A Little Help from my Friends

-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-

The apartment door flew open and my roommate slid in like my own personal Kramer from a Seinfeld re-run.

“Isabella! You’re not going to believe this!”

“What’s up, Ang?” I laughed at her dramatic entrance, there was no telling what she could have to say.

Angela Webber and I had been friends since kindergarten, but there were times she was a total spaz. But she was my spaz and the best friend and roommate I could have asked for.

“Look at this! It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect—like it was written for you.” She shoved her iPhone in front of my face, shaking it at me so I couldn’t read it if I tried.

“Take a deep breath and calm down. What are you talking about?”

She flopped onto the couch next to me and took a deep breath. “Dude. This ad on Craigslist. It’s you. This guy is looking for you.”

Oh. My. God. I couldn’t believe she’d gotten so desperate in her search to find me a boyfriend. “You were searching the personal ads for me?”

“No, I was reading them for me!” She cracked up laughing. “Anyway, there weren’t any guys that I wanted to email, but this dude,” she shook her phone at me again, “this dude has you written all over him.”

I groaned. “Ang, thanks, but no thanks. I can meet people on my own. I’m not ready for blind dating off the internet.”

“Bells, this guy doesn’t want a girlfriend, he wants a fiancée. For a weekend. In the Hamptons. All because he lied to his rich parents while he was away at medical school out west and told them he got engaged – to a shy brunette who doesn’t drink too much and doesn’t mind kids.”

“I’m not that shy,” I said, getting defensive.

“That’s what you took from that?”

“Whatever, Ang.” I shook my head and went into the kitchen for a bottle of water. “Why would I want to be someone’s fiancée just for the weekend? That’s just weird.”

“Um…Because you’ve always wanted to see the East Coast, you’re single and you have nothing better to do?”

She was right. I had always wanted to go there. I’d seen the West Coast and the Pacific Ocean but never the Atlantic. I just wanted to dip a toe in it. To say I’d been on both coasts, traveled from sea to shining sea.

“I’ll get to the East Coast someday.” It came out more wistful than confident and Angela smelled blood in the water.

“Yeah, but if you do this a rich med student will pay for your trip and give you five grand.”

“He could be psycho. I just got rid of a crazy boyfriend, I don’t need another.”

She gave me an annoyed look. “Okay, I hate to break it to you, Bells, but it’s been over a year since you and Paul broke up. Also, you’ll be there with his entire family, there’s bound to be at least one sane person there who can protect you.”

“You know how ridiculous this is, right? And that my dad would kill me for even thinking about this?”

“You’re thinking about it?” Her eyes lit up with excitement and she started to bounce on the couch.

“Not really.” I shrugged, then reached forward and stole her phone so I could read the ad myself.

“You could meet him. Here in Seattle. Let’s email him! Oh my God, this is cool!”

The next thing I knew she was opening my laptop and creating a new Craigslist account. After much arguing and two glasses of wine each, we sent futurehusband a message.

-x-o-x-

From: IdealFakeFiance (at) craigslist (dot) org

To: FutureHusband (at) craigslist (dot) org

Re: Fake fiancée needed for weekend in the Hamptons. Cash reward. (Seattle)

Dear FutureHusband:

Wow, it feels totally weird to call you that. LOL

I’m responding to your ad because I think we may be able to help each other out. I’ve always wanted to see the East Coast and the Atlantic, but I haven’t made it past the Mississippi River in my travels.

I have to admit that your requirements seem very specific, but I think I meet most, if not all, of them. I’m a brunette, a non-drug user, and casual drinker. I’m a teacher, so I have the summer off and would be available to travel with you. My father is a cop, so I can relate to your brother on the force. I’m not sure how I feel about your sister dressing me up like a Barbie, but I’m pretty low maintenance so fashion advice is always welcome. My roommate says that I’m shy (I would disagree and say that I’m just contemplative) and that I am a strong eight in the looks department (she says I have to explain that I’m petite and short or she’d score me higher. I have no idea what that means, I’d be a ten if I was taller and fatter? I don’t know).

Now that I’m completely embarrassed, I’d like to propose—if you’re interested in allowing me to act as your fake fiancée—that we meet for coffee or a glass of wine to see if it could work out.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

IdealFakeFiancee

-x-o-x-

Much to Angela’s dismay, I turned off my laptop as soon as we sent the message. I knew myself too well, and I’d continue to hit refresh all evening if I didn’t.

We made dinner together and sat down to eat while we watched Jeopardy. It was early June and we had two weeks left of school. It was only my third year out of college teaching and while I loved what I did, I couldn’t wait for summer vacation. I taught middle school math and there was only so much puberty a person could take. Angela had gotten roped into teaching summer school, so she only had a few days off before it started, but I would be off work for two months. She was jealous of my time off, but as low man on the totem pole I’d gotten screwed into working summer school the year before, so I didn’t feel bad for her.

We cleaned up the dishes and were choosing a movie to watch when my phone vibrated. I checked the screen and then looked at Angela in confusion.

“You set up that Craigslist account to alert my phone? When did you do that?”

She laughed and waggled her eyebrows. “I’m pretty sneaky. Now open it up. What does he have to say?”

Biting my lower lip, I opened the message and read it to myself before showing her.

-x-o-x-

From: FutureHusband (at) craigslist (dot) org

To: IdealFakeFiancee (at) craigslist (dot) org

Re: Coffee or wine?

Dear IdealFakeFiancee:

You’re right, that is strange to type. LOL

Thanks for responding to my ad. I don’t mean to be a smart ass, but you sound a little too good to be true. You wouldn’t believe the other responses I’ve received. I’m going to remain hopeful that you could be just who I am looking for and if this works out, I can help you achieve your goal of seeing the East Coast. Though having seen both, I truly prefer the West Coast.

I think meeting in person is a great idea. My schedule at the hospital is pretty hectic, but I think we can make it work. By the way, I’m totally jealous that you’ll have the summer off.

Could we meet Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Heads or Tails on Aurora for a drink? Message me back and let me know if this works, if not we’ll come up with something else. Also, if you don’t mind, please include your phone number so I can text you if there’s an emergency at the hospital and I have to cancel (this is, I’m sorry to say, entirely possible).

FutureHusband

A.K.A. Edward

-x-o-x-

I smiled a little as I read the message. He was honest and kind of funny. He seemed sweet. I liked that he wanted to make plans somewhere public. I sighed and looked up at Angela. Her eyes were wide and I could tell she was dying to know what he said.

“Well?” She motioned with her hand. “Spill!”

I read the email to her and I knew I was blushing a vibrant shade of red by the time I was done.

“Oh—My—God. You’ve got to go. I’ll totally come, too. I’ll get Jess and we’ll sit somewhere else, but we’ll be there to make sure you’re okay. This is really cool, Bells. It’s like…this doesn’t happen. How often does this happen?”

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know. How many ads are there on Craigslist?”

“Shut up!” she laughed. “Not the same and you know it. I can’t wait. Okay. Okay. We have two days to figure out what you’re going to wear.”

She jumped up and made her way towards my bedroom, calling over her shoulder. “You need to look cute but not slutty, which is easy, because you never look slutty, but you don’t always look cute either…”

Ignoring her, I thought about the name Edward and smiled. It was a good solid name. Kind of old fashioned. I liked that he hadn’t signed his message with Ed or Eddie. I was going to go for drinks with Edward, the rich med student. And talk about pretending to be his fiancée—holy shit. What the hell was wrong with me? I must be insane.

“Are you coming?” Angela stood in the hallway beckoning me towards her. “I’m going to grab a couple things from my room, but get in here!”

An hour, and a bottle of wine later, we decided on my black shorts and Angela’s white tank top with a draped scoop neck. It was a little dressier than what I would normally wear, and certainly dressier than what I would wear to what you would consider a sports bar. Ang had talked me out of wearing any of my Mariners gear pretty early on. I was, she reminded me, interviewing to be someone’s fiancée.

The next two days were nerve wracking. I didn’t know when it happened, but at some point I had gotten really invested in Edward’s proposition. I worried that he wouldn’t like me. That he’d think I wasn’t cute enough or smart enough to meet his family. Somewhere between laughing about the prospect of seeing the East Coast and setting our date to meet in person, I’d decided that I wanted to really do this. I wanted to be his fake fiancée.

Wednesday night I rode with Angela and Jess over to the bar, then waited in the car while they got a table. I didn’t want it to look like we’d arrived together. After a minute or two, I took a deep breath and went inside. I stood in front of the hostess for a second scanning the faces in the bar, though I had no idea who I was looking for. There were a fair amount of customers, but it was early for a Friday so it wasn’t too crowded.

“I’m meeting someone,” I told the girl nervously. “I’m a little early; so he’s probably not here.”

“Well, I haven’t seated any single guys waiting for anyone. If you tell me his name I’ll send him over.”

I told her and followed her to a booth towards the back of the room. Luckily, it was within eyesight but not hearing range of Angela and Jess. I wanted to be safe, but I didn’t need them listening to my every word.

Edward and I had exchanged names and phone numbers in case he needed to cancel or let me know he was going to be late, but I didn’t know anything more about him. I was starting to sweat and was beginning to regret the tank top because there wasn’t much fabric to soak up my perspiration. I felt like a mess.

A waitress brought over menus and instead of waiting, instead of ordering a nice glass of white wine like I’d suggested in my message, I ordered a beer – a large one. I was nervous. I needed something to do with my hands. I wasn’t a wine girl, unless I was with Ang. I had no idea why I’d suggested that. I didn’t want to start things off on a lie—wait—that’s what this whole thing was, an elaborate lie. Shit. My beer couldn’t come fast enough.

As the waitress returned and slid my drink in front of me, I watched a tall bronze haired man come into the bar by himself. He spoke to the hostess but I couldn’t see his face. Physically he looked good. His polo shirt clung to his muscular frame and his jeans sat low on a thin waist. He wore a pair of dark shoes. I couldn’t tell what style they were except that they were not tennis shoes. Major points for that.

He looked up as the hostess pointed to me and our eyes met. I felt the heat of my blush start to creep up my neck as he grinned and walked over to the table.

“Isabella?” His voice was smooth and calming.

“Bella.” I smiled.

Why the hell did this guy need to post a personal ad for a fake fiancée? I had a sinking feeling that there was something I was missing. It was my turn to think someone was too good to be true. Maybe he was a serial killer. Fuck my life.

My phone vibrated on the table and I glanced down to see a text from Ang.

Holy fucksticks! He’s hot.

I blushed again, quickly fumbling to clear the screen and drop my phone in my purse.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just my roommate checking on me.”

“Do you need to text her back?”

“Oh. Um. I guess. Yeah. Excuse me.”

I grabbed my phone again and typed a quick message.

Yes, but y single? Serial killer? FML

Her response came quickly.

I’ll b watching u. Well, him. U’re safe. luv u. HE’S HOT

I laughed a little and put the phone away. “Sorry about that.”

“Nothing to be sorry about. I’m glad to see you’re safety conscious.” He paused, looking embarrassed. “Thank you for meeting me. I’m not really sure how to do this. I’ve never interviewed someone for a girlfriend-”

“Fiancée,” I interrupted, teasing.

“Right, fiancée. Do you have any questions for me?”

I licked my lips, hesitating for a second, then gave in to my curiosity. “I’m sorry, I have to ask. Why do you need a fake fiancée? I mean, you’re good looking. You’re a med student so you’re obviously smart…”

He smiled at me and ordered a beer from the waitress that appeared next to our table.

“Another?” he asked me, nodding to my mug.

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Just a beer then. Maybe appetizers later?” His eyes were on me and I shrugged.

The waitress walked away, though her eyes stayed on Edward for so long that she almost ran into a server carrying a tray of food. I rolled my eyes and Edward laughed. I wasn’t sure if he was laughing at me or her, but he didn’t give me time to wonder.

“I’m single because I’m a med student. Well, that and I’m picky.” He laughed at himself and I felt myself start to relax again. He seemed to truly be the honest, funny guy from the ad and his email.

“I haven’t had time to date, not really since high school. I at least made an effort the first two years of undergrad, but after that it wasn’t worth it. I’m too busy to make anyone a good boyfriend.” He shrugged. “That really about sums it up. No time to meet someone let alone date them.”

“And you’re picky,” I added, laughing.

“Yeah.” We looked at each other for a second and the silence was unbelievably comfortable.

“What about you, why are you single? You’re smart and good looking, too.”

“Oh! Um…my last relationship didn’t end well. Is it okay to say that? Anyway, I just haven’t felt ready to put myself out there again.”

He nodded, smiling sadly across the table at me as he put his chin in his hand. “I’m sorry you were hurt. What do you mean when you say that it didn’t end well?”

The waitress sat Edward’s beer in front of him, and he gave her a quick glance saying a quiet ‘thank you’, before turning his focus back on me. It took her a few seconds to realize he wasn’t going to give her any more attention. I waited until she walked away before I spoke again.

“Well…he cheated on me and then got kind of crazy, saying it was a mistake and that he really loved me and he was sorry. I didn’t want to hear it. He cheated on me for months. His dick didn’t just fall into her on accident over and over!” I threw my hand over my mouth.

Edward laughed out loud. It was deep and rich, and if I hadn’t been so embarrassed it would have made me laugh along with him.

“Shit, sorry. Touchy subject.” I shrugged, trying to play it off.

“I guess so.” The corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. “So he got crazy?”

“Yeah, he was kind of a stalker for a while, begging my forgiveness then acting like we were back together when he saw my friends. Eventually he got the message and found someone new to fixate on. I felt bad for her, but he hasn’t bothered me in six months.”

I couldn’t really see Edward’s eyes as he sipped his drink and I didn’t know what he was thinking. I tried to joke because that’s what I did when I was uncomfortable. “That was probably an over-share, yeah? I think I’m totally botching this interview.”

“No, you’re doing fine.” He reached across the table and took my hand in his.

My breath caught at seeing our hands together. His hands were beautiful, long and lean. They covered mine entirely. I felt an odd feeling of strength in our connection. Not like he could over power me, but that he could protect me. He would protect me. When I looked up his eyes were locked on our hands as well.

I took a deep breath. He seemed interested. He said I was good looking and that I wasn’t screwing it up. I could do this.

“Edward, is there anything you want to know about me?”

“Right, yes.” He nodded, moving his hands away to take a sip of his beer. As if he needed to prepare to ask me something difficult, he took another drink before setting the mug down. Then he surprised me, meeting my eyes again with a grin. “Tell me everything.”

So I did. Well, as much as I could in three hours before we both began to yawn. We’d both worked full days before we met and I had to get up early to work in the morning. He paid our bill, pushing my cash back towards me when I tried to pay for my beers and part of our nachos, and we stood to say goodnight. I’d been sitting down when he came to the booth so I hadn’t realized just how much taller than me he was until that moment.

He smiled down at me. “I had a good time. I’m glad we decided to do this.”

“Are we?” I asked, surprised. “Are we doing this?”

He hadn’t really confirmed that I’d gotten the job as his fake fiancé. I figured he’d want to meet me again or take some time to think about it.

His face fell for a second and then he chuckled. “I meant this, tonight, but to be honest, I think we are. What do you think?”

“I think we should do this again.”

He cocked his head. “You’re not sure if you want to come to New York?”

“What? No!” I grabbed his arm, panicking that he might leave. “I’d love to go, be your fiancée, whatever. If you want me to. I meant this, we should meet again before we go. We should be more comfortable with each other if we want people to believe us.”

“Oh! Yeah,” he laughed. “We should definitely do this again.”

Ang and Jess stood and got ready to leave. Ang winked at me as they walked by and I ducked my head.

Edward burst out laughing. “Did that girl just wink at you?”

I felt my face heat up in embarrassment. “Um. Yeah.” I bit my lip then fessed up. “That was my roommate and one of our friends. I rode here with them; they just hung out to make sure I was safe. I have a feeling I’m going to get a lot of crap for being here so long. I’ll have to get them some coffee and doughnuts in the morning,” I rambled.

He shook his head, laughing again. “You surprise me, Bella.”

“That’s a good thing?” I raised my brows, unsure of what he thought.

“Yeah, it’s a good thing. You want to meet up again next week?”

“Do you work this weekend? Let’s meet Sunday. I just have exams next week so my lesson plans are pretty easy.”

He nodded and took a step back to stand beside me. His hand found my lower back as he led me out of the bar. I was pretty focused on the feel of him touching me, but I swore I could see some eyes following him as we walked. Once we got outside I made my way towards Angela’s Toyota and he stayed at my side.

“This is me. Well, us,” I laughed as Jess waved, then turned to face Ang in the driver’s seat.

“Bella, tonight has been better than I could have hoped for. I’m looking forward to Sunday and even more so to traveling out east with you.”

“We’re really going to do this?” I asked again.

“We don’t have to decide right now, but yeah, I think we should do this. Why not? I’d like to get to know you.” He tucked some hair behind my ear and my heart fluttered. “Do you want to be my fake fiancée?”

I grinned. “I’d love to, Edward. I think I’d like to get to know you, too.”

He leaned forward and kissed my cheek, his eyes finding mine as he stepped back. We smiled at each other and I stayed as still as I could. I was afraid if I moved the moment would be gone.

He took another step back and I noticed him just barely shake his head. He began to walk away but after a few steps he turned around towards me, calling out, “Goodnight, future wife. See you Sunday.”

I was struck by his words. Future wife meant something totally different than fake fiancée.

The scariest part about it though…was that I wasn’t afraid at all.

-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-

A/N:

Thanks so much for reading! Hope you enjoyed the start of something new. I’m hoping that now that I’ve posted this I’ll get my butt back in gear and actually write and not just scratch out ideas for this.

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