Harlequin Presents #2484
Originally published: 07/01/05
Latest publication: 04/07/07
Lia turned her back on her aristocratic family. But now she needs their help to save her little daughter. Their response? Sell her off to the highest bidder!
Damian Marquez prizes Lia’s blue blood–he was stripped of his own title at birth. Lia is the perfect broodmare, who can provide him with an heir.
But, by the wedding night, Lia knows her secret will be out–because she can’t be Damian’s in the marriage bed….
“BLACKMAILED INTO MARRIAGE is a well-written Presents about a sensitive subject and is superbly handled by Lucy Monroe. Highly recommended!” 4 Stars – The Romance Review
“BLACKMAILED INTO MARRIAGE is passionate, thoroughly engaging and a wonderful story from beginning to end.” – Blue Ribbon Reviews
“Blackmailed into Marriage will tug at your heartstrings.” – Writers Unlimited Reviews
“Lucy Monroe packs a ton of emotion in this book. It will stay with you long after you are finished reading.” –Reader Review
“…an exotic location, mysterious secrets and a simmering romance which make for an intriguing read!” 4 Stars – Cataromance Reviews
“BLACKMAILED INTO MARRIAGE is a wonderful, feel good book that will leave you with warm fuzzies after it is over.” – The Best Reviews
“Lucy touched a delicate topic that affects many women, and created a very supportive hero… a hero most of us women would love to have in real life.” – Amelia Hernandez
“For a romantic, passionate romance with an unusual premise, grab BLACKMAILED INTO MARRIAGE; it’s a winner.” – Romance Reviews Today
“Lucy – I was forced, FORCED I tell you to miss out on some of the exciting parties in Reno because I was upstairs in my room reading Blackmailed Into Marriage. LOVED IT. Finished it before I left for home!” – Jill Monroe
“Dear Lucy, I have reread Blackmailed Into Marriage at least ten times since I borrowed from the library on 3rd January, 2006 (I have renewed it twice). I love Lia, Kaylee and Damian to bits! Generally, I prefer Tender Romance because I sometimes find the men in Modern Romances too overpowering. I love the way you write your male characters, Damian’s strength is phenomenal and yet he is incredibly considerate and patient. I have since read The Greek’s Innocent Virgin, which I also loved. I am now a huge fan of yours and look forward to your future offerings. Regards.” ~ Lexy
“Hi! First of all, I want to say that I love your stories. I read ” The Real Deal” when it came out and I’ve been hooked on your books ever since. I just read “Blackmailed into Marriage” and I was super-excited about to read about Kaylee’s heart defect (not that it’s a good thing). It’s just that I work for a medical device company that makes devices for people who have holes in their heart, and it offers an alternative to surgery and takes half the recovery time (just like in the book). I was surprised at first because not a lot of people are aware of the defect or the procedure. Then I got really excited because it could’ve been one of our devices! Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your stories and I look forward to more. I just bought Willing so it’ll keep me occupied for the next few days!” ~ Pa Lee
“Just finished reading Blackmailed Into Marriage. Great story & you send a valuable message to all the women who suffer sexual dysfunction. I hope by reading this book, the readers would advise family or friends who suffer vaginismus to seek help. Women need to feel loved not feeling at fault & suffer in silence. So far I have only read
The Italian’s Suitable Wife, The Sheikh’s Bartered Bride & The Greek’s Innocent Virgin. You created a great story in each book. Do keep on writing the good stories. Looking forward to your next book. All the best :)” – Reader
“Lucy just to say that I’ve snuck in finishing Blackmailed into Marriage even though I’m meant to focusing on finishing my ms. I loved the book, it dealt with a sensitive subject so warmly and also showed there can be a lot more depth to a Presents hero than ‘anti alpha’ people imagine. Thanks so much for such a good read.” ~ Carol
“Lucy — read your Blackmailed Into Marriage and have been gabbing it up ever since. In fact, I was just talking about it to my cousin yesterday and once she finally figured out what I was trying to say (had a little trouble pronouncing “vaginismus”) she told me she actually treats patients for that (she’s a physiotherapist). Huh, who knew? It was nice though, since you explained the problem and the treatment so well, she for once didn’t need to dumb anything down for me before she could gabble on about theories and possibilities. So, not only did I learn something new (which I love), but I got to connect with my cousin about her work a bit more. Thanks for that! Also, ditto to what Carol said. When I was telling my sister about it (told you, I’ve been gabbing it up) and about how Damian handled the situation, she said “So he just made it part of the foreplay? That’s so sweet.” Alphas are not generally known for their sweetness, but I have to agree with her on this one. Way sweet.” ~ Janine
“I love your stories, especially Blackmailed into Marriage. It talked about women, how they hide it and a man strong enough to accept his wife’s problem and help her to overcome it. Thank you for this story.” ~ Mary Grace
“Lucy!!!! What a great book, I loved it.. and a very needed subject to tackle there, and you did a wonderful job of it also :o) and, it’s your fault I’m up at 5:30 am having woken up at 3 am, lol. hada finish the book since I woke up…lol…do you feel guilty?? lol Lots of hugs,” ~ Lin
“I just finished “Blackmailed into Marriage” moments ago and was struck by the desire to contact you. <snip plot spoiler> In summation, I guess I really just want to say “thank-you” for branching out past the normal plot lines and giving women something more than fleeting romance. In “Blackmailed into Marriage” you give women sexual inspiration/hope and show that intimacy is much more than the “sex” portrayed in modern culture and media. I plan to pass on my copy to some of my female friends =)” ~ Thanks again, Nadia
“This wonderful love story so touched my heart. The storyline portrays the complete trust both characters learned to have in each other……it’s just an incredible journey for Lia and Damian. Blackmailed Into Marriage is five stars and so much more!” Marilyn Shoemaker
“I think you know by now that you can’t write a book that I won’t love. You went over the top with this one. You actually dared to write about a woman who was not perfect. Not in looks, but in mind. (Does that make sense?) I was reading the book and I kept thing, OMG, a real woman with a real problem. It moved me. And when your hero was so gentle and supportive, well, it made me feel gooey inside. Made me think that that is how my hubby would react. (He’d BETTER!!)” – Pat
“I am 3/4 of the way through Blackmailed Into Marriage and am loving it! Wow, what a poignant book, what a ground-breaking novel! Truly wonderful, and so HOT! I’m glad Kimberley took a chance on it because I believe it will win LOTS of awards :))” ~ Serena
“The characters really got to me, the story had so much heartache, passion and family in it that I felt really touched by it.” ~ Clare from the UK
“I just finished ‘Blackmailed Into Marriage’. Lucy you have written one of the most beautiful stories I have read in a while. You could really feel Lia’s anguish for her daughter and for her intimacy issues. Damian was a prize, he really was a special man and the perfect partner for Lia. Awesome book.” Hugs, Judy F
“Wow, Lucy, I am absolutely awed at your book I just finished, ‘Blackmailed into Marriage’. I love all your books, but you certainly outdid yourself with this one. It is one of the most sensual, passionate, AND compassionate book I’ve read in ages and ages. Don’t know where you come up with your ideas, but PLEASE just keep those wonderful books coming.” ~ Judy S
“Oh Lucy…I just finished reading ‘Blackmailed Into Marriage’ (I’m a Reader’s Service subscriber) that isn’t really do out on the shelves until August. What a very informative and compelling story. You even had me researching the affliction the heroine had as I’d never heard of it before. And WOW! <snip spoiler> Very moving indeed and I’d recommend this read to everyone for sure!!! Another GREAT one again Lucy! Thanks for sharing this story too!” ~ Joni
“You are Rosalia Chavez-Torres.”
Lia turned at the deep, masculine voice and found her line of vision blocked by a well-honed male torso clothed in formal black and white. He was standing much too close. She could smell his expensive cologne and powerful energy radiated off of him in imposing waves.
She took a quick, jerky step backward only to run into a small table that prevented further retreat.
She tilted her head back so her gaze could travel up to the man’s face and the breath rushed from her chest.
This man did not belong in a room filled with civilized businessmen.
Oh, he was dressed as the others in a hand-tailored tuxedo that fit his tall, muscular body perfectly. However his eyes burned with a vibrant intensity lacking in the other men in the room. Even her grandfather’s presence paled beside this man.
She was absolutely certain he was not old money, nor did she recognize him as a member of the Spanish nobility her grandfather counted among his cronies. She was pretty sure she had met all the eligible men of her age in that circle six years ago…before she’d turned her back on a world she hadn’t wanted to belong to. She didn’t know who he was, but he’d been watching her all evening and it did strange things to her equilibrium. Impossible things she had long ago decided she was not destined to feel.
All of this ran through her mind in the short silent moments after she turned around. Still, his eyes asked why she had not yet responded.
Giving herself a mental shake, she stuck her hand out and said, “Lia Kennedy, actually. And you are?”
“Damian Marquez. You are Bendicto’s granddaughter, are you not?” His fingers closed around hers, the heat in them warming hers.
His hands weren’t those of a man who had never labored. They were rougher, like Toby’s hands had been. Only her husband had been a classic laidback beta male. Damian exuded an aura of power and hardness that made her already chilled body shiver convulsively.
“You are cold?”
“The air conditioning…” She let her voice trail off, knowing the AC had nothing to do with it.
Neither did he really. She’d been cold from the inside out since the doctor told her about the hole in her daughter’s heart. Returning to Spain and a grandfather who disapproved of all her life’s choices had done nothing to warm her.
“We could step onto the terrace. It is still quite warm outside.”
She shrugged. Why not? Her grandfather wasn’t going to listen to her plea about Kaylee with all these other people around and the prospect of escape was too good to pass up. She hadn’t been to his villa on the eastern coast of Spain since Christmas and hadn’t been expected until the holiday rolled around next year.
The curiosity of the other dinner guests had been pressing in on her since she walked into the drawing room just as dinner was announced an hour and a half ago. Once dinner had ended and the guests started to mingle, it had become almost unbearable in her current fragile state. If the other guests weren’t asking subtly worded questions trying to draw out the reason for her unexpected visit, they were watching her and whispering behind their hands about the too independent granddaughter who was such a disappointment to the old man.
Taking her acquiescence for granted, Damian took her arm and led her through a set of French doors at one end of the long drawing room.
He had been right. The night air was warmer than the chilled interior of the house.
She breathed deeply, enjoying the sensation of heated air caressing her body and filling her lungs. She’d been cold for so long. “This is much better, thank you.”
“Most Americans prefer the air-conditioning, but then you grew up here.”
“Actually, I was raised in the States until I was fifteen.” The year her father had died.
The Conde Benedicto Chavez-Torres had insisted Maria-Amelia return to Spain to live with her teenage daughter and Lia’s mother had moved across the ocean without a single protest. Sunk in grief over the loss of her husband, she had not noticed how miserable her daughter was in their new home.
She had rejected every concern Lia had voiced, telling her daughter she needed to learn to live with the Spanish side of her nature. Lia hadn’t wanted to live in the rarified atmosphere of the wealthy Spanish nobility. She had simply wanted to go home, a request denied time and again by her grandfather.
It should have been no surprise to anyone when she’d eloped with her high school sweetheart at the age of eighteen. Despite the fact their relationship had been long distance for the better part of three years, Toby had expressed more loving understanding toward Lia than either her mother or her grandfather had over those same three years. Yet, both Maria and Benedicto had been furiously shocked by Lia’s marriage.
Her grandfather had immediately disinherited her and then been appalled when his action had done nothing to bring her crawling back to Spain. Nothing had done that, not his disapproval, nor her mother’s tears and not even Toby’s death. Kaylee’s illness was another matter.
Lia would do anything for her daughter. Anything at all.
Ignoring the pain her thoughts caused, she added, “I make my home in New Mexico now. It’s hot and I like it.”
“I see.” His dark gaze fixed on her meditatively. “I live in New York. It is hot in the summers, but the winters are very cold.”
“Poor you. I would hate to live anywhere with a real winter.”
“Perhaps you could learn to like it.”
“I don’t think so.”
He didn’t reply immediately and she got the distinct impression he was sizing her up. “Your grandfather said you do not visit Spain very often. I doubt it is the air conditioning keeping you away.”
“My daughter and I come at Christmas every year,” she said defensively, not knowing why she should feel the need to defend herself, but feeling it all the same.
“Surely you could come more frequently?”
“Frequent travel doesn’t fit into my budget.”
“Benedicto would pay for you to come.”
She shrugged. No doubt, but then she would have to spend yet more time listening to his lectures about moving to Spain and her mother’s more subtle guilt trips. No thank you.
“Perhaps you are so dismissive of your family because you have never had to live without them.” Damian’s tone was disapproving. Not only did that surprise her- why should he care how close she was to her family- but it also got her back up.
“Tell me something, do you live with your parents?”
“My parents are both dead.”
“I’m sorry. Losing a parent is devastating, losing both must have been an incredible blow.”
His ready agreement surprised her. She had expected him to do the macho, nothing hurts me routine.
“What about your grandparents?” she asked, not willing to concede the point so quickly.
“Neither set recognizes my existence.”
All her irritation at his high-handed questioning drained away. “Idiots.”
She’d seen that kind of obtuse behavior among her mother and grandfather’s friends and it always made her angry. Her own family had done a fair job of snubbing Toby for the three brief years of her marriage. Her grandfather hadn’t even warmed up to Kaylee completely until after Toby had died. Even so he had never tried to completely ignore her existence.
Lia’s mother hadn’t been so hard, but neither had she made the smallest attempt to make Toby feel like a welcome member of the Chavez-Torres family.
Damian’s lips tilted in a half-smile. “That is one way to look at it.” Benedicto’s granddaughter was not shy about speaking her mind. He approved.
He had no desire to marry a doormat, or breed such a character trait into his children.
“It’s the only way to look at it. You asked me if family was important to me.”
“Sí, and you told me that it was.” Though clearly not as important as it was to Benedicto.
“It is,” she stressed, her amber eyes dark with sincerity. “I could never dismiss my daughter’s choice of a husband as a person not worthy of respect and affection just because he wasn’t the one I’d chosen for her and no way will I ever reject Kaylee’s children because I don’t agree with her choices.”
His own mother’s parents had not felt the same and his father’s parents had never once acknowledged the familial connection. He had spent too many years on the outside of a world that should have been his by right of birth. Benedicto Chavez-Torres had helped Damian change that. The help he had given the older man since then had been a small enough price to pay for the vindication of his pride.
“That is not the usual attitude among the people in our world,” he said to Lia.
“This world…” She swung her hand out to indicate her grandfather’s villa and what it represented. “Is not my world. This is my mother and my grandfather’s world and I only share it with them because I love them. I prefer the world my daughter and I inhabit in New Mexico.”
“Do you?” Or was she making the best of things because her grandfather had disinherited her when she’d married against his advice?
Yet she had made no move to ingratiate herself again, at least not one that had no been of her own choosing. She did not even call herself by her grandfather’s name now that both her father and husband were dead. She had to know it would have pleased Benedicto a great deal.
Independent. Rosalia Kennedy was very independent, but was she really an uninterested in her grandfather’s world and the life of luxury inherent in it as she implied? The terms of the deal Benedicto had proposed said not.
Something of his doubts must have shown on his face because she frowned. “You’re very cynical, aren’t you?”
A bark of laughter surprised him. Not only independent, but refreshingly frank, not to mention discerning. He was cynical. Life had ensured he became that way. “And you are very forthright.”
“More than I should be, probably.”
He moved closer to her, invading her space and watching with interest as the pulse at the base of her throat began to beat more rapidly. “I like it.”
“Grandfather doesn’t.” Her breathless voice caressed him like the hand of a very skilled lover.
How much had she learned in three years married to a man who was little more than a boy? Remembering his own sexual knowledge at the age of eighteen, he conceded she might be less innocent than she appeared. However, she was blushing like a virgin and he was not even touching her.
“You are nervous.”
“Most women would be around you.”
Again he laughed, delighted by her honesty. “Do you know, Rosalia, I believe I like you?”
She tipped her head back so their eyes met squarely. “You sound like that really surprises you.”
“It does.” He took another step forward, wanting to taste the lips she bit in her agitation.
She retreated, almost stumbling in her haste to get away, but the terrace railing stopped her and he made no effort to allay her obvious discomfort by backing up. Her reaction fascinated him. Women did not usually retreat when he moved forward. They met him with open arms, but hers were crossed defensively over her generous curves.
He wanted to know why. Was she playing a deep game, or was she genuinely nervous around him? He was, after all, still a stranger to her.
She clearly didn’t remember the two occasions they had met six years ago, and if she did, he doubted she would have been reassured. He’d made her nervous then too. She’d been so beautiful she had made him ache with desire, but she’d been too young for what he had wanted from her. Not quite eighteen, she had been strictly off limits to a man of twenty-three and he had done his best to forget his mentor’s granddaughter.
But he had not forgotten.
He wanted her and her current situation dictated that he would have her.
“Rosalia, are you out here?”
Damian moved away, not willing to openly acknowledge his desire for Lia. It would be leverage for Benedicto. While Damian trusted the older man more than anyone else in his life, he had not made tycoon status at such a young age by revealing his weaknesses to anyone. Besides, there was more to this deal than passion and he had a week to decide whether or not he would agree to Benedicto’s proposition.
Benedicto’s leverage was sadly lacking in this game.
“She is indeed here, Benedicto. We have been getting to know one another.”
The older man surveyed Lia and Damian keenly. “And have you learned much of her?”
“Not as much as I would like,” he said honestly.
“Ah, this is good.” Benedicto smiled.
Lia blushed again and averted her face.
“And you, Rosalia, do you enjoy the company of my friend?”
Her head came up and she searched her grandfather’s eyes, her own starkly vulnerable. “I thought he was a business associate.”
“That too. We have known each other many years.”
“I see. Grandfather, I need to speak to you. Kaylee—”
“Not now, Rosalia.” The harshness of Benedicto’s tone shocked Damian.
Even more unexpected…anger welled up at the way the words made Lia flinch. “I am happy to leave you two in privacy,” he said in a tone he knew Benedicto would not mistake.
Indeed the old man’s face tightened and his eyes said he recognized the warning. However, he shook his head. “Nonsense. The terrace during a dinner party is hardly the place for the conversation my granddaughter wishes to have. Is that not true, Rosalie?”
She looked like she wanted to argue, but she nodded instead. Then she sighed as if acceding with more than mere words. “Yes, Grandfather. You are right.” She stepped away from the terrace railing. “That being the case, however, I think I’ll say goodnight. I’m still adjusting to the time change.”
She stopped speaking, her body held in tension as if she was waiting for Benedicto to react.
He smiled again, the warmth in his eyes unmistakable to Damian, but he got the impression Lia did not see it. “Sleep well, Rosalia.”
“I will see you tomorrow,” Damian promised.
“Tomorrow?” she asked uncertainly.
“Damian is staying with us.”
“Oh. Goodnight then.” She turned and fled. There was no other description for her hasty exit.
“Your granddaughter is shy,” Damian remarked as the silence stretched between him and the first person to believe in him enough to invest in a Marquez, Ltd. venture.
“She will make an admirable wife. You will not find her flirting with the waitstaff in the kitchen during one of your parties.”
The reminder of one of the less than pleasant memories he shared with Benedicto routed the softened feelings he had allowed to creep in while talking to Lia. It was exactly memories like that one that had made him listen to Benedicto in the first place when the old man had come to Damian with his proposal.
Marry Lia and be guaranteed at least half of the Chavez-Torres business holdings. While the collapse of the world’s stock market had dictated that Benedicto’s fortune was not what it once was, his holdings had more value than mere money. They represented a foothold in business interests usually reserved for the Spanish nobility. Damian’s pride demanded more than undeniable wealth, he wanted what the illegitimacy of his birth had denied him.
Acceptance. Even if it was forced. He would sit on the boards of several companies with his younger brother, the only legitimate son to their father and their sister as well, the holder of the title that should have been his.
Another reason Benedicto’s proposal had been so palatable. Under a special dispensation from the king, the Conde was prepared to cede one of his lesser titles to Damian once he became a member by marriage of the Chavez-Torres family. All of his other titles would pass eventually to his granddaughter and ultimately to Damian’s own children.
It would require Lia and her grandfather signing documents to the affect that Kaylee Kennedy, an American citizen, would not inherit the titles from her Spanish family. According to Benedicto, Lia would be more than willing for such a passage of events. And if her earlier words were to be believed at all, Damian suspected the old man was right.
The next morning, Lia saw Damian at breakfast, just as he had promised the night before, but her grandfather was nowhere in sight.
“He had a business meeting,” Maria-Amelia said from the other side of the table. “He told Rosa no to expect him back in time for dinner.”
Dinner? “What about lunch?”
“We are meeting associates in Alicante,” Damian said, his demeanor that of the hard-bitten businessman again.
She had thought last night he had relaxed with her, but she must have been mistaken. She certainly hadn’t been thinking straight, or she would not have let him get so close. She was almost positive he would have kissed her if Grandfather had not interrupted. For once, she was grateful for his interference.
“Perhaps you would like to join me on a shopping trip?” Lia’s mother asked.
Lia smiled, knowing it was her mother’s way of getting her mind off of her problems. She accepted, more for the chance to distance herself from Damian’s disturbing presence, than any hope shopping could keep her from worrying about Kaylee’s future.
That night, as she tucked her daughter into bed, Lia found it very difficult to believe the small, blonde pixie faced something as serious as a hole in her heart. Her blue eyes clear with childlike innocence and her skin a soft, healthy pink, she didn’t look in the least bit sick.
But looks could be deceiving when it came to a genetic defect like the one Kaylee carried, as the heart specialist had taken pains to point out to her.
“Mama, are you sad?”
Lia smiled, concentrating on projecting the love that had filled her soul since the moment she’d learned she carried her daughter. “I’m fine, sweetheart. How about you? All recovered from the plane ride?”
Kaylee grinned, but then covered her mouth with a small hand as she yawned. “I love flying, silly.”
“It’s a good thing since your grandmother and great-grandfather live so far away.”
“Abuela Maria-Amelia must not like to fly because she never comes to see us.”
Lia leaned down and kissed her daughter’s cheek. Her mother’s lack of visits had a lot more to do with the humble way Lia and Kaylee lived than discomfort on a plane. She didn’t say that however. Her daughter would not understand and Lia never wanted Kaylee to feel rejected by her family. Not as she had been.
“That must be it. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to see lots and lots of a sweet girl like you otherwise.”
Kaylee giggled. “I love you, Mama.”
“I love you too, butterfly.” Lia finished tucking her daughter in, making sure the blanket was snug around her small body.
Grandfather really did keep the house rather chilly.
She stood up to go. Stopping at the door, she turned off the light and then looked back over her shoulder to say goodnight one last time. Kaylee’s eyelids were already drooping.
“I met a nice man today.”
“You did? When?”
“You were gone with Abuela and he came outside to watch me skip rope.” The doctor had said that mild exercise should not be a problem for Kaylee…not yet. “He counted skips with me.”
“Who was it?”
“Damian. He said he was your friend.”
Damian had watched her daughter skip rope? The concept shocked her, but she found herself smiling. “A new friend.”
“He’s my new friend too.”
“And I am a very lucky man to have made two such lovely friends in less than two days.” Damian’s voice from directly behind her shocked Lia into whirling around.
“What are you doing here?”
“I hoped to be early enough to say goodnight to Kaylee.”
“Oh.” Nonplussed, she didn’t know what else to say, but her daughter was not so reticent.
“Damian!” She sat straight up in bed, her tiredness disappearing as if it had never been. “I want a hug.”
Lia knew there was nothing for it but to turn the light back on and allow the big man to say goodnight to her small daughter. He did so, easily cajoled into reading Kaylee a second bedtime story. Lia had read her the first one. It was all so unreal that Lia spent the next fifteen minutes in a complete daze. This was simply not a side of the powerful executive she had expected to see.
Even more shocking was the effect his proximity had on her. She was attracted to him. For a woman with her past, that was more than amazing, it was unbelievable and yet even she could not misread the way her heart raced and breath went short when he was near.
She wanted to touch him and that scared her to death.
Blackmailed into Marriage
By Lucy Monroe
Harlequin Presents – Aug 2005
© 2005 Lucy Monroe