“The first time was four years ago. I did it on a whim and I liked it. It works for me, so I haven’t had any other type of relationship since.”

Twelve women in four years. That wasn’t … terrible. “And you didn’t tell any of those women who you are?”

“No.”

Here comes the biggie. “Do you always have sex with the women who agree to a relationship like this with you?”

“Yes.” That’s what I expected him to say, but hearing him admit it gives me more of a reality check. I would be added to a list occupied by twelve others before me.

He sees the reality of it all registering in my head. “Don’t think about the others. I don’t.”

And he wouldn’t think of me either three months from now when he moves on to the woman after me. I’m surprised by how that bothers me. “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.”

He reaches across the table and puts his hand on top of mine. “I won’t feel like a stranger to you for long. You’ll come to know me quickly. And it’ll be the real me, even if you don’t know my name.”

I’m attracted to this man, but I’m not sure I can ever feel comfortable enough to have sex with him when I don’t know his name.

“You’ll be surprised how quickly our relationship will progress when there are no silly pretenses. We come together knowing what the other’s expectations are, so it makes things easier, more relaxed. Our time together is so much more enjoyable because our only motives are to enjoy each other’s company. There’s no pressure and it’s … fantastic.”

I guess there isn’t any pressure when he knows I’m a sure thing.

“Are you on birth control?”

Damn, he’s no nonsense and doesn’t hesitate in getting right down to business, although I haven’t agreed to any of this. “Of course.”

He smiles. “Good. We’ll still use condoms. I’m more comfortable with two forms of birth control since none of them are a hundred percent. I don’t want you leaving here with my ankle-biter in your belly.”

Damn, he’s presumptuous.

As the child of a single mother, I neither want nor need a child. I catch a rigor thinking about it. “Definitely not.”

Casual sex. Can I do this? At least when I was sleeping with Blake, I thought I loved him. As beautiful as he is, I don’t know if I can be intimate with Lachlan when I feel no love for him. Hell, I don’t even know him, but he says I will. And soon, it seems. “Is it difficult to end the relationship when it’s over?”

He’s so casual about the whole thing. “I’ve never had a problem with it. There’s no kind of attachment because we’re not together long enough, and we’re both aware of how things will end.”

But we wouldn’t be together for three to four weeks like his other relationships. We’d be together for three months. That seems like a big difference to me, but what do I know? I’m not the one who has done this before.

“So, in all that time, I wouldn’t meet your friends or family?”

“No. Meeting those people who are closest to me is too complicated. It would be impossible for you to meet them without learning who I am, and I don’t want the task of lying to them about what we are to each other.”

“So, they’d never know I existed. Of course, that makes sense.” I swallow hard. Am I really thinking of agreeing to this total madness? To becoming someone else’s secret? Haven’t I played that part enough already?

“Are you accepting? Because it sounds like you are.” His intense blue eyes smolder, begging me to tell him I will be his for the next three months.

“I’m not saying yes yet.”

“But, you’re not saying no.”

He wants this badly. “The only thing I’m agreeing to do is spend time with you. We’ll see how things go from there.”

He beams. “I need something to call you besides Yank or American girl.”

If I don’t know his real name, he doesn’t deserve to know mine. I try to think on my feet, but it’s hard to come up with an alias I’d like to be called for the next three months. I go with my middle name and my sperm donor’s last name. “Paige Beckett.”

He reaches across the table and strokes my fingers with his, igniting a swarm of butterflies low in my gut. “It’s very nice to meet you, Paige Beckett.”

6

Jack McLachlan

I already see Paige Beckett isn’t going to make this easy for me. The others never made me wait for an answer. This is something new, but I like the thrill of not knowing. I don’t need to hear her say yes tonight because working to win her over is going to be so much more fun.

“And you are Lachlan who?”

Everyone knew me as Jack, but my mother called me Jack Henry my whole life, so I go with something that feels familiar. “Lachlan Henry.”

I’ve never used a name so similar to my real one, but I know why this is a first. Being coy with myself is useless; I don’t want to hear her shout another man’s name when I make her come. I want to hear her say my name, or at least some semblance of it.

I smile as I think about the things I will do to hear her call out my name. “And how old are you, Miss Beckett?”

“Seventeen.”

“What!” There is no way she’s seventeen. I inspect her face, studying it intently, but don’t know what it is I hope to find. Laugh lines maybe?

She watches my face. “Is my age a problem for you?”

“Hell, yeah, seventeen is a problem.” I throw my napkin on the table. All of this has been a waste. “Forget it all. This whole thing is off.”

“I don’t act seventeen. I’m very mature for my age.”

“No way. You’re not even old enough to be drinking that wine.” I lean in and whisper so no one will overhear. “I’m almost twice your age.”

“I don’t mind. I have daddy issues.” She breaks into a huge grin and I hear a girlish giggle. That’s when I realize she’s f**king with me and has the ability to lie with a straight face. I’ll have to remember that for future reference.

I’m not amused. “I see I have a comedienne on my hands.”

She’s still smiling, seemingly pleased by my sharp reaction. “I’m not really, but you walked right into that one and I couldn’t resist. Relax, I’m twenty-two, at least until the groundhog comes out in search of his shadow. How old are you?”

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