Preston Reynolds, a former Army Ranger, left a part of himself in the desert from hell. Life as he knew it was over. No woman would ever want to look at or touch him. He never figured on Cindi Pearl Sullivan sashaying in and turning his world upside down. Cindi’s personal motto had always been, “do a good deed, for a friend in need.” She’d decided to make Preston understand he was whole. In her sometimes klutzy way, she shows him life is to be lived and he could enjoy the loving caress of a woman.
Sometimes luck just fell into one’s lap, like now. He needed a date, and she would understand things wouldn’t go any further than a friendly evening. “Have dinner with me.”
“I’d love to. What night did you have in mind?” she quickly asked.
Preston heard the eagerness in her voice, and tried to let her down gently. “I’d better explain. My sister Jennifer is coming to Laurel Heights to interview for the directorship of the new community center. I’d like you to join us for dinner.”
Her fluttering heart slowed from disappointment. She should have known the invitation was too good to be true. “When was the last time you saw your sister?”
“A year ago, when I went home to visit my parents in Oregon for their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.
“Wouldn’t you rather meet with her alone?”
“Not really.” Stop stalling. Tell her the real reason you are inviting her to dinner. “I better explain. My parents and sister are worried that I am no longer interested in women. Jennifer actually came out and asked if I was gay. I’d like to introduce you as my girlfriend and give her the impression we are lovers.”
His words exploded in her brain. Girlfriend! Lover! Is he out of his mind? “Now, what were you saying about giving your sister the impression we are lovers?” Cindi surprised herself by not getting tongue tied over the word “lover.”
“There isn’t any other woman I could trust to pull this off. You are a good friend and won’t get the wrong idea if I start putting the moves on you in public. I just want to be up-front.”
She jammed her hands on her hips at the insult. “So I’m just a good ole boy—I mean, girl—you need to pass off as your lover just to prove you aren’t into guys!”
“I didn’t mean it quite that way. You are a beautiful, warm, sensitive woman any man would be lucky to call his girlfriend or lover.”
“Just so I understand your deceitful, half-ass invitation. If you get touchy-feely and plant a few kisses during dinner, I should react like it’s perfectly normal since we’re lovers. It would all be for show.”
Cindi tipped her head to the side and decided to toss out a challenge. “You know, it works both ways. I might want to take a few liberties, you know, to make our relationship more convincing. Like you said, it would all be for show.”
“No problem. I’ll do my part.” Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, he thought, but it was too late now to take back his invitation.
“Have you considered what might happen if your sister gets the job and comes to live in Laurel Heights?”
“I’ll worry about that when and if it happens. We can always say things didn’t work out.”
Not if I can help it. Momma didn’t raise a dummy. She needed to give this situation a little more thought, but held out a hand. “We have a deal. You clean up my financial mess and I’ll pretend to be your lover.”