I swallowed and stepped out from behind the wall.
Fill-in Bradley’s eyes went wide and he took me in from head to toe. “Gia?” His head whipped to his sister. “Gia?”
“Yes. Gia,” she said. “You’re welcome.”
“You know I had nothing to do with this.” He tugged on the bottom of a T-shirt that said, You can’t take the sky from me. His hair needed my help again, but he was cuter than I remembered.
“Yes. Well, I know . . . now.”
“You do not have to come with me. You look amazing, really amazing, but I’d actually rather go by myself, no offense.”
“None taken.” Technically I hadn’t wanted to go with him to this stupid party where I wouldn’t know anyone either, but his saying he didn’t want me to go was a little jab to the gut. He’d rather go by himself than have to take me? Whatever. It didn’t matter. If I left right now I could go to Logan’s party with my friends. “I should probably just go home.”
“Yes,” fill-in Bradley said at the same exact time Bec said, “No!”
I looked between the two of them. Bec’s eyes were pleading. I had told her I’d try to convince him, plus I kind of agreed with her. He shouldn’t be going to his ex’s party alone. Especially if he was trying to win her back.
“Listen, I don’t have to pretend to be your girlfriend or anything. I could just go as your friend.”
“I really don’t want to make you do that.”
“You wouldn’t be making me. Plus I got all dressed up.”
He smiled. “We wouldn’t want that to go to waste.”
“Good,” Bec said. “It’s settled.” Then she grabbed my arm and pulled me back toward her room before he could object any more. “I just need to talk to Gia for a second and then she’ll be ready.”
“Okay,” he said.
When we were in her room, she turned to me. “Good call on the friends thing. That will get you there, then once you’re there you can hold his hand and kiss his cheek and whatever other girlfriend stuff you need to do to pull this off.”
“Bec, I was serious about the friend thing. It wasn’t a ploy. It’s so obvious he wants his ex back.”
“You see that too?”
“Yes.” He may have been claiming some closure thing, but it was obvious.
I picked up my purse from where I had left it on the floor of her bedroom. “At least he’s agreed to let me go, right?” On her dresser as I was leaving the room I saw several bottles of hair product. “I’m borrowing one of these.” I held up a small tube of gel and shoved it in my purse.
“Do your job,” she said as I left. “It’s not too late to save him from her.”
I was not going to force my fake girlfriendness on anyone tonight, so I just laughed and went to find fill-in Bradley.
I pulled the seat belt across my chest and clicked it in place. “Did you know that your sister never uses your first name? It’s just ‘my brother this’ and ‘my brother that.’ It’s maddening.”
He laughed a loud laugh that made me smile, then he pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.
“It’s actually really cute. I think that’s how she thinks of you always, as her big brother.”
His amused look softened. “So you still don’t know my name?”
“No. And I need it for tonight.”
He didn’t provide me the answer but instead asked, “What have you been calling me in your head, then?”
“What makes you think you’ve been in my head?”
He just smirked like he knew he had. And he was right.
He laughed. “Wow. Creative.”
“It’s all I had to work with so help me out here.”
“Here’s the problem. There’s this huge buildup now. I almost feel like I need to make up a name that fits this moment of anticipation.”
I gave him a stare of impatience. “Spit it out, fill-in Bradley, or that’s what you’re going to be from here on out.”
“Do you realize the acronym for fill-in Bradley is FIB? It’s kind of ironic, right?”
I smacked his arm playfully several times while saying, “Tell me your name.”
He laughed and grabbed my hand, pushing it down onto the center console then trapping it there with his. “My name is . . .”
“You’re right, this is super climactic. I don’t think there is anything you can possibly say that will match the anticipation I feel right now.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Should I guess?”
“We have about fifteen minutes, so you might as well.”
“Okay, let’s play Twenty Questions.”
“All right. Hit me. Not literally, though.” He squeezed my hand then let it go.
I smiled. “First question. Were you named after anyone famous?”
“Hmm. Well, yes and no. I mean, there are famous people with my name but I was named after someone not so famous with my name.”
I tilted my head at him. “Really? You have to be confusing like that?”
“Is that one of your questions?”
“No, if you’re going to be so strict with the rules, it’s not. My next question is, can your name also be a last name or close to a last name?”
“What do you mean ‘close to a last name’?”
“Like by adding a letter or something. William isn’t necessarily a last name, but Williams is. Phillip to Phillips. Edward to Edwards. You get it.”
“Then there are the unmodified last names that can also be first names, like Taylor, Scott, Carter, Thomas, Lewis, Harris, Martin, Morris—”
“You think my name is Morris?”
“Just an example.”
“You sure think about names a lot. Wait, don’t tell me, you’re one of those girls who’s already named all her future children.”
“No, I’m not.” Well, not all of them.
“That’s good. And yes, my name can be a last name.”
“A modified one?”
“A common one?”
“Not so much.”
I pursed my lips to the side, thinking. “Is it a name that can also double as a word?”
“You know, like Hunter or Forest or Stone—”