Nate Kincaid, wants to get out of debt and get his family off his back about his relationship status. The second means he needs a serious girlfriend, but after the death of his fiancé, he isn’t ready. No one knows about his nightmares—the ones that chase him into the dark places of grief. Dealing with debt means his fledgling veterinary practice must be successful—business before anything else. Always. Maybe a pretend relationship would solve his second problem so he can concentrate on the first.
Full-time psychologist and part-time model, Lauren Royall, has the perfect life. As a therapist she helps people. As a model, her free spirit reigns. When Nate suggests she pose as his girlfriend, she accepts on a lark. Lauren senses his pain and wants to help. She hadn’t counted on falling for the guy or the painful memories from her past his situation evokes.
“You’re a walking contradiction. One of you brings me flowers and the other turns his back on me. One minute I think you like me and the next I feel like a leper.” She took a breath and plunged ahead. “Are you playing some kind of game?”
“No, no games. Gun shy, maybe. Getting too close to a woman can open a man up to a world of hurt.”
“And you’ve been there, done that?” His expression closed and she immediately missed the carefree man he’d been before she’d hit whatever nerve had made him flinch. She wanted that relaxed man back.
“Yeah, but I’m not ready to talk about it.”
“Fair enough. What would you like to talk about? It’s a beautiful day. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company. I’d like to keep it that way.” She’d find a way to tease out happy Nate or die trying.
“Well I do have something on my mind. A problem you might be able to help me solve.”
He had the look of a fox approaching the hen house. He wanted what was inside, but wasn’t sure what might be lying in wait. She put a smile in her voice to put him at ease. “I’m listening.”
“My family’s been bugging me about finding a steady girlfriend. They seem to think I’m afraid to get serious about anyone.” He picked up one of the containers and lifted the lid.
“Are you afraid of getting involved?” She didn’t expect him to open up but thought it was worth a shot.
He sniffed the contents of the container and put it back down. “No, just haven’t found anyone I want to date on a steady basis.”
He swallowed hard and looked away. Nate was lying, What part was the lie—that he hadn’t found anyone he wanted to date or that he was afraid to get involved? “What can I do to help you solve your problem?” she asked.
“I was thinking, maybe you and I could date, like we’re a couple, so my family would back off.”
A spark of annoyance flickered in her chest. He wanted people to think they were a couple but didn’t really want to be a couple. “Let me see if I understand. We’d date. We’d pretend to be serious about each other but it’d really be casual?”
“About sums it up.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I like you. I think we have fun together and when my family decides I’m not avoiding having a serious girlfriend, we can still be friends. You interested?”
“We do have fun together and since we’re both concentrating on our careers, a serious relationship isn’t something either of us needs.” She stuck out her hand. “You’ve got a deal.”
“Good.” He shook her hand. “What is all this stuff?” He indicated the food.
Silly man thought this was the end of their discussion. She’d let him deflect—for now.
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