Compromising Kessen

  If her life were a book. But it was not, which meant she could smile through this awkward situation and eat her body weight in chocolate later tonight, when she remembered how embarrassing it was to be caught making out by one’s grandmother.

  Grandmother had an odd look on her face—almost as if she had just trapped Kessen into something—but for crying out loud, it was 2012 What could they possibly do?

  And then a camera went off.

  And another.

  And another.

  Until Kessen was absolutely blinded by flashes of lights. She tried to keep a straight face as paparazzi began pouring out of the bushes. Sure, it had been a bunny rabbit, but the rabbit had been scared off for other reasons entirely. The media had been parked just outside waiting for something like this to happen. And they had heard every word.

  Panicked, she looked to Christian, who seemed equally as alarmed. He looked to his father for an explanation, but his father looked to her grandmother, and—wait a second… Did they just shake hands?


  “You have got to be kidding me!” Kessen wailed towards the ceiling. She had her hand raised above her head as if God was punishing her, which in hindsight He probably was. After all, she was making out shamelessly in the gardens. Is kissing so bad? Huh, God? Is it? Can’t a girl have a little fun on vacation?

  The answer was a resounding no.

  Christian hadn’t said a word since their discovery. Security guards shooed the paparazzi away, but the damage had already been done. The worst part was Christian’s dad had just that night made an announcement that his son was to be married by the end of the year.

  The timing could not be any worse.

  All signs pointed to the sudden arrival of Lord Newberry’s daughter. It was a match made in aristocratic heaven. Sure her blood wasn’t as blue as most Vandenbrooks would have liked, a comment made earlier by the duke himself, but she was still an heiress, after all. The Newberry money would propel the Vandenbrooks and the Newberrys into the highest of social circles—not that they weren’t already dangerously close … plus the press would have a field day.

  Just think—a Brit born in America, coming home to her beloved country to marry the heir to the dukedom. How romantic.

  Yet every inch of her body revolted against the idea. This was not the plan. Her plan had been to simply do her father’s bidding and return home as the new CEO of the London operation, not get married to a duke and live in Hades for the rest of her existence.

  She hadn’t even seen her cousin since arriving. When she finally asked her grandmother where her cousin was, she gave her a blank stare as if to say, “You didn’t know?”

  “She has gone on holiday for a few weeks and will return right before the wedding,” her grandmother said absentmindedly.

  These are the things which kept Kessen biting her nails as she sat in the large salon, waiting for the Vandenbrooks to make a statement.

  Christian wasn’t helping; he kept looking at her with hate in his eyes. The looks she threw back were nothing short of mutual understanding. She had her arms crossed over her chest, as if uncrossing them would lead to more pleasurable things.

  And why couldn’t she stop thinking about that stupid kiss? Well, if she was being honest with herself, and apparently it was a night for honesty, it wasn’t really just a kiss. It had been a make out session from heaven. Only the ending had been a little off.

  She moaned, and then realized it had been loud enough for Christian to hear. He lifted one eyebrow and smirked at her. Thank God he couldn’t see how much of an effect he had on her. Her stomach fluttered treacherously while she used all the strength she could muster to turn away.

  Just then her grandmother and the duke entered arm in arm. They both looked extremely pleased, which did not make Kessen feel any better.

  The duke spoke first. “I would like to be the first to offer congratulations on your engagement. I had been hoping it would be a higher match…” His eyes settled on Kessen. “…But the Newberry family is a close second to the family I already had in mind for our alliance. You will do quite well, Kessen. And Christian…” He went to grab his hands. “I see the title and all the wealth will pass down to you after all. Never fear. I wouldn’t dream of disinheriting you, now that you have a fiancée to take care of!”

  Kessen’s grandmother was suppressing laughter as she stepped toward them. “Oh, my love! You look tired; doesn’t she look tired?” She glanced to the duke, who nodded his head emphatically. “Why don’t you and Christian go have a little snack in the kitchen while we discuss specifics?”

  “Certainly.” Christian finally broke his long silence.

  “Stupid kitchen’s the reason for this fiasco in the first place,” Kessen mumbled, but Christian must have heard, because the corners of his mouth lifted into a smile.

  As soon as they exited the room, they pushed one another away. “This is all your fault!” Kessen accused. “How was I supposed to know there were paparazzi?”

  Christian refused to comment. Instead he sent an ugly sneer her way before opening the door and puffing up his chest. “I’m sure you’re used to gentlemen falling all over themselves for you, Kessen, but please. Do you honestly think someone like me would need to trap you in order to get you?”

  Kessen saw red.

  Of course, she had read numerous stories where women swear they saw nothing but red when they got angry, and she was having a real-life experience of it in this moment. Nobody should be held accountable for doing things when they saw red … nobody.

  She threw a wooden spoon.

  He ducked, quite agile for a Brit.

  He grabbed a pot as she began throwing limes, oranges, and pears—anything she could find, until she found a large grilling fork.

  “Aha!” she yelled, pointing it out in front of her.

  “My apologies, Father. Can’t get married, because my fiancée is crazy!” he yelled, knocking the fork out of her hands and tackling her, sending both of them sailing into the flour.


  Christian hadn’t meant to lose all control, but he couldn’t be held responsible for any of his actions in the presence of Kessen. She absolutely brought out the worst in him, which suffice to say, was not a pretty sight.

  He felt as if they were in slow motion when they finally sailed into the flour. He had managed to get all sharp pointy objects away from Kessen except the fork, which was now flying across the room at an alarming speed.

  And then the flour hit. He couldn’t even see for a few seconds as the air filled with white dust particles settling onto what seemed like every square inch of his body and Kessen’s. She coughed beneath him, and then laughed.

  It was devastating.

  And at that moment, in the flour with the most irritating American girl he had ever met, he became completely ruined.

  His body was already responding to his head, as everything began pulsating with heat. She was aggravating, but she was interesting, and he wanted her.

  In fact, he couldn’t remember a time when he had wanted a woman this badly, and he had had a lot of women during his years at university.

  Then she smiled, all covered in flour and innocent. Their foreheads touched, and their eyes locked. He shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t, but he was having trouble with self-control that night.

  His lips descended towards hers. Obviously he had already made the decision, and he didn’t care about anything but tasting her again.

  Another throat cleared. There had to be another type of signal people could use.

  He looked up to see her grandmother regarding them with the most peculiar look on her face.

  “Food fight?” she asked, arms still crossed but eyes twinkling with mischief.

  Christian jerked away from Kessen and helped her up from the floor.

  “No,” Kessen answered. “Christian was throwing flour at me, and then he threw a fork, Grandma. A fork—as in a sharp object! I barely escaped with my life.” She
bent down and kissed her on the cheek. Goodnight.”

  She turned and winked at Christian, then walked out of the kitchen.

  The little minx had totally thrown him under the bus. He looked guiltily from the flour to her grandmother and shrugged, because what else could he do? He could deny it, but it would be her word against his.

  Lady Newberry walked strategically through the flour and put both tiny hands on his chest. “You, sir, are going to have your hands full with that one.”

  “Understatement of the century,” he murmured and kissed the sweet lady on the cheek. “Good evening, Lady Newberry. May I call on Kessen tomorrow?”

  “I’ll make certain she’s ready,” she answered, waving him off.

  Kessen was unwise to provoke him, or poke the beast, as they say. She couldn’t fool him, and the sooner she realized how evenly matched they actually were, the better off both of them would be in this engagement.

  At this point he was powerless to stop it. Saying it was a mistake or an accident would bring embarrassment on both families. The only option was to suck it up and get married. He knew Kessen’s type; she was married to her work, and he was the same way. How bad could marrying Kessen be? She was wildly attractive—obviously he wanted her—and she would keep him on his toes. She would definitely look good on his arm, not that he would ever admit it to her. Admitting she was eye candy would probably provoke her to shave her head; she was that type of girl.

  He chuckled as he let himself out. The party was long over by now, and he needed all the rest he could get before facing tomorrow.

  Chapter Eight

  Kessen blinked several times before finally admitting she was awake. In fact, she hadn’t slept one wink that night. It had taken at least an hour to get all the flour out of her hair and another hour for her to brush it all out. She wanted nothing more than to get a cup of hot coffee, sit by the fireplace, and read. Though now reading about the Vandenbrook family left an odd twittering in her belly.

  It was strange she would feel fluttery when thinking about that family. To think that a few days ago, she was dreaming about the olden days of London society. Now it was like living a nightmare.

  She was caught in a scandal. A scandal in 2012! She wasn’t a celebrity, although she would admit to being mildly famous because of her money, and here she was being forced to marry just because of the stupid Vandenbrook family!

  But it was some kiss.

  “Focus!” she grumbled to herself. In fact, she hadn’t been able to get the incident out of her head all night. Crunching numbers in her head, singing songs, and reading books—nothing could pry her attention away from the memory of Christian’s soft lips against hers.


  Kessen scolded herself for allowing her feelings to get involved. It was obvious she hadn’t been kissed in a while, especially from the way she had reacted. What was she thinking? Grabbing his hair and pulling it? Wrapping her arms seductively around his neck?

  “Oh!” she screamed into her pillow, hitting it simultaneously with her hand, all the while kicking her feet crazily in the air.

  When a mild cough interrupted her, she winced. There had to be some other way to let someone know you were standing there watching the crazy antics.

  “What a fantastic way to start the morning!” a deep voice exclaimed.

  She whined into her pillow once more before opening her eyes.

  A prayer went up to the nightgown gods when she realized she had put on cute boy shorts and a t-shirt before bed, rather than her ratty t-shirt and sweats.

  Christian had somehow let himself into her room. He looked ridiculously handsome in his perfectly ripped jeans and leather jacket, making her feel somewhat feisty and, unfortunately, a little heated.

  “May I help you?” she seethed through clenched teeth.

  “Tsk, tsk. We wouldn’t want your teeth to be grinding. Remember, we don’t have the best dentists over here.” He flashed a wide grin, making her stomach drop to her knees.

  The man had no idea the effect he had on her, and it was probably a good thing, considering the compromising situations they had recently managed to get themselves into.


  He sauntered towards her. “Why, what?”

  “Why are you here?”

  He sighed. “Well, I think everyone goes through a time in their lives when they ask that same question. It’s brave of you to finally step outside of yourself and—”

  Her hand lifted impulsively with every intention of leaving a print on his perfectly chiseled jaw.

  “Easy, tiger,” he joked, swiftly grabbing it out of the air and pulling her into his sturdy frame. “We are spending the day together, which means you have to learn how to play nice, or your poor grandmother will have to deal with the repercussions of your wretched behavior.”

  “I don’t have to do anything,” she argued, turning away.

  “Actually,” he stepped behind her and rasped into her ear, “you do. Because if you don’t, the embarrassment would not only destroy both our families, but the stocks for your father’s company would plummet.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean,” he said, grabbing a few papers from under his arm, “everyone loves us.”

  Her mouth dropped open. He lifted a hand to shut it, letting his fingertips linger on her chin. The shivers went all the way down to her toes this time. She closed her eyes to regain control. “Let me see,” she snapped, pulling the papers out of his grasp.

  It was worse than she thought.

  It was true.

  She was done for.

  Her head jerked up to his gaze. He didn’t seem as smug as she would have liked; instead he looked just as irritated as she felt.

  “How did this happen?” she yelled.

  “Calm down,” he ordered, pushing her into a nearby chair. “I guess I’ll have to be the one to do this, then.” He took a deep breath and started, “Sometimes when a boy and girl meet, they find each other—how shall I put it? Oh, yes—attractive. And sometimes, when the boy and girl get close things happen and—”

  Her chest was rising and falling in ragged succession. “Not that. I know how that happened, thank you very much.” She unfurled the paper. “This. How did this happen?”

  His face twisted bitterly. “Take a guess.”

  Kessen thought through the previous night’s events—her grandmother’s expression, the handshake between the two.

  “No.” She groaned.



  “Yes!” he said loudly. “Come on, my father has been pestering me for months; your father is apparently worried sick about you, since you won’t bring yourself out of isolation unless you’re with Nick and Sammy.” His mouth shut suddenly.

  She opened her mouth wide to yell, but he forcefully put his hand over it. “We spoke earlier. Actually, I just got off the telephone. Apparently he’s been planning this for months with your grandmother. Even your silly cousin is in on it. Of course, I wasn’t part of the plan, but getting you married off was the reason. He wanted you to marry someone from England, and now he has his wish. And since I’m the head of the offices over here, and I’m the next in line for the dukedom, I’d say his plan worked to perfection.”

  She felt hot all over. A feeling of dread swept over her.

  “Breathe, America. Deep breaths,” he soothed, his hand still covering her mouth.

  So, she did the only thing she could think of doing.

  She bit his hand. Tenderly, of course.

  His hand shot off of her face faster than she would have imagined. But instead of being upset, his eyes lit with fire. He leaned in close. Kessen’s stomach lurched. Was he going to kiss her again? Expectantly, she leaned in to meet him just as her chair fell.

  “What the—” She looked down. “You did that on purpose.”

  “Don’t bite,” he scolded, turning around to shield his face. He was nonplussed by her behavior, because the next thing
he said was he would give her an hour to get ready. They had press to face and a day of “dating” to endure. He left her at that, while she grumbled on the floor about his lack of chivalry.

  What was with him and his rude attitude? One minute he looked like he wanted to eat her, the next he was so annoyingly upset that she couldn’t do anything right.

  She stood and ran to her closet. Time to dress the part.

  Chapter Nine

  Kessen’s clothes were extraordinary. When she had arrived, her clothes screamed tourist, but now he felt like he was staring at an entirely different human being. Not that she hadn’t been gorgeous before, but when he looked at her, he felt like he was under a spell—a spell that was broken only when she opened her mouth to speak.

  She was wearing black linen shorts, red stiletto heels, a flimsy, airy-looking top and a tailored jacket that went just below her waist, drawing his eyes to her deliciously long legs.

  He couldn’t tell if she wore makeup, mainly because she was so utterly breathtaking at the moment, he didn’t even dare look into her eyes.

  “Shall we?” She smiled, holding her hand out.

  He shook his head. “And so it begins.”

  The doors of the house opened and he led her to his waiting SUV. He opened the car door just in time to see the first paparazzi fly out from behind the bushes.

  “My lord, do you have a comment?” a man asked behind the snapping camera.

  Christian smiled tensely and opened the door. Obviously he had no comment. How had he not seen the photographers in the bushes? How did this happen twice in two days?

  He pulled on his designer sunglasses and looked over to a patiently waiting Kessen. She was looking around the car.

  “So, no carriage, huh?”

  “You read too much.”

  She shook her head. “Don’t I know it.” She pulled out matching designer sunglasses and threw them on. “You know this isn’t going to disguise us, right? We’re driving around in money, putting money on our faces, and, oh yeah, our last names scream money. What did you have in mind for a date anyway? Because I doubt it’s going to be private enough.”

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