The Boyfriend Deal(7)

By: Charity West

I eyed him over my ice cream as I took another lick. “Why do you want this so badly? I mean, you could ask any girl in the high school to go out with you. Why would you pick me? It isn’t like we were childhood playmates, or middle school sweethearts that went wrong. You’ve barely spoken to me since our first day of school when we were four.”

“Just because we never talked, doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware you were there,” he said softly. “Just give this a chance, Red. It’s a win-win situation. You get Hunter off your trail, and I get Mom off my back.”

“Like you could be celibate for two weeks.”

“I need you longer than that. Mom isn’t going to believe I’m walking the straight and narrow after only two weeks.”

My nose scrunched. “You really think we could pull something off longer than that?”

His fingers tightened on mine, reminding me that he was closer than was healthy for me. I tugged on my hand, but he refused to let it go.

“Is this really so bad?” he asked. The smirk was back in place, as if he knew my answer already.

Bad? No, not exactly. I mean, it was bad for my heart, a heart I knew was going to get smashed to bits when he no longer needed me, but I had to admit the hand holding and pet names were nice. I’d missed being part of a couple, even if Hunter wasn’t ideal.

I stared at him as I ate my ice cream, watching as that sinful smile flirted around the corners of his lips, and I knew I was in a world of trouble. Because no matter how many times I told myself it was all an act, the more he sent those heated looks my way, the more I wanted them to be true. The moment I’d played along, acting like the girlfriend who was going to cheer her boyfriend on, I had made my decision and sealed my fate.

“So, when do I get to meet the parents?” he asked, humor glinting in his eyes. “Parents love me.”

I couldn’t hold back my snort. “Yeah, right. I’m sure they lock their daughters away after hearing who’s at the door. What parents in their right mind would be okay with you dating their daughter?”

“Ouch! That hurt, Red.”

“You can’t deny your reputation, not when your Mom is even complaining about it. Face it, Tyler. You’re a womanizer.”

“Is that even a thing anymore?” he asked, but there was laughter in his voice. Fine, if he wanted to play, I could play.

“Skirt chaser? Libertine? Casanova? Oh! How about ladies’ man? Any of those work for you?”

He schooled his features and acted as if he were seriously considering the question. With a shrug and a shot straight to my heart, he asked, “How about we just call me yours?”

And the score was Tyler – 1, Hadley – 0.

Finished with my ice cream, I pulled my hand away from his, wiped my mouth, then stood to throw away my napkin. I felt Tyler’s presence behind me. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to do with him. He had a point about meeting my parents. If Mom or Dad caught wind of my dating someone they hadn’t met, it would get ugly fast. They gave me plenty of space to be my own person, but after the Hunter fiasco, they were a little more selective about the boys I dated.

An arm curled around my waist and I was tugged against Tyler’s side as he caught up with me. Even when I’d had a real boyfriend, I hadn’t had this much attention. Hunter had stolen kisses here and there, but he hadn’t been big on touching or holding hands in public. For that matter, I’d never seen Tyler act this way before either. If he wanted people to think this was a real relationship, he was laying it on kind of thick. I’m sure people were already questioning why he would pick someone like me. We didn’t need them digging any deeper, not if we wanted this to work.

“You should at least let me take you home,” Tyler said. “You shouldn’t walk from here, and you’ll ruin my reputation if word gets out I made my girl walk.”

“You really want to take me home?”

“Wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.” He squeezed my waist. “Besides, it’s an ideal time for me to meet your mom. That way she doesn’t freak when I show up in the morning to pick you up for school.”

Pick me up?

“Since when do I ride to school with you? I’ve gone to school with my friends every day since school started last month.”

“Look, Red. I know you don’t really like me, probably can’t stand being near me, but can we at least try to pretend to be a happy couple?” he asked softly so no one walking by would hear. “Is it really so horrible pretending to be my girlfriend?”

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