Chapter 2.2 : All My Friends Are Married (part 2)

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Raul blinks. "They've never said anything," he says.

"And they won't. Your Tia Grace is a staunch feminist, your Tia Carmen is the same but more low-key."

"Say you're right." He ran a hand over his face, now covered with a light layer of weekend scruff on his chin and sides. "Say this is some ploy to get me to find a woman to make an honest man out of me. Surely, they don't think I can get a wife within two days?"

I give him a shaky smile, wondering if he could hear the rapid pounding of my heart against my chest. "They know you well enough to know you'll figure it out somehow."

He was quiet for a long time.


I look down at my computer so he doesn't see my eyes. "I've set up an appointment with your lawyers tomorr— in the afternoon. They're asleep but I left them a voicemail right after you called me. You'll need a prenup but you'll have to explain the situation to them."

"Explain that my meddling aunts have forced my hand?" He laughed bitterly.

"That you and your wife— whoever she may be — will only be married for, say, a year. Or five years." My tone is efficient, almost robotic at this point. "It's up to you but I recommend five years. One year is too short a time to fool anybody."

He's pouring himself a drink from the wet bar. "Go on."

"You have friends, Raul. Female friends. Maybe one of them may be willing to do this for you." I glance down at the browser tabs on my laptop. "Or you could marry an actress. A good one, but not too famous. A good actress can convince your aunts the affection is real."

"How real do they expect it to be, when I apparently have to conjure up this woman before Wednesday?" He takes a large swig of his drink. I'm assuming it's vodka, from the look of it. He's not going to offer me any, of course. I'm here to work.

"I think ..." I place my trembling hands on my lap under the desk, hoping he hasn't noticed them. "I think they just want you to make the effort."

"So these are my two options — a friend or an actress?"

I shrug. "I may be able to think of another option by tonight. But for now, that's what I have."

Raul stares at me for so long I wonder if he'd fallen asleep standing up. With his eyes open.


"What?" Katelin says.

I realize I've been staring at her for a minute or so. The idea just ... fit too well. Every time bits of information arrange themselves into a perfect pattern of an idea, the rest of the world just falls away.

"You can say no," I say.

She blinks, looking confused. "Say no to what?"

"To what I'm about to ask you." I push away from my desk and stalked to her desk. I grin at her puzzled expression as I pull up a chair and position it in front of her desk. Sitting down, I say, "Katelin Berano, will you marry me?"

She jumps to her feet. "Sir!" she says, her voice high-pitched. "What are you doing?

I lean back and cross my arms, an exaggerated look of hurt on my face. "You could at least pretend the idea of marrying me wasn't so horrifying, Kate. I have feelings, too, you know."

"Marrying you..." Her voice trails off.

I shrug. "You said I could ask a friend. You're my friend." The thought brings a smile to my face. "Better than a friend. You're actually useful to have around."

"I'm your employee." She's still standing, almost frozen against the wall. "We're not friends."

The look of thinly-veiled horror on her face made my gut twist. Is the idea of marrying me that abhorrent to her? It's enough to make a man question his own character if the person he works most closely with at work has such a poor opinion of you as a possible life partner, even a fake one.

"I said you could say no." I shrug, as if to say It was just an idea, jeesh. "You have to admit, it's a practical solution idea. I trust you. I'd like to think you trust me."

"It will be... uhm, a conflict of interest."

"I don't see how. Either as my assistant or my..." He paused. "Or as my wife, your interest will still be to help me keep my job."

Her gaze evades mine. "I can't very well go back to being your assistant after our divorce."

I couldn't help the chuckle that escapes me. "Is that really your biggest concern? That you'll be out of a job?" At her look of consternation, I hold up a hand. "Your alimony should be more enough that you won't have to worry about that. At the very least, it will be more than whatever I'm paying you."

She catches her lower lip between her teeth. Could she possibly be considering this? I feel myself relax for the first time this evening. No matter what, I can always rely on Kate to make everything right.


I turn to see a tall, lithe woman leaning against the door frame.


I'll be posting Chapter 3.1 on Tuesday, June 7. The latest chapters are available to my lovely Patreon subscribers :

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