The Borrowed Boyfriend(7)

By: Ginny Baird

“Truth is, she’s never even chosen one!” Kate revealed a bit gleefully. “Can you imagine anyone being that picky?”

Picky was not the word Allison would have used. Selective sounded better. Besides, she didn’t want to select from a text photo! Where was the destiny in that? This was all wrong, and every year things had only gotten worse, with her friends’ efforts becoming more desperate.

“Sometimes being picky is good,” Grady answered. “Too many people settle for the wrong one.”

“Or settle too quickly,” Allison replied.

Grady locked on her gaze. “I’ve heard of that happening too.”

Seconds ticked by, but neither one looked away. Allison had never fully appreciated the smoky hue of Grady’s eyes. They were a deep blue infused with touches of gray, and unlike any she’d seen. Allison found herself falling into them. Heat swept across her face and her pulse pounded harder. She tried to think of something to say, but Grady’s stare rendered her mute. In fact, it took her breath away.

“Yes, well!” Kate said a little too loudly. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Grady and Allison turned to her.

“Present company excepted!” Kate blurted out. “I mean, in our case,” she said eying Grady oddly, “everything is cool, right?”

Grady rolled back his shoulders, seeming to shake something off. “Yeah…right.” He glanced uncertainly at Allison before answering Kate. “It’s all good.”

Chapter Three

Allison appeared chagrined that Kate had started this unwieldy ball rolling. Probably the last person on earth she’d intended to dump her personal troubles on was her roommate’s boyfriend. Grady and Allison had barely had any interaction at all, and now he’d been privy to her embarrassing plight. Allison shot Kate an agitated look, then glanced apologetically at Grady. “I’m sorry Kate tried to get you involved in this.”

Grady pursed his lips, sensing her discomfort. He didn’t know why Kate seemed to be having such a good time exploiting Allison’s misfortune. The situation was clearly painful for her. “I’m sorry too, Allison. Sorry your friends are putting you through this.”

“They mean well,” she answered quietly. “Really, they do.”

Allison’s sad baby-blue eyes were on him and, all at once, something pinged inside. It wasn’t a big ping, but still, it was there. Like the sound of a pin dropping in a really quiet room. Only that room was Grady’s heart, and the ping was a tug at his heartstrings. Maybe he’d been working too hard, or maybe his supposedly ideal arrangement with Kate was finally getting to him. A more likely scenario: the pub chili he’d eaten for dinner last night was giving him heartburn. But if heartburn was to blame, what about that weird connection he’d felt when he’d stared at Allison earlier and she’d failed to look away?

Just watching Allison grow weepy-eyed was enough to break a grown man’s heart. The very thought of another beach week fix-up clearly tormented her. While Grady felt certain Allison had the strength to confront her friends eventually, at present she didn’t seem up to it. So why not go in with both barrels blazing and stage a counterattack? Grady could help Allison out of this tight spot, and then maybe she’d be amenable to helping him. Wasn’t that how life worked? You scratch my back and I scratch yours.

Even if Allison didn’t agree to his business deal at the outset, she at least might be willing to listen to Total Wines’ proposal. Grady was fairly confident in his powers of persuasion once he turned on the charm. All he needed was an opportunity, one that a week at the beach might provide.

Grady had intended to play this out a little longer, but he couldn’t let Allison suffer for one more minute. Not when it was within his power to alleviate her worries.

“Allison,” he began carefully. “I’ve been thinking it over, and I’ve decided that maybe Kate is right. Maybe I should go with you to Maine.”

Allison looked like she’d been thrown a curveball. “What?”

“I don’t mind doing you the favor, helping you through this rough patch.”

“Ye-es,” Allison queried skeptically, “and why is that? What’s in it for you?”

Grady decided if he told her the whole truth now, she might instantly reject his coming along. Better to wait and ease her into any work discussions after she’d gotten to know—and appreciate—him as the good-natured guy that he was. Allison had never really spent any time with Grady. Perhaps once she had, she’d see he wasn’t the ogre she imagined him to be. Grady wasn’t sure what he’d done to offend Allison, but somewhere along the line, it must have been something. Grady could ask her about it at the beach and smooth things over between them. Shortly afterward, Grady thought confidently, I’ll seal our deal.