family and given up his inheritance.

Not to mention leaving his fiancée standing at the altar of one of Manhattan’s oldest Gothic churches in her bespoke Oscar da la Renta wedding dress.

Addison Carmichael, a blue-blooded WASP from the top of her gleaming blonde head and her blue eyes to her toes, was nothing if not a product of her breeding and background—and she was as tenacious as a Jack Russell terrier. Within a year she’d married into a well-known political family dynasty and was currently the wife of a New York senator.

When Zac bumped into her now she smiled at him with only the slightest tinge of malice—his ensuing rupture with his family had diluted her public humiliation somewhat.

He hadn’t been worried about causing her emotional trauma—it wasn’t as if they’d had a love match. His relationship with her had been as much of a charade as the rest of his life at that time. And he could only be thankful that he’d discovered the ugly truth in his family before he’d sleepwalked into a veritable prison of his parents’ making.

He cursed silently and corrected himself: his grandparents making.

He’d grown up knowing them as his parents until the day he’d found out otherwise, when his world as he’d known it had exploded out of all recognition.

But he’d stayed standing.

And after the shock had passed he’d discovered that all he cared about was the heinous betrayal of the two people who had brought him into this world. A resolve had filled him to honour his real father and mother—not the people who had brought him up as if he was an ill-favoured guest in his own home.

That day he’d had an incredible sense of his own personal destiny rising from the ashes, outside of the weighty yoke of the great Lyndon-Holt name which he’d never felt entirely comfortable with. And so he’d thrown it off, together with everything else bound with that name. And he’d never looked back.

He was determined to make the Valenti name as revered as the one he’d been born with. He owed it to his immigrant Italian father, who’d had the temerity to fall for a Lyndon-Holt princess and in the eyes of her family had sullied her aristocratic beauty...

The fact that a sizeable part of Zac’s wealth now came from his new-found career as a hotelier and nightclub owner caused him no little measure of satisfaction—because he knew damn well how much it would enrage his grandmother.

Not to mention the tabloid headlines that had followed his latest nightclub opening, when the supermodel currently being hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world had been papped leaving his apartment late the next morning, looking thoroughly bedded and sexily dishevelled.

So why aren’t you returning her calls? asked a snide little voice, which Zac tried to ignore. The sex had been...adequate. But the truth was that their encounter had reminded him a little too forcibly of that feeling of disconnection he’d experienced when he’d discovered the deceit in his family. As if nothing was really real. As if he was a construct...

But he wasn’t a construct. He was flesh and blood and very real. And those people could send snide looks and whisper all they wanted—because Zac Valenti was enjoying being a constant reminder that they were all part of the façade, just as he had been. A reminder that they were hypocrites and just as liable to fall from grace as he had. Even though he hadn’t really fallen—he’d jumped.

He rolled his shoulders in the confines of his bespoke three-piece tuxedo suit, feeling claustrophobic and irritated with the insular direction of his thoughts.

He looked around, seeking distraction.

A flutter of movement in his peripheral vision made him look to his right. He found his gaze resting on the slender figure of a woman in a long, black, backless dress.

She was facing away from him—about ten feet away. So far so unremarkable—Zac had seen women dressed in a lot less in the name of fashion, even if her back was remarkably pale and the line of her spine curved temptingly just before it disappeared under her dress. But something about her kept him looking, and as he did, narrowing his gaze, he realised with a jolt of awareness that her dress was seductively sheer.

She moved then—shifting her weight, stretching up slightly as if she was looking for someone in the crowd—and the dress revealed slim yet obvious curves, the globes of her pert bottom encased in black underwear. His eyes travelled up her long, slender back to where strawberry blonde hair was upswept, revealing a graceful neck.

The ends of the black ribbon of her mask trailed in the golden-red strands, and Zac had an insane urge to go over and undo it. Turn her around to face him. He wanted to see her.

He shook his head slightly, as if to clear it, wondering what the hell was going on. Women didn’t usually attract his attention without trying.

Then she turned sideways, towards him, and the jolt of awareness became something much earthier and stronger. The black dress teased at an inordinate amount of pale skin, even though she was covered from neck to ankle, and Zac found that he was holding his breath as his gaze landed on her breasts. They were on the small side, but beautifully shaped, pert and upthrust against the fine material.

 

Evidently she wore no bra, as the dress was backless. With that realisation a rush of heat went straight to his groin, and Zac found himself reduced to the kind of hormonal surges a teenage boy might feel, captivated by his first pictures of naked women.

Her features were mostly obscured by the mask, but he could make out a ripe mouth and delicate jaw. Everything about her was graceful...feminine. She held a full champagne glass in her hand, and from where he stood he could see how white her knuckles were. He realised that she looked uncomfortable, or ill at ease.

He frowned, but just then a waiter passed by and she quickly stepped forward, put her glass on his tray and turned away again. It was as if she’d made some kind of decision. She started walking in the opposite direction, her movements jerky, almost panicked, but she didn’t get far because a large group of men blocked her. She hovered uncertainly, craning forward as if to try and see another way out.

Zac’s interest was spiked in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time—if ever. Because if there was one thing he knew about this crowd, it was that everyone here felt entitled and no one hesitated...over anything. They barrelled through, regardless of niceties. So she was an anomaly, and Zac was suddenly wide awake and deliciously distracted.

* * *

Rose was feeling a mixture of sick dread and relief. She couldn’t see Zac Valenti anywhere. And right now she just wanted to get out of there—out of this stifling room full of people dressed like glittering peacocks, where she didn’t belong, in a dress that made her feel like a call girl.

The stylist Mrs Lyndon-Holt had hired had been like an army officer, barking at Rose to get dressed. When she’d tried to voice her objections the woman had given her a steely look and said, ‘I’ve been given a brief and you’re wearing that dress.’

Humiliation crawled up Rose’s spine as she thought of the instructions the stylist must have received: She needs to look good enough to catch my son’s eye, but slutty enough to make him believe she’s up for it.

Relief at the thought that Zac Valenti must have left washed over Rose again. She reassured herself that there was no way he’d have looked at her twice anyway. The man took supermodels as his lovers, for crying out loud! Not pale and freckled maids who worked in big houses and got themselves embroiled in a deception that was utterly heinous.

Rose was still being comprehensively blocked by a group of men and she balled her hands into fists, determined to push her way through if she had to.

‘I sincerely hope you’re not planning on taking a swing at the mayor of New York. I’m sure he’ll let you through if you ask nicely.’

The voice was deep and sexy and very close to Rose’s ear. She spun around in fright and came face to chest with a tall, powerful body. She had to look up, and up again, to see the man’s face.

Her heart stopped.

Even the small black mask couldn’t hide his identity.

Zac Valenti. He hadn’t left. He was right here.

The mask obscured the upper part of his face, but not the piercing blue eyes glinting down at her. He was famous for his blue eyes. Some called them icy, but right now all she could feel was a disturbing level of heat rising through her body.

Rose’s first thought was that pictures could never have prepared her for seeing him in the flesh. He towered over her own not inconsiderable five feet seven inches, and his shoulders were broad enough to block out the room behind him.

His hair was dark golden brown, thick and wavy. He was dark—darker than he looked in pictures—with a hard jaw and a firm and wickedly sensual mouth, currently tipped up sexily at one side.

He oozed the kind of easy charm and grace that came with impeccable breeding and inestimable wealth. He made Rose think of how she’d imagined Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby when she’d read the book. Aristocratic. Untouchable. Impossibly handsome. A golden being.

Something deep and unfamiliar inside Rose pulsed to life, disturbingly intense. Hot. It struck her: sexual awareness. It was like being plugged into an electrical socket. Her relatively sheltered life with her father, after her mother had died, hadn’t allowed for much time to mingle with the opposite sex. Rose had been too busy worrying about her father and the deep pit of despair he’d fallen into.

Zac Valenti cocked his head to one side, eyes sparkling, ‘I take it that you can talk?’

Rose found one brain cell that wasn’t still frozen in shock and nodded her head. ‘Yes,’ she said faintly, and then more strongly, getting a grip on herself, ‘Yes, I can talk.’

‘That’s a relief.’ He held out a hand and smiled. ‘Zac Valenti—pleased to meet you.’

His smile had the wattage of the sun at full blast. Rose had to stop herself from blurting out, I know exactly who you are.

She took a deep breath. ‘I’m Rose.’

His hand engulfed hers. Warm and strong. Slightly rough. He was no soft city boy. Between her legs, her flesh jumped in response.

‘Just Rose?’

She was about to supply her second name when she thought of something and panic made her belly swoop. He might recognise her name—she and her father had worked for his family. She thought quickly and said, ‘Murphy. Rose Murphy.’ It had been her mother’s maiden name.

‘With a name and colouring like that you can’t be anything but Irish.’

Rose was sweating. ‘My parents emigrated here just before I was born.’

She pulled her hand back from his. Even though she’d met him now she still couldn’t do this. She was out of her depth, her league...her everything. Shouldn’t men like Zac Valenti have cordons of bodyguards around them? Yet he didn’t. He was like a lone wolf. This had been a crazy plan and one she couldn’t possibly execute.

She stepped back.

‘Where are you going?’

Her tongue felt too large for her mouth. ‘I have to...go...’ she said lamely.

‘Without a dance?’

He extended his hand again and now Rose felt a different kind of panic surge. ‘I don’t dance.’

‘I find that hard to believe—who doesn’t know how to dance?’

Someone who grew up watching the girls in her class go to dance classes and who buried her envy because she knew her parents couldn’t afford to send her.

Suddenly angry at being in this position, and in this place, Rose said sharply, ‘Well, I don’t...and I really should go.’

She turned away, only to feel a hand closing around her arm, tugging her back. Damn the man. Why wouldn’t he just let her go? Already she was feeling remorse for being sharp. This had nothing to do with him. Well, it did...but he wasn’t aware of her nefarious intentions.

Oh, God. She felt nauseous.

He’d put his hands on her arms now, and she looked up into that classically perfect face.

He was concerned. ‘I didn’t mean to offend you.’

Predictably, Rose’s brain cells were scrambling again under that blue gaze. ‘You didn’t. I was being silly—I’m sorry.’

His mouth tipped up again in that sexy way. ‘Was that our first fight?’

Rose’s belly swooped alarmingly. ‘You’re very smooth,’ she remarked dryly, even as she battled surprise that he wasn’t more...arrogant. She’d had no idea he would be so charming or flirtatious. She hadn’t expected to like him.

But then, she thought with uncharacteristic cynicism, if she’d been there as one of the impeccably clad waitresses he really wouldn’t have looked twice at her. And she wasn’t so naive she couldn’t see that underneath the suave exterior were the sharp talons of his own cynicism. A man like him, from a world like this...? His mother was right: they didn’t come more jaded.

He smiled, oblivious to her inner turmoil. ‘I try.’

Then he slid his hands down her arms, slowly enough to make her breath quicken and her skin prickle into goosebumps. Especially when he brushed against the sides of her breasts.

He took her hand in his and started to lead her towards the dance floor, where couples were swaying cheek to cheek to the seductive tones of sultry jazz.

Rose put her other hand over his and tried to tug free. Aware of a lot of curious looks, she whispered desperately, ‘Really, I’ve never—’

He sent her a look over his shoulder, stopping her words. ‘Trust me.’

They were on the dance floor now, and Zac swung Rose round until she was in front of him. She looked at him helplessly. He took her right hand and held it in his and slid his other arm around her back, up high, his hand spreading out over bare skin. And then he pulled her close and she stumbled forward slightly, right into his taut, lean body.

Every thought left her head. Why she was there. What she was there for. Who she was. All she was aware of was how it felt to be held so close to this man, every inch of his tall body, hard and muscled, against her much softer one.

Her breasts were pressed against his chest. His hand was making small subtle movements against the skin of her back. And they were moving, going around in a circle across the floor. Rose couldn’t actually feel her feet. She was floating.

Her nipples had tightened to hard points, pressing against her dress. She’d never been so aware of herself as a woman before. She blushed and ducked her head. A finger came under her chin, tipping her face up again. Even in spite of the mask she could see that Valenti looked incredulous.

He shook his head and frowned. ‘Are you for real?’

‘Of course I’m real,’ Rose answered automatically, becoming aware of her surroundings again as she saw a woman gliding past, a condescending expression in her eyes as she looked Rose over from behind her own ornate mask. She tensed in his arms. ‘Look, Mr Valenti, I really should—’

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