Georgie didn’t hold any illusions that she could be Travis’s one. But she couldn’t deny an odd sense of responsibility to prove to Travis he was worthy of finding and keeping his one. Even if it wasn’t her. When no one else had been up to the task of forcibly removing Travis from his downward spiral, she’d thrown lo mein at his head. Did she have the courage to take one more step?
They might be in a fake relationship. What if she could make it feel real?
Real enough that Travis realized what he was capable of.
“Georgie, are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Georgie tapped her lip. “Um . . . what’s next on your infamous agenda?”
But as Bethany perked up and started to read from her clipboard, Georgie was forming her own.
Georgie slicked paste onto the final cutout for her zombie birthday party vision board, placing the green slime recipe just below a scene involving dry ice and a strobe light. Hello, next-level birthday party. She could see it now. Kids draped in medical gauze and fake guts walking in slow motion through the backyard, trying to complete the apocalypse scavenger hunt before time ran out. Until now, she’d been entertaining the five and below set, but it occurred to Georgie she was missing out on the older kids. They wouldn’t scare as easily, and zombies never went out of style. She couldn’t wait to put this option on the website.
The doorbell rang and Georgie leaped from her position on the living room floor into a battle stance, a scream lodged in her throat.
So much for the under fives being the scaredy-cats.
Gathering her composure, Georgie made her way to the door and opened it. There was no one on the other side, but whoever had rung the bell had left something behind. Even after she stooped down to pick the object up, it took her a minute to realize what it was.
A trophy had been left on her front porch. It was cheap and garish, with a little plaque on the bottom that read WINNER, TRAVIS FORD DATING CONTEST. Upper lip curled in disgust, she searched her cul-de-sac for whoever had left the unwanted object and spotted no one. With a sniff of indignation, she slammed the front door of her house, entered the kitchen, and shoved the trophy as deep as it would go in the garbage, burying it beneath coffee grounds and eggshells.
When the deed was done, Georgie paced her kitchen. The trophy made her even more determined to show Travis his worth—and she needed to act. Now.
Unplugging her phone from the charger, she meandered her way into the living room, plopping down into a cross-legged position on the floor. Georgie had texted boys before—she wasn’t a total newbie. Having always been the type to get friend-zoned, she’d never phone flirted, though. But if she was going to clue Travis in to his own potential, she’d reasoned it was better to dip in a digital toe, instead of diving right into the deep end.
Georgie rubbed the phone against her lips, trying to conjure the perfect, easy breezy text message. She couldn’t make her ulterior motives obvious, but she wanted him to talk to her like . . . a boyfriend. A real one. The key would be for her to remember their relationship was all for show and nothing more. She frowned as she dropped the phone into her lap, her fingers moving over the screen.
G: Heyyy youuu.
G: Hey, did you call me? Sorry I missed it. While I already have you . . . wanna talk flavored lube?
G: I hear sea salt caramel mochas put people in a good mood. If you’re free, I’ll let you put me in one.
“Dude, that’s pretty bleeping good,” she murmured, her finger hovering over the send button. “Dare I send this perfectly crafted text message, or do I chicken out?”
She tipped her face up toward the ceiling and breathed deeply through her nose, dropping her thumb to the blue icon. Sent. There, it was done. She’d invited Travis for an afternoon coffee date and he could very well say no—
Georgie’s phone vibrated and she snatched it up off the floor.
T: What was that?
G: What was what?
T: A very flirtatious tone, Miss Castle. Don’t think I missed it.
G: Are you going to put me in a good mood? Or do I have to do it myself?
Wait. Was that flirty or sexual? Flirty. Probably. No, definitely flirty. As soon as she sent the message, Georgie fell back onto her area rug and closed-mouthed squealed. Oh my God. This was why her friends in college had walked around in a hormonal haze. There was something exhilarating about making yourself vulnerable to the opposite sex. And the anticipation of their reaction? It was like a free fall. A little voice in the back of Georgie’s mind told her it wouldn’t feel like this with just anyone, but she ignored it and lifted her phone as it buzzed again.
T: Your good mood is better when I’m the one giving it to you. Grinders in 20.
“Twenty minutes?” Georgie was off the floor like a shot, stumbling on her way to the bedroom and pulling out the first outfit she spied upon opening her dresser drawer. A jean skirt and a blue tank top. She stripped off her yoga pants and T-shirt, shoving her body into the new clothes, ripping off the tags as she kicked open her closet in a search for shoes. A moment later, she jogged down the hallway, her sandals slapping off the hardwood floor—and out the house she went.
It wasn’t until she parked at Grinders did she remember a bra.
Or remember she’d forgotten to wear one, rather.
If there wasn’t a camera on Travis’s tail again today, he wouldn’t have agreed to the coffee date. At least that’s what he continued to tell himself as he parked outside Grinders and watched the white Escalade pull along the curb across the street. He wasn’t here simply to get his Georgie fix. Or because she’d given him a hard-on via text. This was about business. His agent was excited about his chances of getting the job. Hell, he was calling more than he had while Travis was in the league. He was in the position to be their top pick. But he needed her to make it happen.
He scanned the street for Georgie. Despite his eagerness to lay eyes on her, he nursed a dose of guilt. This plan of theirs felt like it was benefiting him far more than her. Sure, everyone in town—and beyond—was buzzing about how she’d defended him in the Waterfront the other night. Most of the headlines ran along the lines of “Don’t Mess with Two Bats’s New Girlfriend.” A lot of men might have felt like their masculinity was being challenged by having a woman come to their rescue, but goddamn, Travis felt the exact opposite. This warm glow wouldn’t dissipate, no matter how much time passed.
He needed to give something back to Georgie, to make fake dating him worth her while. Her family was the main reason she’d struck her end of the bargain, wasn’t it? When would he get to return the favor she’d done for him the other night? Simply taking her out for drinks or coffee didn’t seem adequate.
The fingers he’d been tapping on his thigh stilled when he spied Georgie crossing the street. Christ Almighty, she looked sexy as hell for a midweek coffee date. That skirt was pure sin wrapped around her hips and ass—but why was she wearing a scarf?
Travis pushed out of the truck with an eyebrow cocked. “You realize it’s summer, right?”
“Yes,” she returned quickly, stopping on the other side of the vehicle’s door, which was open between them. “I’m cold.”
Concern trickled in. “Are you getting sick?”
She visibly latched onto that. “Probably. That’s probably it.”
Again, the need to do more for her prodded Travis. His rule about avoiding being alone with her went right out the window in the face of her needing help. Needing him. “Let me take you home, then. I’ve got a smoothie recipe that’ll help ward it off. Used to make them before games when I felt myself getting a travel bug.” Before he could stop himself, he reached over the top of the door and twisted a piece of her hair around his finger. “Sound good, baby girl?”
Georgie swayed a little but seemed to catch herself. “Is there a camera?”
“A what?” It took a moment for her meaning to penetrate. “Oh. Yes. White Escalade.”
Did he imagine the spark dimming in her eyes? Her head dipped before Travis could make a judgment, Georgie coming around the open door of the truck and wrapping her arms around his waist. The perfect melding of her curves to his planes almost took the wind out of him. All he could do was focus on keeping his breathing even as he dropped his mouth to leave a kiss on the crown of her head. She snuggled closer—no, he pulled her closer. When had he started hugging her so tightly?
“I lied about getting sick,” she said, her words muffled by his chest.
Relieved and confused at the same time, Travis laid his cheek on top of her head, telling himself it was all for the pictures. “Why?”
Georgie pulled back a couple of inches, casting a glance over his shoulder at the photographer. “I’m wearing a scarf because I forgot to put on a bra.”
Before he could guess her intentions, she unknotted the scarf and tugged it open. Travis groaned, low and heavy, his dick bulging in his jeans. Taller than Georgie as he was, he could see way more than the swell of her tits. Way more than the outline of her tight nipples where they strained against the light blue cotton of her tank top. He could see straight down the middle of her cleavage to the flat stomach beneath. “Jesus, put the scarf back on. You might as well be naked.”