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That Kind of Guy: Chapter 4

Emmett

“HI, DIV,” I answered with my phone against my ear, walking away from the table.

“The poll numbers are in.”

I stepped outside, where it was quieter. “And?”

“Isaac is ahead of you by a full twenty points.”

I nearly choked. “Twenty?” My eyes narrowed, and I wandered down the path before taking a seat at one of the benches. “It’s early. Our campaign just started. People need time to process the information. Did they say what it was in particular that made them hesitant to vote for me? Is it my experience? Because I have ten years—”

“—experience running a multi-million-dollar construction company, yes, everyone is aware. They saw the magazine cover. It’s been very popular on our social media, especially with women twenty to forty.”

Realization hit me. “I know what the issue is.”

He sighed with relief. “Good. I’m glad it’s clear to you, too.”

“I’m too handsome to be mayor. People don’t trust someone attractive to also be smart and capable.”

Damn my parents for passing on their good genes.

Div made an impatient noise. “No, Emmett, this may come as a surprise to you, but being good-looking is actually helping you in the polls.”

I could hear his eye roll on the other side, and I grinned to myself.

“It’s that you’re single.”

Record scratch. I frowned and ran my fingers along the outside of the window. Single pane. I frowned deeper. Single pane windows were really energy inefficient. These must have been part of the original structure of the building. They would let a lot of heat out in the winter and would let the heat in during the summer.

Wait, single? People didn’t want me to be mayor because I was single?

“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked Div, shaking my head. “How does my relationship status affect my job?”

“It factors in to how reliable, trustworthy, and responsible you are,” he told me. “Deep down, people figure that if someone is willing to date you long-term or marry you, you must be a somewhat decent guy.” He cleared his throat. “And you have a long history of—how did Tessa Wozniak put it—hit it and quit it.”

I choked out a laugh. “That is not what I do.”

“That’s what it looks like to everyone.”

This was unbelievable. My shoulder muscles tightened, and I shook my head again. “Just because I haven’t done the relationship thing doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible. That’s just not what I want, and it’s not what the women I hang out with want.”

“I know, I know,” Div said. “I’m just giving you the information. Your relationship history and single status is knocking your numbers down.”

My mouth pressed into a tight line, and I exhaled through my nose. “Politics are stupid.”

“I know,” he agreed as if he were a mother consoling a child. “They’re very, very stupid.”

Irritation twisted in my stomach. I couldn’t believe that after spending most of my life here, except for college, this town still judged me by something as ridiculous as my relationship status. Unbelievable. Why was I even doing this?

I remembered Will’s face from a couple days ago when we had packed the boxes into his car. How he looked determined but sad as we scanned through the house to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything.

Right. Will. My best friend. I was doing this for Will, for Nat, and for Kara, so they could move back here, and Kara could have the childhood that Will and I had had. She should be growing up here, where her family and community were, not in some apartment building in the city where no one knew each other.

I took a deep breath and rolled my shoulders out. “So, what do we do?”

“We need to find a way to make you look responsible. You’ll be volunteering at the food bank next week.”

“Great.” I narrowed my eyes and grimaced. That didn’t feel like enough, though.

What did Isaac Anderson have that I didn’t?

A wife. A family.

Will. What the town wanted was someone like Will. I snorted. That wasn’t me. Sure, the idea of a family was nice, for some people—people like Will, people like Isaac. Not people like me. I just wasn’t that family kind of guy. I wasn’t the kind of guy who wanted a long-term commitment. I didn’t buy into the idea that there was someone for everyone, and that everyone needed to be in a relationship.

I liked my space. I enjoyed living alone. I liked my things being exactly where I left them. I liked my tidy house, and not having to clean up after anyone. I liked coming home whenever I chose to, and not having to check in with anyone. I tried being someone’s boyfriend once, and it crashed and burned. It wasn’t who I was.

Avery Adams’ words flashed into my head.

You should probably hire someone to play your dutiful little wife.

A slow smile spread over my features. I might have been handsome, but damn if I wasn’t a genius as well.

“Div, I’m going to need you to reach out to a talent agency in Victoria. We need a woman around my age.”

He was silent on the other end.

“Div? You still there?”

“I’m still here.” His tone was flat. “I’m afraid to ask, but why do we need a woman from a talent agency?”

“We’re going to hire someone to play my girlfriend.”

Div groaned, and I grinned. “I’m on it,” he said with reluctance.

“Great. Thanks, buddy.”

We hung up, and I headed back into the restaurant as a few people were leaving.

“Did you hear that Keiko is moving to the mainland?” a woman asked her friend. “She’s going to sell the restaurant to Avery.”

The other woman shook her head. “No, Avery tried to get a loan this morning, and they rejected her. She doesn’t have a high enough income.”

The other woman’s mouth dropped. “That poor thing.”

I watched the women walk away, and I remembered my mom mentioning this inside the restaurant.

Avery Adams wanted to buy this restaurant but couldn’t get a loan.

Huh.

My eyes narrowed.

I didn’t know much about Adams, besides the fact that she couldn’t stand me, but even I knew how hard she worked. Back when she was a server, everyone wanted to be seated in her section because of how attentive she was, how the food always showed up quickly and exactly as ordered, and how personable she was. Anyone could see she loved the restaurant, the way she thrived on keeping customers happy, how she took pride in the place.

I thought again about what she had said inside, how Isaac Anderson had a perfect wife and perfect family, and how she said I should hire someone to play my wife.

My skin prickled with that funny feeling I always got at work when I was onto something. When I could sense an opportunity. I didn’t build Rhodes Construction to what it currently was by ignoring my instincts. They always told me when there was an opportunity in front of me.

Avery Adams needed to buy this restaurant, and she didn’t have enough money. I needed to win this election, and I didn’t have a dutiful little wife to make me look responsible.

She was perfect. Cute, hard-working, independent, and well-liked in town. She was exactly the kind of person people would believe I’d date.

A big grin spread across my face.


THE NEXT DAY, I returned to the restaurant. “Is Avery here?” I asked Max.

He shook his head. “Nope, she’ll be back soon.” He pulled out his phone and checked the time. “In about an hour.”

I couldn’t wait an hour, I wanted to talk to her now. “Any idea where I can find her?”

“We forced her to go to a movie.”

My eyebrow ticked up. “You forced her?”

Max nodded. “Sometimes, she needs encouragement to take a break from this place.”

So, Adams was a workaholic. Zero surprise there. I thanked him again and made my way down the street to the theater.

“One, please,” I told the teenager working there.

She blinked at me with a bored expression. “The movie’s half over.”

I nodded. “That’s fine. I won’t be here long.”

She rolled her eyes and took my money before handing me a ticket.

It was dark in the theater, and an old movie from the sixties flashed across the screen. There weren’t many people inside, so it didn’t take me long to spot her.

“Hi,” I said, taking a seat beside her, and she flinched behind her giant tub of popcorn.

She gave me a look that said ugh, you. I could feel the grin on my face. I loved a challenge.

“What movie is this?” I whispered, reaching over and taking a handful of her popcorn.

She slapped my hand away. “What are you doing?” she whispered back. “Here to convince me to vote for Emmett Rhodes?” She snorted. “Desperate,” she mocked in a sing-song whisper.

I tilted my head at her. “You don’t like me, do you?”

She gave me a look out of the corner of her eye and turned back to the screen. “No.”

“What are you doing tonight?”

She gave me an are you serious look. “Really? Oh my god, this is so sad. This is beneath you.”

“What?” I asked with a frown.

“Asking women out in order to garner votes? Don’t you think that’s going to catch up with you?”

A laugh choked out of my throat. “That is not what I’m doing here.”

“Oh, really?” She put on a low voice and jutted her jaw out. “I was looking for you, Avery. What are you doing tonight, Avery? Let me just cross my arms so my biceps pop out.”

A huge grin spread across my face, and I looked down at my bicep and flexed. “Thanks for noticing all my hard work at the gym. Is that what I sound like?”

Someone shushed us.

“I’m very busy,” she whispered. “Please leave.”

“I know how you can buy the restaurant.”

Her expression changed, and that sweet feeling of satisfaction settled in my chest.

“What are you talking about?” She watched me carefully, chewing her lip.

Someone shushed us again.

“Harold, you’ve seen this movie six times!” Avery called over her shoulder. She turned back to me. “What are you talking about?” she whispered again.

I gave her my most charming smile. I wasn’t going to tell her yet. Marketing 101 taught me people don’t want to give up what they already have. That’s why free trials were so effective. I would let Avery mull all afternoon about the possibility of having her restaurant, and by this evening, she wouldn’t want to give it up, so she’d accept my deal.

“Do you remember where I live?” I asked.

She frowned. “Emmett. What are you talking about?”

I stood. “Seven o’clock.”

“Just tell me now,” she hissed after me as I walked out.

“Seven o’clock,” I repeated over my shoulder. “Don’t eat before.”

Outside, I caught my reflection in the glass, and smiled to myself. I was a genius. A handsome, goddamn genius.


THERE WAS a knock on the door as I filled a pot with water to boil the linguine.

“Come on in, Adams,” I called and placed the pot on the stove.

“Adams?” my brother Holden asked, walking into the kitchen.

I turned and frowned. “You can’t stay. I have a thing.” He didn’t need to know the details.

It wasn’t unusual for Holden to drop in like this, my brothers and I did this all the time. I didn’t want him to hang around and scare Avery off, though. Not before she knew what I could offer.

“Avery Adams?” He tilted his head at me and took a seat at the quartz counter, his gaze skimming over every surface, every plumbing connection. We had installed most of this kitchen ourselves a couple years ago, and he wouldn’t let us cut a single corner, even though it was only me living here and I never planned to move or sell this place. “I thought you don’t allow women in your home.”

I salted the water. “What? That’s ridiculous. Mom comes over all the time.”

Single women. You said that inviting women over tells them you want a relationship.”

That did sound like something I would say. “This is different.” I turned and gave him a look. “Did you come here to harass me? Because I have a stack of invoices of yours from four months ago that we can talk about.”

Holden grunted. “I came to pick up my drill.” He glanced at the painting that Kara had done a few months ago, pinned to my fridge with a magnet. “How are Will and Nat settling in?”

I shrugged and focused on chopping shallots. “Fine.”

“I saw the renters moved in.” We had told Will we’d keep an eye on the place and help out if there were any issues.

I swallowed and chopped the shallots into tiny little bits. “Yep. Haven’t heard about any issues, though.”

Holden grunted again.

“What are you making?” he asked, watching me chop.

I gave him an exasperated look. “You’re not staying.”

“Because Avery’s coming over?”

There was another knock on the door and Holden’s eyebrows went up. I pointed at the back door. “The drill is in the garage. Out. Now.”

His mouth hitched, and he strode out the back door while I dropped the pasta into the boiling water, set a timer, and made my way to the foyer.

She stood on my front step with a hand on her hip and a scowl on her face.

“You showed up,” I noted with a grin.

She raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. She seemed pissed. Maybe my plan to have her mull things over for the afternoon had backfired.

“Come on in,” I said, and she followed me inside without a word. I led her into the kitchen, where I pulled a bottle of white wine out of the wine fridge and worked at removing the cork.

“Why am I here?” she asked, looking around my kitchen. She’d never admit it, but I knew a look of admiration when I saw it.

“Take a seat.” I gestured at the bar stools and poured her a glass of wine. “Kick your feet up. Relax. You’ve had a long day.”

She glared at me.

I turned my back to her to hide my grin and stirred the pasta in the boiling water. I had my work cut out for me with Avery, but I loved a challenge. The last decade of my life had taught me that the bigger the challenge, the better the payoff. Holden and I worked for months to win a contract to rebuild the hospital a couple towns over. I spent weeks on those job proposals and attended countless meetings, answering question after question. My patience was tested with the project manager on their side, but eventually, we won the project.

I had been running for mayor for less than a week, and it was already proving to be an uphill climb, but I knew it would be worth it.

The timer for the pasta dinged. I drained it in the sink while she watched. “You’re a closed book, Avery. All I know is that you don’t like me.”

She shifted on her stool and glanced between me and the pasta. Steam billowed into the air between us. I tilted my chin at her. “See? Can’t stand me. You can barely be in the same room with me. Why is that?”

She glanced around my kitchen, gaze snagging on the top-of-the-line gas stove, fully stocked wine fridge, and bar cabinet with an extensive supply of liquors that rivaled her restaurant. “Get to the point, Emmett.” She took a sip of wine.

I checked my sauce over the stove, dipping a spoon in. “You should be my fake girlfriend.”

She choked and nearly dropped the glass, catching it with the other hand just in time. I smiled and watched her reaction flip from surprise, confusion, disbelief, to finally, humor.

She barked out a laugh. “What are you talking about? Did you inhale too many paint fumes on a job site?”

“I don’t work on job sites, my brother does all that. Here.” I carried the spoon of sauce over to her. “Taste this.” On instinct, she opened her mouth, and I slipped the spoon between her lips. She blinked in confusion. “Enough salt?”

“No. What?” She sputtered and blinked, and I returned to the stove to add more salt. “Can we go back to the part about me definitely not being your fake girlfriend?”

“I thought you wanted to buy The Arbutus.” I glanced at her over my shoulder.

Something flashed across her face. Focus. Determination. Shame. She stared at her wine glass. “I do.”

“Everyone in town is talking about how you got rejected for a business loan.”

Her nostrils flared and the look she gave me could have singed my eyebrows off. “Everyone is not talking about it.”

I raised my eyebrows at her.

She looked down at her wine, and for a moment, I almost felt bad for her. But then I remembered I was going to offer her a mutually exclusive deal that would give her exactly what she wanted.

“What does this have to do with me definitely not being your fake girlfriend?” she asked.

She watched as I plated the pasta—a pesto white wine sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and prawns. It had everything delicious—salt, fat from the olive oil and pesto, sweetness from the tomatoes. Her fingers toyed with the stem of her wine glass.

“I have you to credit for my genius idea, actually,” I told her, sliding the plate towards her and pulling forks from the cutlery drawer. “Isaac Anderson has something that I don’t—a perfect family of robots.” I took the seat beside her and gestured at her food. “I mean, at least try it.”

She gave me a withering look out of the corner of her eye, picked up her fork, and ate a bite. “Cyborgs. Max and I call them cyborgs because they’re all so perfect,” she said and reached for another bite. “I’m not dating you.”

I laughed. “Of course not, not for real. It’ll all be for show. I just need to show the town that I’m a responsible, reliable guy.”

“You want to lie to everyone.”

I blanched. “Of course not. I am a responsible, reliable guy, but people can’t seem to get over the fact that I’m single.”

“Why would I do this?”

“Because I’m going to loan you the money for the restaurant.” I took a bite of pasta and flavor burst on my tongue. “Damn, I’m a good cook. It’s the wine, it always makes food better.”

She didn’t answer. Her fork hovered over her food, and she stared at her wine glass.

My mouth hitched, but I stayed quiet. She was thinking about it. She was turning over in her mind, inspecting it from all angles, and weighing her options. She had no other choice. I had her right where I wanted her.

“No one is going to believe us,” she finally said.

I had her. She was in, but I kept my expression neutral. “Sure they will.”

She shook her head. “It’s not going to work. This town knows us. They know we—” She flicked her finger back and forth between us. “—would never.”

“Don’t say that about yourself, Avery, you’re a very attractive woman.”

She looked murderous. “That was more about you than me.”

“No one is going to believe you wouldn’t sleep with me.”

She put her head in her hands. “Oh, my god. This isn’t happening.” She looked up and shook her head. “I’m not doing this. I’m not lying to everyone. It won’t work, and it’ll blow up in our faces.”

I set my elbows on the counter and leaned forward toward her, resting my chin on my palm, looking into her eyes. “What’s your grand plan?”

Her chest rose and fell but she stayed silent. She had nothing. She stabbed her fork into the linguine and took another huge bite. It was good, and she hated that it was good, and something about that made me very, very happy.

She shook her head. “No. No one is going to believe that two people who can’t stand each other are together.”

“It’s only you who can’t stand me,” I pointed out. “People believe what they want to.”

She stood, making her barstool scrape against the floor. “I’m not doing this.” She strode out of the kitchen, so I got up too and followed after her.

“Adams, come on,” I told her. “I’m happy to loan you the money. Is it a pride thing? No one will know but me, and I won’t even tease you about it.”

She shot me another withering look as she opened the door. “I don’t need your help.”

“You’re friends with the Neilsens, right?” Frank Nielsen owned the bookstore, and I had seen Avery with his daughter, Hannah, a quiet, soft-spoken woman about Avery’s age.

She looked guarded. “Yes.”

“Frank uses a CPAP machine at night to breathe. The morning after the last power outage, he wasn’t feeling well. I remember him saying he had a headache.” This was true, I was talking to him in the hardware store about it. “He probably had a headache because his brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen the night before. Next time the power goes out, he could die.

“Oh, shut up,” she said, shaking her head. “Frank Nielsen isn’t going to die.”

I nodded solemnly. Yeah, I was reaching here, but she was putting up more of a fight than expected. “Frank might die, and then you’ll have to tell Hannah that it was your fault. But if we do this and I’m elected mayor, I’m going to upgrade the electrical grid, the power outages will stop, and Frank will live a long, happy life.”

“You are so full of shit.” She pointed at me and narrowed her eyes. “I knew it from the day I moved to town. You are so full of it, and no one can see past it but me. I would never date you.”

She closed the door and through the window beside the door, I watched her stride down the little path to the street.

Well, that didn’t go as planned. I rubbed my jaw. Why was she being so stubborn? I opened the door.

“Come on, Adams,” I called after her. “You know there’s no other way for you to get the restaurant.”

She stopped in her tracks, and I smiled at the back of her head twenty feet away. Fucking bingo. Her hands made fists at her sides, and I knew she was picturing terrible, terrible things happening to me. Maybe once she got home, she’d stab needles into a voodoo doll of me.

She turned to me and crossed her arms over her chest. The cogs were turning in her head. She was running through every single scenario she could think of, any possible option other than giving me what I wanted. Finally, her chest rose as she took a deep breath.

“I’ll figure it out,” she told me, and fire flashed in her eyes. My eyebrows went up. There was something in her expression that turned me on a little, the fierceness, the determination.

Huh. That’s interesting.

“Well, when you do,” I told her, “I’ll be here waiting.”

She walked away, and I pulled out my phone.

“Yes?” Div answered.

“Cancel the actors. I have a better idea.”


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