Preview of The Real Deal

“Ruby, what are you doing here? How did you know I was here?” he asks, tightening the knot of rope in his hand. He has a dark gray t-shirt hugging his taut muscles. 

Fuck, he looks like he has a talent with that rope.

I shrug a shoulder and take in the view of his sailboat. It’s only fitting that his boat is actually called Bossy Blue. He’s invited the girls out a few times on it, but I always took a pass whenever I was in town.

“Clearly you’re compensating for something,” I quip, and he gets my joke instantly, that I mean his boat size in relation to his dick.

His face brushed with well-kept stubble relaxes. “Good day to you too.”

“I figured this is where you would be, I overheard you tell someone at the wedding last night,” I clarify that I am not a stalker.

“Okay, but what are you doing here?”

“Right… uhm… let’s get married.” It shoots out of my mouth, and it surprises me that my tone is serious, but somewhere on the taxi ride over, this idea kept repeating itself until it seemed like a great plan.

Cole chuckles and lifts his sunglasses off his brown eyes. “Funny. Now, come on, what brings you here?”

“I’m serious,” I reply one-toned.

He studies me for a few seconds, and I nervously bite the corner of my lip.

“Want to come up so we can talk?”

I shake my head. “I’m not good with boats. I get sick on them.”

“I’m confident this marriage is doomed then, if you can’t even get on my boat.” I hear the humor in his tone, but to my surprise, he moves and then hops off to join me on the dock. He crosses his arms, with that t-shirt showing me yet again the man has some secret muscle action happening.

“Can we talk?” I ask.

“Please, let’s. Now really, what brings you by?” he asks again.

I guess I need to be clearer. “Let’s get married. You and me.”

His eyes widen. “You’re not joking, are you?”

“No. I don’t think I am.” I sound unsure.

He laughs, and I never noticed but his laugh is deep and smooth and sneaks into the corners of your body to vibrate. “Ruby, what’s going on?”

A long exhale escapes me as I walk to the wooden post to perch on. “Stewart Hayes and my father. My father is too blind to realize he’s being played. Over my dead body will Stewie take over my father’s role.”

Cole lets out a scoff before he scratches his cheek. “So, my theory is right. That little punk drives me insane.”

“Listen, my father should have sold a year ago. Any man who works like he does should be retired and on the golf course every day. Not to mention he should watch his cholesterol, as I don’t need to lose another parent. It’s too early for him,” I admit honestly, and Cole’s look is unusual. The known player and smug man appears to just be listening, and patiently so.

I continue, “If I’m married, then you get my two votes and you’re set. By Thanksgiving, the board wants to finalize the plan forward. If I’m married, I also get my trust fund, so I win too.”

Ahh, the princess wants her trust fund; there it really is. You just want to fake a marriage?” He looks at me, astonished or impressed, I’m uncertain.

“Well, I mean, on paper it needs to be real,” I clarify with a funny face.

“So, a marriage of convenience?”


“Won’t it be obvious that’s what we’re doing?”

Now I have to give him a confident grin. “No, because I am sure you can fake affection in public. It’s what you normally do with your library of women, right?”

His lower jaw goes slack, and I hear him groan in the back of his throat. “Again, your opinion of me really is stellar. I don’t fake it, princess. I’m a hundred percent quality assured, excellent at what I do, no matter who it is with.”

“Great, we’ve established you rank yourself like grade-A meat. Now, are you in or not?”

“While I do want to add your father’s company to my portfolio, and this would be an easy fix, I’m not sure marrying someone who finds me tolerable and neutral is how I want my token marriage to go.” He crosses his arms and glances quickly at a couple down the dock arriving to their boat.

“Neither one of us have interest in getting married, perhaps ever. We can do a quickie ceremony and play ball for the next few months, like two people who are confident in what they want.”

“I like your philosophy, but it’s more complicated than that. What, you just move in with me?” he asks, and I feel a line of questioning coming.

“Husbands and wives do tend to live together, yes.”

“You’re just going to give up your apartment in New York?”

“I have a small place in New York as a base, but the landlord is selling anyhow, so I was planning to move back to Chicago next month.”

He slowly nods. “Perfect timing.”

“You have a cleaning lady?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with this?” He is absolutely puzzled.

Quickly, I catch him up. “She’s loyal?”

“I don’t know. She’s new.”

“Fine. You’ll get a new bed, since I don’t want to feel your broken-in mattress.”

He grins at my answer and his eyes seem impressed. “You’re sleeping in my bed too?”

My hands land on my hips. “Again, all-in on the pretend relationship, and we have to be believable. I wouldn’t put it past Stewie to bribe the cleaning lady for information. But your paws can stay on your side of the bed.”

“And your claws can refrain from wanting to touch me, since I sleep naked.”

I gulp, and that thought enters my mind—surprising me by how it may not be half bad.

“Fine. Your eyes can look away when I arrive to bed in my usual outfit… scraps of lace.”

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Preview of The Real Deal
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