Fake Fiance, Real Revenge

By: Roxanne Snopek

But Rory was her best friend and for her sake, Sabrina had been pleasant, even danced with Mitch once. No one else wanted to talk to him, so she’d sat with him for a little while, too.

“Pity, that’s all it was,” she muttered. Bono looked up from his snuffling, his right ear standing cockeyed.

Great. Now I’m scaring the dog.

“Don’t worry, honey, it’s not you. It’s me.” Bono sneezed and she laughed, despite the memories.

Rory wouldn’t rest until her husband had made amends with his prodigal brother, and the winter dance had been, among other things, another attempt to pull Mitch back into the fold. So Sabrina had played nice. In a way, it was easier talking to Mitch than to some guy she had to start all over with. She knew every deep dark secret that made Mitch who he was. As he knew hers.

Well, almost all her secrets.

Surprisingly, that night hadn’t been as bad as she’d expected. But nor had it solved one single thing.

She had enough Mitch battle scars, thank you very much. And while he obviously had scars, too, they weren’t her fault. The breakup that left her devastated had clearly been a relief for him, quickly forgotten. The fact that he could call her up out of the blue like this, to ask for a favor, well, that said it all, didn’t it?

While she was left with emotional turmoil. And dreams, disturbing ones, in which she saw Mitch standing alone, looking down into a valley at sunrise. She couldn’t see his face in the dream, but somehow she knew he was hurting, afraid, alone.

Which was ridiculous. She’d seen enough to know that Mitchell Granger had created a tough shell to protect all that softness. He didn’t do anything now unless it was in his best interest. He had goals, plans. He intended to follow through with them. Anything that got in the way had to go.

Like her.

Bono woofed at the door, breaking into her reverie. “Oh! Sorry Bono! Come on in, sweet boy.”

She picked up her phone.

“Sabrina?” Mitch was saying. “Sabrina? You still there?”

“Yeah, sorry,” she said, forcing her mind back to the present.

Good for him, if he was ready to reconnect with his family. He’d have to work his way back into their good graces slowly, but he could do it. She wanted him to. This was his home, his family. That was what she wanted for Mitch.

Mostly. She was human, after all. There was still that tiny bit of her that wanted to jam his face into the reality of what he’d done to her.

Grudges weren’t productive. She knew that. They muddied up the chi, the air, the energy.

“I’ll be at Three River Ranch for a month. I’m bringing two guests with me. One of them is thinking of hiring me for her next big project. She’s eccentric and I really need it to go well.”

“Shouldn’t you be talking to Carson about this?” Then her mind snagged on the pertinent fact that registered. Again. Mitch would be here. For a month.

The fragile reconciliation they’d built last winter only worked because it was a onetime deal, amnesty for the sake of friends and family. But if he was here, in Lutherton, if they had to see each other every day for a freakin’ month, well…friendship wouldn’t be a viable option. She needed all her self-control for the delivery room. She’d either murder Mitch or…or nothing. She’d murder him. Period.

“I have to do it, or I risk losing the biggest contract of my life. I need this.”

“Tell me again,” she said, finally. “What is it, exactly, that you need from me?”

She heard him exhale over the airwaves. This was important to him, she could tell, but he didn’t want to beg. Whatever it was, she’d probably do it, and she’d enjoy holding the power over him, even if just for a little while.

“It would make my career, Bree,” he explained.

“Don’t call me that,” she said.

“Sorry.” When he continued, his voice sounded subdued. “Della Fontaine wants to build a resort, and that kind of project, well, it’s what I’ve always wanted. She’s dangling the contract in front of me, making me dance like a painted pony, and I’m willing to jump through whatever hoops she puts in front of me for a chance like this. I wasn’t expecting her to be looking at property near Three River Ranch, though.”

“And I come into this how?”

“Della’s got a stepdaughter she’s shopping around like a brood mare. I had to make her think I was off the market, or she’d be using the girl as a stick.”

“Not a carrot? This girl isn’t your type, I take it,” she said drily.

“That’s not the point.”

“Uh-uh-uh,” Sabrina said, beginning to enjoy herself. “I think I just lost interest.”

“I’m sorry. What I meant was, I want the job, but I’m not dating her stepdaughter to get it.”

Sabrina smiled, glad he couldn’t see her. “So I’m your beard, am I?”

“Worse than that,” he admitted. After a pause, he dropped the rest. “I kind of told her I was engaged.”

Sabrina stopped stock-still in her little kitchen. Bono bumped into the back of her knees with his big head and grunted.

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