Unexpectedly His(5)

By: Maggie Kelley

Nick groaned. Ever since she’d gotten together with Charlie, she was all hearts and cupids. He almost liked her better when she was betting his friend’s love life on national television. “C’mon, sis, I need a fiancée—stat—and since my newly committed-to-love sister is the city’s smartest Cupid…” He tossed out the all-hands-on-deck smile that used to con her into doing his chores when they were kids. She’d do the dishes and he’d sneak off to meet some girl by the river. Worked every time.

Jane pulled two bags of Skittles from the drawer and backhanded a pack that hit him square in the chest. “Nicholas, I’m going to keep this simple for you. There’s no way I’m setting you up with a client. Never going to happen, not in a million years.”

Apparently, the smile didn’t always work.

“So, I take it, that’s a no?” He tossed the bag of fruit candies onto the sofa.

“Yes, that’s a no.” A quick tearing of candy wrapper emphasized her words. “Can’t you seduce, or rather, convince one of your gal pals to sign on the dotted marital line? Jessica, for instance? Or what about that yoga instructor…what was her name…Dharma? Yes, Dharma would fit in very well at the firm.”

“Give me a break, Jane. The women I date—”

“The word ‘date’ seems like a stretch here.”

The muscles in his jaw clenched defensively. “We both know I’m not suited for lasting love, hell, I’m not suited for love of any kind. I enjoy my freedom, and while the women I date are varied and wonderful, I don’t want one of them taking this engagement thing to heart and ending up with one that’s broken. I’m not that guy. I’m easy, fun, sex-on-the-side guy.”

“Oh, right, I forgot,” she said with another eye roll. “Love’s all about sex on the side.”

“I think I liked you better before you became engaged to my best friend,” he said. “Besides, I’m not talking about love. I’m talking about marriage.”

“A fake marriage. No, wait a minute, that’s a little heavy-handed on commitment.” She sliced through the air with her hands in an emphatic gesture. “A fake engagement.”

He ignored the sarcasm and got up to pace the floor in front of the oversized desk she used to intimidate people. “What about the girl from Friday night?” Nick stopped and ran a hand over his jaw. Damn, he hadn’t meant to voice that particular thought. He turned toward his sister.

Her eyebrows rose, feigning disinterest. “You mean the girl from the cake?”

“Yes. The cake girl.” His eyes narrowed on her face. What was with the sudden lack of interest? His phone pinged, but he ignored the incoming text. “I asked Charlie how to contact her, but he didn’t have a clue.” Another ping. Damn, that was getting annoying. “How the hell can he not know where to find her?”

“Booking agents are so discreet nowadays,” she said, back to sarcasm and eyeing his phone. A third message lit up the screen. “Why don’t you answer? Maybe one of your current ‘first-date-with-benefits girls’ would like to sign on for the long term.”

Nick wagged a finger at her. “See? Now, that’s what I was talking about. That’s the kind of thinking that gets a man into trouble. I don’t need a girlfriend, I need a fiancée.” And then it hit him like an overwritten legal brief. “Or…maybe I need a professional.” Maybe he hadn’t thought it through until now—after all, what did he have to offer a woman looking for true love?—but a business relationship could definitely work.

“Really, Nick?” She raised an eyebrow at him. “A professional temporary fiancée?”

“Why not? All aboveboard, nobody gets hurt.” He countered with a cool shrug, unwilling to be dissuaded from an idea that could save his ass. “Maybe even a professional cake girl, one willing to sign on the dotted line of a short-term business relationship.”

“But as you’ve already said, we don’t know how to find that girl.” There was a thoughtful pause filled by the sound of Jane’s fingers drumming across the desk. “However…if it’s a strictly hands-off, business-type situation… I may know the perfect professional woman.” Her shrewd, slightly devious gaze narrowed on his face. “What about Marianne?”

“The new girl?” Nick shook his head in an imperative no. He’d run into her at Smart Cupid once or twice. She was nice enough, but always reserved and blushing. In order to convince his managing partners he’d fallen madly in love, he’d have to turn her into the type of woman he’d be willing to fall madly in love with. And frankly, he wasn’t sure it was possible. “There’s no way in hell anyone will believe I fell head-over-heels for the buttoned-up new girl. The woman is so not my type.”

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