Another peek at The Bonds of Matri-money: this time an introduction to Connell MacAllister.

Connell slammed his palm over the newspaper article, pushing it across the desktop. “A reality game show? How about we run off to Atlantic City and hit the casinos? We’d have better odds.”

“But don’t you see? This,” Renata tapped a finger atop the black type, “is our chance to get out from under.”

Leaning back in the soft leather chair, he stared at the speckled dots in the ceiling tiles. He silently counted to ten at least three times, but resentment rose in his throat like smoke up a chimney. When she’d called an hour ago and asked to see him, he thought she had a real solution for their problems. Instead, she showed up peddling a pipe dream.

“First of all, we’re not newlyweds; we’re not even a couple.”

She waved off his concern with a flick of her wrist. “A quick trip to City Hall could remedy that,” she said. “Unless you have some other emotional attachment at the moment?”

Amazed at her audacity, he leaned across the metal desk and knocked on her forehead. “Is anyone in there? You’re not suggesting we get married, are you?”

She pulled away from his reach with a frown. “Why not? It could be a business arrangement. Contestants must be newlyweds married less than a year. We could pretend to be a couple madly in love for a month, couldn’t we? It’s for a good cause.”

“And what happens if we don’t make it on the show?”

“We get a quickie divorce, irreconcilable differences or some such nonsense. What’s the big deal? Look how many celebrities get drunk in Las Vegas, marry someone totally inappropriate and call it quits when they sober up.”

“We’re not celebrities, Renata. And I’m not sure I want to become one, thanks to televised exposure in some freak show.”

“You’ve seen how these survival shows operate. For heaven’s sake, you’re a master carpenter; I’m a registered nurse. Between the two of us, we could handle anything they throw our way. When we win, we use part of the money to get Majestic Health Contractors back in the black. The rest, we split, fifty-fifty.”

“I’ll think about it. Okay?”

Sensing she might argue, he focused on the contract atop his desk, signaling an end to the meeting. Through the filter of his lashes, he watched her fold the newspaper before tucking it in her purse. The air stirred, revitalizing her exotic perfume. His nose sent silent messages to his mind, subtle invitations to envelop himself in her sweet aroma. He shook the feeling away.

Renata was off-limits, his business partner, nothing more. And she was involved with someone else. Okay, maybe not anymore, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be her rebound man.