The Three-Week Arrangement (Chase Brothers)

By: Sarah Ballance

With him, there’s no faking anything…

Ethan Chase isn’t interested in dating. After losing the woman he loved more than life itself, he’d much rather ride solo, but his family is dead set on fixing him up. To get them off his back, he hooks up with ultra-adventurous, ultra-temporary adventure photographer, Rue Campbell. All he has to do is survive three weeks in her orbit and he’ll be single again, only without the pitying looks and pressure to move on.

Rue is literally counting the days until her plane leaves New York City. The last thing she wants is a relationship, but being Ethan’s pretend girlfriend can’t hurt, right? Wrong. With Ethan, there’s no faking anything—in or out of the bedroom. With the sheets burning hot and the clock ticking on their arrangement, Rue realizes she’s falling for a man guaranteed to derail her goals…and break her heart.

For Carol and brighter days ahead.

Chapter One

Not many women were able to capture Ethan Chase’s attention nowadays—a likely side effect of losing the one he’d loved more than life itself. But in the blink of a minute, that changed. And it wasn’t hard to figure out why. The distraction in question was kicking the crap out of a vintage, cherry-red Mustang.

Ethan winced. He wasn’t a car guy, but he knew a ’66 classic when he saw one. He didn’t imagine many people who owned one so painstakingly restored would resort to kicking it, but hell, this was New York City, where anything could happen…and usually did.

He didn’t realize he’d stopped in his tracks until she turned to look at him.

“I locked my keys in my car,” she said, and what should have been a simple statement of fact sounded far too much like she expected him to care.

He hadn’t asked. He didn’t want to be involved. He’d only wanted to walk down his old street in Flatbush like he did every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death, past the house they’d once shared. This year, there’d been kids running around the place, a dog in the mix. Their obvious joy had pierced the darkness a little but with the burst of light, an unexpected shadow had grown. Those could have been his and Amy’s kids, but that dream had died with her. He was more accepting of that now—especially when he wasn’t standing on his old stretch of sidewalk, peering uselessly into his past—but he wasn’t ready to let go of the quiet reflection that had crept up on him.

The car-kicking brunette didn’t seem entirely concerned with his lack of a response. To the absolute contrary, she persisted. “I don’t suppose you know how to break into a car, do you?”

Her voice was unexpectedly soft. She had a trace of an accent he couldn’t place—something definitely not from New York. Maybe Southern, though not entrenched there. “Don’t you have roadside service?” Ethan asked, desperately hoping to steer clear of her situation. What was he supposed to do? Break a window? As an afterthought, he really started to hope there wasn’t a husband or boyfriend who expected to come home to find that car in one piece. Assaulting a tire was one thing, shattering glass another.

She pursed her lips and tilted her head, sunlight glinting from her glossy hair. The sections fell in varying, choppy lengths—probably one of those five-hundred-dollar haircuts a toddler could accomplish for free—but it suited her. “Sure, I have roadside assistance,” she said. “The phone number is on my insurance card, locked in the car. Of course, I could look it up on my phone, but that’s also locked in my car. And my computer is locked in my house.”

“At least you’re thorough,” Ethan said. He wasn’t prepared for her smile or the way it broke through the clouds that surrounded him despite the beauty of the day. He shouldn’t have noticed anything so personal about this woman at all—not now. Not when he should have been thinking about his wife. Now he felt like a jerk.

A jerk with his breath stolen.

Fortunately, the woman didn’t seem to notice his gawking. Her soft, full lips pursed in irritation, but not even that could take away from her striking beauty. He didn’t see a hint of makeup on her flawless face, and between that and her unusual hair, she was at once wholesome and wild. Sunglasses hid her eyes, but he felt her gaze, and he definitely noticed when a slow smile traced her lips.

But he shouldn’t have. The smell of fresh-cut grass drifting from someone’s postage-stamp lawn teased his senses, reminding him of when he’d had a lawn to mow and a wife to love. He wondered if Amy would have ever kicked a tire out of frustration and decided probably not. She was the calmest, least excitable person he’d ever met. Not even her cancer diagnosis had riled her. She’d just smiled and assured him everything would be okay, even at the end when they both knew it wouldn’t. She hadn’t let him grieve with her. Maybe that was why he still couldn’t quite let go.