Can't Buy Me Love
Patrick and Mary
Mary Larkin was hard at work as the office manager at the Green Mountain Country Store when Cameron Murphy brought her dad, Patrick, in to visit. That fateful first meeting, which took place in You’ll Be Mine, sets the stage for Mary and Patrick’s long-awaited romance in Can’t Buy Me Love!
Mary enjoys her predictable, satisfying life in Butler. If it’s a little lacking in excitement, well, that’s okay with her. But after meeting Patrick and getting to know him better at his daughter’s wedding, Mary is intrigued by the well-known, sexy billionaire businessman.
Patrick is equally intrigued. For the first time since he suddenly lost his wife thirty years ago, he has met a woman who makes him feel less lonely, and all he wants is more of his Sweet Mary from Vermont. Flirty phone calls become a weekend away together that takes his relationship with Mary to the next level.
But with six hours and two vastly different lives standing between them, can Mary and Patrick find happily ever after together? And after telling her father to keep his hands and everything else off Mary, will Cameron approve of her father’s new romance?
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Read the Green Mountain and Butler, Vermont Series in Order
Can’t Buy Me Love
by Marie Force
He’d sent a car for her. The concept, when he first mentioned it, was so foreign to her as to be baffling. Why did she need someone to drive her when she was perfectly capable of driving herself? But he’d insisted, and now that the appointed day had arrived, Mary was thankful she didn’t have to drive across the state. She was far too nervous to drive two hours to meet the first man who’d sparked her interest in years.
And he wasn’t just any man. No, this was Patrick Murphy, the Patrick Murphy, as in the billionaire businessman, who’d set his sights on her for reasons she was still trying to understand after weeks of flirtatious phone calls and deep conversations about life and love and family and all the things that mattered most to her.
For the first few weeks after they met the weekend of his daughter Cameron’s wedding to Will Abbott, one of Mary’s employers, she’d waited for Patrick to lose interest. Of course he would. He was Patrick Murphy, and she was… Well, she was just boring
Mary Larkin from Vermont with a rather spectacularly uninteresting life that suited her just fine.
What in the world could they possibly have in common?
But he kept calling and he kept flirting and he kept talking about their “friendship” as if it were some sort of relationship, and honestly, how was that even possible when he lived in New York City—a place she’d never even been—and she lived in the boonies of Vermont?
It boggled her mind. This entire situation was so far outside her area of experience and understanding. She had no idea what to think or expect as this weekend together he’d talked her into was now upon them.
Would he want to… Ugh, she was on the verge of a full-on panic attack if she didn’t get herself under control. He would meet her in Burlington, and from there, she had no idea what he had planned. He hadn’t said, and she hadn’t asked. It was all she could do to agree to spend a weekend with him in the first place. And he’d talked her into taking Friday off so they would have more time together.
They were going to the other side of the state, because neither of them wanted to go public yet in Butler with their friendship or relationship or whatever it was. It was madness. That’s what it was. What was she doing in the back of a sleek Mercedes-Benz being driven across the state of Vermont? She’d never been driven anywhere except by friends or family members. To have someone appear at her home wearing a black suit and driving a car as nice as this one was surreal to say the least.
Everything to do with this “situation” with Patrick was surreal. He was surreal. They were about to spend two and a half days and two nights together. Surely in that time, the other shoe would drop, and she’d see the side of him he’d kept hidden from her up to now. She’d been preparing herself for how she would handle the inevitable end of this flirtation or whatever you wanted to call it.
Because it would end when he met someone else, probably a sophisticated woman who lived near him in the city. A woman like that would be far more convenient for him than she’d ever be.
As he waited for her in Burlington, she wondered if he was anywhere near as nervous as she was. When she’d talked to him earlier, he’d been without—or so it seemed to her—a care in the world. What did he have to be nervous about? He probably did stuff like this all the time. Weekends away with the flavor of the month were certainly part of his regular routine.
It wasn’t like she’d never been with a guy or had a relationship. Of course she had. Back in college, she’d dated a man for three years, expecting to marry him, but he’d had other plans that didn’t include her. It had taken a while to get over that heartbreak, and by the time she did, her twenties had given way to her thirties, and the pickings had gotten a lot slimmer. As her thirties led into the early forties, dating had become less of a priority than her friends, family, work and a variety of other interests that kept her busy. She was active in her church and worked at the soup kitchen that served the needy in a nearby town.
It’d been years since she’d seriously dated, and she’d never dated anyone like Patrick Murphy. For one thing, he was incredibly handsome—like movie star gorgeous. The one day she’d spent in his presence, at his daughter’s wedding, she hadn’t been able to stop staring at him like a girl with a crush rather than a mature woman with a working brain. The day he’d first come into the office with Cameron, she’d nearly tripped over her own tongue when she said hello to him.
She’d certainly heard of him, been aware of him, read about his financial exploits and real estate deals in New York, not to mention his worldwide hotel chain, especially after Cameron had come into their lives and sparked Mary’s curiosity about her new friend and colleague. But something about seeing him in person was altogether different from reading about him.
He exuded charisma, charm and an easy affability that she found enormously appealing. It was almost impossible not to like him, and she’d tried. Oh how she’d tried to convince herself there was absolutely no point to getting involved with someone like him.
As often as she’d told herself that, however, he’d told her the opposite, that there was every good reason to get involved with him. And over time, he’d worn her down. She was no match for his relentless charm and humor and sexiness. Dear God, the man was sexy! Men in their fifties were supposed to be going soft in the middle and sagging at the jaw, but there was no sign of anything as human as aging—or sagging—in Patrick Murphy. No, his jaw was chiseled, and if the muscles she’d felt under his clothes while they danced at Cameron’s wedding were any indication, he was a long way from a potbelly.
And he paid attention to everything she said and did. Every minute she’d spent with him, in person and on the phone, she’d never felt so “seen” or “heard” by another human being. If he was faking his interest in her, he was one hell of a gifted actor.
“We’ll be arriving at our destination in about fifteen minutes, ma’am,” the driver said, breaking a long silence.
Mary immediately panicked. That was nowhere near enough time to prepare to see him again. “Thank you,” she said to the driver as she dove into her purse, looking for her brush, lipstick and mirror. Oh, who was she kidding? If she had fifteen more hours to prepare, she still wouldn’t be ready for him.
She’d dressed carefully and casually in jeans and a chocolate-brown sweater she’d bought at the Green Mountain Country Store where she worked. One of the sales associates had told her it complemented her coloring. Before she left her house, she’d scrutinized the unremarkable brown hair that she’d decided to grow out after the summer and her equally unremarkable brown eyes that had been filled with trepidation.
What the hell was I thinking agreeing to this weekend with him?
He’d wanted her to come to New York, but she was in no way ready for that, so they’d compromised, agreeing to meet in Burlington. Until this morning, she’d thought he’d agreed to her plan to drive herself. That was before the car and driver showed up at her front door, changing her plans.
“Mr. Murphy sent me to pick you up,” Bob the driver had said.
“Did he now?”
Mary knew she shouldn’t be surprised. Patrick had already shown her his propensity for the grand gesture in the form of the huge and breathtaking floral arrangement that had arrived at her door three days after Cameron’s wedding. The card had said, “Thinking of you. P” By then, she’d assumed she wouldn’t hear from him again, but the flowers had been the opening salvo in what became daily phone calls and other thoughtful gifts that showed up regularly.
As she toyed with the gorgeous silver bangle he’d sent, she recalled receiving it and having to acknowledge that he was wooing her—and she was letting him. How else to explain the insanity that had overtaken her normally rational and sane mind? How else to explain the daydreaming at work, the sleepy mornings after late-night phone calls and the powerful sense of anticipation that overtook her as they rolled into Burlington?
If he was playing her…
No. She couldn’t go there. She just couldn’t entertain that possibility even if it was a reasonable worry when you considered who he was and who she… wasn’t.
They took a series of turns, and Mary was surprised when they drove through a residential area when she’d expected to end up in a hotel downtown where she’d spend the remainder of the day stressing about the sleeping arrangements. Surely he expected sex on a weekend away with a woman. That was how things worked in his world. Wasn’t it?
Well, they weren’t in his world. They were still in hers, and there wouldn’t be sex unless she wanted it, no matter how charming or persuasive he might be.
All her determination and resolve disappeared like fine mist, however, when the car pulled into the driveway of a private home, and Patrick came out of the house to greet her. He wore faded jeans, a nondescript sweater and hiking boots. He looked rugged and sexy and every bit as gorgeous as she recalled—and nothing at all like a billionaire.
She’d been certain that her memories of the short time they’d spent together in person had to be figments of her overly active imagination. No man could ever truly be as magnetic and sexy as Patrick Murphy, or so she’d told herself.
As he opened the car door and smiled down at her, Mary realized she’d been wrong—very, very wrong. He was all that and so much more.
He offered a hand to help her out of the car. “I thought you’d never get here.”
Her legs were stiff from the long ride. That was why they didn’t want to work the way they usually did. What else could it be?
Then he leaned in and kissed her cheek, the scent of his expensive cologne filling her senses. “It’s so good to see you.”
She knew she should say something in response to that, but her brain had chosen this all-important moment to go entirely blank.
He took her bag from the driver and shook the man’s hand. “Pick up at three on Sunday, Bob?”
“I’ll be here. You have a nice weekend, Mr. Murphy, ma’am.”
“Thank you. You, too.” Carrying her bag, Patrick put his arm around Mary to lead her inside.
“Whose house is this?”
Mary stopped walking and looked up at him in horror. “As in Lincoln Abbott, my boss?”
“You know another Linc? He may be your boss, but he’s been my friend for more than thirty years. He’s offered this place to me many times before. He was thrilled when I finally took him up on the invite.”
“I can’t stay here! I work for them. It wouldn’t be right.”
“You’re here as my guest, and I’m his guest. It’s all good.”
“It’s not all good, as you say. It’s… unseemly.”
Patrick’s brows rose toward his hairline. “Are you planning to behave in an unseemly fashion?” he asked with amusement dancing in his beautiful eyes, which were hazel in some cases and blue in others, depending on the light and what color he wore.
“Of course not.” Mary was quite certain her face had turned an unappealing shade of tomato red. “I can’t be… here… with you.”
“Are you or are you not friends with the Abbott family after working for them for decades?”
“They are my friends, of course they are, but—”
“No buts. Look at this beautiful house with the gorgeous view of the lake. What could be a better setting than this for relaxing and getting to know each other better?”
The house was beautiful, that much was for certain. She walked over to the windows for a closer look at the lake.
“You’ve never been here?”
“No, but I’ve certainly heard about it. I was sick for Hannah’s wedding, so I couldn’t come.”
“I wondered why I didn’t meet you then.”
“I had an awful sinus infection that turned into bronchitis the week of the wedding. I was so sad to miss it.”
His hands landed on her shoulders and his chin on the top of her head, which served as a reminder of how much taller he was—as if she needed a reminder. “If I had met you then, I would’ve remembered you.”
“Were you at Hannah’s first wedding? I don’t remember you there.”
“No, I was in the Orient and missed it.”
Surrounded by the rich citrus of his cologne, Mary focused on breathing through the nerves that refused to let up, especially now that she knew where they were spending the weekend. And then another far more worrisome thought occurred to her. “Did you tell Linc who you were meeting here?”
“Of course I didn’t. What would be the point of that? We said we weren’t ready to go public, and telling Linc would count as going public.”
“Yes, it really would. He’s a terrible gossip.”
Patrick massaged the tension from her shoulders. “I want you to do something for me.”
“I’ve been so looking forward to spending this time with you. I want you to relax and enjoy this weekend and not worry about anything. Can you do that?”
Taken in by the sweet words, handsome face and the sexy sound of his voice, Mary said, “I can certainly try.”