Jaws was an upscale seafood joint that Bridget couldn’t even afford to walk past. Letting out a shaky breath, she watched the publicist/dictator stroll toward the front door.
Miss Gore stopped and looked over her shoulder. The woman’s spine was straight as a nail under the suit. “Don’t be late, Bridget.”
Bridget did the only thing she could do in this situation that wouldn’t end with her doing a life stint in prison. She flipped the woman off.
With both hands.
Chad had been stunned into silence when Miss Gore called and informed him Bridget had agreed to pretend to be his girlfriend. He’d been positive she would’ve laughed his publicist right out of town, and they’d be scrambling for another way to repair an image he’d been partly responsible for. Maybe he’d been right about Bridget all along, and she was no different than the other women who wanted to be with him for the attention.
That was a damn shame.
“You’re pacing.” Miss Gore’s voice grated on his every last damn nerve.
Chad stopped and stared out the window overlooking a manicured park that split the teeming avenue.
From the sectional couch, Miss Gore sighed. “You should be thrilled by this development.”
The only thing that thrilled him was the fact he’d get to see Bridget again without having to seek her out. How fucked up was that?
“I must say your place is by far nicer than Bridget’s. She has a thing for…color. Her walls are blue, red, and yellow. The pillows on her couch have every color of the rainbow in them. It was like being in an episode of Sesame Street.”
A slow smile pulled at his lips as he leaned against the windowpane and folded his arms.
“And she has a cat.” Miss Gore shuddered. “A cat the size of a small dog.”
Chad wasn’t big on cats, being more of a dog person himself, but apparently he found them more tolerable than Miss Gore. There was a knock on the door, soft and almost hesitant. He turned from the window and thrust his fingers through his hair. The clock on the wall said it was a minute till seven.
“You going to get that?” Miss Gore asked.
He shot the woman a look. “You invited her. This was your idea.”
“And that kind of attitude isn’t going to work. Get the door.”
Chad balked at her demanding tone and had half a mind to toss her out into the hallway. The only thing stopping him was that his life was on the line. Crossing the living room, he passed the kitchen and went into the foyer. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
Her hair was down, like it had been the night in the club, falling in waves around her face. A faint pink blush stained her cheeks, causing tiny freckles he hadn’t noticed before to stand out over her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Since they were supposed to go out later or some shit like that, she was wearing another demure sweater dress in deep green. The black knee boots with their pointy toes seemed toned down for her, but she looked good.
She looked really good.
Bridget’s bottle-green eyes were focused straight ahead, but she wasn’t seeing him. “Sorry if I’m late,” she said.
“You’re not.” He stepped aside, and for the first time in a long, long freaking time, he felt nervous. “Would you like something to drink?”
“The strongest liquor you have,” she said, placing her clutch on the kitchen counter as she brushed past him. He inhaled deeply, lust stirring at the smell of jasmine. There was the color, he realized as his gaze fell to the clutch. The thing was blue, red, purple, and green.
Chad turned to the cabinet, but Miss Gore appeared out of nowhere. “I do not think alcohol is a good idea right now.”
Bridget’s spine stiffened as she turned to the woman. “If you expect me to go through with this, I need a drink. A really hard drink.”
Wondering if he should feel insulted or not, he grabbed a glass and a bottle of Grey Goose from the cabinet. “Tonight sounds like it’s going to be fun.” He poured Bridget a glass and handed it to her. “Can’t wait to get started.”
Bridget’s eyes narrowed on him as her fingers brushed his. She jerked back, and clear liquor sloshed over the rim, running down her fingers. Man, he wanted to lick that right off.
He doubted Miss Prissy would approve.
And, by the way Bridget was not looking at him, she wouldn’t, either.
Putting the vodka back, he closed the cabinet door. “So we’re doing dinner?” he asked, wanting to get this show on the road.
“We need to cover some ground rules first,” Miss Gore said, gesturing back to the living room like she owned the damn apartment. “Follow me?”
Bridget moved past Miss Gore, and he’d swear the temperature in the room dropped by the look she’d given the woman. At least they could bond over their mutual dislike of his publicist.
He watched Bridget sit on the edge of the couch, his gaze glued to that lovely ass of hers. He chose to stand back at the window, but this time the scenery was a lot more interesting inside his place.
“Before you say a word,” Bridget said, holding up a hand as she twisted toward Miss Gore, “I want your promise that this will only be a month.”
Chad’s brows shot up.
Jumping in before Chad could open his mouth, his publicist nodded. “It would be a little over a month—a few days. Basically until New Year’s Day.”
Bridget lowered her hand and took a nice, long, and healthy gulp of vodka. Now his eyes narrowed on her. “Do you think you can make it that long?” he asked sardonically.
“I think I’ll need to develop a drug habit to get through this,” she said, smiling sweetly.
Miss Gore stepped forward. “Actually, I would advise against that.”
Bridget’s brows rose as she took another drink of the vodka. “Sorry, but this is all new to me.”
“Well, I’ve never had anyone pretend to be my girlfriend, so I’m in the same boat as you.”
She glanced at him but quickly looked away. “What are the ground rules?”
Miss Gore’s gaze traveled between the two, her eyes sharp. “No public intoxication or drug use.”
Chad folded his arms, exasperated. “I don’t do drugs.”
“That last part was meant for her.”
Now it was Bridget’s turn to look riled. “I’ll try to refrain from doing my daily hit of crack.”
Chad barked out a short laugh, but Miss Gore was not amused. “You two will need to be believable. I suggest that you do not tell any of your friends or family about this arrangement. If this were to get out to the press, we’d all look like fools.”
“Then maybe we should find another way,” Chad suggested.
Bridget’s gaze dropped to her half-full glass. “I agree.”
“There is no other way. You’ve made your bed with Bridget and now you get to roll around and lie in it. Moving on.” Miss Gore straightened her glasses. “You must be convincing to the public. No arguing. You have to act like you like each other, and given the fact that you two shared a very public kiss, that shouldn’t be too hard.”
A pretty flush crawled over Bridget’s cheeks. “Can we not talk about that?”
Chad had been entertaining a quick fantasy of tracing the rush of blood with his fingers, mouth, and tongue. “Oh, you’re going to start the whole ‘I’m not attracted to you’ thing again?”
“Just because you kissed me doesn’t mean I’m attracted to you,” she shot back.
Oh, here the fuck we go again. “You kissed me back. “
“I didn’t have much of a choice.” Her hand had tightened around the glass. “Just like I don’t have much of a choice right this second.”
The way Bridget said that made it sound like she was about to take a job shoveling pig shit. “It could be worse. I hear I’m a pretty good catch.”
“Yeah, when you were named Sexiest whatever alive last year, when you were still relevant.”
“Ouch.” Chad’s brows shot up, and he laughed, genuinely amused. “I’ll be expecting a written apology when I’m named again this year.”
Bridget eyed him over the rim of her glass. “If that happens, then I seriously question the taste of American women.”
He remembered easily how great she had tasted. “If I recall correctly, you’ve—”
“Children,” snapped Miss Gore. “You two kissed. We’ve established that. All right? Obviously there is some sort of attraction between you, but I cannot have you two behaving like bickering children in public.”
Bridget glanced down at her glass. “I need more vodka.”
“Aw, come on,” Chad drawled.
Miss Gore’s sigh was a work of art and managed to silence both of them. “How did you two meet?”
Since Bridget said nothing, he decided it was up to him to come out with the truth. “We met at a bar about a month ago. She obviously knew who I was and my family, since she works with my brother’s girlfriend. I didn’t know this.” And truth be told, he wasn’t sure whether, if he had known, it would’ve changed anything that night. “Anyway, we spent a few hours together.”
Bridget had gone very quiet during this and seemed relieved when he hadn’t elaborated any further, and he wasn’t going to, no matter how many questions Miss Gore asked. Luckily, she nodded and moved on.
“You two will need to act as if you’re in love.” Miss Gore rocked back on her heels. “You should definitely hold her hand while you’re out. And— What?” She frowned at his raised eyebrows. “You know, place your hand in hers.”
“I know how to hold hands,” Chad growled, and Bridget snickered. He sent her a look, and her eyes rolled. “And contrary to popular belief, I know how to date someone.”
“Now that is shocking.” Bridget took another drink. “I thought you only knew how— Hey!”
Chad shot forward, moving so fast that he knew he’d startled her. Very carefully, he took the glass from her. “I think you’ve had enough.”
She gave him a dirty look. “Not nearly enough.”
While he thought her feisty responses were rather cute—and he wasn’t sure when cute became a part of his vocab—his ego was starting to get a little bruised.
Miss Gore smoothed a hand over her tightly pulled back hair. “I think we could do about three public appearances during the week, plus a night out on Saturday. If the press catches on, you may be required to spend the night here, Bridget, to make it believable.”
“What?” Her eyes had gone wide. “I didn’t agree to that.”
His publicist’s lips thinned. “There are guest rooms here, and you’re both adults. Start acting like it.”
Bridget’s cheeks flushed. “I really don’t like you.”
Chad bit back a smile.
“You don’t have to like me,” Miss Gore responded coolly. “There is also a Christmas event hosted by the Nationals you’ll be expected to attend together. With the very public dates and that event, it should calm down the press or at least switch to more appropriate write-ups on your personal life, Chad.”