The Borrowed Boyfriend(5)

By: Ginny Baird

Kate and Grady drew apart and viewed her expectantly.

“Kate, look. I appreciate that you’re trying to help… Really, I do. I think. But honestly, you don’t have to go there. I’m perfectly capable of defending myself during seven days—”

“And seven nights!” Kate reminded her.

Allison sputtered her reply. “What do the nights have to do with it?”

“You told me yourself, they put the last guy in your room!” Kate rejoined quickly.

“That’s because the house was small! We were tight on space!” Allison set a hand on her hip, thinking it was really none of their business, but she was going to tell them regardless. “Anyway, he slept on the floor.”

“Sounds like a charming vacation,” Grady said wryly. “For the guy.”

Kate shot him a look.

“What?” he told her. “I’m not sleeping on the floor!”

“You’re not sleeping in her bed either,” Kate warned sternly. “That’s not part of the bargain.”

Allison wheeled on Kate, her head spinning. “Whose bargain?”

“Your bargain.” Kate gestured between them. “Both of yours!” She licked her lips, then spoke more calmly. “The plan is for you to pretend that you’re an item…not really, ha-ha, you know.” Kate rolled her eyes heavenward. “As if that would ever happen between the two of you.”

Allison had probably shared too much with Kate about her dislike of corporate America. Allison’s parents’ bookstore had been run out of business by the big chains, and now the major wine warehouses were threatening to do the same to small and midsize vineyards. Places like Cost Club sold memberships to millions who purchased items in bulk. Total Wines had an exclusive deal with the retailer to supply all of its generic wines at bottom-of-the-barrel prices. It was no wonder the wines were cheap, given their really ugly labels. They were totally bland, with just a big, brick-red “CC” in Verdana font set against a pale yellow background. Seriously? No one could get any more creative than that?

Grady slowly shook his head, assessing Allison. “Good point, Kate,” he said blandly. “No worries there.”

Hey! Allison didn’t consider herself that bad a catch, even a fake one. What did Grady think he was? Irresistible? She issued her reply, her cheeks steaming. “Not a snowball’s chance in…in the…hot sun!”

“Great!” Kate loudly clapped her hands together like that settled it. “There’s no risk of anything going wrong because you two obviously can’t stand each other. The boundaries are clear! So then, what’s the problem?”

There were two major issues that Allison saw. One, she was against the idea. And two, Grady wasn’t interested either. Well, fine. What did she expect? That he would leap at the opportunity to help her? Grady wasn’t any sort of knight in shining armor, and Allison wasn’t a damsel in distress.

She definitely wasn’t into it any more than he was. Why, then, did Allison feel the slightest sting of rejection? She was overwrought, that’s what she was. The tension of this impending beach trip was getting to her, just as it did every year. Heat prickled her eyes and she quickly turned away as her cell phone buzzed. She lifted it off the countertop and stared down at the text. It was a photo of a guy sent by her college friend Carla. He looked to be in his forties and was plump and balding on top. Oh, yikes. Is that hair growing out of his ears?

Great personality.


Allison pushed “ignore” and the phone buzzed again.

This man was very thin and closer to her age. He wasn’t bad looking, but he wasn’t necessarily attractive either. Not that Allison was so shallow as to focus only on looks. Other things mattered too. She read the description beneath the new photo.


What was this? Medical week?

Loves your red pumps.

Ew! Carla had shared a picture? Allison wondered if she’d been wearing the pumps in the photo, or if it had been of the shoes alone. That second thought made her feel a little queasy.

The phone buzzed again and Allison looked down, spotting an attractive guy in his late thirties. He had a manly jaw and kind brown eyes. So what if he was graying a bit around the temples? There was nothing wrong with maturity. Within limits. Given that she’d just turned twenty-nine, Allison had decided her limit was thirty-seven. All right, maybe thirty-eight…thirty-nine…forty? So much of everything depended. She couldn’t wait to see what this guy did.