Fix Her Up

Page 26

“And if she doesn’t?”

Restless and agitated, Travis cut him off. “Are you going to hit me or not?”

Stephen looked like he wanted to say more, but shrugged and set his coffee down on the roof of the van instead. “I think you know I have to.” He put up his fists, rolled his neck. “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

“Fuck’s sake. Just do it already.”

His friend stared at him for so long, Travis wondered what the hell he was seeing. Finally, Stephen let his hands drop. “Nah, I’m going to pass. I think you’re headed for something even more painful.”

Travis was left standing beside the minivan feeling like he’d been sucker punched anyway.

Chapter Thirteen

Georgie rolled on her back in the grass, laughing as half a dozen five-year-olds dog-piled on top of her. The impact of the children knocked her red wig off, sending hair spilling out in every direction, covering half her face and nearly dislodging her spongy red nose. A dog joined the party, licking her face and sending kids and parents alike into fits of amusement. This was the part she loved most about birthday parties. The sugar high. When kids turned totally loopy and stopped being shy. Yes, the second half of a party was always the best. It was also the portion of the show where physical injury became a real possibility, but that was just splitting hairs.

Speaking of splitting hairs, it had been forty-six hours since she’d seen Travis. They’d made a deal to be in a fake relationship and shook on it, but it seemed they were waiting for the other to make the first move. If they remained true to form, Georgie would be the one to show up and foist her presence upon him. Doing so never gave her pause before. Was it so bad that she wanted him to make the first fake move this time?

What did it say about her personality that she’d had to create distractions to keep herself from dropping in on him? That she was proactive? Thankfully those distractions had been super productive. Over the last couple days, she’d contacted a designer about a new website for the business and placed an advertisement for freelance employees. She didn’t have the money to bring anyone on full-time yet, but she would get there. Having a plan filled her with confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

A feather-like feeling tickled the back of Georgie’s neck and she looked around, assuming one of the parents was trying to get her attention. But nope. They were all congregated around the snack table gossiping. So why did her skin continue to prickle?

Georgie looked toward the gate and found Travis watching her over the painted white posts, a smirk on his ruggedly beautiful face. Every inch of her body started to buzz, her mouth going dry. Holy shit. She’d imagined him into reality.

Travis was making the first move.

“This is what your future looks like, Georgette Castle,” one of the mothers called while walking past the clown-kid dog-pile in the grass, a pizza box in her arms. “Follow me, party animals.”

Travis’s smirk faded fast. He lifted a hand to remove his sunglasses and there were his eyes. So intense. They beamed down at her like she was a thousand-piece puzzle, stirring up chaos inside her rib cage.

“Travis?” Georgie murmured, sitting up to adjust her wig as the children abandoned her to follow the scent of pizza. “What are you doing here?”

“I saw your car,” he said, sounding gruff.

When he didn’t elaborate, she noticed the building discomfort in his frame and laughed to split the tension. “You look like a live childbirth just went by in your Facebook feed.”

The joke did nothing to make his shoulders relax. Not that she was pulling off casual, either. At least not internally. Her heart was spasming like a dying fish. The last time she’d seen Travis, they were half naked and giving each other orgasms, so some nerves could be expected, right?

God, he looked mouthwatering. His heather-gray T-shirt molded to his ripped stomach, his face boasting the sprouting of a beard and tired eyes. He looked so out of place in the suburban setting—like one of those charity commercials where a famous athlete visits a fan on their doorstep. All broad shoulders and corded forearms. That was Travis Ford. A gorgeous, talented bachelor meant for a bigger, flashier life, but sent to live with normal mortals instead.

And she was sprawled on her ass in a clown suit.

Their sweaty hookup must have been a dream.

But she’d dreamed enough about Travis to be able to separate fantasy and reality. The reality was way more hands-on. And not her own hands, either, like usual.

It was definitely Reality Travis towering above her now, because Fantasy Travis never had tired eyes or seemed unsure. This man did, though. And he was the one she’d been missing.

She’d missed her fake boyfriend.

Was she crazy to embark on this mission?

There’d never been any fear of Fantasy Travis hurting her. She could just conjure up another dream, couldn’t she? A better one that ended in him kissing her under the shower of ticker tape during a World Series champions parade. But the more she got to know Reality Travis, the more Fantasy Travis started to fade, leaving this real, breathing, complicated man in his place. He appealed to her even more.

So much more.

Travis seemed to be angling his body to block something behind him, making Georgie purse her lips. “What’s going on? More autograph seekers?”

“There’s a photographer following me.” He raised an eyebrow at her dropped jaw. “It’s now or never, baby girl.”

God, he just had to go and call her that. Thank God she was wearing her clown suit, because the nickname sent goose bumps coursing down her arms. “A photographer? As in paparazzi? That was fast.”

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat, no longer looking at her. “The network announced their short list of candidates for the new voice of the Bombers last night.” His expression was kind of perplexed. “I’m . . . still on it.”

“Travis, that’s amazing!” Georgie lunged to her feet, joy making her want to open the gate and throw her arms around him. When she saw the raised camera, she squeaked and hid behind Travis’s impressive form instead. “Wow. They don’t even ask.”

“Nope, we’re fair game.” His blue eyes strayed to her mouth and seemed to darken, his right hand lifting to cradle her jaw over the gate. “But out in the open like this, we can decide what they see.”

“Oh,” she whispered, inhaling his masculine scent. “That’s nice.”

“Nice? Maybe.” His tongue dragged temptingly along his full lower lip. “We know I can be a little mean.” Georgie was positive he was about to kiss her, but his forehead knitted together. “So does everyone in town know you want a bunch of kids?”

What did that have to do with kissing her? “Not everyone,” she answered honestly, looking up into unreadable eyes. “Just everyone who sees me around them. Which happens a lot, because, hello, clown.”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “You kind of come alive around them, don’t you? Even more than usual.” She wanted to bask in the compliment, but something was bothering him. That much was obvious. “Associating with me could mess that up for you, Georgie. Might be hard to find a nice guy after being with me. Even if it’s just for the cameras.”

Just for the cameras. That’s right. Why was it so hard to remember that when he was standing so close, looking at her with something akin to tenderness? His visible concern made it almost impossible to swallow. “If a man held something like that against me, he wouldn’t be a nice guy. Definitely not someone I’d . . .”

“Make a family with,” he said quietly.


They continued to scrutinize each other over the gate, drawing closer ever so subtly. Because of the photographer? Or because she physically couldn’t stop herself from gravitating in his direction?

“Travis Ford?” The spell he’d effortlessly wrapped around her was broken when the father of the birthday boy shouldered past her with an outstretched hand, holding it out to Travis. “No one told me the local legend was invited.”

“I wasn’t,” Travis answered, shaking the man’s hand but still looking at Georgie. “My girlfriend here is the entertainment and I’ve never gotten a chance to watch her perform. Mind if I . . . ?”

“Of course.” The father swung open the gate. “Come on in. We’ll get you a beer.”

Travis sent her a wink. “Perfect. Thank you.”

Georgie watched with a mouth poised to catch flies as Travis waltzed into a children’s birthday party, parting the crowd of parents like a pop star through a packed arena. Just like when Travis walked through town, the reaction to his presence was mixed. Men either greeted him with man-crush vibes—overdoing the handshake and widening their stance, as if preparing to bro down over some baseball talk—or edged toward their wives and tried not to look insecure. A couple of the women pretended he didn’t exist, probably not wanting to give Travis the satisfaction of knowing he could sell a million copies of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue. And yet another contingency of women did their smiling, head-tilting best to dazzle him.

And then there was Georgie, standing in the middle of the yard with her trap wide open, watching Travis smoothly make himself at home. She was blown back to reality when a little girl tugged on her polyester sleeve. “Can we do the bubble party now?”

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