Prologue

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 "Bennett, it's time for you to settle down with someone."

I glanced up from where I was resting on my VIG Chesterfield sofa, mid-shift to keep from indenting the material, as I'd trained myself to do. At the foot of it stood my mother, who was giving me such a deep disapproving look that I almost, almost made a move to sit up properly. Her expression was the definition of disappointment. Slim nose upturned, devil red lips twitching. I already knew where this conversation was heading and I let my cheek fall onto the cool leather with a sigh.

"This again?" I said.

"You're almost thirty, Bennett," she said, folding her arms across her chest, the many bracelets lined with diamonds on her arms jingling as she moved

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"You're almost thirty, Bennett," she said, folding her arms across her chest, the many bracelets lined with diamonds on her arms jingling as she moved. Her dark hair was tied in a tight bun on the top of her head, giving her an all-around stern aura.

I raised an eyebrow at her. "I'm twenty-five. I don't really think that's close to thirty."

"Your father and I married when we were twenty-two," she said matter-of-factly. "It's time for you to stop fooling around and creating scandals and making our family look bad—"

"I don't make our family look bad—"

"—And it's time for you to start your own family so we can give a head start to the next successor of our business," she pressed on.

I pushed myself into a sitting position, making sure to smooth out my waistcoat, lest I gave her something else to complain about. "So, you expect me to meet someone today and fall in love with them, get married, and have children? It doesn't work like that. Well, maybe it does nowadays with all the dating apps going around, but I'm not like that."

"There are plenty of young women interested in you. Cecil's daughter has been asking for your hand in marriage since you two were five. She's very beautiful, too."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "Legal arranged marriages aren't a thing in America anymore. It's 2015, not 1765. I don't want to marry someone just because it helps our business."

"You want a marriage made out of love?" she asked, her voice taking on a hard edge. "Rich families marry into other rich families to keep their wealth. It's what all our ancestors have done before us and what we will continue to do. That's how we keep our business alive."

Arguing with her was fruitless. "I'm not interested in marriage right now, that's all."

She closed the little distance between us, hovering above me intimidatingly. "I've given you twenty-five years of freedom. I've given you everything you've ever wanted. All I ask is for you to repay me with the promise of keeping our business alive."

"And I will, just not right now," I responded firmly. The business wouldn't be going anywhere in a long time. We were basically the new Hiltons. What was eating at her? Why was she suddenly trying to force this on me?

"You have no more choice in this matter. If you don't settle down, I will take your car and your house."

"I own this house and my car. You can't threaten me with that."

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