The Temporary Wife
USA Today Bestseller
Reissued, updated edition
It was an offer she couldn’t refuse…from a man she couldn’t resist.
Kindergarten teacher Megan Rossi is devoted to being a mother to her best friend’s five-year-old daughter, Molly. When the child was orphaned, Meg became the little girl’s legally named guardian over the objections of Molly’s wealthy grandparents, the Campbells. Now the Campbells are petitioning for custody, and Meg is faced with a long and expensive legal battle. The last thing she expects is for her former high school boyfriend—and the Campbells’ estranged son—to offer a solution: marriage.
Billionaire software developer Jason Campbell knows his parents don’t have Molly’s best interests at heart. For them, it’s all about money and control. However, there is one way he can ensure that his sister’s last wishes are honored. He will offer Meg the protection of his name and lawyers until the custody arrangement has been finalized, then he’ll secure his niece’s future with a very generous divorce settlement. Jason’s considered all the possibilities, except one—that the sparks that once flew between him and Meg might reignite into a burning passion, and that his confirmed bachelor heart might just melt away from the heat…
The Temporary Wife
Jason Campbell was rarely angry. Building a multibillion-dollar business, he’d met his share of liars, power-hungry narcissists, and assholes and he never let them get under his skin. Until now. Now, he was pissed.
His parents’ latest scheme beat all. They’d always played games with people, manipulated them for their own benefit. That was why he followed his own path and rejected his parents’ influence the minute he left home for college.
But this time . . . this time was different. They weren’t messing with a business associate or a rival at the club, they were playing with a five-year-old’s life, and Jason wasn’t having it.
He stood in the library of his parents’ home, the warm wood paneling a total contrast to the cold people who were lounging in the leather club chairs nearby. Late afternoon sun streamed in the windows, and Jason felt the pain of his sister’s death even more acutely now that he heard what they were planning to do.
“You can’t,” he said to his parents. “It’s wrong. I understand that’s a foreign concept to both of you, but do you know what this would do to Molly?” His sister’s wishes had been clear, the will specific, and Jason knew exactly why Grace didn’t want Molly, his five-year-old niece, with her grandparents. It was the same reason he’d separated himself from the formidable and well-connected Will and Alicia Campbell—his parents were about as nurturing as a pair of pit vipers.
Molly was supposed to be raised by Grace’s childhood best friend, Meg Rossi. But no matter what Grace may have wanted, that arrangement wasn’t acceptable to his parents, who’d started planning their offensive the minute the will was read. Jason knew he had to stop them.
“It’s already in the works,” said his mother. With her sleek blond bob and her perfect makeup, she sucked the olive that had been soaking in her third martini right off the toothpick. This woman was a lot of things, but maternal wasn’t one of them. “I almost feel bad.” His mother shrugged dismissively. “She can’t afford a lawyer, so she can’t exactly put up a fight.”
“Who needs a fight?” His father blew out a stream of cigar smoke. “Nice, neat, done. Molly belongs with us. The girl means nothing. All she wants is the trust fund, anyway. Hell, it’s not the first time she’s gone after our money. Last time she tried to go through you.”
“She wasn’t after money. Jesus, Dad.” Jason was so sick of that story. Meg was like a sister to Grace, they were inseparable, and to him, well . . . memories of Meg came rushing back when he least expected them. Memories of how much she meant to him, of what they meant to each other. He knew she was no fortune hunter, and his father could say whatever he wanted, but it would always be a load of bullshit. He wished he’d had the nerve to tell his father that fifteen years ago. Shaking off the regrets of the past, Jason tried to focus. He had to get back to the issue at hand—his niece and his sister’s wishes
“Look, Grace knew how she wanted Molly raised. Living here wasn’t part of it.” Jason remembered the long talk he, his sister and her husband had when Molly was born. They wanted their child to have a normal upbringing, away from the iron gates and servants of the estate. This life had been so toxic that Jason and Grace, both of whom had trust funds that could rival the GNP of a small country, had decided to make their own way. Even their brother Josh, who was still in their parents’ world, worked like a dog to get ahead rather than rely on his inheritance.
His parents didn’t care, though, and they were going to snatch Molly back into this hellhole and destroy anyone who got in their way. That included his late sister’s best friend, Meg Rossi, who had been making every effort to involve the Campbells in their grandchild’s life since Grace and her husband, Mark, died in that car crash.
Molly didn’t really know his parents all that well because his sister had limited their contact to holidays and birthdays. Meg had given the Campbells more access to their grandchild than they’d ever had, and her reward was going to be a court fight that could bankrupt her.
“Darling,” his mother sniffed, “I don’t know what your sister was thinking. We are Molly’s family. Megan shouldn’t have ever been brought into this. Honestly, you’d think she’d be thankful. She’s not married, and she’s a teacher, for God’s sake. They live in a tiny little town house. The child goes to public school. This is not acceptable for anyone with Campbell blood.”
There had to be a way to stop his niece from becoming a pawn in his parents’ game, but he didn’t see how. They seemed to have every angle covered.
His analytical brain started working the problem.
“So using your reasoning,” Jason began, “if Meg were married, and settled in some McMansion, she’d be acceptable?”
“Well, no…” His mother crossed and then uncrossed her legs while practically twisting her fingers into knots. “We’d still want Molly with us, but I’m sure the courts would view it as a more stable environment than what’s in place now. God knows how many men she has in and out of that place.”
A spasm tightened his jaw. Just the way his mother talked about Meg made him want to hit something. Meg may have been single, but he was fairly sure she didn’t have a parade of guys in and out of her place. He remembered the girl she used to be, his first love, with her bright smile and eyes that sparkled when she looked at him.
That carefree teen was long gone. He hadn’t talked to her in years, but the last time their paths crossed, Jason had noticed that Meg had become more aloof, more cynical. Of course, that could have been the effect he had on her, but he did know she worked hard, made her own way in the world, and obviously Grace trusted her with the person who was most precious to her. Meg didn’t deserve to have her name dragged through the mud.
His parents’ tactics didn’t surprise him, though. They always made the Rossi kids feel like second-class citizens, but Jason envied Meg’s family. While her dad managed the Campbell estate, her mother taught school. Meg and her brother and sister seemed to have everything—stability, love, and the chance to be themselves.
It was the exact opposite with him and his siblings. There was no nurturing support in his family—unless it came from one of their many nannies. His parents had done such a thorough job establishing their power base in the community, there were few people who were willing to risk getting in their crosshairs. As a result, there weren’t many close friendships, because too much could have gone wrong. There was a lot of feigned cordiality and polite indifference, but, to put it bluntly, people were scared shitless to make a wrong move around any member of his family. His father had ruined more than a few fortunes, and his mother was the queen of her social circle, moving other women around like pieces on a chess board. His parents were made for each other. They were supremely confident and felt fully entitled to do whatever they wanted to whomever they wanted.
Jason wondered how they slept at night. He also wondered how they managed to raise three kids with morals. Well, maybe two. The jury was still out on his brother.
“Jay.” His father stretched his arm across the back of the chair. “You and your sister turned your backs on the family, on your legacy, and your brother may be part of the firm, but I don’t know that he’s ever going to settle down long enough to produce an heir. Molly gives us the chance to pass on what it means to be a Campbell. Don’t get in the way of this. You’ll regret it if you do.”
It took a bit, but when his father’s words registered, he felt his blood pressure start to rise. “Are you threatening me?”
Puffing on his cigar, his father’s mouth turned up at the corners. “I don’t think I’d call it a threat. Consider it a friendly warning.”
There was a protracted silence, and Jason was sure his father, always so fucking cocksure of everything, felt that familiar thrill of victory.
Not this time. “Well, thanks for the warning, Dad, but I’m good.”
“I guess, but let me explain things to you, boy. You tech guys may be cutting-edge and all, but I could buy that company of yours and still have enough money left over to do it again.”
That was the long and short of it, right there. It was all about buying and selling. Money. Power. The fact was, Will Campbell probably could have bought his son’s company, but he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Jason had two PhDs from MIT in computer systems and cybersecurity. His firm designed software and operating systems that kept hackers from breaching banks and investment firms. Firms like his father’s. So while Will might be able to buy Jason’s company, he could take down the server at his father’s firm with one well-placed virus. Daddy Dearest wouldn’t know what hit him.
He had to do the same with protecting Molly. There had to be something he was missing. Something—some strategy—that could protect his niece and give Meg Rossi the support she needed to fight his parents.
And then it hit him. Something so simple, he almost laughed. Something his parents would never see coming. The only problem would be Meg. Somehow he had to get her to trust him, and he didn’t know if she would. Ever. He’d broken her heart into a million pieces when she was only sixteen. He owned that. Getting her to put her faith in him wasn’t going to be easy.
End of Excerpt
The Temporary Wife
Reviews for The Temporary Wife
“Jeannie Moon immerses readers in an emotionally engaging and sexy story of lost love and new beginnings.”
~ New York Times bestselling author, JoAnn Ross
“The Temporary Wife is a wonderful breath of pure romance and second chances.”
~ Jane Porter
“Jeannie Moon writes a sweet, sexy escape.”
~ New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis