Considering he hadn’t being doing anything since the babysitter came onboard, or really even before then, he wasn’t sure what more he could do other than lock himself up in his house until the start of the season in March. “And what is that?”
“You convince the team and the public that you have a girlfriend.” She held up her hand the moment his mouth opened. “The woman you were caught kissing? If we could get her to assume the role of your girlfriend, then I could spin this. The gossips will go crazy thinking you’ve settled down, but it’s the good kind of press. It will show the Club that you’ve changed your ways and will help repair your public image.”
Chad stared at her. “You’re joking, right?”
She clasped her hands in her lap. “Does it look like I’m joking? And that’s a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer. This woman will be the perfect one for it.”
Bridget would be perfect for a lot of things. “And why is that?”
“She’s not like the women you’re normally with. She’s average.”
His brows slammed down. “She is not average.” Hell no. She was beyond that. Especially when he thought of her in Leather and Lace, her cheeks flushed prettily and having no idea she was a sheep among wolves.
“In comparison to the women you typically date, she’s a lot of things. And most importantly, she’s unexpected. She’s the kind of woman you settle down with.”
And that’s exactly why he needed to stay as far away from Bridget as possible.
“No way. I’m not doing this.”
“Then you lose your contract,” she said simply. “Is that what you want?”
He gritted his teeth. “You know the answer to that.”
“Then you shouldn’t have a problem with this plan.” Miss Gore rose. “I know this is an unconventional plan—”
“Yeah, I’d definitely say it’s unconventional. It’s also insane. You’re asking me and a woman I barely know to pretend to be together?” He shook his head. “This isn’t going to work.”
He snorted. “You’d never get her to agree to it.”
Miss Gore’s answering smile was that of a player who knew she was about to hit a home run. “I can be rather convincing.”
Maybe he was still dreaming, except it had turned into a nightmare. There was no way Bridget would agree to be his girlfriend, and once she turned down Miss Gore’s plans, they’d have to move on to something else. What, he didn’t know.
“Okay,” Chad said. “Have at it.”
It was the day from hell.
Shell had been blowing up her phone all day. Madison had grilled her like a seasoned homicide detective, repeatedly pointing at the article like it was evidence and, well, it sort of was. And that article?
Under the headline had been a quick write-up about Chad Gamble and a reference to her as the curvaceous—curvaceous?—mystery woman locking lips with the “most sought-out bachelor in the major leagues.” And then there was the picture that captured the moment with startling detail. Christ, were they using a high-definition camera?
Chad was pressed against Bridget, his hands cupping her face while she grabbed his shirt like she was ready to get it on right then and there.
Oh mercy, there was no way she was living that down.
Everyone had stared at Bridget. Or at least it felt that way. She knew damn well half the floor had seen the article. Poor Robert had looked heartbroken. In the bathroom, Betsy from procurement wanted to give her a high five for crying out loud. To make matters worse, at lunch with Madison, some random blond chick on the street had approached her and felt the need to inform her that Chad was a kiss-and-run kind of guy.
Apparently she was a part of Chad’s legion—the bitter side.
Bridget had been mortified as half the patrons waiting outside the taco joint bore witness as Chad’s ex-whatever launched into a verbal diatribe about how he was “the best you ever had in bed but the worst out of it” in a high, squeaky voice that had this remarkable ability to carry. Afterward, Bridget wanted to bleach her ears out.
The entire time, Madison looked torn between feeling sorry for her and wanting to laugh. “Sorry,” she had said as they headed back to the office. “That’s what happens when you date a mini celebrity.”
“We’re so not dating or doing anything like that,” Bridget had said, and then said it again for extra effect.
In the afternoon, someone from the Washington Post called to get an interview with her. If being pictured with Chad once led to all of this, she couldn’t imagine what dating a man like him would be like. Her entire day had been taken over by this mess, which was just perfect, since he had also consumed her nights.
By the time she got home after work, she was ready to hide under the coffee table with Pepsi or punch someone. After she finished off the carton of leftover Chinese, there was a sturdy knock on her front door. Considering she wasn’t late on rent and Shell was out of town on business, she was half afraid to answer the door.
Smoothing her hair back from her face, she went to the door and peered through the peephole. What she saw didn’t really relieve her. A very stern face and dark eyes behind glasses stared back, and Bridget had a sudden blast from the past. This lady outside her door reminded her of a teacher who spent more time yelling at her students than teaching them a lick of anything.
Bridget opened the door. “Can I help you?”
The woman before her wore a really boring brown suit skirt set that Bridget wanted to throw neon paint on. The shirt under the suit jacket was white—of course. Color must be a bad, bad thing for this lady. Her gaze traveled down to the sensible pumps and Bridget’s internal fashion goddess hung her head in shame. With the mauve shirt she was wearing today and the teal skirt, she must look like a freaking techno rainbow next to this lady.
“Miss Rodgers?” the woman said in a clipped, confident tone.
And she sounded like a teacher. “Yes?”
“My name is Alana Gore.” She stepped into Bridget’s apartment without being invited, holding an oversize bucket purse close to her narrow hips. “I’m Chad Gamble’s publicist.”
Irritation and about a thousand other emotions raced through Bridget as she closed her door and turned to the lady. Good God, there was no escaping anything Chad-related today. “How did you find out where I live?”
Miss Gore sat down on the edge of the couch, her lips slightly curled as she scanned the bright quilts and pillows on Bridget’s couch and chair, and then her gaze landed on the ball of fluff staring out from underneath the coffee table at her. From the look that crossed her face, she was no fan of cats.
Bridget took an immediate dislike to the woman.
“When it comes to finding someone I need to speak with, there are many tools at my fingertips. Take for example, Chad Gamble’s brother Chandler; considering what he does for a living, he probably uses the same means as I do.” Miss Gore went to place her bag on the floor and then seemed to think twice, as if Bridget’s floor was dirty or something, and placed her bag next to her on the couch. “And I really need to speak with you privately.”
This was the last thing Bridget wanted or needed at the moment. “This is about the picture in the paper this morning?” When Chad’s publicist nodded, Bridget gritted her teeth so hard it was a wonder her molars didn’t crack. “Look, that was a one-time-only, freak occurrence—”
“And you’re not sleeping with him, and he kissed you just because he wanted to. I know.”
“That’s what he said?”
Miss Gore frowned. “So you did have sex with him?”
“What? No. I didn’t. About the wanting to kiss me—oh, never mind, that part doesn’t matter.” Bridget shook her head as she sat down in her chair. Pepsi crawled out from under the coffee table, his claws digging into the frayed throw rug. Ears back, he stared up at the stranger. Bridget hoped he didn’t pounce on the bag or do something utterly embarrassing, like cough up a mountain-size hairball. “Like I said, it’s nothing. So I’m not sure why you’re here.”
Miss Gore pulled her feet away from Pepsi and folded her ankles. “What kind of relationship do you have with Chad, and please don’t say you don’t have one, because if so, I’m going to wonder why you allow complete strangers to kiss you.”
After the kind of day Bridget had, she wasn’t in the mood for this crap. “I really don’t see how that is any of your business.”
Unfazed, Miss Gore continued. “It is my business as his publicist. Now, he tells me that you two have not had any…intimate relationship, but I assume there is more.”
“And like I said a few seconds ago, I don’t see how what we have or don’t is any of your business.”
A ghost of a smile appeared. “Are you aware of Chad’s reputation?”
Bridget snorted. “Who isn’t?”
“I’ve been brought in by his manager to clean up his image. As you can imagine, that has been a near impossible feat when it comes to his extracurricular activities.”
Was that what they were calling being a general man-whore these days?
“I had managed to keep him away from the…women for the last month, and then you happened.”
The way she said it was like Bridget was a comet that had smacked into Earth. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see how his reputation has anything to do with me.”
“It does.” Miss Gore’s perfectly groomed brows knitted as Pepsi came out from under the table. “The only way I can repair his image is if he has a girlfriend.”
“And out of all the women he typically fraternizes with, you don’t take your clothes off for a living or make money posing for pictures, and you’re not a rich socialite who doesn’t know how to use the division table.”
Bridget would’ve laughed at that, because it was true, but a weird feeling was crawling up the back of her neck. “I still have no idea what this has to do with me.”
“If Chad were to settle down, even temporarily, with anyone who is average, it would do wonders to repair his image. His contract with the Nationals is on the line,” Miss Gore explained, and Bridget wasn’t sure if she should be insulted by being called average or not. “And that’s where I need your help.”
Her mouth opened. She hadn’t known Chad was close to losing his contract, and she wondered if his brothers knew. Surely Madison would’ve said something.
“I need you to pretend to be Chad’s girlfriend, only for a month.” Miss Gore tilted her head to the side. “It would involve a few public appearances with him. Of course, it would not be at your expense at all.”
Bridget stared at her. “Are you serious?”
She opened her mouth again, but this time she started to laugh—the deep, belly-shaking kind. “Oh my God…”