The Borrowed Boyfriend(2)

By: Ginny Baird

It was a curse to be well employed and single in Marydale, Virginia, where the women outnumbered the men seven to one thanks to the small private women’s college that sat at the center of town. Kate worked there as the head of the development office. That meant she was a fundraiser, which was precisely how she and Grady had met. She’d been hitting up big businesses for contributions and his wholesale operation, Total Wines, was on her list. Once she’d set her sights on him romantically, Grady had pretty much caved.

He’d only been in town a few days before the single women came calling. Dropping by his office with home-baked cookies, leaving potted plants outside the 1920s Craftsman house he was restoring…and offering to help wash his paintbrushes? Now to some men this might have felt wonderful, but all the unwanted attention made Grady cringe. After his disaster with Meg, he’d virtually sworn off women. Grady certainly wasn’t going to take advantage of any doe-eyed coed, hopeful divorcée or single mom around here. He wasn’t eager for a long-term commitment, and that was clearly what these ladies were after.

Then along came Kate Fagan. Someone equally interested in having a partner on her arm when work demanded socializing, a person who viewed Grady as a temporary asset rather than a permanent acquisition. In almost every way, their arrangement was ideal. Kate was pretty and vivacious, with short brown hair and big brown eyes. Plus, she was exceedingly organized. Kate took care of everything outside of the office, from planning their dates to booking fun vacations. Now, she appeared to be arranging one just for him. And her roommate, Allison. Weird.

A mug clanked down on the counter, and Grady surmised it was Kate’s. She had a habit of setting things down before issuing statements. “You had a problem, and now—voilà! Problem solved! You get your old college friends off your back for the week, and you have a great time.”

“At the beach,” Allison said in stunned disbelief.


“In Maine.”

“That’s where you’re going, isn’t it?”

“With Grady.”

“Why not?”

“You’re always harping on his faults!” Allison said a little too loudly before ducking behind the refrigerator and out of Grady’s view.

Kate’s retort was hushed but insistent. “Those are personal things you only discover once you get to know him. A week’s not nearly enough time. Your friends won’t have a clue.”

“Spoken like the loving girlfriend,” Allison said with an astonished laugh.

Exactly! He’d come over to get Kate for their weekly Sunday morning brunch date, and she’d been taking her sweet time “getting ready,” which was obviously code for bashing the guy in her life. Grady was about to yank out his ear buds and complain, when Kate surprised him with a long-suspected truth.

“Okay, listen, Allison. I know Grady’s not your favorite person on earth…”

Why did Grady suddenly feel like the loser in a popularity contest? First Kate was overly critical and now this. So what if Allison didn’t care for him? Plenty of people thought he was awesome, especially his employees at Total Wines. Hadn’t the staff just given him the world’s best surprise party on his thirty-second birthday? With a catered lunch and everything? The fact that the event had been paid for by employee donations, rather than out of the company social fund, had touched him all the more.

“But you’ve got to admit,” Kate went on, “he presents a pretty good package on the outside.” On the outside…? “Handsome, articulate, successful…”

“You’re telling me you wouldn’t mind this at all? Not even a little bit?”

That was Grady’s question too. His and Kate’s arrangement was casual, but they did have an agreement to be exclusive.

“Why should I? It’s only just pretend!”

Ah so, there’s the rub. Something like a fake engagement, but on a lesser scale. Grady had been dragged along to enough romantic comedy movies to know how those plots went. Of course, in the movies, the guy always got the girl. That’s because he was secretly trying. Grady had never understood those convoluted setups. He certainly hadn’t believed people did that sort of thing in real life. Women could be so diabolical. He’d have to remember to include more of them on his strategic planning team.

Kate lightly cleared her throat, then added as an apparent afterthought, “Besides, I’ll be away at a conference. It will give Grady something to do.”

“Grady runs a business,” Allison stated reasonably from behind the refrigerator. “He probably has plenty to keep him occupied.”