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Marriage by Mistake

By:Alyssa Kress

been dreading, the consequences of his 'lost weekend.'

But staring at the woman who'd interrupted his annual meeting of vice-presidents, Dean could not believe the fallout was this bad. In skin-tight blue jeans and a jacket that strained at her breasts, all under a kittenish face framed by a great quantity of blond, upswirled hair, she looked like she'd stepped out of some adolescent boy's wet dream.

Or out of one of his father's. Yes, the woman standing at the door of the conference room looked exactly like one of Dean's father's ridiculous, inappropriate women; a showgirl, an actress, or a lingerie model.

As if that weren't bad enough, Dean had no idea who she was.

Jeff and Frank, the two security guards, stopped to look at Dean, their gazes questioning his odd command.

The woman looked at him, too, her full lips parted.

She might have been his father's type, but she was not his. Desperately, Dean assured himself of this fact. He was a sober man, a responsible one. A throwback to good, old-fashioned New England stock. This woman's presence before him, her knowledge of his name, her her outrageous assertion he'd made her promises simply could not be.

But a deep abyss opened inside him. He'd also thought it impossible he could have been sitting in the leather chair of his study at home one minute, and wandering a seedy neighborhood he didn't recognize the next a neighborhood clear across the country, no less.

But it had happened.

He had to believe now that anything was possible.

"Let her go," Dean repeated quietly.

The guards released her. As Dean saw her go free, he realized that any kind of chaos could ensue.

It was a moment that begged the mettle of a man who'd created his own billion-dollar, cutting edge biogenetics company, someone who could make a decision despite a flurry of wild and contradictory stimuli.

So Dean made himself move. Through the heavy fog that surrounded him, he put down his pointer and strode across the room. With a smooth, efficient gesture he took his own hold of the woman.

As he made contact, his arm muscles jumped. To give himself a better grip, Dean told himself.

"We're going to talk," he affirmed, looking down at her. "Alone."

Her brows pulled together.

He didn't want an argument about it, so Dean didn't wait for one. Turning to his vice-presidents, he made a brisk apology, something far too terse to make up for ending this important annual meeting. Then he led the woman from the room.

She did not acquiesce, but neither did she resist. Dean could only hope she didn't realize his hand was trembling where it connected with her fake leather jacket.

He had no idea who she was, no memory of her face, and not an inkling of her name.

But Dean kept a bland expression on his face as he directed the woman down the busy hall to his office. It wouldn't do for any of the employees they passed to guess there were a good forty-eight hours missing from their meticulous chief's memory.

Two days gone. Completely vanished.

Dean nearly reeled every time he thought about it. How could he have lost that much time, just forgotten?

Okay, so he'd been hypnotized. Dean shuddered to think of how easily that had been accomplished. But no matter how deep a trance he'd fallen into, he should have been able to remember his actions. He should have been able to know, one way or another, if he'd followed his stupid cousin Troy's suggestion.

Do what you want, instead of what you should.

Dean could feel his hand start to tighten around the woman's forearm. With an effort, he relaxed it. Surely even if he had followed Troy's idiot suggestion, it couldn't have involved this woman, stumbling beside him in her too-high-heeled boots. It simply couldn't. She wasn't He wasn't No.

"Please hold my calls," Dean requested his assistant, as soon as they entered his anteroom. Ignoring Mrs. Barnes' startled glance, he ushered the other female through. Whatever was going on, Dean wanted to hear about it in private.

Therefore, smiling inanely, he closed the door to his inner sanctum in his executive assistant's face.

And then it was quiet. They were alone.

Dean released his hold on the unknown woman with a deep, silent breath. He took a discreet step to the side. She rubbed her arm where he'd been holding her. And their eyes met.

She was still angry. Dean both saw and expected that. What he didn't expect was the punch it delivered to his gut. It was almost as if...he felt responsible.

Either that, or he was getting aroused.

Dean drew himself up. He was not getting aroused. Well, yes, he could see now that she was pretty, on top of the obvious sexual stuff. Her eyes were an extraordinary shade of green, and...appealing. Her complexion was peaches and cream. And there was a certain healthy vitality about her.

But that didn't mean he was attracted to her.

Nor was he responsible for her mood.

"Please," he said, at his most government-grant formal. "Have a seat."

She narrowed her eyes. "You must be kidding."

Her tone was a slap in the face, but Dean didn't let it show. He was an expert at not letting emotions show, especially pain. "Suit yourself," he replied mildly.

She crossed her befringed arms over her chest. "You don't seem too surprised to see me."

"I...wouldn't say that."

Her eyebrows raised. "So you are surprised." She sounded oddly bitter about it. "You didn't think I'd have the nerve to come after you even even after what you did."

After what he did? Dean calmed another guilty sinking in his gut. He couldn't have done anything to feel guilty about.

No, not even if the longer they stood together alone in his office the more he became...aware of her; of the way her lips curved up at the corners, of the silky look of her hair. A small, hot ball began to form deep inside him.

But he refused to believe he'd done anything irresponsible, anything reprehensible.

He was in no way lik

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