Bargaining with the Bride(10)

By: Allison Gatta

"I don’t think so,” she lifted a single brow.

Oh, it was definitely a game, and the only thing missing was to place the stakes. To set up the treasure chest at the end of the map.

"Well, if you don't believe me, then let's make it interesting. During our fake engagement, I’ll use you as a subject for our company research. Since we’ll spend so much time together, I think it would be an ideal time to gather data. From that point on, if I can convince your family that I'm your beloved fiancé, then you have to stay here for the next year, and you’ll have to authorize me to use your data in the study." he said.

"Corporate slavery?" she laughed, the ghost of sadness disappearing from her face.

"Contract negotiations," he countered.

"And what if nobody believes you?" she steeled her fingers.

"If nobody believes me, then you're free to go back home. I'll write you a great letter of reference, give you twice as much as I would have given you for your sister’s care if you’d stayed, and you'll be set to find another career. Win-win." That was the clincher. She couldn't turn him down.

What was more? He was determined to never lose. Ever. And he wouldn't.

"Interesting," she swirled her spoon around in her coffee, eying him up. “You’re going to make me into a human test subject, huh?”

"To put it crudely, yes."

"No probes, right?” she wrinkled her nose and he was surprised by exactly how charming the expression was.

He swallowed the thought along with his coffee, then answered, “No.”

"It would solve all my problems…so I think you have a deal," the corners of her mouth twitched once before blossoming into a full-blown smile, and she extended her arm toward him.

"I thought I would." Victory was already thundering in his ears when they shook on it.

Though the little jolt of electricity he felt as his fingers folded around her soft hand made him wonder whether the feeling was actually the thrill of the challenge, or if it was something that might make their proposition that much more interesting.


Rachael was surprised by Garret’s grip. It was stronger than she'd remembered and, well, oddly…sexy. Not that he had ever really seemed like a sexual object. No, he was more of a watch-your-house, feed-your-cat kind of friend. The weird, tingly feeling was probably just the coffee in her empty stomach or last night’s vodka sucking up the last of her hydration.

But then, maybe it was the rush of adrenaline careening through her system as she thought over how awesomely things were going. If she won the bet, she could go home and walk into a job while spending the rest of her time with Eliza. And if he won—as if he ever would—she'd have job security and peace of mind.

Win-win, indeed.

Still, she was careful not to get her hopes up too high. Maybe Garret knew number-crunching Rachael pretty well, but what was the first thing he knew about reality-show-loving Rachael? Nothing. Fat chance he'd seem like anything more than a business associate to people who’d known her inside and out since birth.

Add to that the prospect of his taking her pulse while she slept or something, and she was probably in for one hell of a challenge. Why, then, could she not stop herself from smiling?

"Business before eight? Or are you just warming up for an arm wrestling stint?" Natalie Moyer, one of Rachael's best friends and Garret’s personal assistant, leaned against the kitchen partition, looking from Rachael to Garret with disinterest.

"No, it's kind of difficult to explain." Heat flooded Rachael’s cheeks, and Natalie's disinterest became something more like polite intrigue as she trudged toward the coffee maker.

"Do tell. I need a little morning pick me up," Natalie poured her coffee, added a sickening amount of sugar and cream, and sat between the pair already settled at the table.

"It's business. That's all." Garret smiled before sipping from his coffee, but Rachael could have sworn he winked, almost imperceptibly, as the mug reached his lips. “Do you have any messages for me this morning?”

“The movers called to confirm the pick-up time for Deanna’s stuff. Your brother called, too, but he was an ass, so I hung up on him.” Natalie said lazily. “To get back to the matter at hand, what sort of business is it that I can’t know about? I’m the corner stone of this office.” She flipped her silky brown hair behind one shoulder and eyed her boss with contempt.

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