The Borrowed Boyfriend

By: Ginny Baird

The Borrowed Boyfriend

Allison Murphy spends a week in March with the same group of girlfriends each year. What started as a college spring break tradition morphed into an annual reunion      , ultimately encompassing boyfriends and husbands. Only Allison hasn't brought along a love interest in years, inspiring the others toward goodwill efforts at fixing her up. Faced with the prospect of yet another beach week mismatched with a virtual stranger, Allison's roommate Kate suggests a shocking alternative. Allison can "borrow" Kate's handsome and successful boyfriend for the trip. The trouble is Grady O'Brien stands for everything romantic idealist Allison is against. He's a ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing to get ahead. What Allison doesn't understand is just how far Grady is willing to go...

Wine industry entrepreneur Grady O'Brien knows an opportunity when he sees one. Allison Murphy runs a boutique wine label design company, while Grady heads up a firm that buys those sorts of businesses out. When Grady's girlfriend unexpectedly must attend a conference and their vacation plans are cancelled, she encourages Grady to accompany Allison to the beach instead. Grady agrees to participate in the ruse of playing Allison's boyfriend with a secret agenda in mind. He hopes to pave the way for acquiring Allison's Bella Fortuna Wine Designs by winning favor with its pretty owner and her friends. The one thing Grady doesn't count on losing in the bargain is his heart.

Chapter One

Grady flipped through the game scores on his tablet, pretending to ignore the conversation occurring across the room from him. Had he heard that right? Had his girlfriend of six months, Kate, actually offered to loan him to her roommate, Allison? Grady normally didn’t consider himself uptight, but he wasn’t sure he was into that. Besides, Allison Murphy wasn’t really his type.

Grady stole a peek in their direction and spied Kate gesturing broadly to Allison. Both women stood behind the countertop bar dividing their apartment’s small galley kitchen from its cozy living room area. They thought Grady couldn’t hear them because he wore ear buds. Neither one knew that his playlist had ended its final track. He’d been listening to La Traviata, one of his favorites.

“All I’m saying is that you should think about it,” Kate persisted in low tones. “Seriously consider the option.”

Allison blinked in astonishment and poured herself some coffee. She wore ratty sweatpants and a plaid flannel shirt, and her long blond hair was in its typical morning disarray, but she still looked reasonably attractive. Okay, more than reasonably... The fact was, Allison was hot. But in a good girl sort of way, more like the girl next door. She was the type of woman men married, when those men were the marrying kind…

She leaned toward Kate and spoke in a hushed whisper. “Even if I did want a substitute, it wouldn’t be Grady!” Allison’s gaze flicked to Grady, and he saw her face flush red before he quickly returned his attention to his device. “What I mean is…” Allison lowered her voice even further, and Grady cocked an ear her way. “Are you out of your mind?”

“And what exactly is wrong with Grady?” Well, good, Kate was sticking up for him. “Apart from the fact that’s he’s all ego, and believes he can do no wrong.” Ouch. Maybe not. “Okay, and he does tend to work long hours, and sometimes he forgets our dates. He probably would have forgotten my birthday, if I hadn’t arranged for my flower delivery beforehand.”

Now, that was unfair. Grady had planned to pick up a bouquet on his way to her place. But once again, Kate had jumped right in and preempted him.

“You know, you really shouldn’t do that,” Allison said softly. “Talk about him like he’s not even there.”

“Well, maybe that’s because he never listens!” Kate said, her voice rising.

Grady could feel both women’s eyes on him as they patiently watched for a reaction. Instead of acknowledging his eavesdropping, Grady slapped his forehead and cried, “Unbelievable! Double overtime!”

“See what I mean?” Kate asserted quietly. “Never pays attention at all.”

That’s where Kate was wrong. Grady O’Brien minded every detail. He simply had the good grace to let minor infractions slide. Like Kate’s domineering nature, and her unfounded accusations. For Grady, the trade-off was worth it. He ruled in the boardroom and was the king of the structured buyout. In his personal life, however, Grady was content to let somebody else take charge. He hadn’t been ready for a girlfriend when he’d met Kate. Then again, when she’d pestered him into it, he’d thought, why not? There was a certain convenience to having a woman on his arm at corporate functions. This helped rescue Grady from the slew of unwanted advances women used to hurl his way, both on and off the job.