Substitute Bride

Substitute Bride
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The bride was pretending… To help her sister out of a tricky situation Laura Madison had agreed to step into her shoes to view the house her fiance's uncle had bought as a wedding gift. It should have been easy. But Uncle James had ideas of his own… . The "best man" was curious…He had turned up unannaounced! Laura knew he'd see through their charade in an instant. James Fraser was six foot three of prime Australian rancher, and Laura wasn't acting like a girl about to get married but a woman in lust! A wedding was the last thing on either of their minds… .

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“You can’t possiblymarry him!”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because you want to go to bed with me.”

Laura gasped. “That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it? Tell me, Beatrice, what’s it like when Sam kisses you?”

Beatrice. Laura dropped her gaze and turned crimson.

“When he kisses you, does it make your heart pound as if you’re running a marathon? Do you love him, Bea?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “I do.”

“Liar,” James breathed, and hauled her into his arms. “This is what a kiss should be like.”

ANGELA DEVINE grew up in Tasmania surrounded by forests, mountains and wild seas, so she dislikes big cities. Before taking up writing, she worked as a teacher, librarian and university lecturer. As a young mother and Ph.D. student, she read romance fiction for fun, and later decided it would be even more fun to write it. She is married with four children, loves chocolate and Twinings teas and hates ironing. Her current hobbies are gardening, bushwalking, traveling and classical music.

Substitute Bride

Angela Devine

‘MIRROR, mirror, on the wall, should I many Raymond Hall?’

Laura Madison gazed steadily at her own perplexed reflection and heaved a faint sigh. At twenty-nine she had begun to think of herself as a confirmed career woman, and Ray’s proposal the previous evening had taken her completely by surprise. Although they had been friends for more than a year, she had never imagined that he thought of her as a possible wife.

A competent accountant, yes. A theatre companion, a tennis partner, a fellow gourmet, certainly. But someone who would share his entire life? It was unthinkable! Yet she had promised to think about it…and to give him his answer today. Her spirits sank at the prospect. As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, with her sister’s crazy request blurted out over the telephone only an hour ago!

Suddenly the loud toot of a car horn down below broke into her reverie. She hurried into the sitting room and hauled up the window.

‘Bea!’ she whispered in exasperation. ‘It’s only five thirty a.m. You’ll wake the people in the other flats! And that’s a no parking zone.’

Her younger sister grinned up at her, thrusting her long hair back off her face in a gesture that made her one of the most photographed models in Australia. Evidently Bea’s mercurial spirits had taken an upward turn after her earlier gloom.

‘Who cares? Anyway, you’d better hurry up or you’ll be late for the airport.’

Plodding back into the hall and giving herself a final, despairing grimace in the mirror, Laura picked up her overnight bag and went downstairs.

‘Now, are you clear on what you’ve got to do?’ asked Bea, reversing out of the driveway with a squeal of tyres that made her sibling shudder.

‘Yes!’ retorted Laura savagely. ‘I fly down to Tasmania on your plane ticket, pretending I’m you. Sam will arrive on a later plane and meet me at the real estate agent’s office. Then we go and view the house together. But I still don’t see the need for all this.’

‘I already explained it, La-La,’ said Bea, weaving in and out of the Sydney traffic, which was already heavy even at this hour. ‘A wonderful house has just come on the market at a bargain price and Sam’s uncle James wants to give it to us as a wedding present. But he only has a twenty-four-hour option to purchase, so we must look over it today. Except I can’t fly to Tasmania myself, because I’ve got to go to court here in Sydney on a dangerous driving charge. It’s so unfair! I wasn’t driving dangerously. My foot just slipped on the accelerator and—’

‘Never mind that now!’ cut in Laura. ‘Why don’t you simply tell Uncle James that you can’t come with Sam?’

‘Because he already disapproves of me. I’ve never met him, but from what I’ve heard he really hates the thought of his precious nephew marrying an airhead fashion model. He’s already spoken to Sam several times on the phone, trying to persuade him to call off the marriage because he thinks I’m such a fruit-loop. Too young, too irresponsible and “everyone knows that models sleep around”.’

‘But that’s utterly unfair!’ cried Laura hotly. ‘Why should he condemn you when he’s never even met you?’

Bea shrugged. Although she was trying to look tough, Laura saw the unmistakable flash of hurt in her dark eyes. It brought back memories of Bea at the age of five, clutching her teddy and glaring defiantly at the fosterworker who had taken them into care after their mother’s death.

‘Search me,’ said Bea. ‘It seems a bit rich considering that good old Uncle James has a reputation for seducing anything that moves, while I’ve only ever slept with Sam. But everyone in the Fraser family seems to dance to James’s tune. Even Sam.’

‘Why? What’s so special about this man?’ demanded Laura indignantly.

‘Well, according to Sam, he’s tremendously dynamic and hell-bent on having control of everything—not to mention filthy rich and dangerous to oppose. To be honest, I think Sam’s very brave to insist on marrying me when James is against it. And I don’t want James spoiling the wedding by becoming even more poisonous, which he will if he finds out about this dangerous driving charge. That’s why you’ve got to cover for me!’

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