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Chapter 20


It was just me, my father, and Michael in the conference room that afternoon. It was an actual business meeting about the two of us getting married. My father didn’t even have the courtesy to discuss this at his house or in a more personal setting. It was right there, in the middle of Affinity Finance, as employees walked by the large, glass doors outside. Our arranged marriage wasn’t a secret, either. All of them knew what was going on, and I was utterly humiliated.

I had gone to bed the night before feeling sick to my stomach but woke up with a smile on my face because I’d dreamed about Hugo and Nico. All three were living together in Russia. The smile quickly faded from my face as soon as I woke up, though, and realized that it was my wedding day.

There was a stack of legal agreements that we had to sign. Michael was scanning them over a bit too quickly for my liking, whereas I was reading everything down to the fine print. I would have liked a prenuptial agreement, seeing as how we’d probably be living in the penthouse that I owned. But of course, there was none to be seen, which meant that if our marriage didn’t work out, he could legally take it from me.

“So, when we get married,” I said to both my father and Michael, “what will change around here exactly?”

“Well,” my father said, “I’ll be staying on long enough to show Michael all of the ropes.”

“Why would you do that when I can do that for him, Daddy?” My father shrugged his shoulders, then looked over to Michael.

“It’s better for men to deal with men,” he said while putting his hand on my thigh. I quickly moved it away. “You’re so beautiful that I don’t think I could concentrate on what you’d be saying.”

I rolled my eyes then turned my attention back to my father. “Based on what I’m reading, Michael and I will each own half of Affinity Finance, but he’ll be the Chief Executive Officer, and my only title is Mrs. Anderson? Is this some kind of fucking joke to you guys?”

“Watch your tone, Michelle.” I glared at my father but bit my tongue because I needed his money. “After you two are married, you can discuss giving you an actual title.”

“Besides,” Michael said, “you’ll be busy running your little business. Why would you want more responsibilities here?”

I pushed my chair back and glared at him. “Because I’ve worked my ass off closing million-dollar business deals, that’s why. Plus, I’ll still own half of the company.”

“But only because you’ll be my wife,” Michael said. I looked at my father, who simply shrugged his shoulders.

“I told you she had her mother’s independence, Michael.” Both of them chuckled, then went back to reviewing the documents. My mind kept going back to Hugo and Nico. If they had been there with me, they’d have knocked Michael so hard in the face that he’d fall back. I clenched my fists so hard that I actually thought about punching him myself.

“If we have any daughters,” Michael said, “I don’t think they should be raised to be quite so independent. You see, I come from a more conservative and traditional family. Women are submissive by nature, Michelle, and grooming them to be otherwise is simply unnatural.”

“Then why did my father groom me to run his business?” My father glared at me, letting me know that he didn’t like the tone of my voice. I refused to look him in the eyes, though. In fact, I was actually happy that it upset him.

“With all due respect to your father,” he said while nodding towards my dad, “that happens when there is no son. I understand that you were an only child, so of course, he’d train you to run his business. It makes sense to keep Affinity Finance in the family, too.”

My father laughed out loud, then said, “I really failed on that part, Michael. I always wanted a son, but we were only able to conceive Michelle. Although her mother was happy with just having a daughter. They were very close up until she died. Still, it would have been nice to train a son to run this company.”

“Of course, if we decide to adopt our children, then I’d go with four boys and a girl. The boys will be raised to run this company once I decide to retire, and having more than one means that we’ll be able to expand, and then a daughter for Michelle to bond with. Oftentimes mothers and sons have too many differences, and I wouldn’t want Michelle to feel left out.”

I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples, doing my best to block out his voice. It was impossible, though. The thought of sharing a bed with him made me want to scream, and I wouldn’t even want to raise a goldfish with him, let alone a gaggle of kids.

“Michelle, are you all right?” I looked up at my father and smiled.

“Yes, just feeling a bit lightheaded.”

Michael poured me a glass of water, which I gladly took from him.

“She might be a little nervous about sharing a bedroom with me, Chase. When we first met, I got the feeling that she preferred to have her own bedroom. It’s actually quite common for married couples to have separate sleeping arrangements.”

“Absolutely,” my father said. “Her mother and I never shared a bedroom. We had vastly different tastes, and it worked out just fine.”

I could feel the color draining from my face. There I was, sitting with both my father and Michael Anderson, about to sign my life away. Suddenly all I could see was a penthouse full of spoiled little brats, throwing temper tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted, and a sweet little girl whose father only wanted her to be seen and not heard. Meanwhile, Nico and Hugo would be over in Russia, living their lives and making billions of dollars.

“It’s your turn for signatures,” my father said. I looked into his eyes, silently begging him to reconsider what he was asking me to do. I had worked so hard for his company, and this is how he was rewarding me. Not by making me the heir once he retired or passed away, but by signing me off to a man because he looked good on paper, and that was better for the company’s image. But my father didn’t say another word. He simply held the pen out and waited for me to take it.

My hand shook as I took it from his hand, and then hovered it over the square box at the bottom of the marriage certificate. I made myself re-read everything over if only to give myself a little more time as a free, independent woman. Yet the whole time, all I could see was Michael smiling out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t help but look up and glare at him.

“Go ahead and sign it, sweetie. I promise that we’ll have a happy, long life together. And like I said earlier, don’t worry about my porn addiction.” He winked at me and then burst out laughing.