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“I know.” She sat up, perching on the edge of the mattress with crossed legs. “I know you’re not romance guy. I don’t expect anything.” She looked back at him over her shoulder. “That’s why our arrangement will be perfect.”

“Are you out of your mind, Georgie?” A harsh, humorless laugh left his mouth. “After what just happened, you think that’s actually an option? No. Jesus, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to look your brother in the eye again.”

Irritation ripped through Georgie. Where before she’d been a tranquil pond, a stone had just been hurled right into the center of it. “Oh, you know what? Forget it.” She lunged off the bed and pulled on her clothes, searching the floor of his bedroom for her shoes. “I just had the most adult experience of my life and I’m still just someone’s little sister, aren’t I? Get back to being a clown, Georgie. Screw that.”

“Now hold on just a goddamn minute.”

Travis climbed off the bed and Georgie backed up into the bedroom doorway, out of sheer self-preservation. Wearing nothing but jeans and bed head, he was a magnetic, sexual authority. If he asked her to get back in bed, she would forget her anger and do it in a second. No denying it.

“There are rules for this kind of thing and they would apply even if you were fucking forty, baby girl. Don’t you dare get pissed at me.”

“Too late.” She left the bedroom, determined to be out the front door before Travis could follow. That turned out to be wishful thinking since he caught up with her two steps later. His hand curled around her elbow, whirling her around. Was that a flash of panic she’d seen in his eyes before he hid it?

“You want to fake date so everyone will stop thinking of you as a kid—”

“And you can get your job.”

“Fine. Let’s do it.” Expression serious, he pointed back at the bedroom. “But that can’t happen again. We’re not going to confuse what this is. If we have sex, someone will get confused.”

“Just admit it. You’re talking about me.”

“Yeah, fine. I’m talking about you.” He stepped close enough that she could smell his light sweat, the musk of what they’d done. Along with his proximity, the smell was like a caress between her legs. And how annoying that he could turn her on even while being condescending. “I have no problem walking away from a few hookups and never looking back. You don’t know yet if you’re capable of that.” His eyes closed. “Christ, I shouldn’t even be considering this.”

Maybe he was right. Georgie tried to imagine what it would be like, dating Travis in public and spending time in his bed. When he got the job and it all ended, it would hurt if—when—he dropped her. What if the real Travis she’d only begun to scratch the surface of . . . turned out to be equally as incredible as superstar shortstop Travis of her dreams? It was hard to admit, but maybe he was right.

She could get hurt if they slept together. Badly.

But wasn’t it worth having respect for the rest of her life? Yes. A smidgen of pain now weighed against decades of her family, friends, and customers treating her like an adult. There was no contest. And she was a big girl. At the very least, she knew that. She could go into this arrangement with her eyes wide open and emerge mostly unscathed, couldn’t she?

“Fine. Dating. No sex. We wouldn’t want my lady brain to get confused by an orgasm. A wedding dress might magically stitch itself onto me.” Travis stared down at her with a baleful expression. “See? Ridiculous. Are you in or out?”

He dragged a hand down his face, leaving his mouth covered a moment. Considering. “The only way dating you would help me land this job would be the press getting wind of us.” Hand dropping away, his lips moved into a grim line. “I don’t like the idea of cameras following you.”

“I can handle it.”

His jaw twitched. “You realize if we want to be realistic for those cameras, we’ll have to get pretty close. It’s not going to be real.” The tone of his voice dropped. “It won’t be real when I kiss you, Georgie. And we can’t take it further. Will you remember that?”

A hole was punched in her stomach, but she garnered some bravery and stepped closer to Travis anyway. “Will you?”

It took him a moment to answer, his attention straying to her mouth. “Yes.”

“Then we have a deal,” she breathed, putting her hand out.

“Hold up. We need some fine print.” Travis crossed his arms. “My agent is working on setting up a dinner with the head of the network in a couple of weeks. When it’s over, I’ll know whether or not I have the job. There’ll be no reason to—”

“Keep this up. I understand.” Georgie wet her lips. “That should be more than enough time for everyone to reevaluate their opinion that I’m nothing more than a silly clown.” She widened her eyes and prompted him again to shake her hand. “After the dinner we end it, no muss, no fuss.”

After a few beats, his warm palm slid against hers and gripped, although his expression continued to be wary. “Deal.”

Chapter Twelve

I have a girlfriend. A fake girlfriend.

Travis flipped off the table saw and stepped back, pushing his safety goggles onto his head. He really shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery while being so epically predisposed to getting a hard-on. There could be a serious tragedy. He’d have a new nickname: One Bat.

That scary possibility should have been enough to ease the thick pressure in Travis’s cock, but as he’d learned last night after his third round of beating off, there was no relief. Every time he let his mind drift, it returned to Georgie’s tight little ass cheeks. The dribble of lube on those smooth curves, the liquid trickling down the center to be absorbed by her silk panties. He’d had no finesse yesterday. No game. Once she offered herself up, he’d been incapable of hitting pause. Or catching his breath. Or doing anything but getting there getting there getting there.

What scared him the most was he’d gotten that way from kissing her.

As soon as their tongues touched, there had been this urgency crowding him. To take as much as he could. Taste every inch of her and hope his mouth didn’t forget. Had anyone ever kissed him with so much trust? No. No one kissed or exposed themselves like her, honest and unrestrained. No one had ever pulled him in so deeply. He’d forgotten about work and responsibilities and vanity. Christ, he hadn’t even minded holding her when it was over.

Oh, you didn’t mind it? Right.

He was full of contradictions lately, wasn’t he? Hook up with Georgie again? Nope. Bad idea. But he didn’t want anyone else to lay a finger on her. Hell, he wasn’t all that thrilled knowing about her vibrator, Dale. It made exactly zero sense to Travis.

This relationship was phony, so where was this possessive streak coming from? It was almost as if he was . . . jealous. Georgie was adorable and funny and date-worthy before that inconvenient makeover. Now she was walking around Port Jefferson looking like the girl next door had decided to fulfill every man’s naughty librarian fantasy. At least that’s how she’d looked yesterday. He’d seen inside the bags, though. There’d been all kinds of girlie shit in there. For all he knew, she was in the town square dressed in pasties and a tutu while he sucked sawdust.

Pull back, man. Listen to yourself.

Travis removed the goggles from his head and tossed them on the workbench. Massaging the bridge of his nose, he attempted to center himself the way he used to do in the locker room before a big game. Think. Release the negativity. Embrace the focus.

He was attracted to Georgie. Couldn’t-keep-his-dick-down attracted. But he’d get over that part. They hadn’t engaged in the main event, so he probably just had some extreme form of blue balls. If it meant spraining his fucking wrist, he’d handle the problem sooner or later. It would not be solved, however, by touching her again. What he’d said yesterday wasn’t arrogance talking—it was simply more common for women to get attached when sex was part of the equation. Basic science, right? The idea of hurting Georgie made him feel like the buzz saw was spinning in his stomach, so he wouldn’t go there.

Associating himself with her could go a long way in getting him the commentator job. Her family was prominent in Port Jefferson. She was the epitome of wholesome. Until he got her on her back, apparently. Nothing wholesome about how she came.

His dick pushed against the front of his fly and he cursed.

He was dating Georgie to help secure the job. That needed to be the only reason for this arrangement. When he was a kid, the ballpark was the only place he’d ever felt truly at home. At peace. It embraced him when no one inside the four walls of his home ever bothered to. Hesitantly, he let himself smell the freshly cut grass, dirt, sweat, spilled beer, and tobacco. That familiarity had been moved outside his grasp, and it still stung. If he couldn’t still be the best, why bother? This sport he’d loved had become a tool of disappointment in himself. But in a way, commentating was his way back onto the field, without having to get too close and feel that failure again. He needed this. He needed this to save him from being a has-been at twenty-eight, the way his father assumed he would.