Love in Bloom (De La Fuente Family #3)

By: Lexi Buchanan
Prologue


18 months ago



Mateo slumped in the chair, fighting the urge to cover his eyes from the brightness of the office. He’d been out the night before and drunk more than he should have considering he knew about the meeting this morning.

His head felt like a sledge hammer hit away parts of his brain and he wished like hell that he was anywhere but here. Actually, he would prefer to be at home…alone.

He stifled a groan and wasn’t sure if it was his head that caused it or the whole mess. It wouldn’t have gotten out of hand if he’d thought before he acted. He couldn’t go anywhere without women throwing themselves at him, and that, combined with alcohol, always made front page news. The thing was he knew that he was doing it, but couldn’t seem to stop. He had friends, but they didn’t keep him warm at night, or give him the release he craved.

At thirty, he was still living as though he was twenty-one and that had caused several problems in the past. This time, however, he’d landed in hot water that he couldn’t get out of by himself, which was why his agent, Donny Roscoe, had gotten together with the PR team to straighten his image out.

Donny was pissed that he’d been losing money thanks to Mateo’s behavior, which had garnered more attention off the field than on.

Mateo should have seen this meeting coming, but he hadn’t, and because of his partying lifestyle, he would have to listen to them and do what they basically told him to do.

“Mateo,” Roger Evans hissed through his teeth, “I’ve been talking to you for the past five minutes and you’ve been in dreamland.” Roger waved his hands in exasperation, and Mateo grimaced. “You need to pay attention before you agree to something that you’re going to regret.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Mateo leaned forward, his eyes searched around the room as he tried to silence the noise in his head. He took a deep breath through his nose so he wouldn’t puke. “Look, just give it to me straight. What do you want me to do?” He looked at Donny who’d stayed quiet while Roger took the meeting, which was a sure sign that his agent was more than angry.

Mateo tried to focus on Roger Evans, the head honcho of the PR team, who picked an imaginary hair from his expensive suit. He tried not to laugh as the man never had a mark or wrinkle on him. He was so put together that he looked out of place as he paced back and forth behind his desk with the occasional glare at him.

Mateo had no idea what was expected of him to get the press to see him in a new light after the crap of the past few months, so he supposed Roger had a point about him paying attention. If he hadn’t gone out last night, he might have been able to concentrate today.

As Mateo brought the large Starbucks’ coffee to his lips, he finally met Donny’s gaze, as his agent announced, “You’re about to get engaged.”

The coffee landed in his lap. “Fuck.” He jumped out of the chair, tugging the sweats away from his leg, which he’d just burned. “What the hell did you say?”

“I think you heard me just fine. Engaged.” Donny grinned and seemed to be enjoying himself at Mateo’s expense. “I’ll tell you the basics.” He indicated the chair Mateo had recently vacated with a wave of his hand.

Squeezing his eyes closed, Mateo pressed the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb, praying he was dreaming.

He had to be.

No way could this nightmare be real.

Only one way to find out.

So he dropped his ass back in the chair and waited for Donny to fill him in on the great plan of his. Mateo knew that there was no way the club would have instructed it to play out this way. Regardless of how Mateo had been portrayed in the news, they wouldn’t come up with something like this…something that could blow up in their face. That explained why his agent and the PR team had called him in.

“The deal is that you have a fake fiancée.” Donny’s eyes filled with reproach as he sat down and leaned forward. “Look Mateo. You’ve been running wild and it’s cost the club a lot of PR. They spend more time cleaning up your messes than they do running the team and the fans are reacting in a negative way…which, has been losing me money.”

Donny sighed as the words spun in Mateo’s head. “When you were younger it was fine. Fans loved that wild side because it spilled into the game. But now, after all these years of your antics, fans want to see you grow up, both on the field and in your life. The fans and the club are not going to put up with your stunts for much longer.”

Mateo nodded. What Donny said made sense, and in a way, he was getting tired of everything. He focused as Donny continued, “We spin it so that it looks like you’ve been looking for ‘the one’ for a while. We laugh off any stupid comments that will arise with the way we’re going to go. Your fiancée, Caprice, is twenty-four, blonde and stacked, with an amazing figure, so you won’t have a problem having her on your arm. You take her to functions. You act like you’re in love with her. You basically save your career.”

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