Fake Fiance, Real Revenge

By: Roxanne Snopek

“Sleep deprivation has finally destroyed my brain. You can not have said what I thought I heard you say.”

“It was a reflex! It was the first thing that popped into my head! And then, she asked who, and your name was the only one I thought of. If I’d have known she was going to ask to meet you, I’d have never done it. I hate putting you in this position.”

“But you’re doing it anyway.” She sighed. “I dunno, Mitch. It feels a lot like someone’s getting pimped out here. I’m just not sure if it’s you or me.”

“Come on, it’s not like that and you know it.”

“I don’t know. What’s in it for me?”

She heard him swallow. “For you?”

Sabrina knew she was being mean, teasing him like this. But she liked it. A lot. Wasn’t this the chance she’d been waiting for all these years? The chance to make him feel what she’d felt, to hurt like she’d hurt? To feel abandoned, discarded, unwanted. This was the first time in years that he’d asked her for anything, and what did he do but hand her the opportunity for revenge on a silver platter.

She couldn’t resist basking in the power.

“It’s a pretty big favor. Seems to me there should be a reward of some kind.”

“You mean, besides the pleasure of my company?” He’d caught on, was teasing her back now.

“Hazard pay.” She laughed. He had no idea what he was in for. “I’ll need plenty of hazard pay.”

“No problem.”

It was a disturbing pleasure to feel that connection again. The rarely seen easygoing Mitch was a joy to be around. The tormented, highly defended, suspicious, angry Mitch from high school, she’d seen enough of him for a lifetime.

But the good guy, oh, she’d forgotten how much she’d missed him. It never occurred to her that he’d be back. Ever.

Of course she would go along with his crazy scheme. There’d never been any question in her mind. But there was no need to make it easy on him.

“I do need an addition to my clinic.”

“Absolutely. Anything else?”

Sabrina felt her smile fade. He sounded serious. “I’m kidding, Mitch. I mean, I need to expand, but that’s not your problem.”

“I’m not kidding. This will be a multimillion-dollar project. This is a huge thing I’m asking. Della has to believe us. And for her to believe it, everyone else has to, too. Everyone. Rory and Carson, even. It’s gonna take some serious acting. So of course I’ll compensate you.”

She sank down into a chair. This was a business proposition, nothing more. She was a means to an end. He was using her and being up-front about it. Nothing underhanded—well, not unless you counted the lie they’d be telling every single person they met.

And still, she couldn’t say no. She’d recovered from the trauma of their first love. He hadn’t been ready for her then. Everything for him was all mixed up with his own family tragedy. Until he sorted through all of that emotional debris, he wouldn’t be a whole person and Sabrina wanted that for him. She wanted Mitch to be happy.

But first, she needed to break his heart. The way he’d broken hers.

She swallowed hard, forced a smile back onto her face.

“I’m happy to hear that. I’ve got big plans for this place and your scheme has come along at just the right time.”

“Thank you, Bree.” His relief was audible. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“I’m only doing it,” she said, forcing herself to speak lightly, “for the clinic.”

“We dated once, so we should be able to pull it off.”

Was it her imagination or did he sound just a little desperate? Oh, Mitch.

Her heart ached for him. He wanted this so much, believed it was the answer to everything that didn’t make sense in his life, but it wouldn’t fill that void inside him. She knew. She’d been working to fill the same void for just as long. And now she was working on moving forward.

“Of course we can pull it off,” she said softly. The Mitch-shaped scar guaranteed her performance. However, convincing all their friends that it was real, only to pull the rug out from under them afterward, well, that would be brutal. Friends didn’t do that kind of thing. For a moment she wavered. Surely there was another way. Maybe she could “break up” with him very publicly, slap his face—hard—and that would be enough to satisfy Della.

But, Sabrina realized, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy her. Mitch had broken her in some fundamental way, and she needed him to acknowledge that. And he would never truly understand until he went through it himself.

“Just one condition, though, Mitch.”

“Name it.”

She paused, wondering if she was kidding herself. “No sex.” It would be difficult enough to play this role. If it got too real, she ran the risk of getting her heart broken all over again.

Quiet roared over the phone.

“Did you hear me?” she asked.

“Of course,” he answered finally. “No sex. A platonic fake engagement. I was sort of hoping for a friends-with-benefits situation, but if you think you can resist me…”

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