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The Loner’s Lady
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Lyssa had one job. Pretend to be her best friend’s doting girlfriend during a visit with his reclusive, ex-military hero father, John. But who could have predicted she’d be instantly attracted to the intensely rugged mountain man? Or that, despite their age difference, he’d not only want Lyssa, too–forever–but would catch on to the ruse immediately?
No way in hell Lyssa was his son’s actual girlfriend. They weren’t even convincing liars. Forcing them to admit the truth, however, could hurt his son and John refused to do that. One thing he couldn’t refuse, though? His burning hunger for Lyssa. And if he wasn’t mistaken, his son continued to create situations that left him and Lyssa alone. Not touching his golden beauty before the truth comes out might prove to be the one obstacle in John’s life he isn’t strong enough to overcome…
…and the result could be a wild, enduring love for the ages.
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“Oh come on, he can’t be that bad.”
“You want to bet?”
My best friend, Mason, offers me his hand across the console of my Jeep and I eye it with indecision. Was Mason’s father seriously as deranged as he was making him sound? If so, should I be worried that we’re five minutes away from reaching the man’s cabin in the Catskills? “What are we wagering?”
Mason hums thoughtfully. “When we get back to New York, I’ll let you pick where we get takeout for the entire week.”
“God, we never cook, do we?”
“Nope and I’m not about to start. Maybe I should date a chef next to save some money.”
I perk up. “Ooh! Will he cook for me, too?”
Mason snorts. “We’re a package deal, babe. You know this.”
With a smile, I focus back on the road, but it fades when I realize how remote our surroundings have become over the last ten miles. Civilization is firmly in the rearview and I’m losing hope of spotting a decent coffee shop. City girl problems. I have them. “Okay, let’s go over the story one more time. We’ve been dating how long?”
“Eight months. We met when I saved you from being hit by a cab.”
An amused sound trickles past my lips.
“What?” Mason asks. “If I’m already making up our fake romance, I might as well swing for the fences and make myself look like a hero.”
“You are a hero, darling. You save me every single day.” We trade an awww face. “I’m only laughing because you never move above a power walk. To save me from a speeding cab, you’d have to jog at the very least.”
“My father hasn’t seen me in a year, and look around, Lyssa, I doubt the mofo even has an internet connection. Whatever I tell him, he’ll have no choice but to believe.” He ticked off on his fingers. “In other words, you’re my devoted girlfriend, I’m straight as an arrow and I run recreationally.”
I drum my fingers on the wheel. “Mason…you’ve pretended to be my boyfriend a zillion times so men would leave me alone. You know I have no problem faking a relationship in front of your father. It’s your decision when to come out, obviously. Your own time in your own way.” I roll my lips inward to wet them. “I’m just curious if you’ve thought about telling him the truth?”
“Nope. And if I can get away with him never knowing I’m gay, I’ll do it. When you meet him, you’ll understand. He’s an old-school man’s man to the fucking core. He’s a former army ranger who’s been living off the land for years. There is no world where we relate to each other. It’s better this way.”
“Okay.” I reach over and squeeze my best friend’s hand. “I’ve got your back.”
He chews his lip. “So I’ve told you he’s a foul mouthed, military badass, but…I don’t think I’ve quite prepared you for his appearance.”
“Yeah. Let’s just say he’s, uh…intimidating. Large and in charge. Long and hairy, hard to carry.”
“I’m starting to get nervous.”
Mason turns in his seat to face me. “Swear on a stack of Bibles, he won’t hurt you, Lyssa. He looks like he could twist a human being into a pretzel, yes, but please remember I would never, ever put you in danger.”
“Oh my God.” My voice has gone high pitched. “How long are we staying again?”
“Just until tomorrow morning. I have to come up to see him once a year or he won’t continue to help pay for college.”
“Okay.” I blow out a breath. “We got this. We. Got. This. I mean, I’m a New Yorker, right? I’ve gone days without hot water. I’ve had rats the size of toddlers run through my legs in Washington Square Park. I’ve…”
Escaped an attacker in the stairwell of my old building.
Mason shoots me a sympathetic glance because he knows what I’m thinking. He always does. When we met at NYU freshman year orientation earlier this year, I was a mess. I’d been packed and ready to embark on my college journey the day it happened. My single mother raised me in a modest two-bedroom apartment in Kensington, Brooklyn. Our building was small, only inhabited by three families, whom we knew well. Which is why I’d always felt safe in the building.
Until I didn’t anymore.
Since that scary night, I’ve been wary of men, and Mason has been instrumental in keeping every interested male in New York at arm’s length. Needless to say, when he asked me to return the favor and convince his father that I’m his girlfriend, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I’d do anything for my best friend. In a short space of time, we’ve become each other’s support systems and motivators. He also makes me laugh like nobody’s business and tells me the truth when I need to hear it. I’m lucky to have Mason and I will not let some macho mountain man scare me away from doing my duty.