Home > Real Fake Love (Copper Valley Fireballs #2)

Real Fake Love (Copper Valley Fireballs #2)
Author: Pippa Grant

1

 

 

Luca Rossi, aka a man who has no idea how many problems he’s about to have

 

There’s a massive wedding cake glaring at me.

And by massive, I mean you can see it for miles around, because it’s not actually a cake.

It’s a monument.

A wedding cake monument. It’s taller than all of the buildings in this dinky farm town—okay, wedding town, but it should be a farm town—and it’s glaring at me.

“Stop looking at the eyeballs,” my mother mutters next to me.

“You first.”

She shudders. “I can’t.”

“Exactly.”

If this were a normal monument that someone had defaced with giant googly eyes, I could look away. Hell, I might’ve even been the guy to participate in giving a monument googly eyes, and I’d probably be amused as hell.

But wedding cakes give me the hives. Check that. Weddings give me the hives. And here we are.

At a wedding in a weird little town so obsessed with weddings that they have a wedding cake monument with googly eyes that won’t stop glaring at us. Behind us is a country club and a lake—Harmony Lake, naturally—and on the other side of the cake is a street lined with wedding shops, and inside each of those shops are people who believe weddings are the greatest thing on earth.

“Why are we here?” I ask Mom.

“Guilt, Luca. We’re here because of guilt.”

“Ah. Right.”

“Be glad Jerry insisted on a Monday wedding during your all-star break so you could make it, or I would’ve had to be here alone in the middle of their festival.”

Now we’re shuddering in unison.

I hate weddings. Hate them. Thousands of dollars down the drain for two people to be all dopey-faced and in loooooove while wearing ridiculous get-ups that they’ll never pull out of their closets again, with hundreds of people that they’ll feel obligated to send holiday cards to for the rest of their lives merely because Timmy brought a toaster and Rosalee donated to their honeymoon fund.

A horny uncle will grope the bride’s butt while they’re dancing and everyone will pretend he didn’t. A drunk relative will spill all the beans about some sordid story from the groom’s past. And for the next two to twenty years, depending on how long they make it, the families will look at the photos and pretend that those wide-eyed, terrified, exhausted expressions the bride and groom are wearing in all the pictures is joy and happiness instead of stark raving madness.

Nope.

I’m not jaded about weddings and marriage and love at all.

Yet for some reason, I keep getting invited to the damn things.

Today, for instance, I’m here because Jerry Butts, who was the scrawny rich kid on the playground who stopped his high-class friends from making up stories about me to get me in trouble while I was the poor little scrapper keeping the bullies from breaking his glasses, calls me three times a year to talk about how we used to be such best friends, but he never sees me, even at the holidays, and can we play a round of golf sometime?

And also because he specifically told me he and his bride picked a day during baseball season when they knew I’d have the best chance of being free on the off-chance that I didn’t make the all-star game and that I’d want to come.

You can’t not come when someone plans their entire wedding so that you can be there, and somehow manages to make it not insulting when they suggest you’re not good enough to play in the all-star game at the same time.

Or when your agent hears you got invited to a wedding and he’s working on sealing a deal for a formal wear endorsement, and could I please go and dress up nice somewhere?

You know what would be nice?

It would be nice if I could stick to playing baseball and avoid all this other bullshit.

“Luca? Hey! Luca, you made it.”

My shoulders briefly bunch at the sound of Jerry’s voice, then Mom and I both turn. He’s in a gray tux with his hair slicked back to reveal his thinning hairline, and he doesn’t look like a man ready to take a leap of faith into the blissful pool of matrimony as he rounds the corner of the country club with a photographer on his heels.

He looks like he ate a can of beans three years past their expiration date and his body can’t decide the best way to take care of the problem.

And I’m not saying that because I hate weddings.

I hold out a hand. “Hey, man. Good to see you. Congratulations.”

He grips me by my fingers and squeezes like he’s drowning and can’t quite get a grip on the whole life raft. “Thanks. Thanks. Good to see you. Glad you could make it.” With his free hand, he tugs at his collar. “Warm one today, isn’t it? But Henri’s always dreamed of an outdoor wedding, and July won’t stop us from making a bride happy, will it?”

“You poor dear, look at you sweating.” Mom whips a pack of tissues out of her small clutch and dabs his face the same way she used to when we were kids in the Chicago suburbs.

Much like when we were kids, he blinks at her like she’s the brightest star in the heavens.

His own mother never gave him popsicles.

Mine always did.

“Won’t they let you sit inside in the air conditioning until it’s time to walk down the aisle?” she asks.

He stares for a beat longer, jaw slightly unhinged like a bug headed straight to a zapper, before he blinks quickly and blushes.

Blushes?

No. Surely he’s not blushing. Weather’s hot, that’s all.

“Pictures,” he stammers. “None with the bride before the wedding, but me before the wedding. Wow. That cake has eyes. That cake didn’t have eyes last night, but it has eyes today.”

He slides a look at me.

I lift my hands in innocence.

He laughs awkwardly and steals a look at Mom again.

Is it weird here, or is it the wedding cake?

Mom seems to be wondering the same thing. She gently clears her throat and slides her sunglasses down from the top of her head to cover her eyes. “It’ll make for memorable pictures.”

“Memorable. Yeah. Did you see my parents? They’re down at the lake. Fretting. Everyone frets. Did you know everyone frets? But it’s a wedding. Of course they do.” His laughter comes out high-pitched and panicked, and I’m glad I’m already wearing sunglasses. “Luca. How about them Fireballs? Good season for a team that almost got sent back to the minors last year. Guess that’s you playing for them, huh?”

“It’s all of us. You doing okay, Jerry? Need a drink or something?”

“Is it too early for a Long Island?” He snort-laughs, tugs his collar, and gazes at Mom once more.

She gingerly tucks the sweaty tissue back into her clutch and takes a half-step back. “We should go find our seats and stop distracting you from your groomsly duties.”

“No, you’re not—wait.” He looks between us, his pupils dilating more, his chest practically convulsing because he’s breathing so fast. “Can we talk for a minute? Privately?”

Dread slogs through my veins.

Mom and I share a look, and even with both of us in sunglasses, I know she’s thinking the same thing I am.

We should run.

Fake coming down with temporary insanity, go jump in that lake behind the country club, streak through the small crowds of guests gathered as everyone waits for the ushers—something, anything other than going somewhere to talk to Jerry privately.

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