The Borrowed Boyfriend(4)

By: Ginny Baird

Allison had thwarted more than one takeover in the past and eschewed working with large corporations. Perhaps, if she got to know Grady better and came to appreciate aspects of Total Wines’ universal ambitions, she’d be willing to consider a compromise? Grady’s blood pumped harder at the thought of bringing Allison’s tiny venture under his larger corporate wing. It was a match made in heaven; Grady could sense it, and his business instincts were seldom wrong. Just imagine where Total Wines could go if this expansion took off… The partnership could be a boon to Allison’s business too. It was a fantastic idea. Totally brilliant! Grady chided himself for not thinking of it earlier.

He’d seen Allison’s work and knew it was superb. Her upscale art was sure to appeal to even the most discriminating global buyer. What better way to sell discount wines than in really lovely bottles? It wasn’t like his wines were subpar. In truth, they were extraordinary. Grady got to distribute them at a fraction of their market costs due to the exclusive contracts he’d orchestrated with their vendors. But even he had to admit that their current plain labels didn’t do much to convey the quality inside.

Grady wasn’t one to believe in preordination, but he’d take a dose of serendipity when it landed in his lap. This beach week with Allison could be a win-win for both of them. Allison could save face with her friends and Grady could seal his deal. But Grady understood that he would need to finesse this. He couldn’t agree to Kate’s plan straightaway, as that might look suspicious. Allison probably wouldn’t want him tagging along if she knew about his ulterior motives up front—even if they were to her ultimate benefit.

Grady lowered his tablet to find Kate and Allison goggling at him. He removed his ear buds one at a time and shot them each a charming smile.

“Hey, ladies! What’s up?”

Chapter Two

Allison stared at Grady shell-shocked, hoping he hadn’t absorbed any of her and Kate’s conversation. It was mortifying that they’d discussed the whole thing right in front of him. Then again, as Kate always said, Grady rarely listened. Allison sure hoped he hadn’t been listening this time. Kate’s idea was ridiculous. What could make Kate even think she and Grady would go for it?

“We were just talking about you,” Kate said. “And our canceled trip to Jamaica.”

“Who says it’s canceled?” Grady asked smoothly. “I still might go.”

“Why would you do that?” Kate asked.

Grady set his tablet down beside him on the sofa. “Because it’s booked.”

Kate walked toward him and pulled a frowny face. “But baby, can’t you see? You’d be bored.”

“I’ll ask Diane to plan things,” he said. “Chart out a full itinerary.”

“I have a better idea!” Kate took his hand, her face brightening as if she’d just thought of it. “Let’s save Jamaica for later! For when the two of us can go together. We purchased the travel insurance. We can rebook.”

Grady’s hair was nearly black and his eyes were slate blue. At the moment, they were dancing with mischief. Perhaps he had overheard her and Kate’s conversation, and now he was toying with them. That devastating dimple in his left cheek deepened as he repressed a smile. “Then what will I do next week?”

“Go to Maine!” Kate proclaimed, as if it were decided.

Grady wrapped his arms around himself and gave a fake shiver. “Not a great choice for springtime. The Caribbean sounds better.”

As Allison listened to them, she gave Grady a long look. He wore jeans and a charcoal-gray sweatshirt that stretched across his broad chest and offset his morning stubble. She begrudgingly admitted that Kate was right. Grady did present a pretty nice package—on the outside. Not that she was considering Kate’s ludicrous idea. Not even for a second. Despite his stellar appearance, Grady’s priorities and hers were worlds apart. He ran an empire that crushed smaller businesses into submission…and just look at the overpriced car he drove. Allison couldn’t even pronounce its name.

Kate leaned over Grady with a coarse whisper. “You’re not helping!”

“Helping with what?” he gruffly whispered back.

Kate motioned him toward her and he angled forward, resting his elbows on his knees while she murmured in his ear.

“Hmm. Um-hum… I see… That’s too bad… Never?” Grady clasped his hands together with a worried frown. “That is distressing.”

Now Kate was going too far. Allison strode toward the couple, raising her hands. “Guys, wait!”