What happens when the best friend you’re in love with
asks you to love him back, but only for pretend?
Gabby’s been hopelessly in love with her best friend Owen for what feels like forever, but playing his “fake” girlfriend when the entire boisterous Burnett clan visits is easier said than done. The more she tries to deny the attraction between them, the more obvious their chemistry becomes. But even though she’s not the only one feeling it, putting their friendship on the line is a risk she can’t take.
Owen thought he’d find Gabby curled up on the oversized chair in his bedroom, sketchbook in hand. He had looked forward to seeing her there like that, he realized. Instead, she was sitting in the middle of his bed, in a pair of pajama shorts and a tank top, laughing at whatever album she seemed to be flipping through.
“Hey,” he said, ignoring the warmth crowding his chest. He shut the door behind him and arched an eyebrow when she slapped the album shut and put it behind her back. No. Mom wouldn’t have…
“Hi.” She scooted back on the bed, pushing the dark blue album, which he now recognized, under the pillow.
“Gabby. What are you doing? You were supposed to be sketching,” he said, advancing.
If it was possible to look down her nose at him while she looked up at him, she managed. “Is that what I was supposed to be doing? I didn’t know I had to confirm my activities with you.”
His legs hit the bed and Gabby’s body tensed, like she was ready to spring from the mattress. With the album, most likely.
His heart dove into his stomach. “Did my mother give you that?”
Her smile started slow then took over her entire face. Her eyes shone with it. She nodded.
Oh, Mom so did. He thrust out his hand. “Give it.”
“Oh, no. It’s too good. There are actual bath shots, O. And the time you dressed up as your sister. And there’s one shot of you learning how to pee standing up,” she said. Her words came out slightly muffled as her hand shot to her mouth to cover the fit of laughter.
He launched himself at the album, but she tugged it away just in time and he landed on top of her. The album went flying to the floor and Gabby laughed, twisting in his arms, trying to get away.
“You think that’s funny?”
She nodded. “I really do. I think I’d like to do a new series. Owen: the younger years. From print to paint.” Gabby’s body convulsed in laughter. She struggled with him as he tickled her and tried to get her to promise never to do such a thing. It didn’t take long for her to cave.
“Okay. I promise. Stop. I promise.”
“Say ‘I swear on my favorite set of brushes to erase all memories of what I saw in Owen’s baby book,’” he said, pinning her hands above her head.
She bit her lip, considering. “Owen, I will never, in my life, forget what I saw in those pictures. In fact, in times of trouble or sadness, I may purposely recall them,” she said. He tickled again, his fingers grazing her breast accidentally on the way up her arm. She squealed. “Okay. Okay.” He paused. “I swear on my favorite set of brushes to never use the images I will forever hold dear as the subject of any of my artwork. Ever.”
Owen stopped fighting his grin. He groaned as he collapsed to the side of her, letting her hands go. “Good enough. I can’t believe she gave you that.”