Home > Rascal (Rascals #1)(8)

Rascal (Rascals #1)(8)
Author: Katie McCoy

“That sucks,” Kelsey sighed.

“Yep.” I took a sip of my martini. “And there isn’t anything I can do about it.”

Because even if I wanted to bring someone to the cocktail party, I wasn’t dating anyone. The last serious relationship I had was during law school, and that had gone South because I spent all my time and energy focusing on my studies instead of fawning over my boyfriend. After that, it had been a string of unsatisfying flings, but even those had been few and far between.

“I’m glad Justin doesn’t have rules like that,” Kelsey said, turning to her favorite topic of conversation, the CEO of her company that she had an all-consuming crush on.

A guy who barely seemed to notice that she was alive. But Kelsey was a romantic. Like, a love at first sight, long walks in the rain kind of romantic. I admired her devotion, but my own romantic past made it hard to believe in love the way that she did.

That didn’t mean I was anti-love. Not at all. I just knew that relationships required work and compromise, and I didn’t have time for either right now.

“I could ask some of the guys at work if they’re single,” Kelsey offered.

I made a face. “No thanks,” I told her. “I really don’t think taking a first date to meet my bosses would be a good idea.”

She sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

I hated feeling like I didn’t have control over my life, and this was the very definition of having no control. What was I going to do? It’s not like I could just summon a suitable guy out of nowhere.

Except, at that moment, a guy did seem to appear out of nowhere. A guy I knew.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Emerson said, approaching the table.

He was wearing a simple blue button-up shirt and a pair of black jeans. He looked good. Really good. And I could see Kelsey take notice.

“Shouldn’t you be at your bar?” I asked him.

“I’m scoping out the competition,” he told me before turning to Kelsey and holding out his hand. “I’m Emerson,” he said. “A friend of Alex’s.”

“Oh really?” She raised an eyebrow in my direction. “A new friend?”

“Very new,” he told her.

“He manages the bar on the bottom floor of my building,” I interjected before Kelsey could get the wrong idea.

“There’s a bar on the bottom floor of your building?” she asked, slapping my arm. “Why didn’t I know that?”

“We haven’t opened yet,” Emerson told her. “Next weekend is the grand opening. You should come.”

“Oh, I will,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes at him.

I shot her a look. One that she completely misconstrued. Her eyes widened as her gaze swung between me and Emerson.

“I think I’ll go to the bathroom,” she said, giving me a wink.

“That’s not necessary,” I told her, knowing that she thought that something was going on between me and Emerson. Which it wasn’t. Not really.

“Mmhmm,” she said, getting up anyways.

“She seems nice,” Emerson said as she walked away.

“She is,” I agreed. Nice, and way too eager to get me laid.

“What are you drinking?” Emerson asked.

“Martini.” I held up my empty glass.

“Can I get you a refill?” he offered, waving down a waiter before I could respond. “Three martinis,” he said, noting Kelsey’s empty glass as well.

“So.” I turned to him once the waiter was gone. “How’s the competition looking so far?”

“Good.” He glanced around the room. “Definitely a little more of a corporate feel than what we’re going for, but it’s good to see what’s out there.”

I looked around, seeing exactly what he was talking about. This place was a good place to talk business. There wasn’t any food being served and all the tables were tall ones—not really a place to get comfortable, like Rascals seemed to be.

“Alex!” a familiar voice said from behind me.

I turned to find my boss Arthur and his wife, Deanna standing there. I had met her at the Christmas party, and she had been a quintessential lawyer’s wife—classy, smart, but very good at listening to lawyers talk shop.

“Good to see you,” I told them, hiding my fluster. Somehow, seeing work people out of work felt weird, like worlds colliding. “Do you, um, come here often?”

“Just stopping for a drink before we head to the theatre,” Deanna commented. “I managed to rope him into seeing Hamilton with me. Again.”

“The things we do for love,” Arthur commented dryly, though it was clear that he was happy to do so. He turned to Emerson. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Sorry,” I apologized. “Emerson, this is Arthur, my boss.”

The two men shook.

“Unfortunately we can’t stick around,” Arthur said. “But maybe we can get to know each other at the party this weekend.”

Uh-oh.

Emerson gave me a look, and I was about to explain that we were just friends, except Deanna tugged on his arm.

“We really should go,” she told him. “They’re pretty strict about seating.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Arthur said to me before turning to Emerson. “And you this weekend, I hope?”

Thankfully, he didn’t wait for an answer, disappearing into the crowd before I could explain the mistake.

Emerson arched an eyebrow at me. “This weekend?” he asked.

“It’s just a misunderstanding,” I told him. “I’ll clear it up tomorrow.”

“Mmhmm,” Emerson said, clearly interested.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him.

He shrugged, his gaze focusing on something past my shoulder. His eyes lit up and he waved. I turned to see that he was waving at a pretty, petite brunette in the crowd.

“Friend of yours?” I asked, feeling strangely and irrationally jealous.

“Something like that,” he said cagily. “Excuse me for a moment.”

He headed over towards her, greeting her with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I shouldn’t have been disappointed—after all, there was no way that a guy who looked like Emerson did wasn’t a complete player—but I still found myself feeling things I didn’t want to feel.

Luckily, our martinis were delivered at that point, and I distracted myself until Kelsey returned by drinking mine and half of hers.

“What did I miss?” she asked.

I gestured over to where Emerson was deep in conversation with the brunette.

“Who’s that?” she wanted to know.

I shrugged. “My boss was here too,” I told her, and I recounted how Arthur had assumed that Emerson and I were together. “So now I have to go to his office tomorrow and explain that Emerson won’t be at the party on Saturday.”

Kelsey didn’t say anything at first, glancing over to where Emerson was still talking to the brunette.

“That’s not such a bad idea,” she said slowly.

“What are you talking about?” I demanded. “It’s a ridiculous idea. I barely know him.”

Kelsey gave me a look that indicated that she didn’t believe me for a second.

“You know him well enough for him to come over and talk to you at a crowded bar,” she pointed out.

“He obviously doesn’t have any problem talking to women at bars,” I countered.

“So he’ll be totally fine at a cocktail party,” Kelsey said. “He won’t be awkward or uncomfortable in a crowd of strangers.”

“But I’ll be awkward and uncomfortable,” I told her. “Because everyone we’ll think that we’re a couple. And we’re not!”

“So what?” Kelsey waved down the waiter and ordered another drink, since I had stolen hers and nearly finished it. “No one has to know the truth—the whole thing is ridiculous anyways.”

I shook my head. “No way.”

“He does owe you after keeping you up all night,” Kelsey said with a smile.

How I wished he was keeping me up all night for other reasons, I thought, my mind once again going back to that hot kiss in the ATM vestibule.

“It’s not going to happen,” I told Kelsey, snagging a sip of her fresh martini. “Not in a million years.”

But by the end of the following day, I was starting to reconsider Kelsey’s suggestion. No less than three people at work had come up to me to tell me how much they were looking forward to meeting my boyfriend at the party that weekend. Even Arthur had brought it up again, saying that he was looking forward to getting to know Emerson better.

“Seems like a nice young man,” he told me with a wink.

The whole thing was ridiculous to me, but I wasn’t going to let a boyfriend—or lack of one—ruin my chances at that associate position. And besides, Kelsey did have a point. If anything, Emerson owed me for all the noise and sleepless nights.

So that evening, after work, I went straight to the bar.

“Come to cash in on your free beer?” Emerson asked as I walked in. He was back in his plaid shirt, cleaning off the bar with a rag. “Or are you looking for another grilled cheese sandwich?”

“Neither,” I told him, putting on my best lawyer face. “But I have a proposition for you.”

He dropped the towel he was holding.

“Go on,” he said, leaning across the bar.

I blushed, realizing how suggestive I had sounded.

“It’s not like that,” I quickly corrected.

“Darn,” he teased. “Are you sure?”

“I need a date,” I said bluntly. “A fake one.”

He blinked. “You need a fake date.”

I sighed and sat down at the bar. “You remember how my boss mentioned a cocktail party the other night?”

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