Jared's Counterfeit Fiancee(5)

By: Brenda Jackson


Her lashes fluttered downward before sweeping up with her gaze to meet his. “I’ve been fine and have done what you suggested and moved on.”

Jared nodded. “I’m glad to hear it, Miss Rollins.”

Her smile widened. “Please call me Dana.”

He chuckled. “Only if you call me Jared.”

After saying grace, he took a sip of his drink then proceeded to put ketchup on his fries. He glanced her way and smiled. “So what are you reading?”

She took a sip of her drink then picked up the book and held it up. “A book of poems by Maya Angelou. She’s a wonderful poet and I love reading her work. It can be so uplifting.”

He nodded. He had read several of her poems himself. Dana met his gaze. “Do you read a lot, Jared?”

He shrugged broad shoulders under an expensive suit. “The only pleasure reading I have time for these days is my cousin’s novels. He writes under the pen name Rock Mason.”

Her eyes lit up and showed her surprise. “You’re related to Rock Mason?”

Jared laughed. “Yes. His real name is Stone Westmoreland.”

Dana smiled. “Wow. I’ve read all of his books. He’s a gifted writer.”

Jared chuckled. “I’ll make sure I tell him you said that when I see him again. He and his wife, Madison, are in Texas visiting cousins we have there, but they’ll be back for our fathers’ birthdays next weekend.”

“Your fathers’ birthdays?”

He smiled. “Our fathers are fraternal twins and they turn sixty this year. Since their birthdays fall on Easter Sunday, our mothers are hosting one huge celebration.”

“Sounds like all of you will have a wonderful time.”

He chuckled. “We usually do when we all get together. The Westmoreland family is big. What about you? Are you from a large family?”

He watched sadness appear in her eyes. “I don’t have any family. I was an only child and my parents were killed five years ago in an auto accident en route to my college graduation.”

“I’m sorry.”

She met his gaze and saw the sincerity of his words. “Thank you. It was hard for me, but I got through it. Since my parents didn’t have any siblings, and their parents are deceased, I don’t have a family.”

He watched as she caught her lower lip between her teeth as if to keep it from trembling with the remembered pain. “What are your plans for Easter Sunday?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“I don’t have any. I’ll go to a sunrise service at church and will probably spend the rest of the day at home relaxing and reading.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “What about dinner?”

She shrugged. “I’ll pull out a microwave dinner and enjoy the day that way.”

Jared tried shifting his attention back to his food but couldn’t fully concentrate on what he was eating. Because of his large family, he had grown up loving the holidays and even looked forward to them, although lately his mother’s interfering had tempered his anticipation.

An idea suddenly popped into Jared’s head. His mother was expecting him to bring someone to dinner so why not Dana? When his mother and his aunt Evelyn got together, the two women cooked up a storm. That had to be better than a microwave dinner. “How would you like to join me for Easter dinner at my parents’ home?” He could tell that his invitation surprised her.

“You’re inviting me to dinner at your parents’ place?”

“Yes.”

She shook her head, as if still not understanding. “But, why? We barely know each other.”

Jared knew he had to level with her. “It just so happens that you can help me out of a jam.”

Dana lifted a brow. “What kind of jam?”

“My mother is obsessed. Lately, a number of my cousins have gotten married and since none of her six sons are rushing to follow suit, she’s taken it upon herself to prod us along. I’m the oldest so I’m feeling the heat more than the others. She expects me to set an example by bringing someone to dinner. And since I recall you owe me a favor, I figured now’s the time to collect.”

Dana blinked and then she released a deep sigh. Jared could tell she had forgotten about her promise. “But I’m sure there’re plenty of women you’ve dated who would love going to dinner with you at your parents’ home,” she implored.

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