Is This for Real?
An opposites attract, friends-to-lovers, slow burn, fake dating romantic comedy
Love is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Usually me. I admit it, I’m a relationship-recluse. Ironic, given that I write romantic comedies. So, I’m on a sabbatical from dating.
Which is why fake dating my best friend Rory is fool-proof. Rory suggested it because he needed a date for work functions. And I can use our experiences as fodder for my romcom novel. Plus, my sister doesn’t know it’s not real and she is thrilled that I’m not walling myself off emotionally. Her words, not mine. But I do wish she would stop saying that she always suspected there was something more between me and Rory. She should realize that we’ve been friends forever so I’m immune to his appeal.
We would never work. Rory is such a romantic; he still believes in that perfect love similar to his parents’ marriage. My parents fought bitterly. So, we are better off as friends. I can’t risk losing our friendship, even if this might be my chance—before his ex-girlfriend wins him back.
Those flickers of attraction? Easily extinguished by cold water reality—like a two-mile hike in drenching rain over sand with wheelie luggage.
But our relationship is not sticking to the plot—or is it?
Author Bio –
Kathy Strobos is a writer living in New York City with her husband and two children, amid a growing collection of books, toys and dollhouses. She grew up in New York City and graduated from Stuyvesant High School, Harvard-Radcliffe University magna cum laude, and Columbia Law School. She spent two semesters abroad at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. She previously worked as a lawyer. She left law to pursue her dream of writing fiction full-time and getting in shape. She is still working on getting in shape.
Social Media Links –
[Background: Penelope, an unpublished writer, is meeting her former crush, Jamie, with his new girlfriend. She and Rory have agreed to fake date so she can look like she is over Jamie. Penelope is wearing a 1920’s cloche hat in the hope that it makes her look more sophisticated—less cute little buddy.]
“My mom would love for you to help her out with the store.” Jamie leans in as if he’s closing a sale. “And I really appreciate that you’ve been having dinner with her once a month. She always sounds so upbeat after your dinners.”
“That’s definitely a possibility.” Not that working at Theresa’s Sports Store would give me a lot of time for writing. It’s like death by a thousand sneakers. I’d be running home to write every night, like I had with my last job. But it’s a backup plan. If I don’t find a publisher for my book, which would give me just enough income—with my odd jobs—to allow me to continue writing full time.
Willow unbuttons Jamie’s cuff at the wrist and sticks her hand and arm up Jamie’s cotton shirt sleeve. My glance meets Rory’s. Is she for real? She needs to be inside his sleeve? At a brunch? With the girl he rejected? She could tone it down a bit, have a little sympathy for my bruised feelings. Just unbutton his shirt, why don’t you? Why bother with just his arm?
Rory puts his arm around me, although I feel like he has to make an extra effort to get around The Hat. Should I relax into him? That seems too intimate. But otherwise, I am sitting very stiffly between The Arm and The Hat. I lean against Rory.
Jamie’s brow furrows. A feeling of glee makes me snuggle even closer to Rory.
“I didn’t realize you knew anything about writing or publishing,” Jamie says to Rory.
“I don’t particularly. I’m learning along with Penelope. But I do know about marketing a product. And Penelope’s book is good, although the male lead needs to be a bit more human.”
“Not with my poor male lead again.” I narrow my eyes at Rory. Rory thinks I’ve based my male lead on Jamie. Because he has curly, blond hair. Just to pay him back, I’ll model the romantic lead in my current novel on Rory’s looks—tall, lean, wavy, dark hair, blue eyes, a strong jaw with a cleft. How to describe his smoldering sexuality that makes him irresistible to so many women? It’s like an invitation to see if one can light that candle, or at least have fun trying, if the mischievous twinkle in his eyes is any indicator. I’m immune now, but that was definitely my first impression. I will note that Zelda says he’s attractive, but he’s not “all that.”
“What’s wrong with your male lead?” Willow asks as she turns her head to look at me. Her body is facing Jamie, her arm is still up Jamie’s shirt sleeve, and her other hand is rubbing Jamie’s back. It looks uncomfortable—for Willow.
Rory rubs my back. I feel like a cat that wants to purr. Did I just “mmm”? Rory gives me an amused glance. Warmth flushes my cheeks. I must schedule more massages because I shouldn’t be having this reaction to Rory.
Now Willow’s hand is in Jamie’s hair. Not to worry, though. Her other hand is still up his sleeve. Rory’s hand moves to massage the back of my neck. I arch my head back and my eyes close.
“He’s an arrogant investment banker,” Rory says.
My eyes open. Jamie shoots me a look.
“Based on Jamie?” Willow laughs.
Am I so obvious?
“Hey, I’m in tech now,” Jamie says.
“Based on New York men encountered in the dating scene.” By Zelda. Rory’s right that I don’t date that much. But admitting that will only make Jamie think I’m still pining for him. “And he’s not that arrogant. He just comes off as arrogant initially. But agents keep telling me that the arrogant hero is no longer appealing to modern women.”
“Is that true?” Willow asks.
Yeah, I don’t believe it, either. A lot of women still seem to be seeking Mr. Darcy. There’s all the joy in the comeuppance. Rory is snorting next to me. I don’t know if it’s because of the discussion or because Willow is so entwined with Jamie. One writer friend uses Barbie dolls to check her descriptions of physical contact, but Barbie dolls aren’t flexible enough for this. I wouldn’t have believed it possible. How are they going to eat? Rory stops massaging my neck and is typing on his phone next to me.
Rory: I was treating it like a drinking game where every time Willow touched Jamie, I touched you. But CAN’T keep up.
Willow pulls her hand out of Jamie’s shirt sleeve. She rubs Jamie’s back.
“Apparently, in fiction now it’s the sweet, sensitive man that’s hot. I gave my male lead a cat.” I shrug. “In my most recent rewrite. He’s secure with his masculinity.”
“Yes, and now he’s so amazing that no man can compete with him,” Rory says.
“He’s a book boyfriend. He’s not real,” I say.
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