The Borrowed Boyfriend(9)

By: Ginny Baird


Allison couldn’t decide whether she wanted to thank—

or throttle—him. “You’re sure about this?”

“Extra sure.”

“Hmm.”

“What’s hmm supposed to mean?” Grady asked her.

“I guess that makes one of us.”





Chapter Four





The minute Allison buckled her seatbelt in Grady’s tiny sports car, she regretted her decision to let him drive. “Do we have to have the top down?” she asked loudly as wind whipped across her face, carrying long strands of blond hair with it.

Grady smiled at her congenially and shouted back, “What’s wrong? It’s a beautiful day!”

Allison glanced up at the clear blue sky and the smattering of clouds offsetting the brilliant sun. The morning was certainly gorgeous, but it was still windy—and cold, as far as Allison was concerned. She zipped up her jacket with a grumble, then fished in her purse for a hair tie.

“What are you doing?” Grady queried before cranking the ignition. He wore slim sunglasses and a brown leather jacket. If Allison didn’t know better, she’d swear he was an Italian film star. But Grady’s heritage was Irish, according to what Kate had told her.

“Fixing my hair.” Allison pulled a coated rubber band from her pocketbook and fashioned a makeshift ponytail, combing through her wildly flying tresses with her fingers until she secured them in place.

“Your hair looks great.” He gave her a cockeyed grin and Allison brought her hand to her head, realizing she’d missed several long strands on her left side.

“Right,” she said, flipping down the passenger-side mirror and making the needed adjustments. The wind kicked up again and a stone-cold sensation settled in the pit of Allison’s stomach. She was having serious second thoughts about this whole meet Grady, my boyfriend thing. Allison stared at her reflection in the tiny mirror, spying terror in her own eyes. “Grady,” she said, avoiding his gaze. “Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea. Maybe we should—”

“It’s going to be all right.” Grady laid a hand on her shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “It’s only for a week and we’ve rehearsed what we’re going to say.”

Allison turned to him in a panic. “About the sleeping arrangements—”

“The bedroll’s in the trunk, along with a sleeping bag.”

“And how are we going to explain that?”

“I’ve got a bad back,” Grady replied easily. “Sometimes, during the night, I need to sleep on a hard surface.”

“Like they’re going to believe that.”

“It probably won’t even come up. You can squeal and catch up with your friends while I unload the car. Nobody will see what I carry in. And if too many folks are hanging around the driveway when we arrive, I’ll just sneak out to the car and grab those things later.”

Allison started to feel better until her mind focused on the squeal part. “What do you mean, ‘squeal’ with my friends?”

Grady shrugged. “You know how women do.” He affected a high falsetto. “'Eeeeek! I’m so happy to see you!’ Kiss-kiss, hug-hug and then more shrieking.”

“That’s not fair. Men shriek too.”

“No, they don’t.”

“Some do.”

“Not any that I know.”

“Fine.” Allison testily tugged on her oversize sunglasses and sat back against the seat, her arms crossed in front of her.

“Ready to hit the road?” Grady asked from beside her.

This was it: Allison’s final chance to turn and walk away. More like, leap from the car and race back up the stairs and into her apartment. But it was too late. She’d already told her friends she was coming and bringing her new boyfriend. Allison hadn’t had the nerve to do this over the phone, so she’d sent a group text.

Grady O’Brien wasn’t Allison’s first choice for a substitute boyfriend. He probably wasn’t even her second or third. He might be good looking and successful. But much of his success came out of causing other people misery. Allison wondered if Grady even knew how many businesses he’d closed down, or how many people he’d put out of work. They were probably just numbers to him. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” she answered.

“Mind if I turn on some music?”

“It’s your car.” Allison said, still miffed by his earlier comment about women squealing. Even if what Grady had said was true, she hadn’t particularly cared for it. Allison was starting to put her finger on another thing she disliked about Grady. He was a self-assured know-it-all.

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