First chapter of When Fake Changed Everything

Prologue

 

Jamie

 

No matter how many times I told myself that I wouldn’t be pushed around by my boss, I still struggled to stand up for myself. Tears welling in my eyes, I blinked, furious with yet again finding myself in this situation. 

“Jamie, are you listening to me?” Brent asked, his voice grating like sandpaper. His eyebrows, having gone from two caterpillars to one, showed his irritation. 

Someone really needed to tell him that there were beauticians that could deal with that nowadays. Seriously, there was no excuse for looking like a woolly mammoth, not in this day and age. 

“Yes Brent, I’m listening. You want me to attend the Thanksgiving party as your date.” I choked out the last part, not sure if it would help if I was sick all over his fancy suit. I swallowed the bile burning in my throat and scrabbled to come up with a valid excuse to avoid going to the party with him. 

He’d been hounding me for days about it. As he was my boss and made no bones to hide how much he wanted in my pants, I’d been working on avoidance tactics. My stealth moves would have rivalled any operative in the SAS. Only this morning, he’d managed to collar me in the break room when I wasn’t paying attention. I needed this job to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head. What I didn’t need was to lose my shit because my boss was a jerk.

The next words out of my mouth were like signing my own death warrant. “My boyfriend is visiting over the holidays, and as I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, we tend to stay in.” I gave a shrug and a flirty wink, hoping he’d get the subtext without me spelling it out, and leave me alone. 

It was of course, a total lie. There was no boyfriend, and hadn’t been for far too long to count. There was, however, my best friend since high school, coming to stay for a few weeks’ vacation. So it was only a tiny white lie, okay, maybe not tiny. Todd and I had never been boyfriends, and I’m sure me even saying it out loud would constitute a massive issue for him. But hey, needs must and all, and he wasn’t there to call me out on it.

A dark, thunderous cloud seemed to invade the room and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to avoid the downpour. I could almost feel my body getting ready to duck for cover.

“Your boyfriend. I didn’t know you had one…” 

The pause was so long, it indicated that he didn’t believe me.

“Well, that’s okay. You can bring him with you. I’d like to meet the man who has captured your heart.” 

The sneered last part got my back up. What did he mean captured my heart? Was he saying no one would want to capture it, or that they’d be lucky to have me? Not that that was the real issue here, but it’s where my head went. It was clearly avoidance tactics because the thought of talking my best friend into pretending to be my boyfriend for the night, terrified me.

My heart beat faster than the wings of a hummingbird. How had I got myself into this mess? And how the hell did I get out of it? Todd was the exact opposite of me. I was small, skinny, and far too pretty for my own good. I loved clothes, make-up, and high heels. Todd was the polar opposite. Big, burly, with more hair than a bear, and he hid out in the woods like the lumberjack that he was. He didn’t mix well with others and wore plaid shirts and jeans, not that there was anything wrong with that. It just wasn't me. 

We did have one thing in common, we were both gay, so there was that. Now you’re asking how we are even friends.

I’m telling you, I’ve asked myself this question a lot over the fifteen years we’ve been friends. We met in junior high, after I’d yet again been the kicking post for that bastard Kent and his motley crew. Their daily plan of make Jamie cry was well underway when Todd found me. I was lying in a pathetic heap on the floor, snot and blood mixing together in an unsightly mess. 

Then along comes Todd to the rescue. He was a newbie, having transferred from another state because his parents were getting divorced. I’d seen him in the corridor and we'd shared a couple of classes, but he’d never spoken to me. That wasn’t unusual, no one spoke to me. Well they did, but it was normally to shout obscenities like fag or homo. Or any combination you can think of. By then I’d heard them all.

They hurt. I’d learned that because I was too pretty with a penchant for wearing a little make-up and feminine clothing, nothing was ever going to change. I was wrong. The moment Todd stepped in front of me while I was curled up on the floor trying to protect my face from the fists heading in my direction, my life changed.

He evidently hadn’t got the memo that no one messed with Kent the golden boy. Todd waded right in and gave the bullies a taste of their own medicine. It was one of the best days of my life, and ever since, Todd had become my saviour. I can’t say it got better in school, but it got so I didn’t go home with bruises on a daily basis, which was a plus.

That being said, never once had I ever been stupid enough to mix up what he offered me, friendship, with anything else. Oh, I wanted more, I can admit that. Fuck, he was gorgeous regardless of the fact he loved plaid. Tall, dark, hairy, with muscles that would rival King Kong. What’s not to love? If I then told you he was the kindest person I knew and never judged anyone, you’d be as smitten as me, right?

Fingers snapped under my nose and pulled me from my thoughts. When I met Brent’s gaze, I could see the interest, along with something that made my skin crawl. 

“So, I’ll put you down as bringing a date. But if your boyfriend can’t make it, then remember I’ll be your date.” 

A confidence that really wasn’t appealing in any way, rolled off him as he gave me a nod and walked out of the room. Sagging against the counter, I struggled to keep it together. The buzzing in my ears and throbbing at my temples were not helping my cause. I shut my eyes and rubbed at my temples. Doing my best impression of meditating standing up, I sucked in several breaths.

Heaving a sigh, I opened my eyes and realised that it wasn’t going to work. My head was battered with the thought of going to a party with my sleazy boss. Ever since he’d been transferred from head office two months prior, he’d been pressuring me to go out on a date. I’d somehow or other avoided being in a position where I had to go. No matter how many times I said no though, it made no difference. 

Now, with this mandatory work function, I was fucked, because as much as Todd loved me as a friend, there was no way he would agree to be my fake boyfriend. Not even for one night. Would he?