Childish Games (Meet the Shepards, #2)

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Tyler wants his ex-girlfriend back and he's using Jordan to do it. What happens when his plan backfires Tyler is the millionaire boss. Jordan is the insubordinate accountant. Tyler has no charm. Jordan has no tact. Tyler lost his girlfriend. Jordan lost her brain-to-mouth filter. So now Tyler is single. And Jordan is single. And that’s about the only thing they have in common. But Tyler doesn’t want to be single. He wants his ex-girlfriend back and getting her back entails the execution of an incredibly childish plan. There is a problem, though. There’s only one way this dumb plan will ever work. He needs another woman. And believe it or not, his pushy, facetious, offensively sarcastic accountant is his best option. Maybe he should have thought this through…

Romance / Humor
Jacqueline Francis
4.9 72 reviews
Age Rating:

June - the plot


The Plot

It was another dreary day in Seattle. An unending drizzle had persisted from the night before, but it had eased during the early parts of the morning. The concrete was still wet as Tyler Evans made his way up the stairs and into the building. No matter what mood he was in, or what the weather was outside, walking into these offices always brightened up his day. The black porcelain tiles and stone walls gave a sense of warmth, yet still managed to look elegant. It was his dad’s idea to make it look more like a home than an office and Tyler quite liked the simplicity of it all.

“Good morning, Mister Tyler,” Jerry said from behind the reception desk.

Tyler smiled. Jerry insisted on calling him Mister Evans and he insisted he be addressed by his first name, so the compromise was Mister Tyler. “Morning, Jerry. Rough night again? You look tired.”

“I don’t mind. I waited nine long months for these sleepless nights.”

“I’m glad you can still keep your spirits up,” Tyler responded, pushing the button of the elevator.

He waited as the elevator made its way up from the basement parking. He heard a ding, the doors opened, and he was greeted by his best friend.


He gave a quick nod. “Matthew.”

Only today it was not the greeting he had grown accustomed to over the past nineteen years. Today Matthew wore somewhat of an amused grin accompanied with a mild hint of naughtiness in his brown eyes. A long-standing friendship had taught Tyler that this particular face meant that Matthew had approximately five seconds before he exploded with the secret he was trying to conceal. He also knew that usually those secrets were better left untold.

Tyler cautiously pushed the button to travel up to their offices on the thirty-eighth floor and turned to face his friend. “What’s up, Matt?” he asked, feeling his anxiety build as they ascended.

“You really wanna know?”

No. Not really, Tyler thought. “Of course, I do.”

Matthew handed him a magazine, which was rolled up to conceal the cover.

Tyler stared at it for a long while before he took it from Matthew’s hand and took a fair amount of time before he finally unrolled it. His throat tightened and his heart did a double back flip as his eyes swept over the words. “What?” The magazine slipped from his hand as his fingers went numb. “I can’t believe it. She got engaged?”

* * * * *

“Oh. My. God!” Stacey shrieked. “You got engaged? I can’t believe it.” Her high-pitched voice echoed through her loft, reverberating off her kitchen walls. She grabbed her sister’s left hand and stared at the chunky diamond ring on her finger.

“I know,” Trisha replied. “Isn’t it wonderful? Oliver is such an amazing guy. I’ve never been so happy.”

The smile disappeared off Stacey’s face and she studied Trisha questioningly. “What about Tyler?”

* * * * *

“What about me?” Tyler shouted. “She can’t just go off and marry some random guy she met on some random cruise ship. They’ve only been dating for two months. She can’t possibly love him.”

“Well, she’s not marrying him for the money,” Matthew countered, “because if money was all she wanted, she would have stayed with you.”

Tyler shook his head. “This guy…” He picked up the trashy gossip magazine off the floor and read the name again. “This Oliver fellow, she’s just using him as a rebound toy boy.”

Trisha let out a deflated sigh. “I know what you’re thinking, sis. You’re thinking this is a rebound fling, that I’m just using Oliver to get over Tyler, but I’m not. Oliver is open and honest and not afraid to show his feelings. He’s everything Tyler isn’t.”

“But you’ve only known him for two months. Do you really think you’re in love with him?” Stacey asked.

Trisha smiled and brushed her pitch-black hair off her forehead. “I know I am. He shows me what a real relationship is supposed to be like. My relationship with Tyler was great, but I was always yearning for more and Oliver gives me that.”

Stacey nodded, understanding her sister’s plight. After all, she had been the shoulder to cry on during every spat in Tyler and Trisha’s relationship, but she had also seen all the good times and she could not let her sister simply walk into the arms of another man without considering all the facts. “But you and Tyler were together for three years. You can’t tell me that you’re ready to give that up.”

Sadness suddenly hazed Trisha’s green eyes and her shoulders dropped with disappointment. “I’m more than ready to give that up, Stace. I am ready to give up a man who has never - in our three years together - told me that he loved me. I am ready to give one hundred percent of myself to a man who is willing to do the same. You don’t understand what it’s like being with Tyler. He’s not affectionate, he never says how he feels. There’s no spontaneous hugging or kissing. The man acts as if he’ll catch the Bubonic Plague if he just touches me.” Trisha sighed. “And the thing that hurts the most is that he doesn’t even realize that that’s the furthest thing from what a relationship should be.”

* * * * *

“What did I do that was so wrong?” Tyler threw his hands up in frustration. “I didn’t cheat or lie or…or go to strip clubs! I was faithful for three years and I gave her everything. What more could she possibly want?”

The elevator doors opened and Tyler marched through the open-plan finance department straight to his office, neglecting to greet anyone who crossed his path. He waited for Matthew to enter and slammed the door shut. It was then that the anxious pacing began.

“Women need a lot more than gifts and fidelity to maintain a relationship,” Matthew offered helpfully as he took a seat at Tyler’s desk.

Tyler stared at him as if he had grown a second head. “Like what?”

“Like time.”

“We were living together. She saw me all the time.”

“And attention.”

His pacing became more aggressive. “I devoted every free second I had to her!”

“They want to be complimented.”

“I always noticed when she cut her hair.”

Matthew rolled his eyes, clearly fed up that his best friend was simply not getting the point. “Have you ever told her you love her, Ty?”

He froze on the spot. “Well…um…you know…not in so many words.”

“It’s three words!”

He resumed his pacing and did not spare Matthew another look. “She knew how I felt about her,” he said after some time. “Besides, you’re missing the point. She’s not in love with this guy, she’s still in love with me. I just have to make her see it. All she needs is a little persuasion.”

* * * * *

Stacey took Trisha’s hand once again and ogled her ring. “So I guess there’s nothing that can persuade you to not go through with this?” she asked.

“Nope,” Trisha replied adamantly.

“Well, if this is what you really want, you have my support. You’re my sister and whatever makes you happy, makes me happy.” She gave Trisha a tight hug and smiled with bittersweet sadness in her eyes. “So when’s the big day?”

“December, twenty-third.”

Stacey’s eye’s widened. “Then we better start planning. We only have six months to plan the wedding of the century.”

Trisha stared down at her left hand, her gleefulness faltering for only a second. A smile slowly curved on her lips and her excitement made its way through the hurt she felt. “That’s right! Six months ’til my blissful ever after.”

* * * * *

“What kind of persuasion?” Matthew asked.

Tyler’s pacing began to slow, becoming more purposeful as his mind toyed with ideas. “We need a plan,” he said eventually.

“What are you talking about, Ty? She’s getting married in six months.”

“Correct.” He nodded and smiled. “Do you know what that means? That means we have six months to break them up.”

* * * * *

Jordan Shepard sat in front of her computer, trying to drown out the almost haunting sound of Barbara’s laughter. It wasn’t really a laugh. It was more of a cackle that echoed through the open-plan area. Barbara was the boisterous, redheaded creditor’s clerk. She was sweet, endearingly so, but she could only be handled in moderation. The rumor around the office was that she was partially deaf, seemingly because she had lost any and all ability to use her inside voice. If she whispered, Tyler could hear it in his office. The volume on her voice box was set at too fucking loud for humans and possibly painful for dogs.

Her laugh, however, reached decibels that eardrums could not sustain without exploding. It was screechy, high-pitched hoooohs followed by brain-searing haw-haw-haws, like a donkey in the midst of an orgasm. It was the type of laugh that once it was heard, it could never be unheard, the type of laugh that could provoke multiple stab wounds if she wasn’t careful, the type of laugh that stopped everyone around her from telling jokes. Well, everyone except Mervin over there. Asshole!

The sadistic bastard took pleasure in seeing the rest of them suffer. Either that or he had a seriously sick fetish for donkeys. He didn’t even work on this floor. He was in the maintenance department two floors down, yet every morning he’d come up to get his costs approved, stay long enough to mess up everyone’s day and then he’d disappear to his office where he was safe from the excited aftermath that usually followed their flirtatious encounter.

Jordan wasn’t sure if he was really interested in Barbara, or if he just did it to piss her the hell off.

“Fuck you, Mervin,” Jordan jeered, her blue eyes narrowing to a death stare as he walked past her desk to the elevator.

“You have a good day too, Jordan,” he replied with a smug smile.

She sighed as Barbara’s squeals finally died down and turned her attention back to her computer. Pretending to work wasn’t as easy as people made it look. She had completed her first set of draft financial statements a week too early, which now left her with nothing to do to occupy her mind. Damn her efficiency!

In this environment, though, efficiency was key. It was the second week of June and the auditors had already taken up residence at the other end of the finance department. From one nerd to another, she respected them, but God, were they irritating. This was why she always tried to ensure that things were done ahead of schedule.

Being on of top of things was something she had always prided herself on. Combine that with her ambitious drive and analytical mind, and becoming a chartered professional accountant was the best career choice for her. It had taken a really big leap of faith to get her to this point.

In her senior year of high school, her brother, Max, had left their hometown to study in California. He was the first one out of the five of them to leave Montana and it inspired Jordan to do the same. However, when she packed her bags, she had chosen a slightly different direction and decided to settle down in Seattle.

Her field of study and her choice of state had landed her the fantastic opportunity of working for the biggest property company on the west coast and she was doing pretty damn well for herself at twenty-five. Sure, there was a downside. Every decision had a downside. She didn’t get to see her family much. The weather wasn’t…great. And she had to deal with Tyler Evans.

Tyler was another reason why she always tried to be ahead of schedule. Anything involving numbers usually sent him into a downward spiral of procrastination. So here she was with her first set of draft financial statements and all she needed was for him to review it. She’d had every intention of handing it to him as soon as he walked in today, but changed her mind when he stormed past her desk without greeting.

That was already completely out of character, because he always made the time to greet everyone. The hard slam of the door had kept her rooted to her seat for almost an hour and from the harsh mumblings she could hear coming from the other side, she was sure an hour was not sufficient to solve this particular problem.

After two years of working under Tyler Evans, she knew he could be melodramatic at times, but she had noted an expression on his face which led her to believe that he may just have justification for being his drama-queen self today.

He was an odd character, her boss, a combination of personality traits one would not ordinarily associate together. He was the type who would exaggerate something to the point where she would believe the sky was falling only to find out that the printer cartridge needed to be changed.

It was strange, though, that even in those times — the “oh, no the world is going to end” times — he still managed to be a great leader. Profits had tripled since he’d taken over the company because of his tactful and resourceful approach to business.

He wasn’t the worst boss in the world. Actually, he was an all-round nice guy, always friendly, accommodating, and fair. He was approachable and knew his employees by name. Everybody loved him, but that was probably because none of them had to work with him as closely as she did.

Put him in a boardroom and he dominated, exuding power and confidence, but behind the scenes he was the most disorganized person she had ever met in her life. This meant that on top of all her responsibilities as the group financial manager of a multi-national company, she also had to play personal assistant to Mister Evans just because he thought hiring a cute little blonde to take his messages would raise doubts in his girlfriend’s mind.

And there was another intriguing fact about her boss. For someone who had the title of being one of the most eligible bachelors in Washington, he certainly acted as if he were already married. Strange but true. At six foot, two inches, he had a body that filled out a suit in a way that left most women with their jaws hanging open when he walked by. Add to that, brown hair and alluring brown eyes and he was apparently quite a catch. He wasn’t exactly drop-dead gorgeous, but he was definitely appealing to the eye and what he lacked in appearance, he made up for with wealth.

Having inherited fifty-one percent of Diamond Properties from his father, Roscoe Evans, the man was already a millionaire. But as rich as he was, he still treated everyone with the same degree of respect.

It was a combination of all these factors that led to winks, whistles, and seductive pouts from many different women and yet he had always remained faithful. Even now, three months after the unexpected break-up with the perfect princess, Trisha Parker, he still had not entertained the possibility of dating another woman.

Yes, Tyler Evans was a strange man, a strange man with strange quirks and — in Jordan’s opinion — had the personality of a doorknob.

She sighed and continued playing a game of Solitaire. She was going to give them another fifteen minutes and then she was going to barge into his office and slam the financial statements on his desk.

* * * * *

“I have an idea,” Matthew announced, his brown eyes gleaming with possibility. “Do you want to hear it?”

Not really, Tyler thought. After hearing the string of disaster plans Matthew had conjured up — one of which included chloroform and duct tape — he wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear any more of his ideas.

“Sure,” he replied when Matthew’s eyes finally manipulated him into submission.

“Date someone else,” he suggested with a little too much enthusiasm.

A look of sheer disgust was thrown in the direction of his friend. “I really don’t think dating someone else is going to help me get Trisha back.”

Matthew shook his head. “Let’s look at the facts. She refuses to see you. She doesn’t want to speak to you. If you can’t go to her, we need her to come to you. Jealousy is the oldest trick in the book. She will be at your door, demanding to know who this other woman is. Besides, you don’t really have to date someone. You just have to make it look like you’re dating again. So find a girl and take her to all the places you know Trisha hangs out at. Let her see you with someone else, or better yet, let her friends see you with someone else. Never underestimate the power of the gossip chain.”

Tyler took some time and lifted his jaw off the floor. “Not only is that sick and twisted, but it’s also the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Okay, make that the second dumbest. The dumbest would be the one where I take her mother hostage until she comes back to me. You really need to get your head checked, Matt.”

“You’re not seeing the beauty in it.” Matthew leaned forward, unaffected by the remarks made. “Think about it. She sees you at her favorite restaurant, looking adoringly at some woman - let’s call her…Michelle - and Trisha sees her laughing at your jokes—”

“I don’t make jokes.”

“Whatever. She sees you and Michelle in an intimate conversation and she starts remembering all the times you guys spent together, right? And she goes home and she starts thinking about it and it starts playing on her mind, Ty. She can’t sleep because all night all she can think about is what you and Michelle were talking about, what could be so interesting that you didn’t even notice her.”

“I would notice her.”

Matthew gritted his teeth in frustration. “Could you just work with me for a second?”

Tyler finally sat down and crossed his arms over his chest. He wanted to end this conversation, but he knew that when Matthew had an idea, it was in his best interest to hear him out. “Okay, let’s assume for the purpose of this conversation that I agreed to do something as idiotic as that. Who would I pretend to date?”

Matthew lost his momentum, but it only took a few short moments before he was back on the ball. “How about Lucy? That waitress from the diner down the street.”

“Do you want to get me arrested? She’s like ten years younger than me.”

“Which makes her nineteen. That’s pretty legal.”


“Okay, how about Hillary?”

Tyler’s eyes widened. “Stewart’s sister? No way. There are certain lines you just don’t cross.”

“Fine. What about our new banker? Celeste, is it? She’s pretty hot, right?”

“Wrong! I can deal with the eczema but the scratching…not so much.”

Matthew rolled his eyes. “Lily?”



“I’d rather chew off my own arm.”



“She’s married? I didn’t know that. I wonder—”

“This is stupid!” Tyler cut in. “We’re never going to find someone to replace Trisha because Trisha is perfect, irreplaceable.”

“Firstly, we are not trying to replace Trisha. We’re trying to find a suitable candidate to make her jealous and secondly, Trisha is not perfect. You just don’t see her flaws.”

That was all it took to get Tyler riled up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means what I said.” he replied bluntly. “She isn’t perfect. The woman goes to bed after you and wakes up before you because she doesn’t want you to see her without her make-up on. You have to admit there’s something slightly demented about that.”

“I appreciated the fact that she always wanted to look good for me.”

“She doesn’t like dogs or babies or anything cute and cuddly.”

“Which is something we both have in common.”

“She treats everyone who’s not in her social circle like dirt.”

“I never noticed that.”

Matthew shrugged. “Well, that’s the kind of person she is. If I were in your shoes, I would cut my losses and move on, but that’s not my decision to make. You want her back and, as your friend, I’m trying to help you so—”

Just then the door flew open, silencing Matthew, and in walked Jordan.

“Why don’t you try doing some work today?” she said, tossing the financial statements on the desk.

Tyler faked being offended by her curtness. She was always like that. Straight forward and to the point. Her brain-to-mouth filter broke about three weeks after he’d hired her. It mattered not that he was the CEO. Polite, sugar-coated words had never been her style. She was a tad disrespectful, slightly insubordinate, and unbelievably pushy at times. Make that all the time. And God help anyone who messed with her schedule. The auditors were here, so she was in permanent month-end madness mode and even he wasn’t about to risk getting on her bad side this morning.

“We are working,” he lied. “We were just discussing a really big business acquisition, weren’t we, Matt?”

Matthew nodded. “Yeah, really big deal. High priority.”

“Sure,” Jordan replied sarcastically and turned her attention back to Tyler. “I want it back by the end of the day. In case you forgot, we’re in the middle of an audit, so can you please pretend that we actually have a deadline and do this one thing with some sense of urgency.”

“I’ll get right on it,” Tyler said.

Jordan nodded and left the room.

“You know, when she’s around I actually forget who the boss is in this place,” Matthew said with an amused smile. “She really is— wait a minute! Ty, that’s it!”

“What’s it?”

“You can pretend to date Jordan.”

Tyler stared at him with a flabbergasted expression for several moments before he spoke. “Is there a switch I can turn on in your brain that will limit the amount of stupid things you say in one day?”

“I’m serious, Ty.”

“I know. That’s what’s worrying me.”

“Don’t you see how perfect it is? She’s been working for you for two years. Do you know what kind of doubt that would put in Trisha’s mind? She’s going to wonder how long you’ve been attracted to her and whether you and Jordan ever hooked up before. She’ll wonder about the long hours at the office and she’ll remember every nice thing you’ve ever said about Jordan.”

Tyler’s mouth dropped in disbelief. Even after knowing Matthew for nineteen years, he still had not grown accustomed to the evil that lurked within his best friend.
“Just so you don’t think I’m shooting down every idea you have,” Tyler began slowly, “I’m going to take the logical approach and state every reason why this is bad idea.” He leaned forward and began counting on his fingers. “One, she works for me, which is already a recipe for disaster. Two, she is the most uninteresting woman I’ve ever met. She may be a great accountant, but you can’t speak to her about anything besides work. It’s beyond her, so having that intimate conversation you were talking about is impossible. Three, we have nothing in common. Four, she would never agree to go out with me, and five, my soul will be fundamentally altered after pretending to date her. It’s just wrong…and somewhat gross.”

“Gross?” Lines of disbelief creased Matthew’s forehead. “Ty, don’t think that you’re fooling me for a second. You know as well as I do that you have had steamy dreams about our accountant in tight black leather. That must mean that somewhere deep in your subconscious you find her attractive.”

Tyler shook his head, stood up, and walked to the window. “That was one dream I had two years ago, Matt. I keep telling you to stop living in the past.”

“This coming from a man who doesn’t want to let go of his ex,” Matthew muttered sarcastically.

“Enough with the smart remarks! It’s not gonna change my mind. The answer is no!”

“Fine.” Matthew, now tired of arguing, stood up and accepted defeat. “But at least think about what I said. Trisha is happy because she thinks you’re miserable, so turn the tables. Once she sees you’re happy, she’ll be the one who’s miserable.” He stood up and left the office, leaving Tyler very deep in thought.

* * * * *

Jordan opened the front door to her little townhouse and pulled off her jacket. She tossed it on the sofa and began unbuttoning her blouse as she walked to the kitchen. “Hello, Princess,” she said to the gray and white cat, who was comfortably nestled in her basket. Princess blinked her lazy eyes several times before indulging in a luxurious stretch.

Jordan pulled off her blouse, tossed it into the washing machine and turned back to the cat. “Go open up for Roscoe while I get dinner started.”

Princess gave a snort of disapproval, trotted to the door and flipped open the latch for the doggy door. Jordan smiled. It had taken her five months to teach Princess that trick, but she knew now that if she used the words open and Roscoe in the same sentence, her not-so-bright cat would get the picture.

Roscoe, on the other hand, was the smartest dog in the world. She had found the Great Dane wounded and abandoned on the side of the road a year ago. It took almost four weeks to nurse him back to health. The bond between them had been instantaneous and she could recall the very second she fell in love with him. He was just a lovable dog. Sure, he was moody and somewhat temperamental, but he was also dependable and strong-willed. This was why she’d decided to name him after Tyler’s father, the big man himself, Roscoe Evans, who shared those very same qualities.

She couldn’t ask for a better dog. He was loyal, protective, and a good listener, everything she wanted in a life-long partner…except for the fact that he had four legs…and he slobbered…a lot!

Roscoe’s huge body came charging through the large doggy-door at full speed. He hurled himself at Jordan, almost knocking her over. The kitchen was small so there was virtually no space to move once he was inside. “Hey there, boy,” she said, scratching his head. “It’s good to see you too.” She tried to pull away before his saliva-drenched tongue swept over her face, but he was too fast for her. “Ooh! Dog-breath. My favorite.”

She managed to subtly push him away and stole a few seconds to disappear into her bedroom and pull on a T-shirt. Sweeping her dark, brown hair up into an untidy ponytail, she walked back to the kitchen, washed her hands, and headed straight for the pantry. “So what will it be tonight, guys? Any takers for chicken?”

Roscoe barked his approval while Princess appeared uninterested and continued licking herself.

“Chicken, it is then.”

She spent the next thirty minutes preparing her dinner and ensuring that both cat and dog had eaten before cuddling up on the sofa with her chicken chow mein. Roscoe trotted in behind her, still licking his lips, while she switched on the television to watch Our Love, Our Lives. Although it was completely mindless garbage, she just couldn’t get enough of this Soap Opera. She loved watching the drama unfold, how weddings were stopped right before the I do’s, how dead loved ones were miraculously brought back to life, how the paternity of babies were never known. It was beautiful. The small town of Juniper Hills and all its little secrets never ceased to keep her absolutely riveted.

Well, it wasn’t really the Soap Opera she enjoyed. She liked the noise and drama that filled the space.

Noise and drama went hand in hand with having a big family and she missed them every day. Growing up with four boys — five if she counted Perry — had not been easy, not for one single second. Even though she was the only one with an X-chromosome, her brothers had never treated her like a girl. All of them had tortured her in one small way or another.

Dominic wasn’t as bad as the rest of them. Being the eldest came with some sense of responsibility and maturity, so playful teasing was Dom at his worst.

Shane’s continuous blabbering was torture enough, yet he still found other ways to annoy her. Every night she’d had to indulge him in an arm wrestle to decide who got to use the bathroom first the next morning. He also used bribery to bend her to his will. Chores were his preferred method of payment. Mow the lawn for two weeks and Mom wouldn’t find out that she’d been making out with Billy Mason at school. Wash dishes for a month and Dad wouldn’t find out that she’d snuck out of her bedroom window to go to Becky’s party. That was the fucked up mind of her brother Shane.

Max, her Irish twin, was a little different. The age gap between them was exactly ten months. They had grown up side by side and out of all her brothers, she was closest to him. But that didn’t make him any less annoying. When they were younger, they used to watch WWE together all the time. He had learned a little too much from the stupidity on screen because to this day he still caught her in a chokehold every time he saw her. It had not been by choice that she’d watched WWE. It was a forced form of entertainment. Their mother had made it a rule that they were not allowed to play any games together. Max cheated at every game, which always resulted in biting and hair-pulling until eventually Mom decided enough was enough.

And lastly, there was her younger brother, Kevin, and his best friend, Perry, the unstoppable duo of mayhem. They inflicted the kind of torture no human being should have to go through in one lifetime. They would spy on her from their tree-house, drop water balloons on her head, sneak up behind her to pull her bra-strap, but the insidious pranks were the worst. She used to find the most vile, disgusting things under her pillow. A dead frog. A rotting potato. It was only when she moved that she finally got out of the habit of checking under her pillow before she went to bed.

That was her crazy family. She loved living in Seattle. A great career and awesome friends, like Gemma and Neil, kept her rooted here. Although she didn’t regret moving, the solitude was almost unbearable at times. Her roommate slash bestie, Gemma, travelled a lot, which left her alone in this tiny townhouse and phone calls from her parents every Sunday didn’t do much to fill the void. She missed living in a noisy house and having absolutely no privacy. She missed her Momma’s cooking. She missed her dad kissing her forehead before she went to bed at night. But mostly, she missed her stupid brothers.

Jordan’s thoughts were interrupted when she heard Roscoe growl at Nicole Ferreira on the screen. He hated that little blonde trouble-maker. She was always up to no good.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “She’ll get what’s coming to her. Kate will make sure of it.”

At least she had Roscoe. He hopped onto the sofa and made himself comfortable at her feet. She smiled and patted him on the head, thinking that her life at this moment was blissful — lonely — but blissful.

* * * * *

Tyler opened the sliding door leading out onto the balcony of his bedroom. He needed some fresh air. Everything he saw reminded him of Trisha. Moments that were once so amazing, so real were now just memories trapped in a photograph. She smiled at him through the glass frame, making him think back on those magical holidays in Greece and Italy and France.

Trisha was a God-send, his perfect match in every way. Three years ago, he had not been looking for any kind of relationship. His father had been grooming him to take over the company and business was the only thing on his mind.

His dad had never been a crude businessman. He always handled matters fairly and had taught Tyler that profit was not the only measure of success. Success was seeing employees flourish, allowing them the opportunities to maximize their potential. In his eyes, the cleaning staff were just as important as the CEO and everyone should be treated the same way.

That lesson had not been new to Tyler. His dad had raised him with that belief. This was why the grooming process had been shorter than expected. After two years of working under his father’s wing, Roscoe Evans announced early retirement and left his office and fifty-one percent stockholding in Tyler’s capable hands.

Matthew had suggested celebratory drinks the day the contracts were signed and even though Tyler had not been keen, saying no to Matthew was as difficult then as it was now. The decision, however, proved to be very rewarding because he’d met Trisha the same night.

He’d been captivated from the second he saw her. She’d sat at the bar, sipping a martini, looking strikingly beautiful in a tight black dress, which accentuated her big green eyes. Matthew had somehow read his mind and approached her first. After a few minutes, he signaled to Tyler to come over. Introductions had been awkward, but having Matt there eased the tension. She was easy to talk to, nevertheless, and by the end of the evening, he’d left with her phone number and a promise for a second date.

That had been the beginning of their romance and the more he got to know her, the more he realized she was a perfect fit for him. He could tick off all the boxes. She was beautiful. She was smart. She was thoughtful and caring. She also came from a family of high social standing. It wasn’t her status that appealed to Tyler. It was her ability to handle the media.

Their relationship sparked off floods of tabloid articles and her picture had made the cover of Hot Gossip magazine several times, but she took it in her stride. That was Trisha, the perfect public icon. Any man would be proud to have her on his arm. Problem: Now that man was Oliver.

Tyler lifted a photo frame, the one of them in front of the Eifel Tower. That wonderful moment frozen in time was a reminder of what his life used to be like, what it should be like. He missed her. He missed the way her shimmering black hair fell beautifully over her shoulders. He missed the way her lips would tilt up in half a smile. He missed her and he wanted her back.

Though getting her back seemed like an impossible task. She was going to walk down the aisle in six months and now all the weird and wacky ideas Matthew had conjured up seemed almost plausible. Maybe not all. He was still fully against kidnapping her mother, but his mind began to toy with the idea of dating someone else. The thought did not seem as distasteful as it had earlier. In fact, what Matthew had said made a lot of sense. Jealousy was a very powerful tool.

Maybe dating another woman could have its advantages, Tyler thought. But not Jordan! She’s— well…she’s Jordan. Lanky, weird, slightly psycho Jordan.

But after replaying the list of names Matt had suggested, Jordan seemed like the most suitable candidate - at least for all intents and purposes.

She’s good-looking in a nerdy, accountant sort of way. She isn’t married and she definitely doesn’t have any skin disorders. She’s witty, though sometimes it borders on just plain sarcastic. She has great breasts and—

The fleeting image slapped him out of his thoughts. “Great breasts?” he wondered out loud. “Where the hell did that come from?”

Brushing it off, he walked back inside. He needed someone he could take out a few times then throw in the towel with no complications as soon as Trisha came back. If he approached this in the right way, he could do that with Jordan. He knew her well enough to know that she would not develop any emotional attachments after a few dates. From that perspective, Jordan was the perfect person to ask. She was insensitive, completely unfeeling and used absolutely no tact when dealing with emotional issues. During the secret-Santa exchange at the Christmas party last year, she’d given Nancy, the marketing manager, a whole basket of chocolates and new born baby clothes. And while that didn’t seem bad on the surface, Nancy wasn’t pregnant. She was also diabetic. The misunderstanding was forgivable. It was Jordan’s attempt at an apology that made the situation uncomfortable. For everyone. It wasn’t insincere…just badly worded.

Right. So Jordan was the perfect candidate and he needed to ask her out. He just had to do it in a very subtle, very casual way so she wouldn’t get suspicious. He walked to his bed feeling more relaxed now, relieved that he had finally made a decision on how to get Trisha back. He still was not altogether happy with the idea, but at least it was an idea that could potentially work. He would take Matthew’s advice and take Jordan out on a pretend date. The tricky part, however, would be getting her to say yes.

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