Authors: Carmen Falcone
Table of Contents
Accidentally Still Married ©2015 Carmen Falcone
Edited by: Melinda Fulton & Deadra Krieger
Cover and formatting by:
Sweet 'N Spicy Designs
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any locales, or persons living or dead is coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and transmit in any form or by any means. For information on subsidiary rights contact the author via her website.
Accidentally Still Married
Till sex do us part
Chef Grace King needs to save her catering business by all means necessary. Even if it means striking a deal with the hot estranged husband she walked out on, but can’t forget despite her best efforts.
Sebastian Zwane is baffled to discover he’s still legally bound to the woman who broke his heart. With a booming career and new offices to open, the last thing he needs is a scandal and for her to demand half of the empire he built after their separation.
The bargain that will get them both what they want is put to the test by their sizzling attraction – stronger than ever, in spite of their rocky past. When the deal is over, will they be able to walk away from each other?
To second chances!
“Married? Is this a joke?” Sebastian Zwane laughed, even though every time his botched commitment to Grace came to mind, a cold shudder ran down his spine.
His lawyer, Robert Holden, wasn’t as amused. The fifty-year-old man sitting across from him in his Los Angeles office barely shifted inside the oversize leather chair. “See for yourself. You are still married to Grace King.” He placed a couple of papers primly on the heavy Brazilian cherry wood desk.
Sebastian’s stomach knotted as he lifted the documents to his eye level, and he leaned forward. “I signed the damn divorce papers.”
Robert coughed. “She never filed them. Didn’t you ever check?”
Sebastian got to his feet, restless. Little currents tingled each one of his nerve endings, and the more he mused over the discovery, the bigger the tingles got. And the longer they lasted. “I’m South African. I had no idea what divorce proceedings in the US entailed. Besides, I was traveling a lot for work back then, and assumed it was taken care of.”
, he cursed in Afrikaans. He hadn’t wanted to get divorced in the first place. If Grace hadn’t done such a great job convincing him her accidental pregnancy had been the only reason for their marriage. If she hadn’t lost the baby, and with it, her—
“She hasn’t gotten in touch in the last two years?” Robert’s voice sliced through his reminiscing.
Sebastian could swear the crisp collar and the tie of his own Ermenegildo Zegna suit were one size too small. How else could he explain the throbbing pulse? “No,” he said, with more effort to say that one word than to sing the American national anthem backwards.
“Well.” Robert scratched his well-groomed goatee. “Do you think she had an agenda?”
“She left you and asked for the divorce, but had a change of heart. In the two years you were away, and you started to make millions, she never said a word.” Robert narrowed his dark green eyes.
Sebastian loosened his tie, even though it was only midday. He peered out the floor-to- ceiling glass wall separating him from the L.A. skyscraper. The view of tall buildings and a cloudless blue sky started to lose focus, and he didn’t even blink. What did Grace look like these days? Did she still have her waist-length golden locks? His libido stirred, and using the tightening of his body as a warning, he cleared his throat and focused on his bald, expensive lawyer. “Cut to the chase, Holden.”
“Your investment firm is doing extremely well. You’re about to open a few more here in the West coast. The last thing you need is a dirty divorce battle.”
“It’s not a battle if both spouses want it,” Sebastian said, with a bitter voice.
Robert choked back a mocking laugh. “It is if she thinks she’s entitled to half of what you earned ever since your marriage.”
“That’s ridiculous. She hasn’t been around.”
“Grace never signed a pre-nup. There is a presumption of a fifty-fifty split. I did some digging, and she has a catering business that’s on its last legs. She can’t have any money to inject in the business with the outrageous interest rates she has been paying the bank for loans.” Robert opened his sleek briefcase, retrieved an iPad, and showed Sebastian her website.
Sebastian nearly lost his balance, as if instead of a thin tablet he held sacks of cement. A warm tingle snuck up on him and shot up his arms.
Grace King Catering,
the outdated cursive writing logo read. A big knot formed in his throat, and he clicked on the ABOUT section. Against his common sense.
Her BIO and picture, along with a couple of testimonials, popped up on the screen. His gaze focused on her headshot. The knot in his throat pulsed, and he tensed up. Her hair was put up in a ponytail, neat, professional. Her face… he closed his eyes, as if seeing a glimpse of her plump lips and Pacific Ocean colored eyes was just too painful. Too damn stupid, he corrected himself.
“Can you trust her?” Robert asked.
Sebastian handed him the iPad quickly, as if he had gotten it without his consent.
“No.” His gaze dropped to his left hand, lacking a wedding ring. For the past year, he had vowed to move on emotionally and had taken a few women on dates—under the assumption he was divorced. And free.
He clenched his fists and remembered the engagement ring. When he had asked her to marry him, he had offered the engagement ring that had belonged to his belated mother. Even though it was worth a few thousand dollars only—unlike the type he would be able to afford today—that piece of jewelry was one of the few palpable links he had to his mother. Grace had taken to it Florida with her, and as he discovered later on, had sold it for cold hard cash. His mother had left him, and so had Grace.
“I can recommend a good family lawyer, but beforehand you should try to solve this privately. Remember that bachelor date auction last month?”
How could he forget? He’d only agreed because the organizer had talked him into it—using his penchant for helping suicide prevention institutions as bait. Enduring a whole evening with a woman with whom he had nothing in common had been painful.
“We don’t really want the media to know you were actually married back then. Last thing we want is for you to be portrayed as a liar when you’re supposed to gain people’s trust.”
Sebastian pursed his lips. Oh, how his business opponents would rejoice to learn of the failed marriage that they would certainly accuse him of hiding. He wouldn’t let everything he'd worked so hard for slip between his fingers because of Grace. He had lost too much already. “Don’t sweat it, Holden. I’ll take care of it in a very private manner.”
“Girl, relax,” Luna whispered, as they rolled the cart into the kitchen of one of the most prestigious addresses in South Beach. “You’re sweating like you’re watching a
Grace drew a sharp breath. “Worse. This could be my finale if I don’t impress Bianca Reynolds. And guess what? No hot President for me. Nada.” Grace motioned to park the cart by the white marble island. She helped her best friend load the serving trays and dishes on the endless countertop that occupied a good part of the airy, large kitchen.
“You’ll do fine.” Luna smiled.
Grace hoped she could believe her. A lot was at stake tonight. The day before, she had been preparing to pull the plug on her catering business and file for bankruptcy, when a phone call had saved the day—and hopefully, her career. Self-made woman and top of the party-throwing chain, Bianca Reynolds, had phoned her after coming across Grace’s website. Bianca had met her briefly to go over the menu—an understated but sexy dinner for two, at her place—and even hinted about needing to expand her portfolio and invest in up-and-coming food businesses.
“I have to,” Grace said, hardening her shoulders. She refused to go down without one last fight. Every day she was losing a little bit more of her Nana to Alzheimer’s and with her flower-power parents touring Australia in an RV, her job was her only harbor. She couldn’t afford to lose her catering business. King’s Catering not only offered Southern Comfort food with a modern twist, it was her one connection to her roots, before her parents decided traveling cross-country was the smartest way to raise their six year old. “Thanks for helping me out, Luna. I swear, when I can afford an assistant, you will stop waitressing.”
Luna glided her fingers over the built-in stainless steel oven and faced her friend. “May I have that in writing?”
Grace winked at her. “I’d sign it with my blood if I had any left.”
Over the next half hour, she made sure the four-course meal was stored, and at the right temperature. Bianca had told Grace that she would be running late; therefore, Grace should get the key at the entrance and get things started.
Grace eyed the folder inside her tote bag. With Bianca’s hint about investing the day before, she had crammed together a proposal. Hope flooded her; she knew she needed a business partner—someone with logical thinking, entrepreneurial experience and a willingness to teach. Not just money. Sure, money would save her business, but it wouldn’t help it flourish and grow. Cooking and serving was her calling—marketing and selling herself was not. Bianca might be more than a great meal ticket if she could make this evening perfect.
“I’m going to set the table outside,” she told Luna, and walked out to the Greek inspired terrace with tall columns and extravagant sculptures that channeled the renaissance era. It was all too much for her taste, but the décor was the least of her concerns.
Bianca had asked for an intimate dinner for two, and Grace hoped her idea to forgo the sterile formal dining area and focus on the patio table was a win. A smile tipped her lips. She caressed the rich, patterned linen cloth on the square table, and lit a few jasmine scented candles in the middle. Reaching for the small, colorful vase of perennials she had brought, she nodded. This dinner was her chance to wow the great Bianca and she wouldn’t let it slip through her fingers.
A wave of empowerment went through her.
She glanced through the French doors, and saw Luna dashing though the living room. Someone must have rung the doorbell.
Her friend waved at her. “I got this,” she mouthed.
Grace contemplated calling Bianca to let her know her guest was early. Realizing her cell was lost in the bottom of her bag, she sighed and finished placing the silverware where it was supposed to be. She smoothened her clammy palms on the black apron, which was the same length as her little black dress.
Everything looked perfect, and success would taste better than Nana’s famous peach cobbler.
“This way, please.” She heard Luna’s perky voice, and turned on her cobalt heels to meet the man who was about to dine with Florida’s most notorious businesswoman. “Is there anything I can get you while you wait?”
“All I need is right in front of me.” A deep, commanding voice spoke before she faced him, and she already knew whose face that alluring South African twang belonged to. Sebastian Zwane.
She swallowed. He stood in front of her, all six foot four of pure male extraordinaire. His designer suit had the precise tailoring that only money and the best stylists offered. Her blood froze. After two years, the man she had once given her heart to looked even better than before. His chocolate skin was accentuated by a white shirt and crisp casual suit jacket, and his dark green eyes… oh, his eyes. He assessed her, perhaps in a more discreet way than she did him.