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The McKenna Curse Book 4
BY PATRICIA ROSEMOOR
Bryce McKenna is a cursed man who needs a wife to secure a business deal–and childhood friend Hailey Wright is willing to marry Bryce for the money to save her brother in debt to a loan shark. But when her own life comes under attack, Bryce fears the McKenna family’s dark legacy is at play. Hailey is able to sense the presence of ghosts and finds herself drawn to solve an old mystery even as she and Bryce fall in love. Will pursuing ghosts lead to the curse or salvation?
Bryce swept his gaze along the upper level near the wave pool where guests were already gathering at the buffet. “I don’t see Hailey, but I’m sure she’s here somewhere.”
“Why don’t you see if you can find her?” Croft suggested, swiping a glass of champagne off a waiter’s tray and turning to stare straight across the lake at the estates on the other side. “I can amuse myself for a while.”
“Fine,” Bryce said, clapping Croft’s shoulder. “And maybe we can talk business in the morning.”
The man was already intent on something in the distance and didn’t seem to register what Bryce was saying. But Croft’s mind was working. Bryce had the dubious McKenna ability of being able to “hear” what people were thinking when they were off guard. Croft already had consumed several glasses of champagne.
Maybe McKenna Development is in trouble because of Bryce’s reckless lifestyle.
Swinging bachelors don’t have the same sense of responsibility that married men do—look at what he spent on this party just to impress me. Now if he had a wife and family, it would be a different matter. He’d have to be responsible and I wouldn’t hesitate to sign on the dotted line.
Someone stopped to talk to Croft and his thoughts faded away. But Bryce got the message loud and clear. Croft didn’t trust him because he wasn’t a family man. Croft had no idea of how much family meant to Bryce. And he had no idea of why Bryce had never married— Sheelin O’Keefe’s prophecy had come true far too many times, including with Bryce’s own mother.
Off in search of Hailey, Bryce couldn’t help but think that the family company was at risk because of an employee’s bad decisions. But this deal could give them the new start they needed to survive. His plan was to combine two Chicago manufacturing buildings in the Lakeview area into a huge condominium complex.
The neighborhood continued to be hot and properties continued to sell. The problem was that, at the moment, McKenna Development couldn’t get the kind of loan necessary to implement his plan. Becoming partners on this project with the uber-wealthy, ultraconservative James Croft could keep his company from bankruptcy, Bryce thought.
But how to get past Croft’s objection that he needed a wife?
Not at all a welcome thought to a man under a curse. He would never put a woman he loved in jeopardy.
Spotting Mattie Sorenson helping herself to an appetizer from a waiter’s tray, he joined her. “Mattie, don’t you look gorgeous. Every time I see you, you’re more beautiful than before.”
The good-humored Mattie laughed. “And you keep getting more charming.” She gave him an amused if suspicious expression. “What is it you need, Bryce McKenna?”
“I’m looking for Hailey Wright. I thought you might have seen her.”
“She said you had a potential new client for her. Well, I hope it works out for her. She’s an angel in need of a backer right now. The last I saw of her, she went in that direction,” Mattie said, waving toward the wave pool.
“Thanks. I’ll find her.”
He took off again. Hailey had been best friends with his younger sister Grania, so growing up, she’d spent a lot of time in this house. One of the places the girls had loved to hide out was in the little patio off the den. There was a passageway directly next to the pool. Bryce made straight for it.
But when he got to the entrance, he hesitated. He heard a ragged sob and was certain it was Hailey. Now what? She sniffed and hiccupped and sounded as if she was trying to get herself under control. And then she started crying again.
Realizing it must be serious, Bryce couldn’t stand to let a childhood friend suffer without trying to help. He crossed into Hailey’s sanctuary and saw her sitting on a retaining wall, huddled and looking utterly devastated.
“Hey, what can I do to help?”
Hailey jerked and looked up at him, a strand of her long pale blond hair falling over wide blue eyes, the whites red from crying. Her small nose was red, too, and her full lips were trembling. Bryce pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and held it out as he took a seat next to her on the wall, careful not to sit on the skirt of her dress, an elegant pale blue number that molded her curves and flared out from her hips.
Seeming reluctant, She nevertheless took the handkerchief from him and dabbed at her eyes and her nose.
“S-sorry,” she said. “I—I’ll be all right in a minute.”
“Why do I doubt that?”
“No, really. I just got some bad news is all.”
Reaching out, he turned her face toward his and looked into her worried eyes and pinched expression that told him that whatever it was, it was serious. “Anything I can do?”
For a moment, her expression softened into hopeful. Then she blinked and shook her head. “No, not your problem. I’ll work it out somehow.”
“No, really, I should meet your guest.”
“Tell me,” he said again, his voice firm. “Hailey, I’m not letting you out of here until you do. Right now, you look like you need a friend more than you do an introduction to a stranger.”
Swallowing hard, she took a shaky breath, then said, “All right. It’s Danny.”
“Was he hurt?”
“He will be if he doesn’t come up with the money to pay a gambling debt. A loan shark is after him this time.”
Grania had said something to him about Hailey’s brother getting into trouble gambling. His sister, of course, had been worried about her friend. Hailey had felt responsible and had rescued Danny more than once.
“How much?” Bryce asked.
Hailey swallowed hard again. “A hundred thousand. I can’t get that kind of money. The loan shark is threatening to kill him. What am I going to do, Bryce? How can I save him this time?”
Her eyes were welling with tears again. Impulsively Bryce put an arm around her back and let her lean on his shoulder. He really liked Hailey, always had. She was almost like a second sister to him. He hated seeing her like this. Knowing how she felt about Danny, he feared she would do something foolish to rescue her brother.
Family loyalty was another thing they had in common.
They had a lot in common, he realized.
Including financial trouble.
“What about the police? Has he called them?”
“No, of course not! And I’m not going to. If Danny isn’t killed, he’ll go to prison for illegal gambling.”
Maybe spending some time behind bars would straighten out her brother, not that he said so. His mind began to race with thoughts that nearly choked him. There was a way out of their troubles for both of them. It was crazy, really, but it just might work. And what would be the harm if they both went into it, eyes wide open?
While he cared about Hailey, he certainly didn’t love her. That would keep her safe from the family curse.
“I have a plan,” he said.
Straightening, she turned to look at him. Hopeful again, her expression made him swallow hard. Would she buy it?
“I can get your brother out of trouble,” he said, “and you can assure me a deal I want to make with James Croft. Everybody wins.”
Her eyebrows furrowed, making her look young and innocent. “I don’t understand.”
He almost stopped right then, but everything for him counted on that backing by the conservative Croft, who was hesitating hooking up financially because he believed Bryce was a swinging bachelor when in reality, Bryce was too obsessed with work to chase skirt. And it was obvious Hailey didn’t have the means to rescue her brother this time—and this time could very well be the last if Danny was hooked up with the wrong people.
“I’m proposing a business venture,” he said, glad that he still had some personal resources so he could make the offer that would solve both of their problems.
“Strictly business. I’ll pay Danny’s debt off if you agree.”
“To marry me.”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Patricia Rosemoor has had 100 novels with 8 publishers and more than 7 million books in print. Always fascinated with “dangerous love,” Patricia combines romance with crime in her stories. She has won a Golden Heart from Romance Writers of America and two Reviewers Choice and two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times BOOKreviews, and in her other life, she taught Popular Fiction and Suspense-Thriller Writing at Columbia College Chicago.
Links to Patricia’s website, blog, books, etc.
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