An emotional new best friends to lovers, fake marriage romance is out this week from Natasha Madison—part of her Southern Wedding series—and I have a little sneak peek for you.
“Will you marry me?”
My hand is in the process of putting the bottle of beer back down on the counter when it stops mid-action. I shake my head. “Excuse me?” I say, not sure I heard what she said. I laugh nervously. “I could have sworn you said.” I put the bottle of beer down or maybe it just falls out of my hand, landing with a thud. “You said marry you.” I shake my head again and laugh, thinking how ridiculous that sounds. When I don’t hear her laughing, I turn back to look at her. “You have got to be kidding me.” My voice goes higher than I want it to go, almost shriek-like. “What the fuck?” my mouth spits out, and my heart beats so fast in my chest I think it’s going to come out. I push my stool away from the counter, jumping off it. “Are you insane?” I walk around the counter, the nerves filling my body. I open the oven and take the pizza out. “Are you joking?” I ask as I toss the soggy, half-cooked, half-defrosted pizza in the trash. “Are you going to jump up and say gotcha anytime soon?” I stand here waiting for her to say it, waiting for her to tell me I didn’t hear what I think I did. Waiting for her to tell me anything.
She pushes the container in front of her away and I put my hands on my hips, the buzzing starting in my ears. “Come on, Levi,” she urges, “I would do it for you.” She throws her hands in the air as if she is asking me to take her laundry to the cleaners or borrow my car for a month.
“You would do it for me?” I say sarcastically. “You would marry me?” I put my hand to my chest. “I’m honored.” I’m hoping like fuck she gets that this is me in the middle of having a mental freak-out.
She smiles at me. “You’re welcome.”
I stare at her, waiting to see when the joke will be up. I count to five in my head, even with Mississippi. After five I scream, and this time I know it’s a scream because she grimaces. “I was joking with you.”
“Oh.” She laughs nervously. “Well, I guess we know who the better friend is.” She puts her hands on her hips and my hands immediately go up to hold my head, expecting it to feel like it’s going to explode like a ticking time bomb.
“Are you insane?” I ask again, because all the other words feel like they are jumbled in my head. She has to be insane. This is probably shock, she’s in shock and becoming delirious.
“I’m not insane.” She holds up her hand before I yell. “Hear me out.” She walks around the counter and comes to stand next to me. “It’ll just be for a year.” My hands are still on my head. “Then we can annul it.” She tilts her head to the side and smiles. “You know, since we actually won’t be.” She picks up her hand, puts her thumb and index finger in a circle, then takes the other hand and inserts her forefinger into the circle’s center. “You know.” She moves her finger in and out. “Going to Pound Town.” All I can do is stare at her, and all she can do is continue moving her fucking finger.
“Stop that.” I finally knock her hands away from each other. “What are you… twelve?”
“We get married.” She ignores my question. “Then the judge sees that I’m married on paper.” She smiles at me. “To a good guy.” I glare at her. “To a great guy. The best guy.”
I really hope my glare is like the look that kills. “Don’t try to fluff my ego,” I bark out and put my hand on the counter next to me, not sure if I’m putting it there to help hold me up if my knees give out as she tells me about this ridiculous plan.
She rolls her eyes at me. “Fine, he sees I’m married to just an okay guy, then.” I shake my head. “I get my niece.” She points at herself, then to me. “And you get a cool story to tell the boys.”
“Tell the boys?” I repeat what she just said.
“I don’t know what to call men who are friends. Are they not called boys? Is that not the term? Or is it bros now?” she rambles on. “I could never keep up with the cool kids or their sayings.”
“They are just called friends,” I inform her.
“Okay, fine.” She folds her arms over her chest. “You get to tell your ‘friends’”—she uses her fingers in quotation marks when she uses the word friends—“what a cool guy you are. Is that better?”
“We don’t do that,” I refute between clenched teeth. I’m irritated about this whole thing and that she is really not backing down on it. She’s actually serious.
“Okay, fine. I’ll tell your friends what a cool guy you are.” She stares at me. “Is that better?
I’ll hold meetings monthly just to tell them how cool you are, if that is going to help.”
I close my eyes. “You can’t really be asking me this?” I say softly, looking at her and seeing her eyes are now filled with tears.
“You said anything.” Her voice is low, and I hear it trail off.
“I said anything, like lend me money?” I reply to her. “Or, can I borrow your couch?” I watch her. “Can you drive me to wherever? I did not mean get married to me.”
“Oh, please.” She throws up her hands. “It’s not like you have anything going on.” Her voice gets louder. “And I’d be the best fake wife you’ve ever had. I would even turn a blind eye and you can keep doing what you’re doing.”
I roll my eyes at her. “And what is that?” Now, I’m the one folding their hands over my chest.
“I’ve been here ten minutes.” She looks from the kitchen that leads into the living room, where all my furniture is black and leather. “And I feel like I’ve stepped into a sex dungeon.”
I’m shocked at this, turning toward what she was looking at. Okay, maybe the leather couches and the dark-brown dining room table, that to be honest, I’ve never eaten food on but I have done other things on there. Even the tray in the middle of the black coffee table hides condoms, just in case. “I’m a bachelor,” I mumble to myself, thinking that this is how we live, isn’t it? “Seriously?”
I turn back to her and this time she drops on her knee in front of me. “Levi Mathison,” she states my full name, grabbing my hand. Her blue eyes fill with tears and fear. The smile on her face is fake as can be. But it’s her hands that are shaking under mine that I look at while she says, “Will you marry me?”