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Never Kiss Your Fake Fiancé

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She needs money.
He needs a fake fiancé.
The perfect solution or the perfect mistake?

College student Ella Walsh is in desperate need of money to pay for her grandmother’s care.

Playboy Sean Fletcher is in need of a fake fiancé to prove to his father that his personal life is stable.

When Sean meets Ella and she refuses to go out with him, Sean is determined to find a way to change her mind. Sure, it might take a contract and a load of cash, but he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

Too bad Ella won’t be so easily won over.

Scroll down to read the first chapter.

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Chapter 1

Ella stared at the letter with growing dread. It was from Spring Grove, the assisted living facility where her grandmother lived, and it said that if Ella didn’t come up with the overdue payment of four thousand dollars, plus the next month’s payment of another four thousand dollars before the end of the month, her grandmother would have to find somewhere else to live.

At the thought of her sweet grandmother—who was more like her mother than her grandmother—being forced into some run-down institution that the government would pay for instead of the place that had been her home for the last five years, a place where she had friends, a place that she loved, Ella felt panic beginning to build. But how she was going to come up with that kind of money on her waitress salary on top of paying her college tuition, which was also due by the end of the month, she had no clue. Besides the two hundred dollars in her checking account, she had nothing. And with both her parents dead and no other family, it wasn’t like she could close her eyes and have a fairy godmother appear with bags of cash. Nope. It was up to her to figure it out, although at that moment she had no idea, short of robbing a bank, how she could possibly get her hands on that kind of cash. But doing something illegal wasn’t in the cards for her. Her grandmother had taught her better than that.

Somehow, she would figure it out. She always had. Ever since she’d turned eighteen five years earlier, she’d had to make her own way. That was when her grandmother’s health had begun to seriously decline and she’d needed more help than Ella had been able to give. So, Ella had found the assisted living facility where her grandmother now lived, and with the sale of her grandmother’s house, that expense had been covered and Ella had moved into her current place. But the money from the sale of the house had run out. And now the bills from Spring Grove were piling up.

Exhaling an audible sigh, Ella set the notice from Spring Grove aside and went to the minuscule closet in her tiny studio apartment and took out her waitressing uniform. She had to be at work in twenty minutes. No time to stew over her financial problems. She also had a paper due at the end of the week, so she had that to think about as well.

At the thought of all the things rapidly filling her plate, she felt her chest begin to tighten with anxiety. Taking several deep breaths to slow her pounding heart, she pictured a meadow filled with wildflowers and imagined lying on a hammock in the sun, a cool breeze brushing past her.

The imagery helped her reduce her anxiety, and her heart began to slow to its natural rhythm.

Feeling calmer, she thought, Maybe someone will leave me a crazily-generous tip tonight.

Chuckling at the ridiculous wish, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door.

When she got to The Sizzling Griddle, she put her purse in a small locker in the back, then got right to work. Soon, it would be the dinner rush and the evening would fly by, so she enjoyed the relative quiet before that happened.

“Hey, Ella,” Brittany said.

Ella smiled at her friend and co-worker. “Hey. You just get here?”

“Yep. I’m working til close. What about you?”

“Same.”

They didn’t chat for long—their boss, Oliver, frowned upon any socializing when they were on the clock. Ella respected that, although it made work a little less fun. Instead, she focused her attention on her customers.

The bell above the diner’s door tinkled. Ella looked up to see two men who looked like they were in their late twenties enter. A moment later, Brittany hurried over to them wearing a broad smile. Ella couldn’t hear what they were saying, but when Brittany gave both of them a hug, Ella smiled and focused back on topping off the salt and pepper shakers along the counter.

“Friends of yours?” Ella asked Brittany a short time later when they were both behind the counter.

Brittany laughed. “Yeah. My brother and a friend of his.”

Ella glanced at the duo, who were sitting beside a window eating their meal. Both men were attractive, but the one with the dark hair was particularly good-looking. “Which one’s your brother?”

Brittany looked toward the pair. “The cutie in the blue shirt.”

Ella softly laughed. Brittany’s brother was cute, but he wasn’t the one who had caught Ella’s eye. “What’s his friend’s name?”

“Sean.” 

Ella nodded, but before Brittany could say anything more, Ella picked up a pair of menus and carried them to a couple who had just sat at one of her tables. As she told the couple what the specials were, she couldn’t help but be aware of Brittany’s brother and his friend, who sat four tables away. She could hear their voices as they chatted, although she couldn’t make out what they were saying, but the deep voice of the man named Sean caught her ear and she had to work to not shift her eyes his way.

“I’ll give you a minute to look over your menus,” she told the couple she was serving, then she turned to walk away, her eyes sliding toward Sean. She could only see a sideview of him, but that didn’t stop her from admiring his profile, including the outline of his strong jaw that was visible through his neatly trimmed beard.

When Ella went to pick up the order for another customer, Brittany stepped in front of her. “I saw you eyeing Sean, but El, you should stay away from him.”

“Why’s that?”

“Ever since I’ve known him he’s been quite the player. Never dates any girl more than twice, and most only once.”

Not that Ella was even looking for love—she had no time for stuff like that—but hearing that the man who had caught her eye was a player was disappointing, because she found him super hot. 

“Thanks for the warning.”

“My brother, on the other hand…”

Ella laughed. She had too much going on to consider a relationship. 

Brittany chuckled, but didn’t push it, much to Ella’s relief. 

Despite what Brittany had said about Sean, as Ella worked, she found herself acutely aware of him, and when he and Brittany’s brother were done with their meal and walking toward the door, Brittany grabbed Ella by the wrist and practically dragged her over to the men to intercept them as they were about to leave.

“Brad, wait.” The men paused by the door, turning to look at both Brittany and Ella with questions in their eyes. “I wanted you to meet my friend Ella.” Brittany glanced at Ella before facing the men. “This is my brother Brad and his friend Sean.”

All eyes were on Ella. Working hard not to do more than glance at Sean, who, now that she was standing so close to him and looking at him straight on, she found even more attractive than she had at first, Ella focused on Brad. “Nice to meet you.” Her eyes flicked to Sean, who was gazing at her unabashedly, like he didn’t care that she might notice him staring. She tossed him a smile, and when he smiled back his lips revealed perfectly straight, white teeth. But it was the dimple that appeared on his right cheek that really caught her eye. Her heart skipped a beat at how attractive he was. She tore her eyes away, rather shocked at her visceral reaction she had to the man.

He’s a player. Don’t forget that warning from Brittany.

“How long have you worked with my sister?” Brad asked.

Her mind scrambling to do the math, Ella stammered, “Uh, six months?” She looked to Brittany to confirm the number.

“Yep,” Brittany said with a grin, like she was hoping Ella found Brad attractive.

More customers came in, and when Ella glanced at Oliver, who was giving them the evil eye, she smiled at Brad and Sean. “Better get back to work.”

Brittany chuckled, then nodded. “Good to see you guys.”

With a final look at Sean, who smiled at Ella with confidence, Ella said, “Nice to meet you,” then she turned and strode away.

At the end of her shift, Ella was mildly disappointed, though not at all surprised, that she hadn’t gotten a magical tip that had solved all of her problems. Suppressing a sigh, she got into her old Toyota and drove back to her tiny apartment. Once there, she took a quick shower, then pulled out her old laptop and started researching the paper that was due at the end of the week, her mind still churning over her serious financial challenge, and, much to her chagrin, her thoughts drifting to Sean as well.

* * *

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