Fake relationship. Real feelings. Big problems.
Brody O’Donnel doesn’t believe in happily-ever-afters—at least, not for himself. But he wants the best for his vivacious, beautiful friend Gwen Danes, and he’s tired of watching her pine for a clueless man. Figuring a little bit of jealousy will motivate the guy, Brody proposes a fake relationship. It’s an outrageous plan, but Gwen figures there’s no harm in it—until they share a passionate kiss she never saw coming.
Suddenly, Gwen’s fighting a growing attraction to a man she knows she can’t have. After all, he’s just faking it…isn’t he?
If you want anyone to believe you’re considering Team Brody, you can’t look too surprised when you hear someone say something good about me. Tell me about my finer qualities. And keeping in mind the holiday weekend and your preexisting plans tomorrow, let’s keep the list limited to five. Pretend a friend wants to know what you like about me. What are you going to tell them—so they believe you’re interested?” Brody asked, resting his forearms on the small circular table, taking up most of it, and making the breadth of his shoulders stand out even more.
This was going to be cake.
Gwen reached for her drink and took a long dawdling sip. Then after an even breath, she straightened in her seat. Holding up one finger, she began.
“First, you’re very nice.” She closed her eyes and nodded for emphasis. “And second, incredibly funny.”
She paused. Brody’s chin had pulled back, his smile slipping from his lips.
“Nice and funny?” he asked, sounding like she just issued him two insults, instead of the complements they’d meant to be.
“Yes, those are good things.” Important things. Things that matter to her.
“When you’re shopping for a new best girlfriend, maybe.” Bringing his pint of Guinness to his mouth, he took a deep swallow. Shook his head and set it back on the table. “Gwen, you have to do better than this. No one, least of all Ted, is going to believe for one second that I’m getting under your skin if all they’ve got to work with is nice and funny.”
Fair enough. But she had other points as well. “Well obviously, there’s the whole body business.”
And there was the overconfident smile and gleam in his eyes she’d come to expect from this man. He sat forward, the corner of his mouth pulling up.
“Now we’re talking. This whole body business… Explain.”
“Explain?” she asked on a laugh. He was priceless. “Are you that desperate to feed your ego? Because I can’t believe you don’t know exactly what I mean.”
“I’m going to take it on faith, that pretty blush means you don’t think I’m hideous. But remember what we’re doing here. We’re selling a growing interest. Which means that you need to be able to tell someone what you like about me. And that whole body business, doesn’t really do it. Especially on the heels of nice and funny. But this one is important, because this whole body business is so different from Ted’s business. He’s lean, naturally skinny but not super athletic. Where as I’m built more like a—”
“Lumberjack.” She supplied waving her hand in his direction. “You know, with how big you are all over.”
One red-brown brow rose in question as his jaw shifted to the side giving him a crooked smile to match the gleam in his eyes.
“Some places even more than others, but Gwen, I’m surprised you noticed.”
And now she was fairly certain that pretty pink blush he’d mentioned, was more like a blazing red burning across her face.
“You know what I mean,” she chided once she was able to meet his eye again.
“You’re so tall and broad and muscley.” Especially the way he was sitting, leaning forward on his forearms like that, his shoulders and arms were massive. “And it’s not just for show. I mean, I know first hand how strong you are, and I’ve to got to say it’s pretty hot how easily you could carry a woman with as many curves as I’ve got. We should move that to number one.”
If her eyes weren’t deceiving her, it was Brody with the pretty blush. And now she understood the appeal. Because that was something she could see herself working for again.
Brody shook his head, before looking up at her. “Glad to hear you think so. Because you’re the one who needs to sound impressed. In fact, if it’ll help, I’d be happy to offer a repeat demonstration.”
For an instant, she let her eyes roam over his shoulders and arms, remembering the ease with which he’d handled her.
She shook her head to clear the thoughts.
“Very generous, but I’m good.” Then it was back to business. “Okay, four, your cocktails are unparalleled. And five, you’re very handsome. There. Five selling points for Brody O’Donnel. Satisfied?”
His expression was lukewarm at best.
Crossing her arms, she sat back in her seat. “Seriously? What’s wrong with my list?”
She’d thought it was pretty good.
“Let me show you how it’s done.”
She couldn’t wait.
“One, that laugh.” He closed his eyes, giving his head a slow shake as he rubbed a hand over the center of his chest, the motion drawing her attention to both. “There’s nothing like the sound of it. And damn, it gets me right here, every time.”
His eyes opened, one brow raised in what she could only assume was some kind of I-told-you-so fashion. And yeah, that was definitely different from what she’d given him.
“Two,” He leaned in even closer. “Her mouth. When she smiles, man, it’s like the whole room lights up or something. And her lips… she wears this light berry gloss that keeps me up nights wondering if she’d taste as sweet as she looks.”
The lips in question parted on a breath, and she blinked.
“Three, her eyes are like whiskey. This warm brown… And I swear, when I look in them too long, I get a little drunk. Four, she’s a teacher. A kindergarten teacher. And every time she talks about the kids in her class, you can just hear how much she cares about them. How much she loves her job. You know those are the luckiest little kids in the world. Except for maybe the boys, which brings me to number five. Because the curves on this girl.” He raised his hand to his mouth and bit his knuckle before letting out a short laugh. “I’d bet Belfast that fifty percent of that class is already in love with her and will be through time eternal.”
For a moment Gwen just sat there, staring at the man across from her. Too stunned by his list to move. But when she did, she had to concede, “That was amazing. Quality lines and very convincing.” She took another swallow sip of her drink and then licked her lips, tasting the lingering berry sweet of her gloss mingling with her cocktail.
Maybe a little too convincing.
Her eyes narrowed. “Are you some kind of player?”
Brody slid off his stool, straightening to his full height and stretching out his shoulders for a moment before stepping over to her chair and helping her up.
“No. I’m just observant. And for the record, I noticed all that before.”
Gwen stumbled, her eyes cutting quick to his. “When?”
Throwing his big arm around her shoulders, he drew her in, ducking his head so he was speaking just above her ear. “Before I figured out you were hung up on that pencil neck Ted.”
The fake relationship troupe can be so much fun when done well, especially when it’s being done to make someone else jealous and even more especially when we find out that at least one of the two fakers isn’t faking anything at all from the very beginning. With all of the above going on, the first half of this book was absolutely delicious.
And then Brody decides to go all noble on everyone–grrrr….
There were a few times that Brody and Gwen’s relationship veered off into the territory of big misunderstanding and I got a tad bit concerned, but they always managed to bring it back from the brink in a fairly reasonable manner…until Brody loses his flipping mind and decides that only he knows what’s best for Gwen and he’s going to push her towards that without letting her know what he’s doing first or giving her any say in the matter. OMG, I wanted to smack him. Gwen definitely should have smacked him. He pulls his head out of his butt in the end and Ms. Kelly gives us an absolutely adorable ending–which *almost* makes up for it.
But we do have a wonderful ending, so there is that. All kinds of HEA-goodness flowing everywhere with a super-cute where-everyone-else-in-the-series-is moment that left me with warm fuzzies and a goofy smile on my face, so…
The Decoy Date is the 4th book in the series, and though by starting with this one you won’t know the tight knit group of friends at its center as well, it could work okay as a standalone. I’d only read the first book in the series so far (May the Best Man Win ) and to be honest, I’d forgotten that I had until after I was finished with this one and looked at the rest of the books in the series and I did just fine.
Though of course now I have to read the rest of them, ASAP…
Rating: 4 stars / B-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
USA Today bestselling author Mira Lyn Kelly grew up in the Chicago area and earned her degree in fine arts from Loyola University. She met the love of her life while studying abroad in Rome, Italy, only to discover he’d been living right around the corner from her. They live in rural Minnesota.
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