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Professional hockey player Ben Williamson doesn’t quite know how he got himself into this situation; hiring someone to be his date to his brother’s wedding is way out of character for him. But with family pressuring him to settle down, going stag just isn’t an option. It would just be one more thing his polite, cultured family uses as ammo against him.
Ryan Cruz is having a bad day. Wait, make that a bad year. Broke, technically homeless, and living on a friend’s couch, she’s now also unemployed after her sharp tongue gets her fired from her job. So when a handsome stranger approaches her out of the blue with a proposition–he’ll pay her to be his date to his brother’s wedding for the weekend–accepting his offer is a no brainer. She needs the cash and figures it wouldn’t be in the best interest of a professional athlete to murder her.
What starts as a simple business arrangement soon becomes more as these opposites attract and get caught up in the wedding magic. Will Ben and Ryan be able to turn their relationship into something more? Or is love based on a proposition too much of an obstacle to overcome?
Ryan heard a “Ben, go after her” from behind her as she hurried toward the door. She thought his mother had said it, but she couldn’t be sure. Her ears were too busy ringing with the force she was exerting to hold back her tears.
She’d made it to the driveway before she heard Ben call her name. She ignored him as she made her way to the rental car.
He caught up to her right as she reached it. “Ryan,” he breathed.
She turned toward him and held out her hand. “Keys.”
“What?” he asked, looking flustered.
“Give me the keys, Ben.”
“No, let me . . . let me take you back. We can talk and—”
“I have nothing to say to you. And I’m sure as hell not getting in a car with you.”
“Ryan, please let me explain.”
“You have. I got the message pretty clearly inside. Seems like everyone else did too. It was quite a show.”
Ben ran a hand over his head. “I didn’t mean to say that. It just came out. I was angry, and—”
“Jesus Christ, Ben! Stop. You’re not an eighteen-year-old kid anymore. You can’t use your anger as an excuse for saying shitty things. Besides, it’s not like you didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.” Ryan shrugged. “They know the truth about me, and I know where I stand with you. It was for the best.”
“That’s not . . . that’s not where you stand with me. You’re more than that.”
Ryan laughed humorlessly. “No, I’m not. I’m not even that actually. All I am is an out-of-work waitress who was desperate enough to let some guy think she was an escort.”
The startled look on Ben’s face would’ve been comical if it wasn’t for the fact that Ryan was pretty sure she’d never laugh for real ever again. “Wait, you’re not an escort?”
“Well, I mean, I guess I am now. Thanks for that resume builder, by the way. But before I met you? No. I was just some girl trying to figure out how she was going to make ends meet after I quit waitressing at a crappy strip club. And then you barged into my life and offered me a better alternative. So I took it.”
Ryan had managed to keep her emotions in check, but time was running out on that. “But now it’s over. So give me the keys.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Ben pulled the keys out of his pocket, but he toyed with them instead of handing them over. “I don’t want it to be over,” he said softly.
“Well, it really doesn’t matter what you want. There’s no coming back from that. We both know it.”
“I don’t know that.”
She sighed. “Then I guess you never really knew me at all.”
Elizabeth Hayley is actually “Elizabeth” and “Hayley,” two friends who love reading romance novels to obsessive levels. This mutual love prompted them to put their English degrees to good use by penning their own. The product is Pieces of Perfect, their debut novel. They learned a ton about one another through the process, like how they clearly share a brain and have a persistent need to text each other constantly (much to their husbands’ chagrin).
They live with their husbands and kids in a Philadelphia suburb. Thankfully, their children are still too young to read.
Elizabeth Hayley’s writing motto is best captured by the words of Patrick Dennis: “I always start with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”