Faking It

Free Faking It by Diane Albert

Book: Faking It by Diane Albert Read Free Book Online
Authors: Diane Albert
sweetly from his lips, but they only made her cringe. He might as well have called her adorable and patted her head. It was an image she’d been trying to shake forever. She wanted to be taken seriously, but she couldn’t even manage to comport herself with dignity in front of a major executive. It had nothing to do with his money.
    It had everything to do with her.
    “It’s not like that,” she said weakly. “I don’t care about your money, I just…”
    His hand covered hers, his skin dark against the white tablecloth, dark against her paler skin. “Don’t want to be laughed at anymore,” he said.
    She looked up at him, her heart rising into her throat. How could he understand something like that? He was so straight-laced, so serious, so respectable, so…so…
    So everything she wasn’t.
    “Yes,” she said.
    “Is it so terrible?” he asked. His thumb traced along the side of her palm, his skin so dark in contrast to hers, and chills rocked through her. “I find you refreshing, Stephanie. I’ve never laughed at you. I’ve only…enjoyed you.”
    The way his deep, heavy voice stroked over the words, that hint of an accent, left her chest tight. “I’m just so tired of being this silly little girl.”
    “You are no such thing,” he said firmly. “You are a bright, vivacious woman, and I envy your love of life.”
    “My ‘love of life’ has led to some pretty stupid decisions.” She swallowed against the knot in her throat. “Did Aaron really tell you about all my failed relationships?”
    “Only that he doesn’t like the men you date. You told me the rest,” he said softly.
    “When?”
    “When you wouldn’t answer me in the cab.”
    His gaze was gentle, but she couldn’t stand to look at him anymore. She stared down into her wine glass. “…I was an idiot. I thought…I thought I loved all of them, every time. It’s kind of eye-opening when your fake fiancé is nicer to you than your real boyfriends. I never should have…”
    She shook her head, unable to finish. She shouldn’t be talking about this. It had to still be the wine, right?
    She looked up at him with a forced smile. “Anyway, thanks for the rescue. You’re a really good actor.”
    “Thank you.” His hand fell away from hers. His expression was closed, distant. Why was he so repressed?
    Why did she even care?
    She toyed with the rim of her wine glass. “It’s okay to show emotion, you know. I promise your face won’t crack.”
    “It might,” he deadpanned.
    “There you go teasing me again, making me think you have a sense of humor.”
    “The Terminator doesn’t know how to laugh.”
    She chuckled and shifted to lean against his arm, letting go of her tension with a sigh. Tonight wasn’t a night for past boyfriends, or bad memories. It was a night for celebrating that so far, her plan was going well—and Derek wasn’t so bad to celebrate with. She liked the way he felt, solid and real, even though everything about them was fake. His shoulder was at just the right height for her to lay her cheek against him.
    “See?” she said. “You can be human. It’s not a sin to have flaws.”
    She felt when he turned to look at her; his jaw brushed her hair. “I’m more than flawed, bella .”
    “Oh, I know that. You’re Aaron’s friend. That makes you the scum of the earth by default.”
    She wasn’t sure what the strange rumbling vibrating through him was until it rose up out of him in a full-throated baritone laugh. She pulled back and stared at him. His mouth was entrancing, drawn into a broad smile that made his eyes glitter.
    “Now,” she said, “I think you’re drunk.”
    “What makes you think that?”
    “You. That. I—gah! You’re so confusing!”
    “I promise you, bella ,” he said, and caught a coil of her hair around his finger, “I am very, very simple.”
    His gaze lingered on her mouth. She could never read him, never tell what he was thinking, but it was pretty clear where his mind was

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