Falling in love was never on the agenda. Oops…
Every family has an outcast, and in the Kindall family, it’s Lou. Avoiding them is her go-to move, but unfortunately, skipping her grandparent’s wedding anniversary celebration is not an option. Going alone, though? Total disaster. So, when her sexy neighbor volunteers to go with her, she agrees—quickly. Now, if only she could learn to ignore her very real attraction to her new fake boyfriend…
Jace Davenport knows exactly how it feels to be an outcast. His childhood certainly taught him that. That’s why he refuses to let Lou face her judgmental family on her own. Besides, maybe if he does a really good job pretending to be her boyfriend, she’ll consider upgrading him to the real thing…
A few hot kisses and stolen moments later, their fake romance starts to feel all too real. But is a happily ever after in the cards for this ex-soccer player and the girl of his dreams?
Lou and Jace will soon find out…
I stared at the text, dread pooling in my belly and making my mouth dry. The sounds of the coffee shop seemed to dim as I picked up my phone off the table. I’d been worrying about this happening when I’d asked my friend—and ex—to be my date for the party and reunion. Why in the hell did I ask Spencer of all people? Oh, right. Because he was my last option. I could hear my sisters and cousins asking about this mythical boyfriend who they thought I’d made up.
I’d stalled as long as I could before finally calling him. Spencer answered on the second ring.
“Hey,” he said.
Bile rose in my throat. “Hi.”
“I’m sorry to have to do this, Lou,” he started, and my shoulders drooped.
“Seriously, Spence? Fuck.”
“It turns out that Amie doesn’t have to go on her trip.”
“And what does that have to do with you coming to Elkwood with me?”
“What do you expect me to do? Tell my current girlfriend I’ll be gone for a week while pretending to be my ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend? She made some plans for us next weekend, and I can’t cancel on her.”
He’d had no trouble canceling on me every freaking chance he got when we were together. It was one of the reasons we broke up. I’d been stupid to ask him to fill the role of my boyfriend while in Elkwood. He couldn’t even keep his word when he was my actual boyfriend and I asked him to go home with me last Christmas. But I’d called or texted every guy I knew and none of them could go with me. Either they had prior engagements or didn’t want to do it.
It had been a last-ditch effort to ask Spencer, and now I was regretting my decision. What the fuck was I going to do now?
“Lou. You understand, right? And you can’t be mad at me about this,” he added after I hadn’t spoken for a few moments.
I hung up on him, dropping my head into my hands. My eyes prickled with unshed tears and that pissed me off more. When my phone started buzzing, I expected it to be Spencer calling back. It was worse.
“What do you want, Cheyenne?”
“I’m here too,” Savannah added. “We were talking, and Cheyenne insisted on calling you since Mama wanted to know—”
“Ma wants to know if you’re going to need an extra bedroom for your guest,” Cheyenne put in, cutting off our younger sister.
I bit my tongue to stop myself from trying to defend Savannah. She needed to learn how to stand up to Cheyenne, and I was dealing with my own shit right now.
“About that…” I started.
Cheyenne’s cackling laugh made me pause. “I told you she wasn’t bringing anyone, and it was all a fucking lie like every other time. So damn pathetic and can’t own up to your pitiful love life.”
I clutched my phone tighter, my blood starting to boil. “Tell Ma I only need one room. My boyfriend will be staying with me.”
For the second time in only five minutes, I hung up on someone, though I felt bad about hanging up on Savannah. I sent her a text apologizing and turned my phone on silent. The anger dissipated as fast as it'd sparked, and I felt drained. Those stupid tears were back, and I was trying hard not to cry in the middle of this busy coffee shop.
I brought my eyes up to meet clear blue ones that held genuine concern. What the hell was he doing here?
The moment I stepped into the cafe I knew I’d see her. It was like my body was tuned into her presence. There was a different feeling when I was in the same space with her. My eyes sought her out, and I found her sitting at a table in the middle of the coffee shop. Her head was resting in the palm of her hands, her shoulders slumped, and she seemed utterly defeated. I made my way through the other tables until I was standing at the end of hers.
She looked up at the sound of her name, and I hated how shiny her steel-gray eyes were. I’ve never seen her look so down; it was clear she was on the verge of tears. We’d never had a lengthy conversation in the year that I’d known her, but I’d seen her annoyed and pissed. I’d even seen her tired and amused. But I’d never seen her sad.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, of course,” she answered with what sounded like a hint of sarcasm.
I took a seat across from her. We weren’t close, or even friends, but I didn’t want to leave her alone when it was obvious something was wrong. Her phone lit up on the table and she glanced at it. She scoffed as she read the message and responded. Whatever was on her phone only seemed to make her more upset.
“Lou,” I said, and she brought her gaze up to mine. “What’s wrong?”
She hesitated for a second before speaking. “I have to go home for my grandparents’ wedding anniversary and our family reunion this coming Sunday. I don't have a date. To make it worse, I made it seem like I had a boyfriend who was coming with me.”My brows furrowed a little as I processed what she’d just told me. That was interesting and a little weird. There had to be more to this story. “You were planning on taking someone as a stand-in boyfriend?” “Yep,” she answered on a loud sigh that had a few people looking at us. “I let my stupid older sister get to me again and I lied and told them I was bringing someone. Lying about it once may make sense but to do it twice… now the person who was supposed to fill in as my fake boyfriend flaked on me. He was my last option, and I’m leaving on Sunday so it’s not like I can find a replacement in that time. I should’ve been honest. It’s just that everyone in my family is either married or they have children or both. Except me. My older sister, two of my cousins, and an aunt make sure it’s a topic of discussion when I go home. I want to go, see my parents and grandparents, and come back home unscathed.”She looked so defeated. I hated seeing her sad and dejected. I couldn’t do anything about her family but maybe I could help her out. “I can pretend to be your boyfriend and go home with you.”