Tracy smiled at Kim, in a daze, unsure of what she was hearing. It sounded something like Tracy announced that she was married to Jax. But that couldn't be. Why would she say such a crazy thing, especially since Tracy and Jax were lovers—or...was this the sacrifice Tracy mentioned? Was this what she was supposed to 'go along' with, the thing so 'vital' to their success? Why? What could possibly be so important that they would decide to concoct this insane ruse—especially without letting her in on the plan?
She searched for Jax but he hadn't returned. Behind her polite smile Kim gritted her teeth, internally screaming, “Jax, when I get my hands on you!”
“Well, Kimberly, don't you have something for our visitors?” Tracy's question yanked Kim out of her churning emotions. Oh! My speech! Their names! Her mind had gone blank. All she could think of was that she had just become Jax's bride in front of ten Japanese citizens. Ten citizens, whom she now noticed wore smiles of congratulations on their faces. Apparently the institution of marriage was as highly esteemed in Japan as it was here. Possibly more so, unless there were many women in Japan, like her mother, the serial bride, who thought so 'highly' of marriage, she chalked up as many as she possibly could.
She tried valiantly to smile as she scoured her brain for something to say that vaguely resembled her speech. “Um—” Think, darn you, Kimberly! Think. Stepping forward, she decided she had no choice but to trust herself. She'd practiced and practiced. It was time to get the thing said. She knew it by memory, fake marriage or no fake marriage. She put her brain on auto pilot giving her speech, bowing, presenting the gifts and pronouncing names. When she concluded, she felt like she'd been on stage for an eternity. But even with her mental turmoil over her abrupt 'marriage' to Jax, she somehow got through it.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the housekeeper, Maggie, lurking at the entry, sparking her memory of what came next. She introduced Maggie and announced that she would show the couples to their rooms.
Kim looked around to discover Tracy making a hasty exit out a door leading to the kitchen. Kim hightailed it after her, wanting answers. She had managed to hide her anxiety over her surprise marriage until now, but only barely. Once in the kitchen, she found Tracy and Jax alone. Jax was hanging up his cell phone. Angry and ready to blow, Kim barreled toward them like a military tank on the attack. “Just what was the idea?” she demanded.
Tracy held up a halting hand. “Wait a second.” She turned to Jax. “Remember our discussion yesterday?”
He looked puzzled. “Which one?”
“The one where we discussed how our business guests would be insulted if they thought we'd hired somebody to babysit their wives, and we discussed that it would be better if they thought Kimberly was a real hostess, like—say—your fiancee—or something?”
“I remember.” His frown deepened. “Why?”
Kimberly shoved past Tracy and got in Jax's face. “Because, apparently we're married, that's why! And we're delighted to have them visit our home!” She flung a hand toward Tracy.” As if you didn't know, she announced it in front of everybody just now.” She shoved hard against Jax's solar plexus. He grunted and staggered a step backward. “How could you, Jax?”
His gaze narrowed, shifting from Kimberly to Tracy. “What did you do?” he demanded, his tone low and threatening.
She grinned sheepishly. “I guess I am the pig-headed one, after all. You were right about that.”
“I may have to strangle you for this.”
Kim's anger mutated to edgy confusion. “Are you saying you didn't agree to this?” she asked him.
“Of course not.” The pain in his voice tugged at her heart.
“Well, it's done now,” Tracy said, sounding way too cheerful, considering she was in a room full of sharp knives with two people clearly in the mood for murder. “You can't tell them I lied, or they'll think one of us is insane, and out the window will go any chance of getting their business.”
“One of us is insane,” Jax growled.
“Or to put it another way,” Tracy quipped, “I made your bed, now you two have to lie in it.” She laughed and smacked Jax on the arm in a buddy-buddy gesture. “Personally, I think it was a stroke of genius. Our Japanese friends will feel more comfortable believing this is a nice family home inhabited by a happy, married couple. I mean, did you see that group? They remind me of my Kansas roots—conservative Heartland and all that. I toyed with the notion of going the fiancee route we discussed, but I decided marrying you two off would be more palatable to their sensibilities.”
“It's not palatable to mine,” Jax said, nostrils flaring.
From the book Just Friends To...Just Married, by Renee Roszel
Published by Harlequin books S.A. Copyright © 2005 by Renee Roszel
Publication Date (USA), October 2005, ISBN # 0-373-03865-8
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