Their arrangement is fake, but the attraction is real.
Grab your copy of From Fake to Forever by Jennifer Shirk,
on sale today!
Previously released as The Role of a Lifetime – (May 2008) and has been enhanced with new material.
“I’d love to come,” he answered.
“Hip, hip, hooray!” Hannah shouted as she galloped around the office.
Sandra gritted her teeth. Ben wasn’t helping the situation, standing there, laughing as her daughter jumped her little heart out. Frustration constricted in her chest, since she was left with no choice but to be the bad guy. No matter. She was used to it. The way she always made up excuses for her ex-husband, she had the bad guy routine down to an art form by now.
“Sweetie,” she said, taking her daughter by the shoulders, “Big Bens is a very busy”
“Sandra, I said I’d love to come.”
She looked up and saw he was serious. He really didn’t want her getting him out of lunch on the boardwalk. Huh. That was a new one to her. But out of habit, she tried one more time. “Aren’t you worried about being recognized?”
He flashed her a confident grin, reaching deep into his pocket, whipping out what looked like a black necklace and twirling it around his index finger.
“What’s that?” she asked.
Hannah’s little hands went for the object, but Ben yanked it out of her reach just in time. “Nice try.” He looked at Sandra, his grin widening. “It’s my eye patch.”
“Your eye patch,” she repeated dully. “Has this role you’re after changed to a pirates-of-the-Jersey-shore movie?”
“No,” he said with a chuckle. “Since you had me shave, it’s my new disguise. I stopped at a convenience store the other day and got accosted by two teenage girls who recognized me as soon as I reached for a gallon of milk. One of them even pinched my—”
“I get it,” Sandra said, holding up a hand.
“I’m just saying. Fame isn’t easy.”
Poor baby. “So now you honestly walk around wearing that thing?”
He answered her question by putting it on.
Oh, dear. She hated to admit it, but the eye patch looked good on him. Why was she even surprised? Of course it did. He was a handsome man, and now he made one heck of a handsome pirate. To her disgust, her heart even did a somersault.
That settled it. Ben coming with them to lunch had bad idea written all over it. She looked to Hannah, hoping for an ally, or at the very least, some kind of sign. “What do you think, sweetie? Do you want to go to lunch with a scary pirate?”
“Pi-rate, pi-rate, pi-rate,” her little traitor began to chant, giggling and dancing around some more.
Not the sign she’d hoped for.
Sandra shrugged at Ben. “I guess you can come with us.”
“Arr, shiver me timbers,” he said in an exaggerated pirate twang. He winked his uncovered eye at Hannah and hooked his thumbs in his pants. “This is the nicest your mom’s been to a poor old bloke like meself in days.”
Sandra poked a finger in his chest but grinned. “Don’t make me regret this, or you’ll walk the plank.”
He grinned back and, with that eye patch, turned kneemeltingly rakish in under ten seconds flat. “Aye, I won’t be asking you to make me Roger jolly, if that’s what has you worrying.”
She laughed. Then he surprised her by taking her hand in his and raising it up to his lips. “I’ve already given you me word,” he said huskily, still in his pirate character.
“Friendship and perhaps a kind word here and there ’tis all I’m after.”
Ben stood up and walked over to the windows, grabbing the attention of Missy and the rest of the class. His eyes swept around the floor a few seconds, and then he finally saw it. Holy crap, how could he not? That thing was huge.
“What’s the matter, Big Bens?” he heard Missy ask.
“Nothing.” Gargantuan spider, actually. But he didn’t want to announce that in case there were any squeamish kids in the room.
It was one mother of an ugly insect and—now that it began to move—remarkably fast for possessing those thick little legs. Being the he-man he was, he wasn’t about to let it get away so it could boast to all its hairy little friends. So he grabbed a heavy dictionary off the shelf, aimed, and then let the book drop. “Got it!” he called out.
The children shrieked. His head whipped up and around, trying to sort through the sudden mayhem. He’d had absolutely no idea ten little preschoolers had the ability to create enough noise to blow out an eardrum, but at that precise moment there was enough sound to fill a stadium. But even among the loud chatter, he heard some of the kids cry out, “Herbie!”
That thing had a name?
Ben’s eyes shot to Missy for an explanation, but she just stood there like a corpse with wide eyes bulging out and a hand raised to her mouth. Oh-kay. He obviously wasn’t going to get any support in that corner. He was officially on his own.
Great. Now what? He was going to make things much worse if he picked up the book and allowed the class to see the smeared-up guts of Herbie, so he simply froze, wishing for some big hook to come and yank him away.
Then his wish was granted.
Sandra, aka big hook, appeared at the door of the classroom with her no-nonsense line of attack that stomped out all the commotion around them. Oh, man. She was not looking happy with him, either—not that he’d seen her looking any other way. More bad timing on his part. She had a way of popping in on him when he wasn’t exactly his best. Too bad he couldn’t have screenwriters helping him out with choice lines in real life, because he could sure use a witty one now. Coming up with nothing on his own, he hiked his shoulders up at her, hoping she’d take it as a white flag being waved. However, Sandra didn’t seem ready to declare peace.
“Ah, Mr. Ben, a word, please?”
Uh-oh. This was bad. She was giving him an even more snotty tone than she had first used on him. He had to be more careful with what he wished for in the future. No more big hooks. Next time, he’d be much more specific and wish for a scantily clad woman with more than a significant amount of appreciation for movie stars. But one who still looked exactly like Sandra.
Where did that thought come from?
Sandra turned and disappeared, not waiting for his response. He supposed she thought it was automatic, a given that he’d ask how high when she said jump. But he followed her out anyway. Even the wrath of Miss Sandra was better than staring into the shocked little faces of those poor kids. He obviously needed more child training than he thought.
Once they were out in the hallway, he quickly tried to make amends. “Okay, maybe I didn’t use good judgment in that particular circumstance. But I—”
“Our theme this month is bugs,” Sandra informed him, pointing to the countless decorations of various bugs throughout the hall. “Are you blind or something?”
Ben took in his surroundings and blinked, strangely noticing them for the very first time. Hmm. Well, what do you know about that? “Uh…no, I saw your little bug things hanging around.”
“Right.” She shot him a withering glare before entering her of office.
He followed her in, running a hand over the top of his head. “Okay, I didn’t know. But I didn’t commit a felony, either. Like you never killed a bug before.”
“Never in front of the children.”
“What are you, some kind of tree hugger? Did you see that thing? It was a gross-looking spider.”
She whirled around to face him. “Yes, I know! Herbie, that gross-looking spider as you call it, is dead thanks to you.”
“Now, how was I supposed to know you had some kind of freaky school mascot?” he shot back. “What kind of place are you running here, anyway? Your daughter told me there was a bug. I saw it, the thing was scary and hairy, and I reacted. As an actor, I’m used to going with my emotions.”
Her arms folded tighter than a bed waiting for basic- training inspection. Her sleeveless cream-colored turtleneck accentuated her tanned, beautifully sculpted arms, and as she cocked her head, studying him—no, judging—with eyes like two deadly blue arrows, he’d never seen anyone look as captivating or as alluring in his life. And as a man—not an actor—he wanted to react to that as well.
Bliss out with this sweet romance today!
Jennifer Shirk has a bachelor degree in pharmacy which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic at hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations.
She writes sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Samhain Publishing, Avalon Books/Montlake Romance and now Entangled Publishing. She won third place in the RWA 2006 NYC’s Kathryn Hayes Love and Laughter Contest with her first book, THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME. Recently, her novel SUNNY DAYS FOR SAM won the 2013 Golden Quill Published Authors Contest for Best Traditional Romance. Lately she’s been on a serious exercise kick. But don’t hold that against her.