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Between lying to his family and hiring a partner to save face, he realized that his life had all the necessary ingredients for a successful reality show.

Fortunately, she liked the owner of the Couple Hearts agency, Steffy Moore. She needed confidence and Steffy seemed to be very professional. On top of that, she fully understood her plight.

She had assured him that her best man was ready to do the job she had asked of him. This had been a great relief as she wanted nothing less than a one hundred percent perfect man, otherwise, she didn't know if she would be able to continue this lie. She was about to invest a good part of her savings in this matter so she had to be sure. But it's worth it just to silence the rumor of the family curse for a while and show her ex-boyfriend that she had quickly found someone else.

Mainly because he was the one who made her lose her job. It the very unfortunate.

Her eyes burned from lack of sleep as she looked around the gym, she even considered Fitness Life to be a somewhat strange meeting place, but Steffy had assured her that the everyday atmosphere would work best for a first approach.

So there she was feeling out of place, and now that she thought about it, even a little out of shape. She adjusted her shorts that looked a little tighter than usual. Did this make you think that maybe she could meet her date and then exercise her?

It was the first time that she had walked into that gym and she liked what she saw. In the training area, there was a good mix of men and women of all ages. The treadmills in front of the windows faced the bay but had tinted windows so that people walking down the street couldn't see inside. Everything seemed neat and clean. She could have imagined training here. At least if she liked to train. Or ... if she ever she had trained in her life.

She checked her cell phone for the tenth time looking for lost messages from Steffy. Where was she? she was so distraught that she was waiting to meet her partner. Everyone who looked at her seemed to know exactly why she was there as if she had a giant scarlet poster on her forehead.

Damn!- She closed her eyes and prayed that the ground beneath her would open up and swallow her completely. Then when this didn't happen, she prayed to wear less tight shorts.

— Janet!

When she heard her name across the hall, her eyes widened. Steffy jumped up and down several times and waved at her. At last! She adjusted her shorts one last time before joining her but was paralyzed with terror when she noticed the man next to Steffy.

Oh shit, shit, shit. Could she ever forget such a face? Mark Robbins. Please make it a mistake.

But then Steffy whispered something in her ear and he nodded. Oh no. Before she could think of turning around and running out of there, Mark's greenish-gray eyes caught her and nailed her for a few long seconds. Then she offered him one of her dazzling smiles that she wore years ago with all the high school cheerleaders.

Curse. Unconsciously, her treacherous knees made a strange move.

She knew that she had suffered an injury that ended her sports career because everyone in the city had talked a lot about the accident. Not that she paid particular attention to what had happened to him or Mark Robbins himself. At least not anymore.

It was a lifetime ago that it died.

Physically Mark hadn't changed anything, probably due to some deal he had made with the devil or more likely because he was the devil himself. He was big and sexy, certainly, he could be considered an attractive guy. Soccer had given him an incredible amount of muscle and while he almost certainly hadn't played in years, he hadn't lost an ounce of his perfect athlete body.

Not that she was evaluating him or anything. No way. If he had worn a shirt his size rather than one that tight, he would have completely lost his mixed martial arts fighter biceps.

He didn't even seem to remember her. Well, it was better this way. She is in high school she had secretly fallen in love with him until she realized how stubborn and arrogant she was.

Mark Robbins as her escort for the entire five days of the wedding would never work. Anyone but him. She would never hire someone like Mark, a guy who had embarrassed her multiple times in high school.

Steffy ran to her.

— Janet, you were just in time — she said, extending her ivory hand.

Stunned, Janet squeezed her, glancing around the gym one last time to make sure there weren't any other tall, handsome men Steffy could introduce him to be her date. She unfortunately she was not so lucky. Although considering the alternative, the old man with the sagging sweatpants sitting on the bench had some potential.

- I want to tell you that I have personally evaluated your questionnaire very carefully. Finally, I found the perfect partner for your sister's wedding. I was about to instruct Mark, but since you are here, I will introduce you directly, so that they can begin to know each other on his account - Steffy's mouth flared into a wide, beaming smile.

Janet frowned. She thought escorts used a stage name with her clients. There was less chance of attracting stalkers or women who wanted to call them for any service outside of their shift. She moved closer to Steffy, avoiding eye contact with Mark and his biceps, then cleared her throat.

- Er ... can I talk to you?

Steffy shook her head up and down, the slopes dangling from him like swings in a hurricane. Of course. But first, I want to introduce you to Mark. You will agree that he meets all the criteria that you have listed.

Janet finally let her gaze travel to Mark. Oh my goodness! She certainly met all the criteria that she had listed. On a scale of one to ten for beauty, Mark scored a twelve "too good for the eyes of mere mortals." Sadly, Janet had learned the hard way that looks couldn't make up for her personality. She would never pay all that money for her company. She preferred to face the humiliation of her family.

— Nice to meet you — he said in a deep voice.

No, it certainly wasn't a pleasure. It was a mistake. A huge and disappointing mistake that she screamed: I want to get my deposit back.

- Well, what do you think? - Steffy nervously rubbed his hands waiting.

Think? There was nothing to think about. She cleared her throat, turning her head slightly so Mark couldn't hear her, and whispered.

—I think I would like a refund.

Refund? Mark wasn't easily surprised, but for the first time in his life, he was speechless. Was this woman rejecting him as her date?

Her cousin also looked confused and she took three shades of pink before she could settle down to the pale green.

- W-what do you mean? The wedding wasn't canceled, was it?

Janet gave him another nervous look before facing Steffy again.

— Uh no— She leaned in and lowered her voice again— I just don't want ... — she tried to discreetly point him out, but it was hard for Mark not to notice, considering she was less than a meter away— that it's him.

Mark's eyebrows arched. He adjusted his collar and sniffed quickly. When he finished, he ran a hand over his mouth and cheeks to make sure there were no remains of his breakfast. Everything is fine on this front as well.

Hmm ... well, this was the first time. He had never been rejected by a woman in his life. Of other women, at least. He had never had a problem getting a date. He was also voted the most popular boy in high school.

So what was his problem?

Steffy widened her eyes and looked at him.

- Sorry, I'm a little confused. What's wrong with Mark? He's beautiful—she said with a kind of family pride.

- It may be so, but I prefer to have a second option.

— Second choice? — Steffy shook her head — I can't find a second option. Not on such short notice.

- Well then I'm afraid I'll have to request a refund.

This was too much. Mark had heard enough and was tired of standing there like a piece of meat at auction. An unwanted piece of meat at auction.

— I'm sorry— she tapped a finger not very gently on the blonde's shoulder. When he turned, surprise froze the abrupt words he was ready to say that wavered on the tip of his tongue.

Well, heck. The woman was more beautiful than she thought. Her satiny blonde hair brushed his shoulders in soft curls, making him want to touch her. She also had a beautiful body, not very athletic, but slim and smooth in all the right places. The pout with which she addressed him accentuated her full, sensual lips, shimmering slightly from her shine.

Why the hell did this woman need to hire an escort?

She looked at him with her blue eyes.

- I'm sorry, but this isn't about you.

Janet was about to walk away, but she put a gentle hand on his arm. She felt her muscles tense, but for some reason, she didn't let go.

— It worries me — she told him.

In more ways than she ever imagined. She had a stake in her cousin's business, and as much as she hated the idea of posing as a date, she couldn't afford to leave Steffy and the company.

Steffy raised her hands, making the time-out sign.

- Okay, the three of us have to breathe deeply. I think we need a change of scenery. All of this put us on the edge a bit.

— No — Janet said firmly, removing Mark's hand from her arm — If you don't have anyone else, then this won't work. I'm sorry, Steffy, there's nothing more to discuss— With that said, she turned away from her and started walking at high speed toward the row of elliptical machines with her fists clenched at her sides.

Incredulous, Mark stared at the leaving woman and brazenly allowed her gaze to linger on her hips.

Steffy grabbed his arm, redirecting her gaze to her.

— What the hell did you tell him?

- What? Um ... let's see, I smiled at him and said "My pleasure." Yes, it must have been. She probably should have used a complete sentence and said, "Nice to meet you." Somebody call the grammar police!

—There has to be more than that — she snorted.

- The woman has problems.

- Well, we can't let her go like this. Something's wrong.

- Yes, she must have a mental problem.

— Mark — he scolded. This is serious. You have to go to her and fix things.

- Me? Because I? You are the owner. I thought he was just an actor in this collaboration.

- Listen, she was ready to sign on the dotted line of the contract until she saw you. This assignment is important to both investors and me. And it should be important to you too. Please Mark, for the sake of her company, go to her - she said, giving him a gentle push in that direction - Do not waste your time. She has probably already almost reached the exit.

Remorse twisted her insides. Steffy was right. Janet might be a freak, but they needed the money.

- Okay - he sighed and started to join her.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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