The Borrowed Boyfriend(10)

By: Ginny Baird

Grady reached toward the dashboard and punched in a button. To Allison’s surprise, loud opera music poured from the speakers of the car’s surround-sound system.

“Now, that’s shrieking,” she said, covering her ears.

“That’s not shrieking, that’s Puccini’s La Bohème.”

“Ah, thanks for clarifying the difference.”

“You don’t like opera?”

“It gives me a headache.”

Grady studied her with amusement. “I’ll bet you’ve never even been to one.”

She stared at him agape. “Whether I have—or haven’t—is totally beside the point.”

He gazed thoughtfully in the distance. “Hmm. Bella Fortuna Wine Designs. Say, isn’t that Italian?”


“So’s this opera,” he said with a smirk.

Allison ignored the comment, refusing to take any more of his bait. She’d given her company an Italian name because Italy was where she first fell in love with the wine process, and beautiful packaging. She’d studied in scenic Cortona and had taken day trips to places like Florence, Siena and Montepulciano. In between studies and sightseeing, she and her college friends had toured many wineries. One of those friends, Carla, was meeting her at the beach today.

“So, what kind of music do you like?” Grady pressed after a pause.

The aria came to a frenzied crescendo and Allison cringed, the pain at her temples spiking. She wrinkled her forehead and sent him a petitioning look. “Silence?”

Grady looked at her in surprise.

“I’m sorry, but I actually am getting a headache.” That was understating things. Allison was bound to have a raging migraine by the time this day was through. Could she and Grady really get away with this in front of Allison’s closest friends?

Grady viewed her sympathetically, then punched off the music. “Silence it is. And hey, I’m sorry about the headache. I can put the roof up. It’s no big—”

“That’s all right, really.”

“Do you need me to stop by a drugstore?”

“I keep some ibuprofen in my purse.” She popped it open and tugged a bottle out of its brand new packaging before slipping two tablets in her mouth. She downed them quickly with a swig from her water bottle.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked with concern. “It’s not too late to—”

“I couldn’t do that to my friends. They’re expecting us.”

Grady put his car in gear. “Then let’s not let them down.”

Allison and Grady drove a full three hours with neither one speaking. They headed north toward Washington, DC, and picked up Interstate 95, which would take them all the way to Portland. Allison’s friends had rented a bungalow on a small private beach about twenty miles north of there. Way back in college, when all the other kids were headed south to sunny Florida or the islands, Allison and her friends decided to be different. None of them had been to New England and they’d heard the Maine coast was incredible. Plus, they’d found a really cheap rental at that time of year. They’d had so much fun that first spring that, afterward, a Maine vacation had become an annual group tradition. She and her friends took turns picking out a place each year, always in a new section of the coast they’d not yet explored.

She glanced over at Grady, fearing she’d been rude in criticizing his kind of music. Allison might have guessed he listened to jazz or rock. Maybe even soul. Never, in a million years, Puccini. She’d have to think up a way to apologize later. Perhaps she could explain it by saying her headache had made her cranky.

Grady motioned to a road sign ahead that indicated a coffee shop and a gas station were at the next exit. “Feel like coffee? We can grab some and I can top off the tank while we’re there.”

“Coffee sounds great!” Allison called above the wind. To her relief, her headache had abated. In fact, she barely felt it at all. Though she’d protested riding with the top down initially, the day had warmed up considerably and the fresh air actually seemed to have done her good. It really was a gorgeous springtime day. It would be even nicer at the ocean. It was a shame that it would already be dark by the time they reached their destination.

Grady exited the highway and pulled into a service plaza. “Why don’t we gas up first? Then we can get our coffee at the drive-through,” he said, motioning to the coffee shop across the way. “That is, unless you’d like to step inside there?”

“That’s fine,” Allison answered. “I’ll just dash into the restroom here, and…powder my nose!” She wasn’t sure how soon they’d be stopping again, and Allison wanted a chance to check her appearance in a proper mirror. She probably looked a wreck after riding in the wind, and the last thing Allison wanted to do was appear unpolished during this trip. Her girlfriends were all accomplished professionals, engaged in fulfilling romantic relationships. Allison, by contrast, had work worries and couldn’t even get a man. By the way he was looking at her, Grady was probably thinking the same thing. That she was an utter disaster.