alina jacobs


A Hot Romantic Comedy (Svensson Brothers Book 5)


There is a certain type of man who gets roped into a fake relationship.

Weak, beholden to the whims of family, and probably experiencing some sort of money troubles—I vow to never become one.

Until my assistant makes me a proposal I can’t refuse.



Fake relationships are the life hack every girl needs.

Prom got you down? Fake boyfriend. Your frenemy is getting married? Fake wedding date. Need to beat your awful half-sister at inheriting the family estate? Totally nabbing a fake fiancé!

When your wedding-crazy, septuagenarian grandmother arranges a contest to see which of her granddaughters marries first, you have to bring out the big guns. And my billionaire boss Blade’s guns are banging!

Billionaire, high powered CEO, more money than personality—Blade Svensson is all business. He needs to win a contract, and I need a house. He and I both know that this is a logical, rational response to one of life’s many curveballs. There’s an expiration date on our fake relationship. There are also rules to make sure we both come out unscathed.

No lying, no sex (yes Avery, it doesn’t matter that he sleeps half naked, NO SEX!) and absolutely no falling in love!


This standalone, full length romantic comedy has no cliffhangers but does have a swoon-worthy HEA! It features plenty of steam, the largest selection of hot brothers to ever grace your e-reader, and a heroine who is totally absolutely not breaking the rules except that one time where she’s not sure how her panties came off!

AHFF cover


Audiobook versions are available on iTunes and Audible! Narrated by Savannah Peachwood and Connor Crais, this fun romantic comedy is a perfect way to spend an afternoon!


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I loved this delightful romance!” -Gladys, Goodreads

“I am hoping there are some books before this one and there has to be more to come as I haven't laughed so much for a long time!” – Lynn, Goodreads

"It's a strictly business relationship with just three rules: no lies, no sex, and absolutely no falling in love. But their logical plans are soon disrupted by suspicion, jealousy, and some decidedly nonplatonic behavior—and feelings. Will rulebreaking lead to high-stakes heartbreak?" -Kim H., Copyeditor, Red Adept Editing

“Another fantastic addition to the Svensson brothers! A fun new plot twist, full of secrecy, dysfunctional family drama, a shot-gun wedding, gangster rabbits, quirky roommates, and steamy hot romance!” –Jennifer, Goodreads


Chapter 1


My life is built on a solid foundation of lies and fake relationships.

In third grade, I wanted to be class president. I convinced a little redheaded boy to be my boyfriend so I could capture the Pokémon vote. As I was being sworn in on a copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I realized I had found the biggest life hack ever.

I honed my craft over the next decade. School dance, prom, graduation party, a wedding—your girl Avery brought a fake boyfriend. Yes, Aunt Becky, he’s totally the love of my life—I met him two days ago in a bar! I swapped bikini photos, gift cards, alcohol, and more for fake relationships. My fake boyfriends were varied too—nerdy guys, gym rats, and ex-Marines. Once I even fake dated an underwear model, though he was gay. In exchange, I had been his fake girlfriend for his family Christmas one year. He was now happily gay-married with two kids, while I had branched from fake relationships into fake jobs.

That was how I found myself sitting in the swanky ThinkX offices in Manhattan; I had lied up and down my resumé that I was an experienced personal assistant. Hey, don’t judge; I had to shut up my obnoxious half sister. I could not suffer through another family gathering where Cassie made snide comments about how I was a jobless loser with a useless hospitality degree.

I had expected that my new boss, Blade Svensson, would see right through the ruse after a day. He was a billionaire, after all, and with his brother, Weston, had built a powerhouse consulting firm. You would expect that a man like that would see through female lies and smoke screens, but you would be wrong.

Blade was the aloof, workaholic brother though, while Weston was the extroverted ladies’ man. Blade preferred to keep human female contact to a minimum. I wondered if that was why he hadn’t fired me, because I kept the distractions at bay.

Speaking of which, one of the interns was weaving her way to my desk, which guarded Blade's office. The women at the firm, especially the new hires, thought that Blade’s standoffishness was a weakness to be exploited. Who didn’t want a billionaire husband?

Kitty, hired only two days ago for a spring internship, minced over to my desk in her wobbly high heels and unprofessionally short dress.

“Blade isn’t in yet,” I said, baring my teeth at her.

She batted her eyelashes. “I just wanted to thank him for hiring me!”

I looked her up and down. “I can see your vagina in that dress.”

Kitty made a shocked noise and pulled at the stretchy fabric.

“Blade is a busy man,” I said. “He doesn’t date, and he certainly doesn’t want your bodily fluids all over his office.”

She tossed her hair. “You’re just keeping him for yourself! But I bet he would never be interested in you. You couldn’t attract someone like him even if you sprawled out naked on his desk.” She flounced off, tugging at the hem of her dress as she walked.

“College girls,” I muttered and turned back to my computer. I could get a man if I wanted to! Not that I wanted someone like Blade—billionaires were weird and high maintenance. I was a simple creature. I checked my watch; Blade was late. He usually came in right at eight.

High-pitched giggling sounded on the floor as Blade stormed in at ten till nine in a cloud of cologne. I coughed dramatically as Blade scowled.

“Geez, did you have a morning boink? Why are you wearing that much cologne?” I wheezed. “It’s like, Welcome to Hollister, here's your gas mask and a flashlight!”

“My brother,” Blade hissed, though he didn’t reprimand me for my snarky greeting. That was our thing—Blade glowered and never smiled while I made irreverent comments.

I waved my hand in front of my face and shoved him into his office, opening the French doors to the balcony that looked out over the expensive view of Manhattan.

“Let’s just put you in here to air out. You’re going to make people sick. It’s like being back in high school gym class.” I thought I saw the barest hint of a smile, but I was probably wrong. The man had zero sense of humor.

Stacy, a manager who had let a minute amount of power completely go to her head, was waiting outside the office. She might as well have licked her lips as she peered through the open doorway. I slammed it shut.

“Do you have a meeting?” I snapped.

“I’m here to talk to Blade about the Harris & Schultz contract,” she said. “I’m the project manager on it. It’s kind of a big deal.”

“I’ll see if he has an opening,” I replied.

“No need. This is a very important contract. We have to win,” Blade said, coming out of his office. Stacy smirked at me as she followed Blade to a conference room.

What did I care? Billionaires were stupid, and Blade had all the personality of a block of wood, though I suspected he had an incredible body under that suit. Really, though, I knew I shouldn’t go down that road. Blade was a Svensson brother, and they were all crazy. They had grown up in a polygamist cult in the desert. You couldn’t trust a man like that—one day you’re in a nice restaurant, the next thing you know, you’re locked up in his basement while a religious ceremony makes you wife number seven. No thanks. Besides, I didn’t date; I only did fake relationships. Life was simpler that way.

I fiddled with the watch on my wrist. The clunky, ugly watch had been a “gift” from my father, and it was an unfortunate reminder that I was seeing my family tonight. I wished I had a fake boyfriend to bring to that, but the one I had scraped up off Tinder had ghosted me, so I was going alone. It annoyed my father to see me wear the watch, which was why I did it. I forced myself not to think about him. I was going to have family time that evening; I didn’t need them living rent free in my head.

Turning back to my computer, I booked appointments and took calls for Blade while scrolling through Pinterest. My dream job was to be a wedding planner. My grandmother owned a rambling historic mansion in Harrogate, complete with a rolling lawn, photogenic outbuildings, and enough rooms to host an entire wedding party plus guests. My half sister hated the house, but I loved it. If I had money, I would buy it from my grandma and turn it into an upscale wedding venue and luxury bed and breakfast. Maybe it would be enough to let me into the Weddings in the City group. I sighed longingly as I looked at their latest Instagram post. They were cool girls who planned the weddings of the rich, famous, and powerful in the Northeast.

Blade was still in the meeting come lunchtime. I ordered him his typical meal—salad and strip steak—and set it in the mini fridge I kept at my desk then continued to work. Being a personal assistant wasn’t difficult, though I would rather be planning weddings. I arranged for several of his suits to be taken to the dry cleaner and made sure that groceries had been delivered to his condo. Even though I hadn’t ever thought about being a personal assistant, I found the work soothing. I had an elaborate spreadsheet of Blade’s dislikes and preferences. It was comforting to have that all planned out months in advance, and I did feel an odd sense of pride that I was able to keep his life running smoothly. It was almost like having a husband, just without having to literally pick his clothes up off the floor.

A faint whiff of cologne bumped me out of my fantasies.

“You still smell like a sixteen-year-old boy,” I said, not looking up from my screen.

Blade grunted. I handed him his lunch.

“I need a car this afternoon to go to Svensson Investment.”

“Already ordered and waiting for you downstairs.” I gestured, the watch twisting on my wrist. It had originally been made for a man, another clue that my father had just rummaged in the garbage for my graduation gift. He, of course, had bought my half sister a house.

Blade was still standing there. His gray eyes were intense, fixated on the watch.

“Where did you get that?” he asked, voice a low drone.

“My father.”

“He must like you.”

“Look at you making a funny! Aren’t you clever?”

Blade tilted his head in confusion. I shrugged.

“I guess my dad thought he would hurt me by giving me a crappy present. Joke’s on him! I just pretend that it’s the best thing ever!”

Blade grunted.

“You better go. Don’t want your brother Greg to worry. Eat in the car; you don’t want to deal with your brothers hungry. And hydrate,” I added, standing up and handing him a bottle of water. “Also, just wanted to let you know that I have a family event tonight, so I won’t be here.” I smoothed my skirt.

Blade blinked at me. He truly was a man of very few words.

“You might want to work from home tonight. I haven’t yet demoralized the new crop of interns,” I said dryly.

I thought I saw a hint of a smirk on Blade’s face as he nodded. I’d never actually seen him smile, let alone heard him laugh. I twisted the watch as I watched Blade leave, tall form cutting gracefully through the open office.

Too bad you couldn’t bring him as your fake boyfriend. Cassie would lose it.


Chapter 2


How had she acquired that watch?

That was the thing with Avery. Every time I thought I had her figured out, she did something to surprise me.

When she had first come in for an interview, she had been friendly and slightly snarky. The thing that had caught my attention, though, was that she had lied about everything on her resumé. Actually, lie might be too strong—it was more that she had so embellished the truth as to be insane. A one-day volunteer gig in a dog shelter had been exaggerated to her starting a completely new outreach initiative. It was blatant, audacious, and intriguing.

One could not deny, however, that Avery was a good assistant. Though she talked to me as if I were a preschooler or an unintelligent puppy, my life ran a lot more smoothly now that she was around.

At first, I had thought she had been a plant from one of the Holbrooks. They were after the Harris & Schultz contract, same as my company. But then I had discovered that she had applied there too. There was no way the Holbrook cousins would have let her leave with that watch. Grant Holbrook would have bought it from her first chance he had.

I loved watches; I collected them, especially Patek Philippe, the brand of Avery’s watch. I owned almost every model—millions of dollars’ worth of watches. There was something comforting about them all lined up in the drawer. Unfortunately, I didn’t own the one on Avery’s wrist. There had been only a few made. A pilot’s watch, the stainless steel, pre-World War II utilitarian design was unique in comparison to the elaborate compilations Patek Philippe usually created. Grant Holbrook owned one of those watches. Several others were thought to have been lost. Now this one had resurfaced. I had to have it.

The intern, Kitty, appeared next to me, jarring me out of my thoughts.

“Mr. Svensson,” she said with a high-pitched giggle, lightly resting her hand on my arm. “I was trying to find you this morning!”

I glared at Kitty, and she jerked her hand back. That was the other thing I appreciated Avery for—she kept the women away. My brother Weston, my Irish twin, was my total opposite. Even when we were teenagers, he had gone through women like he went through alcohol. You would think that they would flock to him and leave me alone, but they had used any excuse to show up in my office. Especially if I worked late, a gaggle of them used to hang around. I had mentioned it offhandedly to Avery once, and she started staying late if she knew I was. I had found it an oddly touching gesture.

She just did it because she was paid, I thought, angrily mashing the elevator button.


My brothers were arranged in the conference room when I stepped out of the elevator on the eightieth floor of the Svensson Investment tower. I wished I had brought Avery with me to the meeting at Svensson Investment. She could keep up with the worst of them, I was sure.

Growing up in a polygamist doomsday cult meant that I had an excessive number of brothers. They were scattered around the Northeast. My full-blooded brothers mainly lived in the small town of Harrogate, two hours outside of Manhattan, though they came into the city for meetings. This one was about an update on the process of Weston and me relocating our business to Harrogate.

I had mixed feelings about being around them full time. In Manhattan, though there was my half brother Greg who was an arrogant asshole who was consistently in everyone’s shit, the rest of the Manhattan Svenssons tended to keep to themselves. Not so for my full-blooded brothers, the Harrogate Svenssons, as Greg referred to them when he was in an especially bad mood, usually because of something Hunter had done.

The second oldest, Hunter, was the most evil. The fact that Meghan, the deputy mayor of Harrogate and the love of Hunter’s life, was in the process of actively dating to finally replace him had him in an awful mood. He didn’t pass up the opportunity to make a snide, undercutting comment.

I much preferred my oldest brother, Remington—Remy for short—who was content to run his nonprofit. An ex-Marine and combat vet, he spent his days looking after my two dozen or so youngest brothers, the byproducts of my father’s prolific collection of sister wives. His foundation, the Rural Trust, was moving into the same building, the old Harrogate shirtwaist factory building, as ThinkX. Though he usually preferred the open rural areas, he had come into Manhattan for the meeting.

My brother Gunnar was not in attendance. He owned the Romance Creative production company and was in the process of frittering away all the profits he had made from The Great Christmas Bake-Off.

Next in line came Mace and Archer, identical twins and polar opposites. Mace was the CEO of Svensson PharmaTech and was one of the main advocates for Weston and me moving ThinkX to Harrogate. Archer, who owned Grayson Hotel group, was not an advocate because he didn’t want us to relocate into the conference center he was opening in Harrogate that had hotels and office space. Of course, I didn’t want to be that close to him either.

At least Archer wasn’t as bad as Garrett. He was a classic middle child, and his paranoid scheming was obnoxious. He would rope me into his plans because I knew how to code. The fact that our father, Leif, had shown up in Harrogate a few weeks ago had us all on edge but Garrett especially. Every interaction with him was like dealing with a person who brought a Glock to a pencil fight.

Then there was my Irish twin, Weston. After having him, my mother immediately fell pregnant again, and we were born in the same year. I liked to think that she took one look at him and decided she needed a do-over, though the fact that she abandoned all of us the first chance she had probably just meant she wanted the extra welfare money.

Merla Vee had stuck around for a couple years after my youngest brother, Parker, was born then ran off. My father had been furious and had kicked my older brothers out a few years later. Though it had been rough after leaving the compound, I much preferred the power and money that came from owning my own company. None of us had ever wanted to see our father again, but he had showed up a month ago. My youngest full brother, Parker, was the reason our father had dared show his face in Harrogate. So Parker was in the doghouse.

“Sadie has been working with the architect on phasing for the build-out of the old shirtwaist factory,” Parker said when he saw me.

“Did you all hear something?” Garrett asked loudly. “Maybe it was the wind or the sound of a dying slug.”

Parker gritted his teeth.

“Speaking of dead insects,” Archer added, “Blade, what the hell, man? You stink.” He threw open the windows.

“Did you have a date?” Mace asked as Greg sniffed and scowled.

“You better not. With all the recent family issues, Gunnar has exhausted the goodwill with the press. I will not have you dating some poor girl and letting her pass out due to the sheer volume of cheap cologne you’re wearing. Honestly, I thought you of all people, Blade, were the one I didn’t have to worry about.”

“It’s not cheap!” Weston said. “This was very expensive cologne.”

“You poured it all over me,” I snapped at him. I had already had enough family time, and I had just arrived.

“How was I supposed to know that they wouldn’t have one of the bottles that dripped it out? It was like the Niagara Falls of cologne. I was just trying to help you. You never do anything fun.”

“I do lots.”

“You don’t even have any plans tonight. You’re going to go home after this and reorganize your watch drawer, inventory your scotch collection, then mess with your spreadsheets and code.”

“I’m doing it for our company. One of us has to care,” I seethed.

“I care,” Weston scoffed. “I’m busy bringing in work. That’s why we have that Harris & Schultz contract.”

“You all don’t have it yet,” Greg countered. “And if you keep carrying on like this, you won’t win it.”

“I’ve taken the liberty of doing research into Chuck Schultz,” Garrett said. “He’s family oriented and cares about the community. He wants his bank to be viewed as a compassionate entity, and he values strong relationships.”

“Good thing we’re moving the company to Harrogate,” Weston said. “That’s a point that works in our favor compared to the Holbrooks.”

“Grant Holbrook is married, his half brother is engaged, and his cousin is in a committed relationship. Meanwhile, Weston has slept with half of his company and has appeared on the front page of numerous tabloids, stumbling drunk out of random condo buildings,” Hunter said in a clipped tone.

“I had a tragic childhood,” Weston complained. “I have unhealthy coping mechanisms.”

Hunter glared at him. “You know how I feel about the Holbrooks. I’m going to take it as a personal affront if you two lose this cybersecurity contract to them.”

“Lucky for you,” Garrett said, “I have a solution. Weston will make one of those women he’s been sleeping with his girlfriend. He will bring her to the upcoming events with Chuck and his wife. He will pretend he’s in love. About six months after we win the contract, they will quietly break up. At that point, Harris & Schultz will see how well ThinkX is working for them, and Chuck won’t even mind that Weston has gone back to being a philandering idiot.”

“Why is it on me?” Weston countered. “Why can’t Blade do it?”

My brothers all roared in laughter.

“Blade can’t get a girlfriend, let alone pretend to be in love with some girl he’s never even met,” Archer retorted.

“You have twenty-four hours,” Greg said to Weston. “Make one of those gold diggers’ dreams come true.”


Chapter 3


I felt a little bad leaving Blade alone that evening. Too bad there wasn’t bitch-be-gone spray I could squirt around his office to keep the Beckys at bay, like how you spray coyote pee to keep raccoons away from your trash can.

As I trudged to my sister’s building from the subway, I wished I had some to spray at Cassie. I knew she, my father, and my stepmother would be ecstatic if I never attended another family event. The only reason I still went was out of spite.

Like me, my mother had loved fake relationships. My father was married to my stepmother when he cheated on her with my mother. Why? I’m not sure. My mother was an actual factual crackhead. I guessed my father liked slumming it in the trailer park. But he wasn’t that happy when my mother got pregnant and even less happy when she decided to keep the baby.

After five years of my father fighting child support payments to her, the judge finally awarded my mom hundreds of thousands of dollars of back payments, much to my father’s annoyance. And much to my dismay, my mother had proceeded to put all of it up her nose. The last time I had seen her, she was attacking one of the police officers who had been called because of a child neglect allegation. The amount of cocaine she had in the trailer had put her in jail for decades and put me in my father’s house, where I was a daily reminder of his bad decisions.

The only bright spot in my childhood had been my grandmother. I spent a large percentage of my time with her in Harrogate and her crazy senior citizen friends. Along with irritating my father, I came to family functions to see my grandmother, Dottie. Also, she kept hard liquor in her purse.

The doorman let me into the swanky high-rise residential tower on the Upper West Side. In addition to giving Cassie this condo, my father had also secured her fiancé, Trevor, a job at Holbrook Enterprises. Meanwhile, I had had to lie my way into a crappy assistant’s position at ThinkX—not that I was bitter or anything.

Cassie opened the door when I knocked.

“We didn’t think you were going to make it. You always work late,” she said, looking down her nose at me.

“You really shouldn’t have come,” my father said, not even bothering to greet me.

I reached up to brush the hair out of my face with the hand that had the large, ugly watch on its adjacent wrist. My father, Chad, made a sour face.

“I told my boss I had a family thing. He was fine with it,” I replied.

“You should be working late. You have to show that you are serious about the position,” Chad said.

“The fact that I didn’t have anyone give me the job and I had to earn it myself really helps make that case,” I said, making a beeline for the bar cart. Dottie, my father’s mother, was already there, mixing a gin and tonic.

“Make mine a double?” I said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“You shouldn’t drink so much,” my stepmother, Ensley, chastised, though she was clearly into her third or fourth cocktail. “Don’t you have to go back to work?”

“I’m so glad that you all really don’t want me here.”

“We just don’t want you to lose your job,” my father said with a frown. “I’m not supporting your lifestyle. Don’t think you’re going to turn into your mother and mooch off of me.”

“When have I ever mooched off of you?” I said through gritted teeth. “I’m up to my eyeballs in student loan debt, and I rent a bed in a room that I share with two other people.”

“It’s not his fault that you made a terrible decision and studied hospitality,” Trevor, my half sister’s fiancé, said. “You should have studied computer programming like me and Chad.” He slapped my father on the shoulder.

Fucking frat boys. I took a long sip of my drink.

“We’re going to score that Harris & Schultz contract for Holbrook Enterprises, then there will be a big bonus coming our way,” Trevor bragged.

“Ooh, I hope so!” Cassie squealed. “I want to redecorate the cottage in Harrogate.”

Yes, friends, my father bought my sister not only a condo in Manhattan but also a house in Harrogate.

I took another sip of the drink. “Needs more gin.”

“You may want to save your money,” Dottie said, smiling, as she freshened up my drink.

“Now you all know your grandfather, God rest his soul, loved the historic property in Harrogate. He always wanted it to stay in the family.” My grandmother hugged Cassie and me to her. “I also want to see the next generation enjoy it before I pass, and to be honest, I’m far too busy with my organizations to stay on top of the upkeep.”

I almost choked on my drink. “Is something wrong?” I asked in concern.

“No, no,” she said, patting me on the back. “I just want to start offloading some of my assets to you girls. I’m starting with the Broughton mansion.”

This was the mansion that I had always envisioned converting into a chic bed and breakfast and wedding event venue. After renovating the house to its original conditions, landscaping the overgrown acreage, and rebuilding the outbuildings, I could host weddings and banquets. There would be magazine spreads and celebrity weddings. We would be booked out years in advance. It would be a dream come true!

“I want it to go to one of you girls,” Dottie continued. “It’s a house for raising a family in. Unfortunately, it is a money pit. I was thinking about putting it on the market, but if one of you girls wants to buy it—”

“How much?” I said.

“You don’t have any money!” Cassie shrieked.

“And I’m certainly not giving it to you,” my father said.

“Buy it for me!” Cassie pleaded with Chad.

“It’s eight million dollars,” my grandmother said.

I sucked in a breath. Eight million? Who had that kind of money lying around? My father had money, but not that much.

“I’m sure we could take out a loan,” my stepmother said uncertainly.

“Or,” my grandmother said lightly, “you could get married! If neither of you want to buy it, then the first one to fall in love and marry will receive it as a wedding gift. You just aren’t allowed to sell it. It will be in the deed restriction. I want to see you all happy and building a life before I get too old to enjoy it!”

“I guess it’s my house then,” Cassie said with a smirk. She pulled Trevor in for a kiss. “I’m already engaged to the man of my dreams.” She glared at me. “Avery is never going to get a man; no one will want her.”

I set down my drink. “I have to go,” I said abruptly.

“So soon?” my stepmother said with phony sadness.

“You know me,” I said with a fake smile as I grabbed my coat and headed for door. “Have to work. Got to make a good impression on the boss.”

And I need to find a fake fiancé.


Chapter 4


“I need a husband!” I announced when I walked into the room I shared with Shirley and Edward.

Edward yawned and scratched his bare chest. An ex-infantry Marine, he was tall, ripped, and blessed with a sexy five o’clock shadow. He was also gay. “Not it!” he called.

“She’s already used you for a fake boyfriend,” Shirley reminded him. “And you blew it when you were caught having sex with the bartender at the company party and it ended up all over the internet.”

Edward grinned. “Yeah, that was nice. He was just doing his patriotic duty.”

“You are such a creep,” Shirley said as she petted my rabbit. His name was Cesario, and he was half feral and loved lasagna.

“You cost me that job because you couldn’t keep it in your pants,” I complained.

“Yes, but now you have a better one,” Edward said. “Speaking of, how’s America’s favorite polygamist billionaire?”

“Blade is not a polygamist.” I huffed, taking off my coat and throwing it on the top bunk. “In fact, he’s probably the exact opposite. He never even looks at the half-dressed girls who throw themselves at him.”

“Maybe I should come by and see the billionaire in his natural habitat,” Edward said, stretching. “You never know—he could play for the other team.”

“Doubtful,” I said, kicking off my shoes and feeding Cesario an olive I’d stolen from Cassie’s condo. “Besides, even if he did, I wouldn’t let you around him.”

“You’re oddly protective!”

“It’s a matter of spite at this point,” I said primly.

“Just like with your father.”

“How was old Mr. Cheater?” Shirley asked.

“Scheming about how he and Cassie are going to use the mansion,” I said, filling my friends in on the evening.

“That little bitch!” Shirley exclaimed.

“Just cut them off,” Edward said. “I cut off my homophobic parents, and look at me now!”

“You rent a bed in a room in a communal house where the oven doesn’t work,” I said. “Hardly a life to aspire to.”

“Yes, but it’s my life. I do a little Twitch streaming, dumpster-dive, collect my Marine Corps reserve check, and wait for us to start our wedding-planning business.”

“That’s never going to happen if I don’t win that house,” I said, pacing between the beds in the tiny room.

“We have to find you a man,” Shirley said. “You need that mansion and that wedding-planning business. Correction, we need it. That’s my meal ticket out of Manhattan. I swear, if I never see another pigeon, it will be a blessed day. Besides, Cesario doesn’t like the city. It makes him anxious.”

“Considering Avery found him in a vacant lot gnawing on a chicken bone, that seems a little bit like projection,” Edward said with a snort.

“I already had a Pinterest board of how we were going to decorate the house for fancy weddings and turn it into a bed and breakfast. We were finally going to put our hospitality degrees to good use!” Shirley reminded me.

“I know,” I moaned, sinking onto the thin twin mattress. “What am I going to do?”

“Don’t just find a man on Tinder,” Edward warned. “This is a lot of money. The Harrogate real estate market is booming, what with the Svenssons and all those tech firms relocating there. If you just scrape up some wannabe novelist, he’s going to take the house in a divorce. You would still lose, even if you won.”

“I need a man who wouldn’t even look twice at that house. I need a man with so much money that an eight-million-dollar property is nothing,” I said slowly.

Shirley nodded. “You need a billionaire.”

Edward grinned evilly. “And I think you know one.”

“Absolutely not!” I jumped up. “I cannot ask Blade. That’s just—” I sputtered.

“Genius? Perfect? Foolproof?” Edward offered.

“It will get me fired.”

“You don’t have any other options,” Edward reminded me. “You were the one who said you could make a fake relationship work like no one’s business. You’ve had what, almost a hundred fake relationships?”

“Yes, but sometimes they turn into disasters,” I prattled. “Remember, Shirley, in middle school, I promised a gangly, nerdy kid I would give him a GameStop gift card in exchange for going with me to a school dance. I had wanted to shut up the mean girls who were spreading rumors that I was a future cat lady.”

“But it worked,” Shirley cajoled. “Instead of teasing you about being a spinster, the mean girls teased you for not being able to land a better man.”

“You aren’t trying to fall in love here,” Edward reminded me. “You just need the mansion.”

I blew out a breath. “Yes, but usually I have something to offer. What could Blade possibly want from me that he doesn’t already have?”

“Maybe he’ll do it because he likes you?” Shirley said hopefully.

“Don’t be naïve,” Edward scoffed. “Billionaires are all about the transaction. Just present it to him as a business opportunity. Tell him he can have anything.”

“One of my big fake-relationship rules is no sleeping with the fake boyfriends.”

“He will be your fake fiancé slash fake husband,” Shirley reminded me. “You’re going to have to at least pretend you guys are doing it.”

“I can’t do this,” I groaned. “A fake prom date or a fake wedding date is one thing. This is marriage we’re talking about.” I wished I had stolen a bottle of liquor from Cassie’s condo. I could have used a drink.

“Ticktock,” Edward said. “Cassie cannot have that house. This is the moment your whole life has been building toward. This is your last chance to make your dreams come true and for all of us”—he gestured around the room—“to get the hell out of Manhattan.”

“We could make jam,” Shirley pleaded. “There are orchards and maple trees on that property. Think of the cute labels. Think of how nice the Instagram account will look.”

“You teaming up with the Weddings in the City girls,” Edward cajoled. “The magazine spreads, the publicity—all you need is one little fake marriage.”

I squirmed.

“It’s not like you would be lying to Blade. You would both be on the same page.”

“What if he says no and fires me?”

“What if he says yes?” Edward said. “Do it. When I see you this time next evening, you need to have that billionaire in a custom-embroidered wedding bag.”

I took a deep breath. I needed that house. Cassie would probably paint all the wood and glue carpet to the floors. I wasn’t doing this for me, I was doing this for the house. Besides, now that I actually had actual assistant experience on my resumé, I could find another job if Blade fired me.

“Okay, let’s do it.”

“Hell yeah!” Edward said, jumping up and almost hitting his head on the low ceiling. “She’s going after her fake fiancé!”


Chapter 5


There was a certain type of man who allowed himself to become embroiled in a fake relationship. He was usually weak, indecisive, and beholden to the whims of family members. Fortunately, none of that applied to me—though we did need to win that Harris & Schultz contract. In the car on the way to the office, I listened to an interview with Chuck Schultz. He went on and on about how he liked doing business with family men and how all of these young tech CEOs needed to settle down. What if we lost the contract because neither Weston nor I was in a serious relationship?

Weston is going to procure a girlfriend. It is not any of your concern. But had Weston ever really had a girlfriend? He’d had flings, yes, but my brother was not known for long-lasting, monogamous relationships.

My phone buzzed. There was a picture of a blandly pretty young woman on the screen.

Archer: What about this one? She could be a good fake girlfriend. She’s a swimsuit model.

Weston: I am not getting a fake girlfriend, I don’t know what Garrett’s problem is. That man is insane.

Greg: You all cannot lose this project. Weston, you need to get a fake girlfriend now.

Weston: Make Blade do it.

Hunter: Maybe Blade should do it. He’s so secretive that it would be an easier sell. Everyone knows Weston is a playboy.

Archer: I can ask Hazel if she has any friends who would like to pretend to be the future Mrs. Svensson.

Greg: Maybe we could ask Meg.

I put my phone on silent as it blew up with profanity-laced texts from Hunter and walked out of the elevator, heading to my office. Avery was sitting at her desk. She was not wearing the Patek Philippe watch but some fake gold trinket instead.

“Good morning,” she chirped.

I narrowed my eyes. Normally Avery greeted me with a snarky comment. I had stopped wearing red ties because of a remark she had made on her second day at work. I almost looked forward to what would come out of her mouth. Once most people found out that I was a billionaire, they went into ass-kissing mode. Not Avery—she was always interesting. But now her greeting was bland and generic.

I waited a beat, frowned, and then went to my office. Avery followed me, closed the door, and perched on the edge of my desk as I sat behind the computer. It was a thing she did. She would always say she wouldn’t be long and didn’t need a chair.

“I have a proposal for you,” she said.

I regarded her. “Did someone send one over? What industry is if for? I’ll assign it to one of the project managers.”

“Not a company proposal,” she said. “It’s a proposal between us.”

“And here I thought you weren’t going to have anything interesting to say this morning,” I murmured.

Her eyes narrowed.

“What’s the proposal for?”

“Marry me.” Her gaze was steady.

“Excuse me?” I said after a moment of silence.

“I need a husband, immediately, before my half sister gets married.”

“I’m not involving myself in petty female games,” I growled. For some reason, I felt almost hurt, but I squashed it. I had thought maybe Avery and I were, well, not friends, but friendly, like we had an understanding.

“It’s not petty female games.” She huffed, shifting on the edge of the desk. “Which is rich coming from someone who squabbles like a toddler with his brothers.”

“I don’t squabble.”

“You do,” she countered. “No, this isn’t about that, this is about business and spite and money. Surely a man like you could understand that.” The last part was said in an ironic drawl. I didn’t know if she was making fun of me or what.

“Why can’t you find someone on Craigslist?” I suggested.

Avery barked a laugh. “I need a husband so my grandmother will give me a mansion and five acres in Harrogate worth eight million dollars. She said that one of us could buy it off of her, but it’s not like I have the money for that lying around, so marriage it is. If I married Joe Blow from Tinder, he would insist on part of the house in the divorce.”

“And you think I wouldn’t?” I steepled my hands and leaned back in my chair, enchanted by the audacity of her request. Not that I would do it, of course. Men like me didn’t become involved in fake relationships. I wondered why she didn’t auction off that watch of hers. Because it was such a rare antique, she could sell it and still have enough to pay for renovations.

“Since you didn’t immediately fire me,” Avery said, breaking through my thoughts, “I’m assuming that means you are considering my offer.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I’ll give you anything you want. I have to have that house.”

My eyes flicked briefly to the bare skin at the hem of her skirt, then back up to her face. She didn’t seem nervous, just determined.

“What if I ask for something you don’t want to give?”

She shrugged. “I have done a lot of things I regret. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for the house.”

“Yes, I supposed someone who lies on their resumé would live her life by that philosophy.”

She jerked back. “How did you know?”

“Please,” I scoffed. “You didn’t try that hard to cover your tracks. The number of one of your references was that of a man who slept with a bartender at a company holiday party you were attending.”

She huffed. “Then why didn’t you fire me?”

“You were interesting.”

She glared at me. “So what can I give you in exchange for being my fake husband?”

I looked at her, perched on my desk. My brothers didn’t think I could get a girlfriend, fake or otherwise. Then there was the watch. Would she give it to me? Which meant more to her, the house or the watch?

“It just so happens,” I said, “that I myself am in the market for a fake girlfriend. The Harris & Schultz CEO is family oriented. We need to show that ThinkX is too.”

“That works out perfectly!” She clapped her hands.

“But,” I said, “there is something I want personally.”


“Your watch.”

She stuck out her hand. “This thing?”

“No, the one you were wearing yesterday.”

“That big ugly one? Why? It’s not worth anything.”

“I like to collect oddities and curiosities,” I lied.

“Oh, okay, I guess. Sure you can have it.” She stuck out her hand. “So we’re in agreement? We get engaged and married, and then you can have the watch and I’ll inherit my house. We’ll stay married long enough for you to secure that contract. Then we will divorce and go our separate ways.”

I shook her hand.