Falling for Her FianceBy: Cindi Madsen
To everyone out there taking a chance on love.
Apparently, even spammers were bound and determined to shove her lack of a love life in her face today. Dating sites filled her junk folder. She could View Beautiful Singles or WINK at singles now—free for three whole days! Did winking usually cost more? Dating a millionaire would probably be nice, but the Be one of our cougars! from CougarDating.com stung. Hello? She wasn’t that old.
There was also an exclamation-marked e-mail about increasing the size of something she didn’t have. But apparently, it was a very pressing matter.
Dani clicked the box to select them all, hit the delete button, and watched them disappear. If only she could do the same to her work inbox. There were approximately thirty e-mails about the upcoming retreat now that more details had been announced, most of them in screaming caps and containing multiple exclamation points, because one just didn’t convey enough freakin’ excitement.
Of course they’re excited. They all get to take their significant others and get in good with the boss.
While the company would never call the retreat couples exclusive, the one they’d had two years ago proved that being part of a duo meant more one-on-one time with the boss and his wife. Wayne Bridges always bragged about how Bridges Marketing, Inc. was a family-friendly business—he also had this whole competition-makes-you-stronger stance—and she knew one very pompous jerk had been promoted over her as a result, even if Wayne would deny it.
And maybe Mr. Pompous’s marketing degree had edged him in, too, but Dani had done most of the work for every account they’d taken on together. All the work and none of the credit. But with a new senior exec position opening up, she was going to change that, no matter what it took. Because medical bills were expensive, and unless she won the lottery soon, the only way to get extra money was to move up, preferably ASAP. Mama was now living in Florida with Abuela Morales, taking over the physical care as well as working long hours to try to pay for everything. Dani was helping financially as much as she could, and between the two of them, they were still barely squeaking by every month. Mama told her not to stress, that it wasn’t her responsibility, yet she felt the constant burden weighing her down. When she’d gotten all the scholarships she could for college—both for academics and basketball—and still came up short, her family had pooled their money so she could go. Abuela Morales, her maternal grandmother, was the one who’d given her the most.
Dani drummed her fingers on the desk, trying to figure out how she would push past the fact that she couldn’t participate in most of the physical competitions at the retreat without a partner and still get the promotion anyway. Not to mention the fact that she tended to freeze up around her boss, like his presence cut off the part of her brain where full sentences were stored.
Her cell phone rang, Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” filling the air. That song meant her day was about to get better, and it even had her cracking a smile when she answered.
“Tell me I don’t have to go,” Wes said. He was the one who’d programmed JT’s song as his assigned ringtone the last time they were together, claiming the tune was “so me.”
“You don’t have to go,” Dani said.
“Thanks. And thanks for not asking what you’re giving me permission to miss.”
Dani stood and leaned against the wall of her gray cubicle. From this viewpoint, she could see the setting sun through the window of the office she hoped to soon make hers. “You’re talking about your sister’s wedding. And like I said, you don’t have to go, but you should, and we both know you’re going to.”
Wes’s sigh came over the line. “If you ask me, she let me off the hook when she picked my ex-fiancée as her bridesmaid. Today when I was home, Audrey and my mom both gave me these pity-filled looks every time they mentioned her name. Like I’m not over her. And I am.”
“Of course you’re over that self-centered princess.” Okay, so her description might be a little harsh, but she knew Wes needed to be reminded why he should be over his ex, Sophie, even though Dani wasn’t sure he actually was. In fact, she sometimes worried he never would be, and that was a shame, because she’d never been good enough for him in the first place. The girl was way too high maintenance for Wes, all demand with no compromise.
“Enough about all that boring crap. How’s life on your end?” he asked.
Dani told him about the retreat and how she felt all this pressure to stand out but didn’t know how she was going to compete in boat races when everyone else had a partner. “Not to mention all the sad looks I’ll get—a few of my coworkers’ wives always want to set me up, too. A couple of months ago I told everyone I was dating someone just to get them off my back. If only I had an actual guy to go with me.” She used her thumbnail to scrape away the remnants of her last manicure. “Guess you don’t happen to be free at the end of this month.”
She’d thrown it out as a joke, but the tingling of an idea was working its way through her head, and she started to wonder if it might be brilliant. She snuck back inside her cubical and lowered her voice, even though most everyone had already left for the day. “Wes, fly over here and go with me. I’ll tell them… I’ll tell them you’re my fiancé or something. We’d rule all the physical competitions, I wouldn’t be so nervous with you there, and I’ll finally get Wayne’s attention.”
The other end of the line was dead silent. She glanced at the display to make sure they were still connected and then put the phone back to her ear. “I know it’s kind of extreme, but I haven’t seen you in forever and—”
“I’ll be your fiancé for the retreat if you’ll be mine for Audrey’s wedding,” Wes said. “I was going to try to find a date, but this would be so much better. It’ll stop the pity-filled looks, and you know me well enough to pull it off—plus everyone’s always suspected we were more than friends anyway. It’s the perfect way to show Sophie I’ve moved on since she dumped me.”
Dani bit her lip. “I’m not sure taking off work right before I go up for a promotion is—”
“You never take time off. Come on, Dani. I need you here.”
She was also thinking about the cost for the flight to North Carolina, but Wes had said he needed her, so how could she skip it now? Not to mention, it’d been way too long since they’d seen each other—calls and texts just weren’t enough with her best friend.