M/M, Contemporary Romance, Fake Relationship
[81 Pages / 19,300 Words]
When public defender Trevor Ortega finds himself dateless for his ex's wedding, faking a relationship seems like the perfect solution. Less perfect is his thoughtless impulse to invite Sebastian Greer—friend, federal judge, and former boss—as his plus one. It would be a solid plan if not for one problem: Trevor's been in love with Sebastian for years, and each fraudulent touch will remind him of everything he can't have.
Trevor doesn't know why Sebastian agreed to his scheme, but there's no backing out now. It's only one night after all, and what's a little heartbreak between friends?
The bar quieted a little around them, and Trevor tore his gaze from Sebastian's face with pronounced difficulty. He fished out his phone as a pretext for breaking eye contact and checked the time. Late, but not so late he felt any need to cut things short and call a cab. He opened his email to stall for time, not yet braced to meet Sebastian's beautiful brown eyes without showing his whole damn soul.
Trevor froze at the new message sitting at the top of his inbox. The subject line stopped him in his tracks.
You Are Cordially Invited to the Wedding of Emma Calcaterra and Sloane Smith...
The words were a perfect mirror to the paper invitation he'd received in the mail over a month ago. The reminder in his inbox felt like a slap on the wrist, though of course Emma would never intend it to be cruel. The digital nudge was probably a practical necessity. Trevor hadn't RSVP'd, mostly because he'd been trying not to think about his ex-girlfriend's pending nuptials. He should have expected her to push a little harder. This wasn't a pity invite. Strange as Trevor might feel about maintaining an amicable relationship after parting ways with his only serious significant other, Emma sincerely wanted him to attend.
He tapped the message and found the email included a link to an online portal. He wouldn't even have to track down the official postcard to RSVP. Would he be attending? Did he plan to bring a plus-one?
For a guilty moment, Trevor wasn't sure he could bear to go.
The painful truth was, he didn't want to. The thought of being present to witness the former love of his life marrying his law school rival... It sucked. He'd rather be happy for them at a safe remove.
He missed Emma. He wanted her to be happy. But he harbored no delusions about any old twinges of romantic feeling. Trevor found it difficult to obsess over an ex while falling inextricably in love with someone else.
Still, attending her wedding single and alone did not sound like a good time.
A sinking sensation settled into his stomach as he realized none of this reasoning mattered. Of course he would attend.
"What's wrong?" Sebastian's quiet question cut through the spiral of emotional upheaval, and Trevor sat straighter with a start.
His first, almost overpowering instinct was to brush off the offered concern. He felt ridiculous for being upset over something relatively trivial. After five years establishing his own separate career, he still hated the idea of Sebastian thinking him ridiculous.
But damn it, Sebastian wasn't just a former employer. He was a friend. There were few people in the world Trevor truly trusted, and Sebastian had long since earned his place in the lineup.
"My ex-girlfriend is getting married, and I'm short a plus-one to the wedding."
One of Sebastian's eyebrows rose in obvious confusion. "You're invited to your ex's wedding? And you intend to go?"
"Of course I'm going."
Sebastian paused significantly before observing, "You don't seem happy about it."
Too much careful sympathy echoed beneath the words. Sincerity, worry, maybe even a faint sheen of protectiveness. Trevor's every defensive instinct kicked into high gear at the thought of this man—friend, mentor, former boss, center of every romantic fantasy he'd harbored for years—pitying him. He needed to rearrange the landscape before things turned too serious to salvage.
He couldn't brush the entire conversation aside. Sebastian knew him too well for blunt obfuscation to do the trick. But surely, he could steer the discussion into less gloomy territory.
"What I need," he said with what he hoped was convincing cheer, "is a stand-in date. A fake partner to make me look good for the night."
Cover design by Natasha Snow