The Borrowed Boyfriend(8)

By: Ginny Baird

“Like Kate said, I’ve already taken the time off. It will keep me from getting bored.”

“You said Maine was cold this time of year.”

“I’ll pack sweaters.” He hesitated a moment, then couldn’t resist. “There’s just one small thing.”

Allison arched an eyebrow.

“I’m not sleeping on the floor.”

“Agreed,” Allison said firmly. “Because you’re not going.”

“Okay,” Kate said defiantly. “Then turn your phone back on.”


Grady nodded in agreement. If what Kate had whispered in his ear was true, Allison would find another barrage of text messages waiting. Her bosom-buddy friends would harass and hound her right up until a few days before her trip. And if she didn’t choose someone herself, which according to Kate she never did, then her friends would pick a love interest for her. Maybe one day they’d get it right. But honestly, what were the odds?

Allison reached for her phone, her fingers twitching in resistance, like it emitted some rare biological disease and she might catch it.

“Go on,” Kate urged. “What are you waiting for?”

Allison snatched up her cell and switched it on. Seconds later her face fell as she scanned through the messages. “Thirteen new alerts.”

“Could be your lucky day,” Kate ventured. She smiled at Allison encouragingly. “I mean, if you agree to take Grady along. I think it’s a great plan—just for the week.”

“Just for the week,” Allison echoed, her resolve crumbling. Though she didn’t like the idea of pretense, she hated the thought of another blind date disaster even more. One of these days she was going to stand up to her friends and show them what she was made of. That she was capable, strong and sure, and didn’t need a man to validate her. But one of these days wasn’t right now, Allison realized with a touch of shame. She was chicken, and—all right, she’d admit it—the slightest bit embarrassed that eight years had passed, and she’d not managed to produce a legitimate boyfriend for one short vacation. In part, that was due to bad luck. A few of those years, she’d actually had steadies, just not at the precise time of the annual beach trip. When she’d tried to explain that to the others, nobody had totally believed her.

Allison shut her eyes and imagined the perfect getaway. Lazy walks along the beach, glorious sunshine and absolutely no stress. If bringing Grady along as a faux beau could help her achieve that nirvana, then maybe the ruse would be worth it. So yeah, she’d be sort of deceiving her friends. But honestly, didn’t they deserve it? They were the ones who wouldn’t accept her without another couple-half.

If anyone was to blame for some potential dishonesty, it certainly wasn’t her—or Grady, who was curiously offering his assistance. She didn’t know why he was, other than the fact that he probably felt sorry for her. Which represented a whole other load of emotional baggage. Then again, Allison had no real relationship with Grady, so why should any emotions come into play at all?

Grady was a grown man, capable of making his own decisions. Dreadful decisions that often meant the demise of smaller companies… Allison was starting to recall one of the very big things she disliked about him. But, really. Couldn’t she set that aside? For just seven days—and seven nights? It wasn’t like she was planning to marry the guy! Allison didn’t have to agree with Grady’s corporate values—or lack thereof. All she had to do was acknowledge how impressive he might look to other people. Other nosy, interfering, presumptuous people who thought they knew what was best for her. And that was being in love!

Allison’s phone buzzed again and her eyes popped open. She was down to two choices. She could either go to the beach with Grady, or take a chance on being saddled with another virtual stranger. At least, with Grady, Allison understood what she was getting into. Plus, they could work out the sleeping arrangements ahead of time.

“Okay, Grady,” she said, meeting his eyes. “You’re on.”

Kate couldn’t contain her excitement. “Really?” she asked with a happy squeak, but Grady didn’t utter a word. Instead, he was staring at her like…like Allison didn’t know what. Like he was genuinely pleased.

“We’ll have things to discuss.”

Grady’s mouth tipped up in a smile. “Naturally.”

“Ground rules to establish.”

“Of course.”

“And I’ll take the floor.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”