Duty. Honor. Country.
Love. Romance. Passion.
For way too long, I’ve been silently and hopelessly in love with a guy who doesn’t see me as anything but a casual friend. I stood by and watched as he found a woman to love–and as she dumped him the day of their wedding. I haven’t given him even a hint about my true feelings.
Until the day he asked me to be his pretend girlfriend. Now that he needs me, I finally have the chance I’ve been longing for–to show him how perfect we can be together.
My life was perfect. I was about to graduate from West Point and marry the most beautiful girl in the world all in the same day, then launch my career as a brand-new second lieutenant. When my fiancee dumped me, I thought I’d lost everything. I didn’t know how to go on.
Until the day I panicked and asked my friend to be my fake girlfriend. She saved my ass, and now I find myself looking for reasons to keep her close . . . because it turns out I don’t want to let her go.
Enjoy a sneak peek here!
“Ah, young love. Nothing like it.” My attention jerked away from thoughts about my friendship with Paige as Coach Casey approached us. “Glad to see you could make it, Henderson.” He shook my hand and then turned to Paige. “And you must be his lovely bride.”
Shit. I’d hoped to clear up the misunderstanding about my marital status before Coach had a chance to double down on it, but apparently, that ship had sailed. And the expression on Paige’s face let me know that I needed to act fast.
“Coach, I was going to tell you today in your office before you got that phone call—there must have been a miscommunication somewhere. I’m not married. Paige isn’t my wife.”
His forehead wrinkled as he frowned. “Really? Huh. I could’ve sworn I’d heard that . . . well, you’re right. I must’ve misunderstood. My wife will tell you that it’s not the first time that’s happened. She swears that my foot lives permanently in my mouth.” He shrugged. “All the same, I’m happy to meet you—Paige, is it? I’m John Casey, the new coach. We’re all very excited that your fellow here is going to be working with us this year.”
Paige’s eyes slid to me, and I was pretty sure I glimpsed the contemplation of murder in her gaze. But before I could do more than open my mouth to try to clear up Coach’s error, he’d swung around to call over someone else.
“Anthony, there you are.” He slapped the man on his back, drawing him into our conversation. “Henderson, Paige, this is Anthony Trellini, my assistant coach. Anthony, meet Wyatt Henderson. You remember, he was quarterback for the team the past three seasons, and now he’s been nice enough to come back and work with our offensive line for the next year. And this is his girlfriend, Paige. Or is it fiancée?”
“Uhhhh . . .” It was all I could manage. This was a train wreck, and it was going from bad to worse.
“Casey, you’re putting pressure on the man. Look at him, like a deer in headlights.” The assistant coach laughed heartily. “You should know better than to ask a guy a question like that when his girl is standing right here.” He offered his hand to Paige. “Don’t mind us, Paige. We’re just dumb jocks. Or at least that’s been our excuse for the past twenty years or so.”
Coach joined his laughter. “Anthony and I have worked together for most of those twenty, so we’re used to each other. Give us time, and we’ll grow on you. I promise.” He craned his neck, scanning the room. “Let me introduce you to my girl. She’ll tell you I’m a lost cause. Oh, Patty, there you are. Come here, sweetheart.”
The woman who glided over to join us was lovely. She reminded me a bit of my mother, only slightly younger. As she joined our small circle, Coach draped one arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Angel, this is Wyatt Henderson and his girlfriend, Paige.” He paused. “Sorry, Paige. I didn’t get your last name.”
Next to me, Paige was stiff, the color in her cheeks telling me that even if she wasn’t displaying it to anyone else, she was quietly furious.
Still, her voice was cool and pleasant as she answered Coach. “It’s Mulaney, sir, but actually—”
“Ah, Paige Mulaney. That’s a strong Irish name.” He beamed and hooked a thumb at his chest. “Same here. My grandparents came over from the Emerald Isle when they were kids.” He patted her shoulder. “And just FYI—I can see you’ve been well-trained on Army protocol, which I guess is a good thing if you’ve hitched your wagon to Henderson, but around my office, I’m not a sir. Like I told your sweetheart, I’m John or Coach.”
Paige’s smile was slightly less strained. It was impossible to be angry with Coach, I thought—he was so amiable and friendly. But I was going to have to figure out a way to correct his error about Paige and me before it spread any further.
That proved to be a lot easier thought than done, though, because Coach Casey was relentless. He never stopped introducing us to others from his staff, and each time, he upped the ante a little bit more, alternating between referring to Paige as my better half, my long-time girlfriend or even as my fiancée.
We’d been at the party for about thirty minutes before he finally stepped away from us, apologizing as he explained with an accompanying eyeroll that he had to give a little speech. He’d just gotten to the podium and begun a basic thank-you-for-welcoming-us talk when Paige tugged at my arm.
“Wyatt,” she hissed. “What the hell? You need to fix this. Now, before he starts inviting everyone to our wedding.” Her green eyes snapped at me in fury.
“I couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” I responded in a whisper. “You saw that. Every time I tried to correct him, he told someone else.”
“Did you know he thought you were married?” she demanded. “How did this even happen?”
I heaved out a long, frustrated breath. “I had no idea until I saw the invitation he’d given me for tonight and saw it was addressed to both me and the missus.”
“And you didn’t tell him then?”
“I couldn’t. I was about to explain, and then he got a phone call and I had to leave. I didn’t realize that he’d see us together and assume . . .” I ran my hand over my hair. “Coach Morgan and his guys knew I was supposed to get married, but apparently, word didn’t reach them about the wedding being called off. They would have assumed that I’m a married man now, and I guess they passed on that assumption to the new staff.”
“Great. Just dandy.” Paige’s lips pressed together. “Wyatt, fix this. As soon as he’s done speaking, you need to go over there and tell him that there was a mistake, that you and I are not married, engaged or even dating. You have to make the correction before—”
“And finally, this is a surprise I’ve been keeping from some of you. I’m pleased and privileged to announce that Wyatt Henderson, the man who led his team to several bowl games, to an undefeated season last year, and most importantly, to three amazing victories over Navy—” The room filled with cheers and shouts. “Wyatt Henderson will be part of our staff this year, as an assistant offensive line coach. Please help me welcome Wyatt and Paige Mulaney, his lovely girlfriend—soon to be fiancée, I’m sure!”
Everyone turned to us, applauding and smiling. I couldn’t do anything but nod, forcing my expression into what I hoped passed for a genuine grin of appreciation. Next to me, Paige’s fingers were a vice on my arm, her nails digging into my skin. She too was smiling, but I had a sinking feeling about what she was hiding beneath the exterior.
I was dead meat.