Authors: Gina Robinson
© 2015 by Gina Robinson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
To Have and To Hold, Switched at Marriage Part 3,/Gina Robinson. — 1st ed.
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The Switched at Marriage Serial Romance (Romantic Comedy)
A Wedding to Remember
, Part 1—FREE!
The Virgin Billionaire
, Part 2
To Have and To Hold
The Reckless Series
Ellie and Logan’s love story begins one hot August night. This series should be read in order.
The Rushed Series
These standalone romances can be read in any order. But it’s more fun to read them all!
, Zach and Alexis’ story
, Dakota and Morgan’s story
, Seth and Maddie’s story
Mothers-in-law have a bad rep. On a scale of one to ten they rank a scant notch below the wicked stepmother for general mayhem-causing and malevolent intentions. In family dynamics, they're always that wrench that screws everything up. The stereotype has always been the guy with the poisonous mother-in-law. But my married girlfriends swore the opposite was true—the guy's mom was ten to one the more controlling, conniving madwoman of the two mothers. The guy's mom had to fight against the truth of that old saying, "A daughter's a daughter all her life. A son's a son until he takes a wife."
As I stood in the foyer of Justin's luxury penthouse, ambushed by the mother-in-law my new husband had assured me I wouldn't even have to meet, I sided with my girlfriends on this one. Diana Green, and her icy "we have to talk,
fit the stereotype completely. She was staring at me, waiting for me to either answer or flinch. The metaphoric ball was in my court.
I glanced around, looking for Magda and
! Naturally, she was nowhere in sight. Not like she was on my side, anyway. But I held out the faint hope her presence would restrain Justin's mom from using the full force of her artillery. Data barked happily and came running to me, one joyful spot of puppy in the building gloom. I scooped her up and cuddled her to me.
"If you're looking for Justin's housekeeper, I gave her the afternoon off." Diana Green didn't rise from the sofa to greet me. "I need to talk with you,
Privately was never a good thing. We were off to an infamously bad start. On top of everything else, I was going to have to put a stop to Diana's sense of entitlement. She couldn't just barge in here unannounced and potentially blow our cover. No, I couldn't risk that. I would have to make it clear—I ran Justin's house now. For his protection.
I'd never met Justin's parents or brothers. He hadn't talked about them more than in passing when we were in college. Why would he? It's not as if college kids sit around talking about their parents. Parents are the last thing anyone wants to think about. So I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't seen so much as a picture of them. I was at as much of a disadvantage as Diana was. Each of us were surprised strangers. There was only one thing to do—kill her with kindness.
I plastered a smile on my face and walked over to tower over where she sat on the sofa. Well, not exactly tower. Even sitting, she was a surprisingly tall woman. "I'm Kayla." I smiled as warmly as I could and extended my hand.
She ignored it.
"I know who you are." Her eyes were still hard and suspicious. Measuring, as she studied me.
It wasn't as if I blamed her for being suspicious. Our sudden marriage had to be a shock, a sort of surprise attack. But I was tired of being branded the villainess for helping Jus out of a jam. And banned from explaining. How did spies not blow their covers every single day? Life was
In a weird way, I was actually happy she'd showed up. It at least proved she was concerned about her son. Her initial casual lack of worry had struck me as indifferent. Had I been her, I would have been on the first plane back, too. But I wondered how Justin had misread her so easily.
I stared at her, trying to see any similarities between her and her son, physical or otherwise. Diana sat tall and regally, back straight. If I had to guess, I would say she was late fifties. Slender. Fit. Short, dark hair without any gray, the kind of cut older women favored. Obviously colored, but nicely done. Her makeup was light, natural looking. She wore slacks and a blouse that bordered on athletic wear, and serviceable flats, not heels. Her shoulders were surprisingly square, as was her jaw.
She had an almost mannish look, but was at the same time striking. Not beautiful. But arresting. Interesting to look at. She was the kind of woman who reminded you, at least in attitude, of your high school PE teacher. Or the girls' volleyball coach. Or maybe the school's athletic director. Picture her with a whistle around her neck and you pretty much got the idea.
It was hard to imagine the scrawny Justin I'd known in college as her son. Even the grownup Jus was more slightly built than his mom, and about the same height. She had to be nearly six feet tall. They both had dark hair and eyes. And yes, I could see a similarity around the eyes. Maybe Justin had her square jaw beneath that beard. But who knew for sure.
Was Diana a coach or something? It struck me that I had no idea what she and Justin's dad did for a living. Or where she'd hopped on her broom and flown back from.
"You must have had a long trip. Can I get you something?" I was trying my best to be hospitable, even though there was already a drink on the coffee table in front of her.
She arched an eyebrow. "I have one already." She made it sound like I was stupid for not noticing. The
This is my son's house and I can help myself to anything
was left unsaid, but clearly implied.
"Obviously," I said with a smile. "But I'd be happy to refresh it."
"That's kind of you. But no, thank you." Her voice softened ever so slightly as she watched me pet Data. It was as if the dog liking me was at least one small point in my favor.
I took a seat in the chair opposite her and settled Data in my lap.
Let the wooing begin
. "I'm so glad you came! This is an unexpected surprise. Does Justin know you're here? He didn't seem to think you'd be home soon."
She laughed at that, actually laughed. It was the feminine version of Justin's, and surprisingly reassuring. "My baby boy is clearly clueless. The kid is smart as a whip, but socially awkward and naïve. He didn't really think I wouldn't be curious about his new bride and want to meet her immediately?"
I shook my head, sympathizing with her. Naively clueless was an apt description. "He said something about you being very busy this time of year and unable to break away from business?"
She rolled her eyes. "This
one of our busiest seasons, right up there with Thanksgiving and winter breaks. With the high schools and colleges getting out for the school year, our summer athletic tournament season swings into full gear." She sounded exasperated. "You have no idea what we do, do you?"
I smiled sweetly and shook my head. "No, sorry."
"We own Rugby Explorers. We arrange international tournaments and travel for high school and college rugby teams, both men's and women's. Our tournaments are run on school breaks in exotic locales. Summer is exceptionally hectic for us. I had to come back from Italy just now, leaving Justin's dad and our staff shorthanded. We employ about fifty people. Justin's two older brothers work for us. Are partners, in fact. It's a family business. Everyone but Justin is involved." She didn't sound happy about that, not at all. As if Justin was the black sheep for being wildly successful on his own.
"Justin is the odd duck of our brood. Has been since the day he was born, little and scrawny with a thatch of unruly dark hair. The other two boys were bald as billiard balls at birth. Looking at them now, you wouldn't know it." She took a quick breath. Her face softened at the thought of her older boys. They were clearly the apples of her eyes.
"I would love to see a baby picture of Jus!" I really would. I was hoping we could bond over adorable baby memories.
Her face hardened. She ignored my request. Jus wasn't her favorite. "Justin
sneak off and get married when he thought I was distracted and not paying attention to what he's up to. He's always had a knack for timing things to get away with them."
She sighed, heavily, as if her youngest son was the bane of her existence and a total puzzle to her. As if any son who didn't want to travel the globe arranging rugby tourneys was no son of hers. "He wouldn't want my opinion, in any case. Certainly not the opinion he knew I would give him."
The tone she used was the same one coaches used when they lectured you for missing the shot that would have won the game.
"I would have stopped him from making this idiotic rash decision." She tilted her head, waiting for my reaction with glittering eyes. She looked as if she was aching for a fight.
She wasn't one to mince words. I actually sort of appreciated her candor. At least I knew where I stood. I felt just as defensive and protective of Jus.
"I would have, too!"
Her eyebrows shot up into her hairline.
Crap. I forgot my role too easily. The thought of that squinky identity thief taking advantage of Jus made me irrationally angry. I would have stopped him, too. If I'd been there when she'd conned him. Or drugged him. Or whatever she'd done to bend him to her will. "If I'd been his mom. Marry in haste. Repent at leisure—"
Even when someone else had married in your name, as I was learning all too well. I was still thinking about Lazer. And ruing that I hadn't met
earlier. Given a choice, I would have
run off and gotten married on a drunken whim. I was married to a billionaire and I hadn't gotten so much as a fabulous wedding out of the deal.
She frowned, looking as if she thought I was mocking her. Lucky for me she took my mistake the wrong way and couldn't see the truth of the situation. But then, who expected an imposter bride? Jus and I had that element of the unexpected in our favor. Which came in handy when I nearly screwed up.
"But our marriage isn't as hasty as it seems," I continued, lying my pants off. "Justin and I
known each other since early college days."
"Yes," she said, dryly. "I know
had a crush on
in college. You were all he could talk about in his blushing, boyish way. Justin has always been awkward around girls." Her gaze was piercing, accusing, as if I had led him down the path to ruin with my vast experience and siren ways.
The thought of Jus pining for me was…oddly touching. At the same time, I felt like a voyeur prying into his private life. Because we were married, his mom obviously felt comfortable sharing his obsession with me now. Because it had so obviously paid off. Maybe she even thought I would be flattered and touched. As in,
Awwww, he's loved me forever!
Girly squeal. Pattering heart.
She didn't know she was giving me info I wasn't entitled to, and that would embarrass Jus.
She gave me a pointed look and sighed. "Unrequited, as I recall." Her gaze held mine, as if she was looking for faults and weaknesses. Anything she could exploit. "Money makes a man
much more attractive, don't you think, Kayla?"
Oh, damn. So there it was.
"I didn't marry Jus for his money!" I really hadn't. Not exactly. But my protest, though heartfelt, tumbled with a feeble plunk into the airspace between us. I'd married Jus for the independence it would give me after this year of fakery was over. And to help him out, of course.
With any luck, if I could convince Diana of my sincerity maybe she would disappear back to that Italian rugby tournament. Disappear for the rest of our agreed-upon year of marital whatever this was. Leave us alone. And I wouldn't have to see her again.
I probably should have professed my undying love for her son right then and there. Hammed it up and laid it on thick. Argued with her. Protested. I was supposed to be an over-the-moon newlywed. But Diana was a no-nonsense person. I decided it was better to appeal to her rational side. And tell as much of the truth as possible.
"You're entitled to your opinion. And concerns. I'll obviously have to prove myself to you over time. But you should know that I didn't jump at Justin's money. He had to convince
. Whatever you believe about me—I am
That second part was the absolute truth. In so many ways I would never be able to explain.
She studied me, but didn't give away whether she believed me or not. "No gushy protests about how much you love my boy?" She laughed, softly, cynically.
"What's the point? You're not in a mind frame to believe me."
"You're right." There was just the slightest glint of admiration in her eyes. "You're smart. And savvy. You read people well. And you're rational. I'm pleased to see all that, at least. I didn't necessarily expect Justin to marry an airhead. But you
know with him. He has a habit of doing the exact opposite of what we expect. Or want."
The "like marrying you" was implied.
She took a sip of her drink, looking as if she
needed it. And maybe something even stiffer. I knew how she felt. I needed a drink, too. But I needed a clear head more.
"Let's be honest with each other. My youngest son has never been God's gift to women. Not like his older brothers. The girls have always fallen over them. Since preschool. Those two boys have charm and charisma enough for an army. Justin, however…"
She rolled her eyes and studied me again. "He isn't the kind of boy a girl
would usually go for, is he?"
I didn't like the implications of that "like you." As if I was some lower form of scammer.
I kept my head high and my voice as sweet as I could, hating myself for playing dumb. "I don't know what you mean. Jus is completely adorable. Sweet and thoughtful—"
"And not at all the bad-boy jock, like your last boyfriend?" She laughed. "Yes, I know about him. I've seen enough of the girls who hang around the athletes at our tournaments. You're
like one of their fangirls. If one of the older two boys had brought you home, I wouldn't have batted an eye. You're exactly their type and them yours. But Justin?" She couldn't stop shaking her head. "No. We expected that if he ever married it would either be to a nerd girl, like his friend Ophie, or to some beauty who only saw his dollar signs." She sighed again. "Ophie must be livid and heartbroken. They're two of a kind and spend an inordinate amount of time together. She's had her eye on my boy all along." Diana's laugh was anything but amused.
Would she have preferred Ophie for a daughter-in-law? I couldn't tell.