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Marriage by Mistake

By:Alyssa Kress

e his father.

Meanwhile the woman's fingers visibly tightened on her upper arms. "And now I come here and and, my God, Dean. This office. Your name on the on the building. And that

suit " She paused, as if overcome by this last item on the list. She lowered her arms and snorted. "Is there anything you told me that was the truth?"

Dean stopped breathing. She glared at him, as if she had no idea of what she'd just said. In, out. Dean made himself breathe again. "I do not lie," he said, very softly.

Her eyes widened.

He made his voice even softer. "I never lied to you."

"Huh." Her gaze turned derisive. "How about 'wait?'"

"Wait?"

"Oh, come on." She laughed. "You aren't going to pretend you forgot."

Dean stared at her.

"Well." She put her hands on her hips. "Are you?"

You forgot. The ball of heat inside Dean should have winked out then. She'd just given herself away. But it didn't wink out. In fact, it was no longer a discrete ball but an over-arching sphere. He was reacting to her, vigorously, but not because there was any history between them.

Oh no, it was all becoming crystal clear. Her presence here, his reaction to her it was all beginning to make sense.

"You know too much," he said.

"Excuse me?"

"'I forgot.' You know too much. How to get my goat. What to say. It's too damn convenient."

Her eyes widened. "Ex-cuse me?"

Dean took a step back. A man who'd lost two days of his memory was in a vulnerable position. An unscrupulous individual could take advantage. Or merely a mischievous one, one without any sense of propriety or limits.

And Dean happened to know just such an individual. "Troy sent you."

"What?"

She seemed incredulous, too much so, and Dean felt all the pieces come together. Her arrival at his important annual meeting, the impression of sex kitten she exuded, his reaction to her.

"Troy, my beloved younger cousin." Dean wanted to make it clear the jig was up. "He was there during the hypnosis, he gave me the suggestion. Now he thinks to turn the screw even further. Send some blond sex goddess to my office during the vice presidents meeting. Very funny."

The woman stared at him. "Sex goddess?"

An incredible burden rolled off of Dean. He was so relieved he laughed. "You nearly had me there, for a minute."

"I I beg your pardon?" She managed to sound both indignant and incredulous.

"You must be an actress." Dean smiled at her. "You've obviously been trained to express and elicit emotion."

She merely stared at him, open-mouthed.

Sighing, Dean turned for his massive office desk. "When I called in after being missing for two days, Troy claimed he'd been frantic, looking for me, that he regretted the hypnotic suggestion, his little joke, but I guess that didn't last. He sent you."

Behind his desk now, Dean paused and threw the woman a cutting glance. "And I have a good idea what he wanted me to think about you."

Finally, the woman closed her mouth. But she wasn't ready to give up the game. "Hypnotic suggestion?" she repeated, very slowly. "Are you saying...you don't remember meeting me?"

"No." Dean met the little actress's eyes. "I'm saying I have never met you at all."

She was looking at him as if he'd just grown another head. "You deny it?" she finally asked, whisper soft. "You deny we even met after my show on the Strip?"

She'd been in a show? On the Strip? Dean's heart plunged. But no, no She was an actress, a plant of Troy's. Of course. That's how she knew it was in Las Vegas he'd finally 'woken up' from his trance. It's how she knew the type of woman his father brought home, the type who'd happily prance naked on a spotlit stage.

He cleared his throat, doing his best not to envision this particular woman prancing naked. "Surely Troy explained everything to you, but for the sake of argument, I'll say it again. For two days I was following a hypnotic suggestion. I don't remember anything that happened. Which makes it easy for someone like you to help my cousin play this little trick on me."

The fringes over her chest began to rise and fall with her alleged emotion. "I don't believe this," she muttered. "I finally go to the trouble of tracking down the lout, confronting him, and he claims he was 'hypnotized.' Doesn't even remember me. That's cute. Convenient. And original."

"I'm not 'claiming' I was hypnotized. It's true." Dean nearly bit his tongue. He didn't need to defend himself. She knew.

She took a step back. "I'll tell you what's true. You're a lying...Casanova!"

Dean's fingers clenched into fists. Was she saying ? All right, he'd admit he was attracted, maybe even aroused, but that was just from...surprise, and her acting ability. She wasn't his type; not understated elegance, sophisticated or genteel. And besides, she was only Troy's friend. Dean had never laid eyes on her before that morning. "We did not sleep together," he told her, low.

She shot him a gaze replete with scorn. "Oh, right. You forgot."

Dean's jaw tightened. He could not have, would not have, slept with a Las Vegas dancer. No, not even if watching the fringes rise and fall on her jacket was raising the temperature beneath his suit to about four hundred degrees.

But the woman wasn't done. With one hand, she pointed to a finger on the other. "How do you intend to forget this?" she wanted to know.

Dean forced his gaze from her chest. "Excuse me?"

She began pulling on the indicated finger, then held up an object that was too small for Dean to see. She shook it at him. "Our wedding ring, Dean. So please tell me, did you intend to 'forget' we were married, too?"

Dean felt his heart stop right in its place. Married? Right before he passed out from lack of oxygen, he dragged in a breath and reminded himself this was just Troy. Really playing hardball, even for a joke. He wasn't married. Not to her.

And yet and yet he couldn't remember those two days. Amnesia hadn't been part of Troy's

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