The Millionaire's Forever

By: Sonya Weiss

Beth grabbed a box of supplies and cut the tape holding it shut. She opened the flaps and shot Olivia a grin. “He might have been right on the mark. I remember the rumors about Mason in high school. What I don’t remember is him looking so hot. Kind of like a Mr. Big, don’t you think so?” Beth wagged her eyebrows.

Pushing another box of supplies to one side, Olivia said grudgingly, “Mason has always looked good, but now, he’s positively breathtaking.” She dusted her hands off. “There’s something about him, you know. Like there’s all this strength just waiting to explode. I don’t like him, but I can’t recall ever feeling as pulled toward a man as I was when I was standing near Mason.”

Beth rolled her eyes and winked. “You’ve lived like a nun lately. I can tell you what the pull is.”

Olivia grimaced. “I know, but on the list of stupid things I’ve done in my life, getting involved with Mason would rank as the dumbest. He only wants to use me. My father’s the only family I have left now, and he hates him. I can smell the war brewing between them ten miles away.”

“Sounds like a match made in heaven,” Beth said. She shot Olivia a look, then added, “I did warn you that making up a fake boyfriend would come back to haunt you one day.”

“The shop was dying. Going belly-up faster than I could fix it. We were close to saying good-bye to my dream and both of our jobs. I had to do something, you know that. Besides, at the time, no one knew he was fake except for you and me.”

“Hmm,” Beth murmured.

“Hmm, what?” Olivia blew a puff of air upward to shift her hair out of her eyes and wished for the hundredth time she’d worn a cooler outfit. She hadn’t checked the weather before she’d left her house.

“I always felt like you and Mason were a match away from an explosion. The way he looked at you in high school and the way you looked at him whenever he wasn’t looking…the heat from it was intense,” Beth said. “You need to be careful around him, that’s all I’m saying.”

“That was a long time ago. Men, even ones who look as good as Mason, are not on my horizon. I think I can behave myself around him.” Her heart sped up at the thought of him. Not because of how good he looked but because beneath that civilized exterior of his, she’d sensed a warrior’s determination.

“Oh no,” Beth said, crossing her arms with a long sigh. “I see the look on your face. You’re thinking of agreeing to this foolish boyfriend scheme.”

“If I don’t, he’ll go public and tell the world that I created a fake boyfriend. Do you know what would happen to the business if word got out that I lied?”

“So to protect the lie you told, you actually have to live a lie.”

“Exactly,” Olivia said, remembering how her father had demanded, in his halting speech, to know who her mystery guy was when he’d seen the news. Thinking about it now, she could remember a flash of fear in his eyes. How odd.

“Liv, you know I’m your friend and we’ve always been up-front with each other.”

Olivia nodded, getting the sense she wasn’t going to like what Beth was about to say.

“You should just take your chances and publicly come clean about the boyfriend lie. I’m afraid that if you don’t, you’ll get caught up in Mason’s world and you’ll end up getting burned.”

“If I announce that I lied, I risk the business, and that’s not an option. The cost of Dad’s rehabilitation recovery after his stroke is astronomical. If I lose my livelihood, I can’t afford to pay for the care he still needs.” Her heart ached, remembering seeing her father struggle physically. He’d gone from being the strong, powerful man she knew from childhood to being a thin, helpless shadow of who he used to be. The memory of finding him unconscious and crumpled would forever haunt her.

She’d hated the despondency she’d seen in his eyes when the aides had to feed and dress him. Whatever it cost, she would pay it in an attempt to give her father back at least some of his independence.

“What’s in this for Mason?” Beth asked, interrupting Olivia’s thoughts.

Olivia exhaled. “He thinks it will give him time to convince me to sell him the land the correctional facility is on.”

Beth looked worried. “Maybe he’s counting on you falling for him or something like that. How long is the relationship supposed to last?”

“Falling for Mason? I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.” Olivia thought for a second. “He mentioned something about being together for six weeks. I suppose we’ll iron out the rest of the details when we meet tomorrow morning.”

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