Sheltered her entire life, Jessie Murdock has rarely gotten her way. Until her dying father makes a deal with Cadde Hardin. Cadde will get shares of Shilah Oil on one condition--marry Jessie. In love with him for years, Jessie doesn't hesitate to sign the papers. But she didn't sign up for a completely absent husband.
Now Jessie has a counter offer. She'll give Cadde controlling interest of the business if he'll give her a baby...the natural way. Only he has a few caveats of his own. When life refuses to follow their written plan, Jessie and Cadde have to decide which is more important: their unspoken love or the family business.
Cadde Hardin always thought he'd eventually get married. He just never dreamed it would be a marriage of convenience.
And a pain in the ass.
"One of these days I'm going to wring her damn pretty neck."
He threw his briefcase onto the desk, scattering piles of folders, and slam-dunked his body into a leather chair, which protested with loud, annoying squeaks. He was so angry he could barely breathe.
How many more times was Jessie, his wife, going to stab him in the back?
His brothers, Cisco—known as Kid—and Chance stood in the doorway. "Is it safe to come in?" Kid asked.
"What the hell happened?" Kid wanted to know. "You said you had it handled, but once again Jessie shot down your proposal."
Cadde yanked off his tie. "I'm well aware of that." For a whole week he'd been telling Jessie how much he needed her vote at Shilah Oil's next board meeting. The company had to move forward. She had agreed, but evidently she'd changed her mind, voting against expanding drilling outside of Texas. He could feel his blood pressure rising by the minute.
"What did she say when you told her about the proposal?" Chance asked, taking a seat.
Cadde threw the tie onto the desk. "She said it sounded like something her father, Roscoe, would do. He was always a wildcatter, a risk-taker."
"Did she agree to vote your way?" Kid plopped into a chair and rested his boots on the desk. Usually, Cadde would knock them off, but today he wasn't in a mood to fight with Kid. Jessie and her about-face was all he had on his mind.
"No," he muttered.
"Sounds as if she's still pissed about the marriage," Kid commented.
"I didn't force her into this arrangement. Roscoe was dying and he wanted me to protect her, to take care of her, and I agreed."
"For a piece of the pie," Kid murmured under his breath.
He glared at Kid. "Don't start with me today."
Chance spoke up. "Face it, Cadde, she has to be upset at having her husband chosen for her."
"She was there when Roscoe made his wishes known. She didn't object or get angry. She accepted her father's decision."
"Dammit, Chance." Cadde swung out of his chair and stood to gaze at the view of Houston, but all he saw were Jessie's dark eyes. Swinging back, he said, "Don't you think I'm aware of that? I'm at my wit's end on how to handle Jessie."
"Since I'm an expert on women—" Kid formed a steeple with his fingers and looked at Cadde over the top "—I'd say Jessie wants something...and she wants it from you."
"What would that be, Kid?" Cadde asked in a sarcastic tone.
"I don't know, but whatever she's angry about is aimed at you."
"That's for damn sure."
"Shilah Oil is going nowhere without her support on the board," Chance said. "So your best bet is to have an honest-to-god talk with her."
"It might be as simple as a divorce," Kid added.
Cadde frowned. "You think she wants a divorce?"
Kid shrugged. "What else could it be? I mean, Roscoe sheltered her all her life. She's probably looking for some sort of freedom. And fun—preferably not with a man handpicked by her father."
Chance turned on Kid. "You don't know that. He needs to talk—"
"I'll see y'all later," Cadde said, grabbing his briefcase and heading for the door.
"What? No orders?" Kid's pesky voice followed him.
"Get your damn feet off my desk! Chance, I want the drilling log on the Carver well when I return." Why had he brought his brothers in...