Julianna Morris.

Just Between Friends






Breakfast is almost ready,

Kate called.

Dylan came in, fastening his shirt. You dont have to cook for me. I dont expect it.

I dont mind.

At least you should wear something a little lessthat is, something more suitable for cooking.

Perplexed, Kate looked down at her nightshirt.

Whats wrong with this?

For one thing, theres nothing to protect your skin, Dylan growled. Your legs are completely bare.

Not really. See? She plucked at the nightshirt, pulling it higher. The shirt went halfway down her thighs.

For Gods sake, dont do that!

Dear Reader,

Whether our heroes are flirting with their best friends or taking care of adorable tots, their stories of falling for the right woman are sure to melt your heart. Dont miss one magical moment of this months collection from Silhouette Romance.

Carolyn Zane begins THE BRUBAKER BRIDES miniseries by introducing us to the first of three Texas-bred sisters, in Virginias Getting Hitched (SR #1730). Dr. Virginia Brubaker knows the secret to a long-lasting relationship: compatibility. But one sexy, irreverent ranch hand has a different theory all togetherthat he hopes to test on the prim but not-so-proper doctor!

In Just Between Friends (SR #1731), the latest emotion-packed tale from Julianna Morris, a handsome contractor rescues his well-to-do best friend by agreeing to marry herfor a year. But he doesnt know about her little white liefor them, shes always wanted more than friendship.

Prince Perfect always answers the call of dutyto his sons and to his kingdom. But his beautiful nanny tempts him to let go of his inhibitions and give in to the call of the heart. Find out if this bachelor dad will make the perfect husband, in Falling for Prince Federico (SR #1732) by Nicole Burnham.

The newest title from Holly Jacobs, Be My Baby (SR #1733), promises a rollicking good time! When a carefree single guy finds a baby on his doorstep, hes sure things couldnt get worseuntil hes stranded in a snowstorm with his annoyingly attractive receptionist. With sparks flying, theyre guaranteed to stay warm!

Sincerely,

Mavis C. Allen

Associate Senior Editor

Just Between Friends
Julianna Morris

www.millsandboon.co.uk

To my sister.

Thanks for pitching ineven when it wasnt fun.

Books by Julianna Morris

Silhouette Romance

Baby Talk #1097

Family of Three #1178

Daddy Woke Up Married #1252

Dr. Dad #1278

The Marriage Stampede #1375

* Callie, Get Your Groom #1436

* Hannah Gets a Husband #1448

* Jodies Mail-Order Man #1460

Meeting Megan Again #1502

Tick Tock Goes the Baby Clock #1531

Last Chance for Baby! #1565

A Date with a Billionaire #1590

The Right Twin for Him #1676

The Bachelor Boss #1703

Just Between Friends #1731

JULIANNA MORRIS

has an offbeat sense of humor, which frequently gets her into trouble.

She is often accused of being curious about everything. Her interests range from oceanography and photography to traveling, antiquing, walking on the beach and reading science fiction.

Julianna loves cats of all shapes and sizes, and recently she was adopted by a feline companion named Merlin. Like his namesake, Merlin is an alchemistshe says he can transform the house into a disaster area in nothing flat. And since he shares the premises with a writer, its interesting to note that hes particularly fond of knocking books on the floor.

Julianna happily reports meeting her Mr. Right. Together they are working on a new dream of building a shoreline home in the Great Lakes area.


Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Epilogue

Chapter One

Im sorry, you cant go in.

Dylan ORourke heard his secretarys protest a split second before the door opened. He spun his chair around, prepared to deal with an insistent client, and saw Kate Douglas instead.

Kate.

She smiled. Hey, Dylan.

What do you want?

With Kate it was wise to cut to the chase. When they were kids hed had an annoying habit of being unable to say no to the ladylike the time shed gotten him to help her run away from home. He still remembered his fathers blistering lecture over that particular stunt. After that Dylan had nicknamed her Katydid, to remind himself that he didnt have to do everything that Kate did.

Right now I want to sit down.

Kate sank onto the couch and crossed her legs. Her long gold hair matched the earrings and the gold chain around her neck, and she wore a white silk dress, white silk hose and a pair of white leather sandalsan outfit that probably cost more than his first car.

White, in a construction office.

Dylan shook his head, yet he couldnt help grinning at the same time. Common dirt wouldnt dare stick to someone with Katrina Douglass kind of old moneygold dust, maybe, but never just plain dirt.

Its good to see you, Kate said softly.

Same here. And he meant it. Kate might be a spoiled rich kid, but she was bright and full of funand she could wheedle a glass of water from a man lost in the desert.

Of course, he was older now, and not nearly so susceptible. He usually got stuck with buying tickets to some god-awful charity event when she stopped by to see him, but hed refused other stuff. Like the time shed wanted to auction him as a bachelor at one of her fund-raisers. Dylan shuddered at the memory. He was willing to escort her now and then to a party, but get auctioned?

Not a chance.

What is it, Kate? he asked, determined to get right to the heart of the matter. Another fund-raiser? Ill donate, but Im not coming.

No, it isnt another fund-raiser. Though it was mean of you not to show up at the last one. You were supposed to be my date.

No, I wasnt. I told you I couldnt go to that one, you just didnt listen.

She didnt look convinced. There I was, all alone, she said. It was terribleits humiliating to be the only woman without an escort.

Dylan almost fell into the trap before he caught the sparkle in her green eyes. Brat, he muttered.

So, why couldnt you come?

I was busy. And Im tired of dry sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

They werent dry.

Theyre always dry. Youve dragged me to enough of those things for me to know Ill be poorly fed and miserably uncomfortable. Honest, Katydid, you have the most boring friends. And they have an insatiable curiosity about how you happen to know an immigrant Irish construction worker. I should wear a sign that says My Dad Was One of the Help. Maybe Id get left in peace.

Strictly speaking, your parents were the immigrants. You were born in the United States.

You know what I mean.

And you own the construction company, Kate added. Youre a very successful businessman.

Dont glamorize me. Im still a construction worker, and your friends wouldnt know the difference between the working end of a hammer and a staple gun.

Maybe theyre curious because youre Kane ORourkes brother, she said brightly.

Dylan snorted. His brother had become one of the wealthiest men in the country, but to the Douglases small and snobbish social circle, it was new money and not worth their attention. Of course, some of the unattached women hed met at those fund-raisers had obviously hoped for an introduction to Kane, at least before hed gotten married.

Thank God Kane had found a genuinely sweet and loving woman. Beth was terrificdown-to-earth and totally unimpressed with her husbands money.

Or maybe everyone wonders what such a great-looking guy is doing with me, Kate suggested.

She did her best to look pathetic, but Dylan wasnt buying a second of it. If he hadnt watched her grow up from a skinny little kid, Kates golden-haired beauty would probably knock him breathless. Instead he was merely wary.

Then when you dont escort me, she continued sadly, Ill bet they think you found someone prettier.

Give me a break, Dylan muttered.

He didnt usually think about the way Kate had blossomed. He wasnt even sure when it had happened. One minute she was a bratty kid with a genius for talking him into trouble, the next minute she was dropping male jaws all over Seattle. But she still seemed awfully youngmostly because of the impish mischief lurking in her sea green eyes.

After a moment Kate looked up, but for once her eyes were very serious. What you said about the helpdoes it bother you that your father used to work for my family?

Not particularly. Your friends, on the other hand? Dylan lifted a shoulder.

We might work on fund-raising projects together, but theyre my mothers friends, Kate said slowly. I dont fit in that well.

Youre young, give it a couple years.

Frustrated, Kate regarded the tips of her toes, then wiggled them inside her sandals. Dylan was only two years older, yet he treated her like a little kid. Nothing she did seemed to make a difference to the way he saw her. Shed long since given up hoping that hed look into her eyes and discover she was the woman of his dreams, but the least he could do was realize shed grown up.

Honestly, it was so irritating.

She was a leftover piece of his childhood, someone he considered too immature, too flighty and too rich and spoiled to be anything but a friend. Men could be so blind when it came to women.

I wont fit in with mothers friends if I live to be a hundred, she declared, prompting a chuckle from Dylan.

God, Katydid, you do make me laugh, he said, settling back in his chair.

Kate sighed. Dylan didnt laugh enough, not since his fathers death. He was so serious about everything, he needed someone to shake up his lifeand she was just the one to do the shaking. And if hed only realized it before now, she wouldnt have to go to such ridiculous lengths to get his attention.

The ORourkes had been part of her world since before she could remember. Shed adored them from the beginning, and Dylan in particular. Keenan ORourke had worked seven days a weekfive days for a forestry company, and two days as a handyman for her parents, but hed always seemed to have time for his kids. Quite a contrast to her father, whod been born wealthy, didnt work, and rarely noticed her at all.

Dylan began looking through some papers on his desk, giving every indication that hed forgotten she was in the room. Kates stomach clenched. Was she totally nuts, wanting him to decide she was Miss Right and fall desperately in love with her? Or would she just be getting one more inattentive man in her life even if he did decide he was in love?

Dylan, Kate said insistently.

He looked up. Goodness, where did you come from, Katydid? He grinned, then winked.

Yourat, she growled, but she wasnt really angry. So Dylan had been playing a joke on her, she should have known he wouldnt forget she was around. If nothing else, hed been taught too much courtesy by his parents.

He put the papers back on his desk and crossed his arms over his flat stomach. All right, kiddo, no more fooling around. What do you want? Weve already ruled out one of your fund-raisers, but that leaves plenty of territory.

Kate bit the inside of her lip and tried to look innocent. Do I need a reason to visit my best friend?

Hah, he scoffed. Im only your best friend when you want something. So stop stalling and let me have it.

So you can say no, right?

Yes. Dylan scowled. That is, no, I dont always refuse. In fact, I say yes way too often when it comes to you. Youre a spoiled brat. Do you know that?

Whatever you say. Kate wrinkled her nose. She might be spoiled by having too much money, but shed trade every penny to be part of Dylans family. They were real and loving and took care of each other, no matter what. And Dylan was her best friend, even if he didnt realize it.

Katydid?

Taking a deep breath, she tossed her head back.

The name is Kate or Katrina. I stopped being Katydid a long time ago. Actually, Dylan was the only one whod ever called her Katydid, and she didnt really mind except that it meant he still saw her as a child.

Youre stalling.

Of course she was stalling. He wasnt going to like what she had in mind, but if she was careful about how she suggested it, he might agree. You remember that my grandmother died several months ago? she asked.

Dylan nodded. In his opinion Jane Elmira Douglas had been the Wicked Witch of the Wests less likable sister, but Katydid was softhearted enough to have loved the old bat, regardless. Hed gone over to see Kate the night of the funeral and even though shed smiled and pretended it was all right, her eyes had been sad and bruised looking.

Yes, its been about six months, he said.

Thats right.

And? Dylan prodded, as gently as possible.

Uh, well, its my birthday next month.

I know. A small frown gathered on his forehead. He was surprised shed brought it up; ever since Kates parents had forgotten her sweet-sixteenth, shed been a little touchy about the day.

She stirred restlessly, tugging at her white dress and smoothing the skirt. He waited, knowing that sooner or later shed tell him what was going onthere was always a plan behind Kates verbal detours. As a kid hed spent a lot of time bemused by the way she flitted around, the bright, elegant butterfly to his ordinary caterpillar. Now he mostly crossed his arms and sat back until she lighted on something.

My birthday was mentioned in Grandmammas will. And thats sort of the problem.

I see, he said, though he didnt see at all.

She left me the Douglas Hill House, but only if I get married by my twenty-seventh birthday. Im twenty-six now, so I dont have much time.

Dylan blinked. The Douglas Hill House was a mansion that overlooked the city of Seattle like a brooding raven and had to be the ugliest place ever built. Hed been inside it once when Kate had dragged him to an interminable party to raise money for disabled children. The only bright spot had been watching her play with the kids. She was great with youngsters; someday she ought to have a big family of her own.

Youre going to be twenty-seven? he asked.

Kate rolled her eyes. Dylan was an intelligent man, surely he had an inkling of what she wanted.

Yes, Im going to be twenty-seven. And Grandmamma was worried that Id never marry, so thats why she put the provision in the will. I get the final deed after a year of marriage. Kate crossed her fingers because the next part was sort of a lie. She knew Id do anything to keep the house in the family.

Yeah, of course. You love the old place.

She loved it, all right.

Shed love to see it dynamited.

Her grandmother had never had a clue about what her granddaughter wanted. The hardest part about losing Nanna Jane was knowing shed been a disappointing afterthought to her own grandmothernever quite refined or proper enough to fulfill the Douglas legacy.

Youre just like your great-grandfather. You have no respect for our position, Nanna Jane would say, her lips pursed with disapproval.

Kate couldnt remember the first time shed heard the accusation, and it had taken years of digging and putting facts together before she learned what her grandmother meant. After his wife had died and his children were grown, Rycroft Douglas had gone to Alaska to dig for gold. The fact that her great-grandfather had added considerably to the family fortune hadnt mitigated the outrageous scandal of a Douglas becoming a flamboyant adventurer.

Jiminy, Kate envied him.

Shed found Rycrofts letters to his son, written from the Alaskan gold fields. The old man had been having the time of his lifemuch to the disapproval of his straitlaced daughter-in-law, who couldnt quite embrace the idea that Seattle was basically a frontier town turned shipping capital. Kate didnt know. Maybe certain owners of Seattles old money needed to be more uptight than their counterparts in places like Boston because their money wasnt quite as old as theyd like it to be. Or maybe old money was the same everywhere.

Well, at least Nanna Janes will was giving her a chance to get what she wantedthough it was hardly what her grandmother must have planned.

You understand my problem? Kate said, a questioning note to her voice.

Dylan nodded. More or less. You have a little over a month to get married.

But I dont have anyone I want to marry.

All at once suspicion grew in his face. Now, Kate, you arent thinkingdammit, you arent thinking what I think youre thinking.

But its the perfect solution.

For you, maybe. Its a disaster for me.

She didnt have to manufacture tears, the implied insult was more than enough to make her cry. Thats a terrible thing to say. A lot of men want to marry me.

Then marry one of them!

But theyd want a real marriage. I just need a husband for a year. A tear dripped down her cheek.

Now, Katydid, dont start.

A second tear joined the first. Were friends, and friends help each other.

Not that way. Its out of the question.

Out of the question in that tone of voice didnt sound good, and she swallowed. Shed hoped so much that this would work. But she wasnt going to give up, not yet.

Id just hate to lose Grandmammas house. Theres so much family history there, and all thatuhhard-wood and parquet flooring. Kate nearly gagged. If the house was completely renovated it might be a lovely home, but presently it was grim and depressing, a reflection of the austere woman whod lived there for sixty-seven years.

So bite the bullet and marry someone else.

But that would be the same as selling myself, just to get the house. She tried to appear shocked. How can you possibly suggest such a thing? She actually was shocked, though women had been marrying men for money and position and property for much longer than shed been around.

Dylan clenched his fingers. Truthfully, he wasnt wild about the notion of Kate marrying one of the stuffed shirts who were always buzzing around her. He supposed it was because he was like a big brother to Katydid, and brothers never approved of their sisters boyfriends. But there wasnt any way he was going along with her nutty scheme.

Kate pulled a white handkerchief from her white purse and dabbed her eyes. You want me to act like a prostitute, trading my body for gain. It wouldnt be any different.

Thats not what I meant, Dylan said, appalled.

Yes, it is. She lifted her chin. Fine, if thats what you want, Ill decide which one of them Im going to marry. Youll get an invitation to the wedding.

With a graceful twist of her body she rose from the couch and headed for the door.

She looked over her shoulder. Maybe you can be best man, she said as a parting shot. Im sure its an honor you deserve.

The door closed behind her and Dylan groaned and thumped his head against his high-backed chair. She was working on his guilt and trying to make him feel responsible for a situation he had no part in creating.

Still, in a way Katydid was right. It would be selling herself to get the house. She plainly wasnt in love with any of those suitors shed talked about, and they would expect far more from the marriage than she wanted to give.

Suddenly he couldnt bear the thought of sweet little Katydid submitting to a mans attentions simply because her grandmother had been a conniving witch. There had to be another way. The Douglases small social circle wasnt populated with a single man worth a red cent in terms of character. And several of those guys werent very nice beneath their silk shirts and monogrammed money clips.

Dylan rushed to his feet and hurried through the outer office. He caught up with Kate on the street below just as she was getting into her disreputable car. Why she insisted on driving the beat-up old Volkswagen Beetle was beyond him. Granted, it was a classic, but the least she could do was have the thing properly restored. He supposed it was her way of rebelling.

Kate, wait.

She turned and the look on her face made him wince.

What? More advice? Her chin rose higher. Believe me, I have all the advice I need from you.

Please, Katydid, we need to talk.

I think weve said everything. Of course, I wont be bothering you anymore to buy fund-raising tickets. I dont suppose that my husband, whoever he turns out to be, would like it anymore than hed like you showing up to watch something on the VCR with us.

Damn.

Dylans fingers itched with the illogical urge to throttle Kates theoretical husband. It would be a pain tying himself to a spoiled princess for a year, but on the other hand, hed watched after Kate since they were children. Like the time hed talked her down from the roof of her parents six-car garage after shed convinced herself that she was really a fairy with invisible wings.

Kate, there isnt one man youve dated who you feel some affection for?

Something flickered deep in her eyesan emotion hed never seen beforebut it disappeared and he decided he must have been mistaken.

Theres no one else.





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