by: Christine S. Feldman
Series: Adventures in Blind Dating
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Christine S. Feldman
When financially-strapped actor J.J. McKinney responds to an unusual Help Wanted ad on the bulletin board outside his theater class, he has no idea that he’s in for an evening of improv like no other: posing as the hitherto fabricated boyfriend of one Erika Mills for the duration of a single family reunion. But hey, a job is a job, and if it will help get J.J. back in the good graces of his landlord, he’s completely on board. After all, how bad can one family reunion possibly be?
Enter Erika Mills: only child of one meddling mother, reluctant darling of several devoted yet squabbling aunts and uncles who are sure they know what’s best for her even if none of them can agree on what that is, and beloved grandchild of the tiny white-haired family matriarch who might just be more imp than invalid when it comes to managing family matters in spite of appearances to the contrary.
Throw in a suspicious cousin, an obnoxious ex-boyfriend who is determined to erase that whole “ex” thing from Erika’s vocabulary, and a rash deathbed promise that turned out to be less deathbed and more just a bad case of indigestion, and you get the reunion from hell—at least until the sparks begin to fly for real.
It ain’t Off-Broadway, but it still might turn out to be the role of a lifetime...
Four fifty-one. He might be bad with money, but he was dynamite with punctuality. Raising his hand, he just barely grazed the wood of the door with his knuckles a single time before it was yanked open before him.
“Hi.” It took J.J. a moment to think of the next step in making introductions, partly because the woman standing in the doorway was strikingly pretty with delicate features and an almost pixie-like haircut and partly because there was such a look of panic in her expression that he half-wondered if he’d managed to interrupt an emergency situation and was about to be trampled flat by stampeding evacuees trying to escape a house fire or perhaps a Tupperware party gone horribly wrong. “Are you Erika? I’m J.J., and we spoke—”
“Oh, thank goodness!” And to his utter surprise, she actually threw her arms around him in a hug that was unmistakably one of relief. A quick hug, though; she released him almost immediately, flushing slightly in a disarmingly attractive way that made J.J. think impromptu hugs from strangers were highly underrated. Certain ones anyway. “Sorry. I just wasn’t sure you’d show, and you were the only one who called about the ad, and—” She broke off midsentence and shook her head before resuming talking in a veritable flurry of words, yanking the front door closed behind her and wringing her hands. “Never mind that now. J.J. was it? Okay, listen, we don’t have much time because my mother was hot on my heels when she realized you’d arrived. I actually tipped over a potted plant to slow her down—which I’ll pay for later I’m sure—but in the meantime: you’re Oscar, got it? Oscar Dwyer.”
It was hard to say which had left J.J. more at a loss for words, Erika’s brief embrace or her speech. He responded with the dazzlingly brilliant reply of, “Beg your pardon?”
“Oscar Dwyer. And as far as everyone else in there is concerned, you and I have been going out for the last three months, got it?” She gestured back in the direction of the closed door and the interior of the house that lay beyond it.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I thought this was a theater job. As in, for an actor.” He pointed at himself uncertainly, Cooper’s warnings of questionable dealings resurfacing in his mind. Maybe this was a mugging after all, but if so, it was certainly the weirdest one he’d ever heard of. “Like, you know... what I am.”
“Yes, I know you’re an actor. That’s kind of the point.” She angled one ear in the direction of the door and twitched, her eyes—distractingly pretty eyes—widening. “I’ll fill you in on the details as soon as I get a chance, I swear. In the meantime, just—”
The door opened before she could finish her sentence, and she whirled around to stand at his side and wrap an arm around his waist with a speed that J.J. hadn’t seen outside a NASCAR arena.
“Erika, what on earth—that poor ficus will never be the same. Fifteen years that plant’s been sitting in the same place, and today you barrel through the thing like you never saw it there before?”
“Sorry,” Erika murmured, her gaze darting once to J.J. and then back to the newcomer who sighed with apparent exasperation before refocusing on the matter at hand. Namely, J.J.
“Well.” The new arrival was not taller than J.J., but somehow she gave the impression that she was, and by quite a bit. Eyeballing him thoroughly in a way that made him suddenly want to smooth down any wrinkles in his suit, the woman who bore enough of a resemblance to the one with her arm now wrapped around him to make J.J. believe that this was the aforementioned mother sniffed with a note of disapproval. “So, I take it you’re Oscar?”
Feeling much like a deer in the headlights, J.J. froze, at least until he felt the woman next to him—Erika, he reminded himself—poke him surreptitiously with a finger in the ribs. He glanced at her, saw the panic in her eyes that contradicted the smile she had plastered onto her face, and managed to find his tongue again. He also managed a weak smile of his own and thrust out one hand. “So it would seem.”
Apparently it was showtime...
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Christine S. Feldman writes both novels and feature-length screenplays, and she has placed in screenwriting competitions on both coasts. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her ballroom-dancing husband and their beagle.
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