Aspen looks confused. “Are you going to get fired if you don’t have a girlfriend?”

“Not fired. Traded. To a team not as desirable as the Hawks. And no, they didn’t say I had to have a girlfriend. They know nothing about this and I’m going to keep it that way. They just said I needed to, um … ‘keep my dick in my pants,’ to quote my manager.”

“So why not just keep your dick in your pants, bro?” Sebastian asks. “Why go to such extremes?”

I don’t say anything. What is there to say?

“Oh, my God. Are you really a sex addict?” Aspen asks.

“I’m not a sex addict. I just like to have it. It’s fun. Don’t you think it’s fun?”

She pinks up as she tries to ignore my heated stare.

Sarah points to the contract. “I think Aspen’s additions are a good thing. They’ll keep you honest.”

I turn to my lawyer. “You don’t think I could do it on my own? Without her added clauses?”

“I’m not sure you want me to answer that,” she says.

I check my phone. “I have to get to practice.”

Everyone stands up and Sarah walks us to the door. “I’ll draw up the new contracts and messenger them over to Aspen and Sebastian.”

“How quickly?” I ask.

“I’ll make it top priority. I could have them drawn up by Friday. Why don’t the two of you plan a meeting sometime next week so you can figure out how to get started?”

“I’m back from Atlanta on Sunday,” I tell them.

“I guess I could meet with you then,” Aspen says.

I shake my head. “I have plans.”

Six eyes stare at me and scold me like I’m a five-year-old.

“I’m not planning on fucking anyone, guys. I just have other plans. How about Monday night? It’ll have to be late, probably ten o’clock or so by the time I’m showered and ready. Is that too late?”

Aspen shrugs. “I don’t have class until Tuesday afternoon, so staying up late on Monday is okay.”

I turn to Sebastian. “Are you available?”

“Me?”

“Yeah. I kind of figured you guys were a package deal.”

Sebastian laughs. “Well, I’m not kissing you, if that’s what you’re asking, but, yeah, I can come along on Monday night.”

“Good.” I write down my address and hand it to Aspen. “See you Monday at ten. Now wait five minutes before you leave. I don’t want anyone seeing us together until we make it official.”

Aspen narrows her eyes at me. “Are you always going to be this bossy?”

“Well, technically, you are my employee for the next six months.”

“Seven if you make the playoffs.” She gives me a smug smile. “And considering how many revisions I’ve just made to the contract, you might want to re-evaluate who has the upper hand in this arrangement.”

I laugh as I walk out of the office, thinking that this girl might just be the death of me. But, oh, what a way to go.

Chapter Six

Aspen

It’s hard to concentrate in class today. I keep going over the contract that was messengered over this morning. I ignore my instructor as I read through the part that covers expectations about my behavior. I must allow him to hold my hand, put his arms around me … kiss me.

The thought of kissing him again makes me squirm in my seat. I remember the night I met him. The surreal night that continues to plague my dreams – or my fantasies if I’m being honest. He was gentle. He was funny. He was unlike anyone I’ve ever met.

And now, I have to kiss him for the next six or seven months. And I have to ‘fawn over him’ and ‘look at him with dreamy eyes.’ It actually says those exact words in the contract. They are even dictating the way I have to look at him.

Five hundred thousand dollars. That is what I think about every time I want to burn the contract that makes me no better than a glorified hooker. But that’s the reason I said I wouldn’t sleep with him. I’m not about to let anyone pay me for sex.

I’m especially glad I had Sarah add it after all the research I’ve done on Sawyer the past few days. Bass was right. He’s never been with the same girl twice. Not to mention I’m not all that eager to get an STD anytime soon. I question his ability to uphold his end of the contract. No way can he go six months or more without sleeping with someone. But that’s nothing I need to worry about. I’ll get paid in full if he does. And to my surprise, it was written in the contract that if he does ‘cheat,’ not only will I get paid the remainder of the money immediately, I will also be released from my duties.

I smile thinking that even though Sarah is his lawyer, she might just be on my side. He may be the one with all the money, but I’m the one in control.

All the money. I shake my head. I know exactly how much money Sawyer Mills makes. It’s not hard to find those things out on the internet. I still can’t believe he is who he is. I still can’t believe I spent a few hours at a bar with the guy without knowing who he was.

And I’m about to be famous in my own way. Famous for being the girlfriend of the most ineligible bachelor of baseball. It concerns me that we might not even be able to pull it off considering his past. Will people even believe he has a girlfriend? Will he know how to act so that he’s convincing? Maybe he’s the one who needs a contract directing the way he has to look and act.

A text pops up on my phone.

Denver: Hey, sis. Can you talk?

Me: In class. I’ll call you after. Everything okay?

Denver: Yeah. Talk to you later.

Denver. I sigh, thinking he’s the reason I’m even in this situation. I’m doing this to pay off his bad debts, but at the same time, I’m not allowed to tell him anything. That will be the hardest part of the whole arrangement. My brother and I have always been very close. We tell each other everything. I even knew about the investments he was making. Hell, I gave him my part of our inheritance because it seemed like a sure thing.

Although I was devastated to lose the money that was going to secure my future, it may be the one reason I still have a relationship with my brother. He never would have swindled me. He would die for me. And that’s how I know he was duped as well. He was duped by several higher-ups at KCPD. Higher-ups that still have his money, my money, and the money of a dozen other people. My brother’s only crime was being the gullible rookie cop. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the judge saw it and Denver ended up taking the fall for everyone.

I wish our mom was alive. She’d have done something. She was a judge herself. A highly-respected circuit court judge. But the judge who presided over Denver’s case was a young judge who probably never even met my mom. He was trying to set an example with Denver.

I look down at the contract and re-read the part about how I get paid. I’m going to get fifty thousand dollars as soon as I sign the contract. I’ll get two hundred and fifty thousand after our ‘break up.’ And the rest will be divided into monthly payments in between.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to justify paying off Denver’s debts. How will I explain it to him? Do I say I won the lottery or something? How do I lie to the person who I’m closest to in the world? He’ll see right through me, I’m sure.

Class is dismissed. I sat through the entire day today without learning a thing. I’d better get my act together or I’ll fail my finals and they’ll rescind my grad school acceptance.

On the way to the practice hall, I call my brother.

“Hey, little sister, how’s it going?”

“Hey, big bro. Fine. Just on my way to rehearsal.”

“I can’t believe you graduate in six weeks.”

“You and me both.”

I hear him sigh into the phone. “I’m so sorry I can’t be there for your graduation. I asked the court for an exception, but they won’t let me leave the state.” His voice cracks. “I can’t believe I’m going to miss it. Everything you’ve worked so hard for. And I had to go and ruin everything.”

“Stop it, Den. We’ve been over this a thousand times. What happened is not your fault. I don’t blame you.”

“I was so stupid. Why did I believe them?”

“Because they were supposed to be the good guys. Your mentors. Your teachers. You were new, and they were supposed to be people you could trust. One day, they will get what’s coming to them.”

“Maybe. But even if they get caught someday, it won’t erase the fact that I’ll be labeled a criminal for the rest of my life. Do you know how hard it is to get a decent job with a record? I’ll never be able to pay the restitution, Pen. I’m going to prison. Maybe not this month or next, but unless … well, let’s just say nothing short of a miracle can help me now.”

God, I want to tell him. I want to tell him so badly it’s killing me. But it’s not just the NDA I signed that’s keeping me from spilling my guts. Denver would never let me do this for him. He’d never let me compromise myself or put myself in this position just to help him. He’d never let me do it even though I know he’d do exactly the same for me. He’d do more. He’d go to hell and back if I asked him.

But the thing is, I’m just not sure pretending to be Sawyer’s girlfriend will be anything like going to hell. In fact, part of me is excited about it. Part of me can’t wait for the touching and the kissing and the ‘dreamy’ looks – even though it will all be fake.

“You are not going to prison,” I say. “I promise we’ll figure something out.”

“I don’t want you moving back here and getting three jobs just to pay off my debts.”

“Maybe it won’t come to that. Listen, we have six weeks to figure something out. And guess what? It turns out I overpaid tuition this semester,” I lie. “I guess I got a scholarship from a local business that I forgot I even applied for, so I’ll be able to send you some money as soon as the school reimburses me.”

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