The Bet

By: Rachel Van Dyken

Chapter Two





Jake Titus thrust his hands in his pockets. Damn, she looked good. He hadn’t expected his response to be so strong. After only a few months, he had expected everything to feel exactly the same. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It felt damn difficult. The woman was walking sin, curvy where guys loved it the most. Her outfit had only enhanced her curves and made lust shoot straight to the wrong places for any man sitting in a coffee shop.

Kacey’s long brown hair boasted honey blonde highlights, and her deep brown eyes seemed to set everything off beautifully. Add to that the cutest two dimples on God’s green earth, and he was ready to throw her onto the table and have his way with her.

If anyone could take him off the market it would have been Kacey, not that he would ever let her. He’d traveled that road with Kacey one too many times. They dated in high school, but soon figured they were better friends. Or maybe it was that he couldn’t keep it in his pants? It was probably a mixture of both, but who really dates only one person in high school?

The final nail in their relationship coffin happened after a drunken night in college. They had slept together. It had been a good night except for the fact that he would never forgive himself for the pain he caused her the next day. But what was he supposed to do? Say “thank you”? Screwing his best friend hadn’t been the wisest of choices. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize it until it was too late. He was her first.

Leaving Kacey had been one of the stupidest and yet most necessary things he had ever done. They were still kind to one another, but the friendship was never the same once they slept together. What had always been rumored as a way to increase the bond between two people ended up being the catalyst that ruined a lifetime of friendship.

They avoided each other as much as possible for the next few years. At his graduation he gave her a quick hug and never looked back.

Nor had he ever apologized.

Not that it was entirely his fault, but still.

Just seeing her again haunted him, but it was a necessary evil.

The board of directors had insisted that if he didn’t clean up his image, the company would suffer. According to them, it already had. But how was he supposed to know that the girl he was sleeping with just happened to be a prostitute? It was Seattle, after all, and she was beautiful. He hadn’t thought she would go to the media, or that photographers would be conveniently outside the W Hotel downtown after a late night escapade that he still couldn’t fully remember. The real kicker had happened when his mother called and said his grandma had suffered a stroke because of Jake’s whoring around. Clearly it wasn’t his fault his grandmother had a blood clot, but still.

A week later his grandmother had called him and given him an ultimatum. Bring Kacey to see her before she died — her words not his — and all would be forgiven. She was so insistent that Kacey come home for Labor Day weekend that Jake couldn’t say no. It just happened to work out that a photographer from the Seattle Times would be visiting family in Portland as well. She promised to take some pictures of the two of them together in the plane, as well as some great shots of the giant rock on Kacey’s finger.

Jake grinned. Sometimes he was so brilliant he scared himself. What could possibly go wrong? He was next in line to be CEO of Titus Enterprises. It was worth a pretty penny, and once he cleaned up his image, his grandmother would not only back him but would give the board the extra push they needed to make him one of the youngest CEOs in the world.

Kacey would understand. She was just that type of girl. All he needed to do was logically explain to her why it was in her best interest. After all, not only would it help business for her to be seen with him, but he was practically investing in her future.

If anything, she should thank him!

His cell phone rang and he checked his watch. Jake shook his head. He’d spent way too long convincing that gorgeous girl to be his fiancée. Now he’d have to stay at the office longer than necessary.

With a shrug he walked to his Range Rover and jumped in. Finally, he could stop stressing about his grandmother and the business.

****

“I’m sorry. Could you please repeat what you just said? It sounded like you said you were engaged.” Char sat across from Kacey at their favorite restaurant in Belltown.

“Yup.” Kacey sipped her wine, though she briefly contemplated just taking the whole bottle and downing it. “That’s what I said.”

“To Jake?”

“Yup.”

“Jake Titus?” Char clarified, taking a healthy gulp of her wine.

“That very person.” Why couldn’t Kacey stop shaking? It was one weekend. She could do one weekend. Geez, it wasn’t as if she had to do anything but pretend to be in love, and attracted to him, and excited, and…

So basically she wasn’t going to act at all. She just had to make sure her heart didn’t get broken into a bazillion pieces by the billionaire himself.

“I can’t do this.”

“Of course you can’t do this,” Char repeated, her voice rose a few octaves. “Do you have any idea what that man did to you in college? Are the memories still fuzzy? Because I’m pretty sure he slept with you and then pretended like it didn’t happen.”

“I know.” Kacey’s voice was shaky. “But in his defense, I never tried to talk to him either…”

“Don’t defend the devil, Kace. Seriously. You guys were best friends your whole lives! Remember? I was the third wheel. I saw your love drama play out quite nicely and then get run over by a truck that night. Don’t do it.”

Kacey knew what Char was saying made sense, but… “I already told him I would.”

“Then get out of it!”

Kacey shook her head and said in a small voice, “I can’t.”

Char’s eyes narrowed. She took three deep breaths then motioned for the waitress.

“Yes?” the waitress asked.

“We’re going to need tequila, stat.”

“Char, this is hardly the time for tequila,” Kacey protested.

“Really? You just got engaged to the most famous bachelor in Seattle in order to play nice and do him a favor. Again, Exhibit A: HE LEFT YOU!”

“Keep your voice down!” Kacey hushed her friend and offered apologetic smiles to the people staring at them from their booths. “It’s only the weekend.” Besides, Char had no idea Kacey was still in so much debt from school. She had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes about her graduation claiming she was only a class short, not seven.

“Right.” Char snorted. “If I know Jake, and I think I do, this isn’t just for the weekend. He has something up his sleeve. The more handsome they are, the more manipulative. Believe me.”

The tequila was placed on the table, and Char took a shot before saying anything more. “Besides, just because you agreed to this farce of an engagement, he’s going to be thinking he can put his hands all over your hot body.”

Kacey rolled her eyes. “He dates models and, apparently, strippers. Look at me, Char. Do I look like either? I’m not a whore. I’m not going to let him take advantage of me.”

Char grunted. “Hmph! Haven’t let anyone take advantage of you since that night and you know it. You’re still hung up on him and it’s taken you all of college to get over it! And now you’ll be back to square one.”

Ignoring Char’s obvious slight to her inability to trap down a man, Kacey looked away and huffed. Her fingers touched the edge of the tequila bottle, and thoughts of Jake poured in on their own accord.

“What the hell am I doing?”

“Now, she says it.” Char shook her head and took another shot.

“I mean…” Kacey looked down at her hands. “I have to be alone with him for more than three days, and even then I have to lie to his entire family!”

“And let’s be honest,” Char interjected, her speech slightly louder than normal. “You’re like the worst liar on the planet.”

“Am not.” Travis, Jake’s spawn of a brother was. But Kacey refused to think about Travis. The last time she saw him, he yelled at her for running over their mailbox during Christmas break. She cried, he yelled some more, and then refused to speak to her the rest of the time she was visiting. That was three years ago.

“Are too!” Char poked her manicured finger across the table. “Remember that one time we tried to sneak out of the house and go to Jake’s birthday party in high school?”

“No,” Kacey lied, trying desperately to swallow the giant lump of guilt in her throat.

“Really? Out of all the times during this day that you would say no, you choose now? Seriously? What happened to no when you were talking to Jake? Or no when he was propositioning you for—”

“Totally different and you know it. Besides, I would like to point out that I didn’t tell my mom a terrible lie. If the dog had stopped barking, then…”

Char threw her head back and laughed. “Let’s not blame the dog. Even if the dog had stopped barking, you used that as an excuse to admit all to your mom. And later told me it was a sign from God that you were sinning.”

Kacey looked away. Just because her friend was totally right didn’t mean she had to actually acknowledge the fact. So what? Yeah, she was a little bit of a prude, but the one time, the one time she had decided in her life to go for it…

She was royally screwed.

In more ways than one.

Kacey let out a large sigh and motioned for Char to pour her a shot. “Regardless, I said yes, and you know how I am with commitment.”

Char swore. “You’re more loyal than my dog, and he’s blind, meaning he depends on me for everything, including when and where to go pee.”

“Your encouragement is astonishing.” Kacey smiled sweetly and followed her shot with a large gulp of water. She needed a clear head if she was to adequately plan how the weekend was going to progress. One thing was for sure. Jake couldn’t touch her — he couldn’t put one of his hands on her. If he did, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to say no.

“…and another thing…”

Oh gosh! Was Char still talking about her damn dog?

“If you let him touch you, or kiss you...” She slammed her fist on the table, her eyes slightly glazed over from the tequila. “If one of his perfectly manicured hands even grazes across your bare flesh, I’ll castrate him.”

Kacey pursed her lips together and nodded. “Thanks, Char. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Me eisher...” Char hiccupped and Kacey motioned for the check. Truly, it’s not every day a friend gets wasted on your behalf. But Kacey knew better too. Char was the truest type of friend. When Kacey cried, Char cried. When Kacey threatened to kill Jake, Char offered to pay for a hit man, and when Kacey finally moved on and only mentioned Jake as the man who shall not be named, Char went ahead and nicknamed him Bastard for her sake.

If anything, Char was just trying to help, though her methods were a little extreme.

Kacey laid out a couple of bills on the check and helped her friend out, all the while wondering how she was going to get through the next week without dying.

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