The Bet
napkin on her lap. “You’re finally tying the knot, hmm? You kids always were so close to one another, can’t say I’m surprised, and you know what this means for your business, right?” Grandma elbowed him.
    Jake dropped his fork, making a huge clattering noise in the silence.
    “It means I’m growing up.” He faked a smile and shoveled more food into his mouth.
    She knew. His conniving grandmother knew about the board members’ ultimatum. Shit. Kacey couldn’t find out that Grandma knew or she’d kill him, and then tell all to Grandma, who would then ruin his chances with the board, considering she still had pull with those old geezers. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise him if his grandmother was behind the board’s ultimatum for Jake to clean up his act.
    Manipulative family members.
    Well, at least he’d brought Kacey down for the weekend as he’d promised. What Grandma did with that was her issue. Not his. Whatever. At least now he could spend time doing what he wanted to do rather than worrying about Kacey at the house. Sooner or later his parents would catch on, but he’d be sure to get plenty of pictures with Kacey around town. Maybe he could sneak in the photographer to their reunion brunch. That would be the perfect setting for a photo shoot. He grinned.
    Jake looked over at Kacey. She was smiling warmly at his mother. Is this what life would be like if they got married? It wasn’t as if it would be difficult, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it would be quite pleasant. A nice wife at home and then a mistress in town. The American dream come true. Speaking of mistresses… his cell phone went off.
    “So…” Kacey reached across the table and grabbed Grandma’s free hand. “Where were you earlier? I looked for you.”
    Jake swore he felt Travis kick him under the table and silently mouth Sorry . Kacey jumped out of her seat as if she was the next target.
    “Oh honey.” Grandma swirled her wine in her glass, while Kacey longingly looked at the red liquid. “I was merely helping out our neighbor.”
    Mother spewed the contents of her wine onto Dad's lap.
    Travis began to choke on the chicken.
    And Jake was left wondering what the hell kind of aliens replaced the family he thought he had been sitting with.
    “Oh.” Kacey blushed. “That’s nice. What exactly did he need help with?”
    Travis’s eyes bugged out of his head.
    Grandmother played with the stem of her wine glass. “Oh, some of this, some of that.”
    And suddenly Jake had a nightmare of what his grandma meant by some of this and some of that. As well as the inkling that he would never again look at his neighbor the same.
    Where was Samantha when he needed her? If his grandmother was getting action, no way was he going to stay home tonight. He remembered that the earlier text had been a notification of an email.
    As if answering his plea for help, Jake’s phone went off again. “I should take this.” He quickly left the table.
    “Hey baby,” Samantha crooned. “How about drinks downtown in a half hour?”
    He should say no, he really should. After all, he had a fake fiancée now. He couldn’t be seen downtown with another woman this early into his plan. His mind made up, he was just getting ready to turn her down when she began talking about how badly she wanted and missed him.
    “I’m wearing a new dress, baby. It’s tight in all the places you like. Come on! Just for a few hours, Jakey. I’ll make it worth your time.”
    “Be there as soon as I can.” He ended the call and went back into the dining room. “Sorry guys, work emergency. One of the faxes didn’t go through, and I have an early morning call from overseas. I’m going to have to run back to the office and make sure everything’s ready to go.”
    The lie flew so easily from his lips even he was surprised, and slightly alarmed that he could be so devious to his own family.
    Kacey tilted her head, her eyes narrowing. “Can’t you fax from

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