Pretend It's LoveBy: Stefanie London
One fake relationship shaken not stirred…
Bar manager Paul Chapman is sick of his family’s traditional ideals. Marriage, babies, and a white picket fence? Not his gig. But now that his ‘golden child’ big brother is tying the knot, Paul’s screwed. His ex will be there…and she’s having his cousin’s baby. Unless he wants to show up to the wedding alone and face his family’s scrutiny, he needs a girl on his arm. Now.
Cocktail specialist Libby Harris has spent her life earning the nickname Little Miss Perfect, all to win the love of her wealthy, controlling father. But she deviated from his plan, and now her business is on shaky ground. If it fails, she might as well kiss his respect—and her dream—good-bye. Her only hope? Convince the hottest bar in town to take on her product.
Luckily for her, the owner’s brother is sexy as sin and in need of a perfect girlfriend…
To anyone who’s ever chased a dream against the advice of others.
There were plenty of other things Paul Chapman would rather be doing than watching two people make goo-goo eyes at each other. He could stab himself in the eye with a steak knife. Or listen to his mother talk ad nauseam about the intricacies of the floral arrangements.
Either would be preferable.
“Man, you’ve got to lighten up.” Noah Reid, his best friend and soon to be fellow groomsman, elbowed him in the ribs. “You look like you’re about to go all Friday the Thirteenth.”
“I hate pretentious parties.” He shoved a bite-size piece of toast with smoked salmon into his mouth. “And I hate this stupid, tiny food.”
“What did you expect?”
Noah had a point. Paul should have known what he was in for the second his brother announced the engagement party would be held in his fiancée’s family home in Toorak, aka the “old money” part of Melbourne. The Greenes were rolling in it. It was fitting that they’d be drinking the fanciest champagne on the market and eating food that looked fit for a dollhouse.
“Is it so bad that I want a burger and a beer?”
Noah laughed. “If you’re still hungry we’ll do a Macca’s run on the way home.”
Paul watched the happy couple. His big brother looked more satisfied than he’d ever seen him, and Gracie, his pint-size wife-to-be, wore a smile that managed to out-sparkle her impressive engagement ring.
“Reckon that will be us one day?” Noah asked, studying Des and Gracie as though they were an alien species.
“No way. Marriage is for chumps.” Paul screwed up his nose. “I’m only here because of Des.”
Stomach grumbling, his eyes roamed, already on the hunt for something else to eat. The current options were miniscule sushi rolls and pieces of raw fish. What was the point of eating something if you weren’t going to bother cooking it first?
He brought a champagne flute to his lips and knocked back the remainder of his drink. It wasn’t his poison of choice but it was alcoholic. Better than nothing.
A gloomy funk had descended over Paul ever since the engagement had been announced. He was happy for his brother, of course. Gracie was good for him and they’d worked hard to get past the early hurdles in their relationship. But it was just another opportunity for Des to prove to their family that he was the favorite. The golden child. The chosen one.
The son who would live up to all their expectations.
Des ran the restaurant and bar, First, where Paul worked. His big brother’s success in business would be further complemented by a wedding. Then it wouldn’t be long before the bambini arrived, and Paul would never have a hope of catching him.
A waiter walked past carrying a tray of freshly filled champagne flutes. Paul switched his empty glass for a full one and downed half of it in a single gulp.
“Whoa there. You’re drinking like an eighteen-year-old girl at O week.” Noah shook his head, laughing. “I don’t want to be holding your hair back later tonight when that all comes back up.”
Paul opened his mouth to retort, but Des and Gracie were coming their way. He put on his best “happy brother” face and held his champagne flute up in salute. Gracie launched herself at the two guys, collecting them both in a hug that was impressive for a girl her size.
“How are my future brothers-in-law?” she asked.
Noah might not have been a flesh and blood brother, but the Chapman boys—and now Gracie—treated him as if he were part of the family.
“Enjoying the festivities. Paul here has taken a liking to the champagne.” Noah smiled innocently as Des rolled his eyes.
“Me, too.” Gracie leaned forward and winked at him, her cheeks flushed.