It wasn’t shy librarian Lola McBride's idea to crash someone else’s high school reunion. Her best friend made her do it, insisting that having a little fun with a super-hot rebound would make her forget about her recent breakup. That’s when she meets the hottest guy she’s ever seen.
Architect Luke Erickson had no idea attending his ten-year reunion would turn out to be so fun. He catches the sexy brunette in a lie, and he counters with a proposal—He’ll keep her secret if she helps get his family off his back by pretending to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family reunion.
From one reunion to another, Lola and Luke are suddenly spending a lot of time together. Good thing they're only pretending, or this super-secret relationship could get really complicated.
“Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.”
“Everything you need to know about life you can learn by watching The Golden Girls.”
Lola raised an eyebrow at her best friend and roommate. Frankie meant well, but sometimes it took a little time and patience to figure out exactly what she was talking about.
“I’m serious,” Frankie said after she snagged the carton of double-chocolate fudge ice cream they were currently sharing.READ MORE
One carton, two spoons, a Ryan Gosling movie marathon with your best friend. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday getting over a breakup. Of course, a better way to spend a Saturday would be hanging out with your boyfriend. Well, if he didn’t just dump you for someone younger, prettier, and more fun.
“I know you’re serious, Frankie, and I am well aware of your love affair with reruns of The Golden Girls. But I thought we were talking about me and all my lameness.”
“You’re not lame, Lola. I wouldn’t be friends with you if you were. You got dumped.”
“Thanks for reminding me.” She shoveled a large spoonful of ice cream in her mouth.
“Let me finish. You got dumped and The Golden Girls are going to help you feel better. Trust me. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia know all.”
Lola rolled her eyes. She couldn’t help it. “Oh really. And just what would they say to make me feel better about Mark?”
“Mark is a douche. And anyway, it’s not what they would say to you. It’s what they would do. They have all the answers to the problems of the world.”
Curious, Lola put her spoon and the now empty ice cream carton on the coffee table and turned to give her friend her full attention. After she paused Crazy, Stupid, Love first, of course.
Always dramatic, Frankie sat up straight, flipped her curly auburn hair over her shoulder, and took a deep breath. “Okay, so, think about it. The Golden Girls know how to live life. Number one. Get a great roommate.”
Frankie shimmied her shoulders and made a kissy face. Lola laughed.
“Obviously, you already have that one down,” Frankie said. “Next,” she said, holding up two fingers, “cheesecake makes everything better. Third…”
“If you tell me to start dating every guy I meet like Blanche or your next sentence starts with ‘Picture it…Sicily’, I’m going to throw up.”
It was Frankie’s turn to laugh. “No. Although, Blanche may have been on to something. She loved her body, she was confident, and she enjoyed dating. Hmm, all things you don’t possess.”
“Shut up.” Lola threw a pillow at her.
She did enjoy dating. Lola preferred being in a committed relationship to randomly hooking up. As a homebody, her preference was to spend the night with her boyfriend cooking together and binging Netflix rather than getting hammered at a bar and making idle chitchat with some douchey guy who smelled like beer and wore too much aftershave.
Frankie, on the other hand, loved going out. She was always the first to try a new bar or get them VIP passes to the hottest club. Frankie was an expert flirter, and men always seemed to flock to her. If she wanted, she could be out with any of the twenty guys who’d snapped her in the last week. All she had to do was bat her pretty eyelashes. Even when she broke up with someone, he was still enamored with her. She was almost to the friend limit on Facebook. Basically, she was Lola’s polar opposite.
Although…there was something covetable about Frankie’s love life. Lola saw it as almost freeing. Frankie was always smiling and laughing. Everyone loved her, and she was the life of the party. Not that Lola didn’t have friends and a life. She did. It was just a small, quiet life.
She glanced at Frankie and saw the determination on her face. Lola wasn’t getting out of this conversation.
“I’m sure there’s some point to all of this,” Lola said. “Why don’t you just get to it?”
“My point is that you are bummed because Mark dumped you.”
“I know this already, Francesca.”
Frankie stuck her tongue out at the use of her full name. “Mark was a loser, and you need to get back out there and have some fun. Life is too short. You’re young, you’re smart, you’re totally gorgeous.”
Lola caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window behind the couch. Her long brown hair probably needed a trim, although she liked how her bangs had grown out to that perfect length and touched the tip of the black glasses she absolutely needed to wear. Frankie always said her light-blue eyes were so pretty and how she should lose the glasses. But Lola had tried contacts, and glasses were more comfortable. Besides, as a librarian, she was constantly staring at books and computer screens. Contacts tended to dry up and become itchy by the end of the workday.
“I know what you’re thinking, Lola Susan McBride. You’re going to tell me that you’re not gorgeous, even though you have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model. Damn you,” she added for good measure.
“Oh please,” Lola said with one last look at her reflection. She was plain and boring. If she really resembled a model, Mark wouldn’t have broken up with her. Well, probably not.
“And it’s time for you to take that bangin’ body out there, dress it up in provocative clothes, have some fun, and find a super-hot rebound guy.”
“You know I’m not going to do any of that. Besides, I wouldn’t even know how. Or where to go.”
Frankie’s eyes were practically sparkling. “Well…you could do speed dating.”
Lola scrunched up her nose.
Frankie laughed. “Okay, that’s out. We could barhop next weekend. Ooh, you could go back on Tinder or Bumble.”
Lola groaned. Like most single people, she’d tried online dating. She’d been on a fair amount of dates and even had a relationship with someone from OKCupid for a couple months. But she’d also been stood up twice, suffered through a date with a man she was pretty sure was batting for the other team, and received three dick pics.
The idea of returning to that Pandora’s box of fun? No thank you.
“Lola, you have to put yourself out there. It’s a numbers game. The more men you meet, the better your chances of finding someone.”
“But I don’t know how to do that,” Lola whined.
“I do,” Frankie said in a singsong voice. “And so do Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.”
“Are we back to that?”
“We never left. Didn’t you see the episode where they crashed someone else’s high school reunion?”
Because of Frankie’s love of The Golden Girls, Lola had seen pretty much every episode at least three times. “Doesn’t Dorothy become…wait a minute. You’re not suggesting we crash a high school reunion?”
Frankie’s grin spread from ear to ear.
Lola jumped up and shook her head. “No, no, no.”
Frankie joined her off the couch. “Yes, yes, yes. And I know just the high school.”
“It better not be one of the high schools here in Arlington.”
“As a matter of fact, Kennedy is having their ten-year reunion tonight.”
“Kennedy is the perfect school. There were like two thousand kids in each class. No way did everyone know each other. We’ll wait until the reunion has started, grab a nametag off the table, and then blend right in.”
“Don’t those nametags belong to alums attending their reunion?” Not that Lola was actually considering this ludicrous plan.
Frankie shook her head. “I know someone on the reunion committee at Kennedy.”
Of course she did.
“They said they print out badges for every classmate whether they’ve RSVP’d or not. Come on, Lola. There’s nothing to lose.”
“How about my respect? My dignity?”
“Who cares about those things? We are going to live it up and find you a hottie.” Frankie clapped her hands excitedly. “You’re going to have so much fun. Especially after the makeover I’m about to give you.”
“Um, I haven’t said yes yet.”
When Lola took in Frankie’s determined expression, she knew it didn’t matter. Whether she liked it or not, she was going to a reunion. And it wasn’t her own.
Two hours later, they stood outside Kennedy High School. Lola had been plucked, teased, and made over in every way imaginable. She was wearing one of Frankie’s blue dresses that was about six inches too short, although Frankie insisted she show off her legs. She had to admit that her makeup did look good. The colors Frankie used brought out the blue in her eyes, and she loved the pink lipstick from Frankie’s collection.
“You look amazing, Lola. There’s still time to lose the glasses though.”
“No way.” That was the one place where Lola had to put her foot down.
“Fine, the glasses just add to the whole sexy librarian vibe.”
Lola groaned. “You know I hate that stereotype. It’s clichéd.”
“And true. I mean, my God. Look at you. I’d totally make out with you in the stacks.”
“Shut up.” But she laughed as she said it.
They turned to take in the large high school. People were milling about, and they could already hear music filtering out from the gym.
“Looks like our reunion is in full swing.” Frankie wiggled her eyebrows. “Let’s go Bears!”
Lola rolled her eyes. “They’re the Bobcats.”
“Oh, whatever. I can’t wait to get inside and see all of our friends from high school.”
Lola shook her head as Frankie linked their arms and dragged her toward the door. “You are ridiculous.”
Lola sighed. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like this. Even if Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia had been there with her. She wasn’t going to like this one bit.
Luke had a feeling he wasn’t going to like this.
Going to his ten-year high school reunion wasn’t his idea of a good time, but he’d promised some friends he would make it. Since he’d recently returned to Arlington, Virginia, after stints in both San Francisco and New York, he had no excuse. His old high school was only four miles from his current condo.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t enjoyed high school. In fact, Luke had a great time playing baseball, being goofy with his friends, and, of course, dating. He’d been one person in a very large class with his pick of beautiful dates.
He pushed through the front doors and made his way toward the gym. Ten years later and he could still navigate these hallways with his eyes closed. The place smelled the same, like pencil erasers and heavy-duty cleaner. Although, everything seemed smaller somehow.
Right outside the gym, he saw a long table set up with about a million nametags. He smiled at the two women manning the table, found his nametag, and made his way into the gym.
Already a good number of people were on the dance floor, moving to a song from their senior year of high school. Luke imagined the whole night would be filled with old-school songs and memories of yesteryear. Fine by him. While this wasn’t exactly his favorite way to spend a Saturday night, he was looking forward to catching up with some of his friends. Speaking of, he saw one of his buddies making his way toward him.
“Ryan, great to see you.” The two grabbed hands and pulled each other in for a brisk man-hug.
“You too, man. Wasn’t sure you’d make it. You seemed kind of down on the reunion.”
Luke shrugged. “You know how it is. It will be great to see the old crew. But the rest of these people…” He gestured around the gym that was becoming more packed by the second.
“I hear ya. Who the hell are all these people?” Ryan laughed.
They caught up for a few more minutes and were joined by more guys from their crew, Tyler, Jamal, and Oliver, who brought beers for all of them. Luke had to admit that it was nice to catch up. He was already laughing more than he had since returning to Arlington.
“So, what made you move back?” Jamal asked.
“He missed me so much he just had to come home,” Oliver said.
Oliver had been his best friend since kindergarten. And he had missed him over the years, not that he’d admit that out loud.
Luke tipped his beer back and took a long slug. “Got a great job.”
“Luke Evans, architect. Who would have thought it?”
“Yeah,” Tyler added. “What happened to that whole professional baseball career?”
“Dick.” Luke punched him on the arm. “And what happened to your dream of being a ballerina?”
“Now who’s the dick,” Tyler said, and the other three guys all laughed.
Luke turned to see a petite blonde saunter over with a big smile and eyes that were clearly only made for Tyler. She wrapped her arm around him.
“Everyone, this is my fiancé, Lacey. Lacey, these are the guys.”
“Ah yes, the guys. Of course.” She smiled. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“I saw it on Facebook and I read your group text, but I still can’t believe you’re taking the plunge,” Luke said.
“You should try it. Water’s nice and warm. It’s not a bad life. Having someone to come home to every night.”
Oliver snorted. “Yeah, right. It’s only been ten years since high school and already you forgot how averse Luke is to dating.”
“Hey, hey, hey. I am not averse to dating. I love dating. I love women. I just don’t do commitment. Never have. Never will.”
As the guys laughed, Luke took a moment to peruse the gym. He recognized a person here or there. He liked that the reunion committee had blown up different photos from their high school yearbook and hung them around the room.
His phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, he rolled his eyes at the text message from his sister Mia.
Why haven’t you asked Gretchen out yet?
Luke stifled the sigh that wanted to surface. He had three sisters. All three of them had jobs and busy lives, and yet they really seemed to enjoy spending their time trying to set up him. Coupled with their mother, the whole family wanted to see Luke married off.
He quickly typed back, I’ve been busy at work.
Mia made quick work with her reply. If you had a serious girlfriend you wouldn’t work so much.
Luke loved work. He loved to date, too. What he didn’t love was being pressured to ask some woman out who would then expect him to fall into a serious relationship. Before he knew it, he would be spending his Saturdays shopping for window treatments. There would be Sunday brunches in Adams Morgan and game night with other couples. He’d have to plan a Virginia winery trip and a weekend at a bed and breakfast in Annapolis. Next would come meeting the family followed by sharing holidays. Next thing he knew, he was married, tied down, getting a dog—not that he would mind the dog—and then came two-point-five children and a minivan. Luke did not do minivans. No thank you.
At the same time, he hated men who played with women, so he made a point of being as upfront as possible. He always explained that he wasn’t looking for anything serious. Luke thought this was an admirable trait. Apparently, when word made it back to his sisters, they just tried harder to fix him up with someone new.
He rolled his shoulders. He didn’t want to think about his sisters or their feeble attempts to penetrate his casual, carefree existence. Luckily, he spotted a large table with food in the back of the room. He excused himself from his friends and made his way toward it. Just as he was about to pop one of those delicious little Swedish meatballs into his mouth, he froze.
At the table next to him, he spotted the back of a gorgeous brunette in a super-short blue dress. The reunion committee was already hard at work raising money for their fifteen-year reunion—something he couldn’t even wrap his mind around—by holding a raffle. There were baskets and items throughout the gym. The hot brunette was checking out a basket with a bunch of old-looking books in it.
She was probably about five-four or five-five, with long, shapely legs that disappeared into the short hem of that killer dress. From the back, she had a perfect hourglass figure. His mouth watered more than it had when he’d spotted the meatballs. Plus, all that long hair.
Her friend sauntered up to her then and noticed him checking her out.
Luke tried to appear interested in the food once again, as the hot brunette’s friend elbowed her and then whispered something. He pretended to study the large bowl of spinach artichoke dip while he strained to overhear the women’s conversation, which seemed to be a bit of an argument. The only words he caught were hot guy, over there, give me, and he thought glasses. Then he was absolutely positive he heard one of them say The Golden Girls.
But before he could process that, the hot brunette spun around. It seemed like she may have been pushed. He didn’t care, though, when he took in her gorgeous face. Pouty lips painted a vibrant pink, high cheekbones, and flawless skin. Plus, he was a sucker for women who had those bangs. There was something intriguing and mysterious about it.
She eyed him shyly, a blush coloring her cheeks. “Um, hi,” she said, taking a step toward him.
He grinned. “Hey there.”
Now that she was closer, he couldn’t miss the crystal blue hue of her eyes. Beautiful. Luke had been around his share of gorgeous women over the years, but there was something different about this one. Something…genuine, he decided. At the same time as she was approaching him, she seemed nervous, as if this wasn’t something she did often.
He had a thought. Maybe he knew her. Maybe they’d gone out in high school? Surely not. He’d remember someone who looked like this.
“Can you believe we’re already having our ten-year reunion?” he asked.
“What? Oh, right. Yeah. I mean, no.” She laughed. “I mean, no, I can’t believe it’s been ten whole years.” She quickly averted her eyes.
She was adorable.
He stuck out a hand. “I’m Luke Erickson.”
She shook his hand. “I’m Lo…” She glanced down at her nametag as if she needed a reminder. “I’m Kelli Martingale. Nice to meet you.”
“I see you’re interested in that basket over there.”
She smiled, and the gesture lit up her whole face brighter than the overhead fluorescents that used to illuminate the hallways. Her eyes sparkled, and Luke sucked in a breath. If he thought she was hot before, he didn’t even know a word to describe what he was seeing before him now.
At the mention of the raffle basket, Kelli became animated, her arms gesturing wildly. “Oh yes, I would give anything to win that. I know, it’s probably dorky, but I’m totally—”
Her words were cut off when she stepped forward, hit the side of the table, shaking all the contents on it. Luke jumped to save a particularly wobbly red Jell-O dessert. He picked up the plate holding the dessert and turned to Kelli.
“Phew, that was a close one.”
The words had just left his mouth when Kelli took another step, ran into him, causing most of the Jell-O mold to mold right onto his favorite white shirt.
Kelli gasped. “Ohmigod. I’m so sorry.”
While he wanted to offer a huge fuckkkkk, he could tell that she felt horrible. So he shrugged as she quickly tried to help him clean up. Together, they got as much of the Jell-O off his shirt as they could. Then she grabbed a mound of napkins and began running them over his chest.
He shivered. Actually fucking shivered. What the hell? This Jell-O must be extra cold. Kelli must have felt it, too, because she paused, hands plastered against his chest, as she met his gaze. Her mouth fell open and formed an O.
Suddenly, it wasn’t his shirt he was worried about; his pants began to feel a tad too snug. He wrapped his hands around her wrists and tried to offer a smile. Although, with the new, um, pain he was experiencing in his lower half, it probably came out as more of a grimace.
“I think I have it from here.”
A red blush tinted her cheeks. “Of course. But I really am so sorry.” She swore under her breath. Somehow, he could tell that she wasn’t a big curser because as soon as the word left her lips, she scrunched up her nose and seemed surprised with herself. “I’ll totally pay for dry cleaning.”
Then she dug in her purse and pulled out a pair of thick black glasses.
“I’m not usually a klutzy person,” she explained as she put the glasses on. “My roommate thought I looked sexier without my glasses, so she forced me to take them off. But I’m blind as a bat without them.”
He took her in, and if he thought his pants were feeling tight before, he was pretty sure that all oxygen was leaving his body now. All he could say about the glasses was…holy fuck.
Her roommate thought she was sexier without them? Hells to the no. Definitely wrong on that one. The bombshell dress plus the thick sex kitten hair plus the gorgeous face plus the most seductive glasses in the history of eyewear equaled a speechless, hard Luke.
See, if Kennedy High taught him one thing, it was how to do math. Another equation was already becoming clear.
Kelli plus Luke was going to equal one hell of a reunion.