Fiance by Friday(8)

By: Catherine Bybee

And he dreamed.

Oh, he dreamed…

Dressed down, at least as much as Gwen knew how to, she sat at an outside café in Santa Monica sipping iced tea. She’d arrived early to assure the table she occupied was not one where others could spy upon her and her client.

She wore a hat, and not the kind she preferred, but a brimmed variety that flattened her hair and made her feel very American.

She scanned the entry to the patio and spotted Michael as he slipped past the hostess and walked straight toward her. A hat also covered his dark hair, and sunglasses hid his eyes and most of his features from those in the restaurant. Gwen stood as he approached and didn’t back away when he greeted her with a hug and a kiss to the cheek as if they were old friends. “So good to see you again,” she said, avoiding the use of his name should anyone be listening.

“Thank you for meeting me.” He waited for her to sit before taking his seat. He looked around the room. It wasn’t lunch or dinner hour so the restaurant wasn’t busy. The closest group of people was well out of hearing range.

“I assumed you wanted some privacy,” she said just above a whisper. “I hope this establishment meets your needs.”

He glanced around again. “I’m hoping this is the only time we meet in private.”

The waiter arrived and took their drink order. They ordered a couple of appetizers and let the waiter know that they weren’t there for a meal.

Once his soda arrived, and the waiter walked away, Gwen started asking questions. “Tell me, Michael…should I call you Michael?”

“Let’s stick with Mike for today. For some reason my fans don’t think of me as a Mike.”

Gwen smiled and continued. “What do you know about Alliance, Mike?”

“I know you have the ability to find a companion for my needs. My temporary needs.”

“You make us sound like a call service.”

Michael smiled, and shook his head. “That won’t be one of my needs.”

Ahh, yes. The confirmation she needed of his sexual orientation. But just in case she was mistaken, she prodded him one last time. “I’m told you can have any woman you want. Why come to us?”

Michael leaned forward and peered over the top of his sunglasses. “I can have any woman I want. I’m coming to you because although I don’t want one, I need one.”

“I see.”

He slid his glasses up on his nose and kicked back in his chair. “I’m an actor, Miss Harrison. I pretend to be something I’m not every day of my life. My wife will be required to do the same.”

“That’s understood. All my clients understand the rules.”

“But mine will have to do it in front of the public eye. She will have to be as skilled as I am in convincing people we’re happily married and that ruse must not fall until after the divorce.”

Gwen noticed the waiter approaching and shifted their conversation to the weather. Once the food was on the table, she continued. “How long will you require a wife?”

“A year…maybe slightly longer. My filming schedule is massive over the next eighteen months, which will take me out of the country quite a bit.”

“All of which will make it easier for you and your wife to live a life apart from each other.”

“Yes, but when together, we need to be the perfect couple. She will be kissed in public, held in front of the cameras, and passed off as my lover.”

The entire time they talked, Gwen thought of Karen. How apt she was for this role. Karen could have been an actress if she were so inclined. Her liberal views on sexuality and ability to get along with kids from the street just as equally as the political elite made her the perfect choice for Michael.

“Why are you doing this?”

“I have my reasons,” he said. “Millions of them. My publicist won’t even be privy to what I’m doing. Only you and your client will know the truth.”

Gwen sat forward and picked at some of the food. She took the time to explain the contract he’d have to sign, and the payment schedule they would set up. “I have papers I need you to fill out. I will probe into your life, Mike. And I will find out things about you you’ll probably not wish me to know.” Gwen thought of Samantha, of how easily she told prospective clients that their lives were a book for her to read and she never skimmed the pages.

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