By: J. S. Scott

“I can gift wrap,” I told him in a rush. “I can cook, and I have experience in cleaning and housekeeping.” He obviously needed someone to help him for the holidays. Even if it was a temporary job, I needed the work. “I can even be your personal shopper. Tell me what you need and I’ll find it.”

A slight smile started to form on his face. “Chloe really didn’t fill you in at all, did she? Unfortunately, she didn’t tell me much about you, either. She just said she had a friend who might be able to help me. What in the hell is your name?”

My full name was a mouthful: Evangelina Guadalupe Morales. I settled for answering, “Eva.”

“I don’t need a maid, or a personal shopper.” His smile faded and his eyes were suddenly alive with fire, with an intensity that was slightly alarming. “I need a fiancée.”

Okay. For the first time in my life, I was pretty much speechless. It took me a while to stop gaping at him and recover enough to speak. I could only mutter one word. “Why?”

“My reasons are personal, and the position is temporary. I need to be engaged for the holidays. After that, I’ll no longer need your services.” He eyed me critically. “You have to be convincing. One of the first priorities will be a wardrobe and makeover if you decide you can accept the job without demanding anything except what I’m willing to pay. You take orders directly from me and you follow them. Nobody else knows the truth. Understand?”

Oh, I understood perfectly. Somebody had hurt him, and he wanted that person to believe he didn’t care about them anymore, that he had moved on. I could tell this wasn’t about a business deal to him. He needed to appear engaged because it was personal to him. I shouldn’t do this. I couldn’t do this. But the offer of money to simply play a part for a short time was so incredibly tempting. “What’s the pay?” I blurted out the question before I could stop myself. A hungry woman was a desperate one.

“Fifty thousand. Twenty-five up front, and the other half when the job is completed.” His voice was businesslike and abrupt.

I swallowed hard to get rid of the lump in throat. “Fifty thousand dollars?” My voice came out squeaky, and it was probably because of the severe shock I was experiencing. A woman like me didn’t see that much money at one time in her entire lifetime. Who in their right mind paid that much money just to even the score with an ex-lover? “I can’t take that kind of money.” Regretfully, I had to decline. I wasn’t Chloe’s friend, and sooner or later he’d figure that out. Besides, I couldn’t take advantage of someone who had been hurt so badly, even if he was a Walker. I might be hungry, but my damn conscience was going to let me starve.

“How much?” His answer was clipped and slightly angry.

Our eyes met as he barked out the question, leaving me feeling raw, exposed, and just like the imposter I was. “I just wanted a job,” I answered breathlessly. “I want something permanent. I was hoping maybe I could get a position in one of your resorts. I’d work hard, and I have some experience in housekeeping.”

It wasn’t a lie. I did have experience in housekeeping, until I’d lost the job shortly after I’d started.

All I wanted was to escape my past life, work a job that could provide a steady income, and not be afraid anymore.

Trace looked at me like he didn’t understand me at all. His eyebrows drew together and I could see the muscle in his jaw grow tight.

Finally, he asked huskily, “You just want a cleaning job?”

I nodded slowly. I wanted a job. Any job that would be permanent. Trace Walker owned the largest resort company in the world. Walker Escapes was known for being plush, offering a luxury experience without the over-the-top price. I’d gotten let go from my last position a month ago. I couldn’t pay my rent, and I was just one short step away from being homeless…again. A job—any kind of work I was capable of doing—was what I was desperately seeking. I’d approached Trace Walker for a reason, but it wasn’t because I wanted to be his temporary fiancée.

He contemplated me carefully before answering. “I could send you anywhere in the world. I have resorts everywhere.”

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