“Really?” Oren blinked before he shook his head and cleared his throat. “I mean, thanks. That’s...cool.”
Mr. Stanley turned to me. “And you must be Mrs. Tenning. I recognize your face from some of the free-drawing samples your husband added to his portfolio.”
“You...” Too flabbergasted to get past the Mrs. Tenning part, I looked up at Oren for help.
He stepped in, lifting his hand and shaking it. “Oh, no. She’s not...I mean...not yet. She’s...” He glanced at me, his expression desperate. “She’s my fiancée.”
My eyes widened as I gaped up at him. He squeezed my fingers tighter. “It’s okay that I brought her, right? I was going to pay out of pocket for all her—”
“Oh, sure. Sure.” Mr. Stanley waved off Oren’s concerns. “Of course, she can come along to check out the area, give her nod of approval. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, ma’am.”
When the small man sent me a smile, I gave a weak smile back. “Um...thank you. It was...” I glanced up at Oren, “quite a surprise.”
Mr. Stanley leaned in to wink. “The best proposals usually are.” Then he straightened and turned back to Oren. “The baggage claim’s this way.”
Oren nodded and tugged me along as we followed Mr. Stanley. Then he glanced back with an apologetic wince to Zwinn for abandoning them. Quinn sent him a thumbs-up, letting us know they’d find their own way to the hotel, no problem.
And thus started our evening of being wined and dined as a nearly married couple by Oren’s prospective employer, though we found out over dessert that Mr. Stanley was more of a glorified secretary than an actual executive with the authority to hire Oren. The worst part was that he tried to sell the town to me, telling me about all the perks of living around the lake.
Oren played along, telling Mr. Stanley I was a filmmaking major, which had the poor guy’s face lighting up. “Well, California is the best place to be for that kind of major. You would be coming to the right area for sure.”
“So, all her credits would transfer with no problem if she came out here next semester?” Oren asked, actually looking interested in the answer.
I sent him a strange glance, which he completely ignored.
“I’m sure they would.”
By the time Mr. Stanley dropped us off at the hotel for the evening, my nerves were plumb shot. I silently followed Oren up to our room after we checked in, and I didn’t say a thing until he’d rolled all our suitcases into our suite and shut the door. Then I just stood there and stared at him as he dropped the luggage on the bed and immediately went to the window to check out our view.
Finally, I cracked. “Would you care to tell me what the hell just happened?”
He glanced back and winced. “You’re talking about the fiancée thing, aren’t you?”
I whimpered out a sound at the word and nodded my head.
He sighed and came to me. “I don’t know. That just...blurted out. I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually meet me at the airport, to meet you. Telling him you were only my girlfriend sounded kind of irresponsible, as if I’d only brought you with me to party on Lake Tahoe.”
“Oh, so...lying to him first thing seemed so much more responsible, huh?”
“Fuck, I didn’t know what to do. I was kind of worried they wouldn’t let you come with me if I didn’t make us sound more...permanent. So I improvised. Seriously, you’re not that pissed, are you?”
Slowly, I shook my head. “No, but...if you end up getting this job because I made you look more like the responsible family man, then you owe me a cut of every paycheck you get.”
Grinning, he pressed his forehead to mine. “You got it, babe.”
With a sudden laugh over everything we’d gone through today, I grinned up at him. “First, I’m your fake girlfriend to your parents, now your fake fiancée to your prospective boss. I can’t wait to play the fake wife next.”
Oren took my hand and kissed my knuckles. “And I’m sure you’d make the best damn fake wife there ever was. Now, come here and check out this view.”
He led me to a window, and I sucked in a breath as I looked out at the sandy beach lit with tiki torches and the most colorful sunset ever glistening off the slow-rippling water of the lake.
“Wow,” I breathed as Oren wrapped his arms around me from behind and rested his chin on my shoulder. “Okay, we can move out here.”
Chucking in my ear, he turned his face so he could kiss my cheek. “We could build our fake home right on the beach and live fakely ever after.”