According to the paperwork handed to me by the judge at the hearing I’d just attended, I had less than ninety days to produce a red-blooded American spouse for their inspection—and inquisition—or I was definitely out of the country for a good long time.
I took another shaky sip of my coffee at the Starbucks near the Draco Multimedia campus while bouncing my leg up and down nervously. I glanced over the bullet list I’d scrawled on the back of my receipt. Talking points.
More like begging points, to be perfectly honest.
My phone chimed once again with a text message. I snatched it up, expecting some snarky comment, but it was not from the person I was expecting.
Mia: Hey girlfriend. Just letting you know that we are back on dry land and waiting for our flight home.
Me: However, you are still, technically, on your honeymoon, Mrs. Drake, and you definitely shouldn’t be texting me.
Mia: We’re in the lounge. No time or place for funny business. A still insists on flying commercial when we can.
Me: Mile high club then?
Mia: Uh. No.
Me: Well I at least hope he spent the last 3 weeks making you good and sore.
In response, she sent me the blushing emoji with wide eyes, denoting bashfulness. Let’s just say there’s not a whole lot else to do out in the middle of the ocean on a yacht.
I laughed and wished her and her new husband a good flight. Setting the phone aside, my eyes skimmed the bullet list again and I checked the time, checked the door. Checked the line at the register. Checked the time again. Bounced my knee up and down many times and then crumpled the damn receipt in my hand.
“You see, it’s like this, Lucas… I need a husband,” I said to the empty chair across from me. I couldn’t exactly call him “Jedi Boy” during a marriage proposal, could I?
No. Dang it. I was forced to be nice to him.
But the second I was nice to him, he’d smell a rat and his defenses would go up.
Several heads turned my way though I was pretty sure they hadn’t heard what I said, just saw me speaking to the chair across from me. I put my face in my hand and closed my eyes, drawing in a deep cleansing breath while the pungent and sugary smell of coffee and pastries permeated my senses.
Who’d have thought that going to Adam and Mia’s wedding would cause so much trouble. No—no it wasn’t the fault of the wedding. Though I was semi-convinced that some bad juju had befallen me when Mia had thrown her bouquet and it had landed on me—tangled into my hair so that it had taken fifteen minutes to pull it free while I shrieked in panic.
I was cursed. It was probably a Caribbean voodoo marriage curse of some kind.
My eyes drifted down to the name I’d scrawled on the fiancé visa application. I needed a husband. Yesterday.
And for some crazy effed up reason, it had to be Lucas.
After asking around to all our mutual friends, I’d confirmed what I had suspected—Lucas was single and available. And we had a documented relationship, if “frenemies” would be a believable enough pre-marriage relationship for the immigration office.
When Lucas finally pushed through the front door of the coffee shop, my stomach dropped to my shoes. He was tall and on the thin side of medium build but with strong arms and shoulders. He was wearing a flannel shirt over his usual work uniform of a t-shirt and jeans. Dark hair worn short and slightly spikey on top. Sleepy brown eyes. Looking at him without knowing how much he rubbed me the wrong way, I’d definitely deem him bangable.
He skimmed the room quickly and found me. I held up a hand and he scowled, beelining it for my table.
Ugh. So he was in that kind of mood. Crud.
He sank down in front of me, eyes narrowing while pointedly extending his hand in front of him to glance at a large, chunky wristwatch. “Okay Cranberry. Like I said in the text, I can give you fifteen minutes, then I’m back at work. I don’t see why we had to do this here instead of just stay at the office.”
I held up my cup. “The coffee’s better here. Can I get you some?”
He shook his head. “That coffee doesn’t have enough caffeine for what my day has in store. It’s Red Bull all the way. Now spit it out.”
Dayum. Dude needed some chill or more Adderall or something. Yikes.
“Well, uh, I—”
He rolled his eyes. “Kat, we’re on a deadline and it’s crunch time. Can you stop the hemming and hawing?”
“I, uh, I need some help.”
His dark brows furrowed over those striking eyes and my heart sped up a bit—but not at all because he was good-looking. Okay, he was handsome but he was so not my type. Nope. I was just nervous about asking him to do this.
“Is this about asking for an assistant again? I don’t even have an assistant. What makes you think—”
I held up my hand. “It’s not about work. It’s… personal. I need something.”
His brows shot up and in spite of himself, I caught a glimpse of concern in his eyes before he quickly hid it, frowning again. “Okay, so… what do you need and why are you asking me for it?”
I fiddled with my coffee cup, popping the top off and on a few times. “Well, I’m asking you in particular because it’s, um, something only you can do for me.”
He looked even more perplexed and to be honest, I didn’t blame him. I was blowing up my own hastily-prepared bullet-points speech. Maybe bullet points just weren’t my thing. I’d been University-trained as a coder. Maybe I should have made an old-school style flow chart instead.
Or I could have just poked out my chest and let him focus on that. I’d caught him looking once or twice, when he thought I hadn’t noticed.
“Yeah so …what I need.”
“I, uh—” Pop. The lid came off again and I almost spilled the damn coffee. It would have gone all over had the cup not been practically empty.
“Spit it out, Cranberry. What do you want me to do?”
My eyes shot up, my gaze locking on his. I swallowed a grapefruit-sized lump in my dry throat. Damn, now I needed water.
“Well?” he prompted, jerking his chin toward me in irritation.
“I have to get married,” I finally blurted. My knee bobbed up and down and he frowned at me. I could read his response all over his face: How is that my problem?
With a deep breath, grasping at the words to continue, I inexplicably pushed the visa application across the table to him and pointed to his name. “To you.”
He froze, staring as if he didn’t trust what his ears had just told him I’d said.
After a tense minute, his eyes dropped to the form, reading and rereading it, his eyes glued to where I’d written in his name in black ink. Then his gaze returned to mine. He sat unblinking and clearly in shock. I could practically hear the wheels turning in his brain as he absorbed this. And in response, I held my breath until it burned my lungs.
Gradually the look on his face morphed into something unreadable. Like a cross between being told he had a terminal illness and having just been slammed in the nuts by something heavy and metallic.
Well, crap. This didn’t bode well…Maybe I should have led with poking my chest out at him after all.
To be continued….