Saturday, 6 May 2017

#NewRelease: A Brit Unexpected by Brenda St. John Brown

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“So you want to do this, after all?” My fork remains poised over my plate, where it’s been for the last three minutes as Greyson has outlined his proposition.
“I might not like it, but drastic times call for drastic measures. If you’re game to play my girlfriend, mystery woman, sex slave, whatever you want to call it, I’ll tell Mike we’re on.” Greyson gives me a hopeful grin. His eyes crinkle at the corners and he’s got a dimple in one cheek. It makes me realize all of his previous smiles, although stunning, were nothing compared to the real thing. I’d feel honored, maybe even a little smug, if I wasn’t so confused.
“Why the sudden change of heart?” This is the easiest question to ask. By far.
Greyson takes a forkful of sautéed green beans, chews, and swallows before he answers. “I don’t suppose you’re a lesbian, are you?”
“Well, do threesomes count?”
“Uh…” For the first time Greyson falters, but he recovers quickly. “Why don’t you tell me about it and we’ll see?”
It’s my turn to grin. “Are you a closet voyeur?”
“Hey, you can’t blame a guy for trying.” He takes another bite of beans.
“Because you’re twelve? Or because you want to compare notes?” I’m not going to answer him either way, but hopefully it’s not the latter. I’d have to try to concoct my so-called notes from those erotica novels I used to read, and I have a feeling Greyson would be able to tell.
“Mostly because I’m twelve.” Greyson’s trademark smolder disappears for a second as he laughs and Oh. My. Sainted. Aunt. It’s a good thing he doesn’t bring that laugh out often because I’d be a goner.
“Noted.” I try to bite back a smile, but I can’t. “It’s good to know what I’m dealing with. Which, speaking of, I don’t in the broader sense of things. Like, at all.”
“Right, back to the business at hand. Well, I was thinking this would be acceptable if I could pay you?” Greyson takes a bite of salmon, but I don’t miss the slight hesitation as he speaks, a sure sign he’s uncomfortable talking cash. I bet Michael does all of his negotiating for him and I wonder why he’s not offloaded this one, considering it was Michael’s idea in the first place.
“Pay me?” I push my food around on my plate. I’ve scarcely eaten a thing. No shock there.
“I’m asking you to play a part. At the end of the day this is a job.”
“Which, by definition, means I should expect payment.” I squirm a little and force a grin as I continue. Greyson’s not the only one uncomfortable talking about money. The difference is he has probably doesn’t have to even think about it, let alone talk about it. “But what does me not being a lesbian have to do with anything?”
“As with any job, it’s important to set expectations. You being a lesbian would make this easier because the boundaries would already be drawn, but if we establish parameters, we can still avoid complications.” Greyson’s tone is flat like he’s talking about the best way to get to London Bridge during rush hour.
But I’m reeling. Just a little bit. “Complications as in?”
“The usual. You know, personal feelings and, um, emotions.” Greyson has the grace to stammer. It makes him human, which is almost as appealing as that laugh. Almost being the key word because it’s clear he assumes it’s my emotions that will be the complication. Jerk. “At the end of the day, we only need to present a believable photo-ready relationship.”
Right. Those photo ops Grandmother mentioned. “And then make sure there are actual photos?”
“That’s the easy part. Anyone with a smart phone can take a photo these days, and they’re usually the ones that end up online because they look more authentic.” Greyson grimaces. “Most of those coffee-run photos you see are from people just passing by. I think they’re pointless, but you’d be surprised how important it is to be seen out doing so-called normal things. A good coffee date photo can make you.”
“I work in a coffee shop and I can safely say good coffee date photos are important to regular people, too. However, usually the only photos being taken are selfies.” I push my food around on my plate. “So were you and Alexa Gayle a photo op relationship?”
Greyson lets out a sigh. “No, that one was real. More the fool, I.”
He sounds so full of genuine regret that for maybe the first time since we’ve been talking I think what a strange situation it must be for him, too. And not least of all to be thrown together with me—a complete stranger—for the weekend. I think about asking how exactly you have a fake relationship–and what these parameters are, exactly–but what comes out instead is, “Do you miss her? I mean, you guys were a thing.”
“Are you digging, Claire Bear?” Greyson’s smile turns plastic and his tone hardens. “You want the dirty details?”
“It was just a question. Forget I asked.” I let my fork clatter to the plate. “So. Stalking. Are you or aren’t you?
Greyson takes another bite of salmon. He doesn’t look at me as he pushes his food with his fork, but when he does look up, his expression matches his tone. “Do I look like I need to stalk my ex?”
“No, but you don’t look like you’d need a fake girlfriend either. And yet…” I make myself hold his gaze until he looks away. It’s a good thing because my bravado is all for show. My palms are so damp, even sitting on them doesn’t help.

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MORE About A Brit Unexpected

How do you know when a fake relationship turns into a real one? #AskingForAFriend

Claire is not:
- A natural athlete
- Very good with mornings
- Greyson Vaughn’s real girlfriend

But she pretends to be his girlfriend on television. And Twitter. And the gossip websites that question Every. Single. Thing. about his movie star existence. Including the question on everyone’s lips — #WhosThatGirl?

Enlisted by her grandmother to act as Greyson’s “mysterious English girlfriend” during a weekend at Castle Calder, Claire agrees to help the Hollywood hottie combat rumors of stalking his pop-star ex. She needs a distraction — from grad school, bills and her dull-as-dishwater love life — and, well, it’s only for a weekend.

Until Greyson asks her to continue the ruse through his upcoming London premiere. And another trip to Castle Calder for a sexy weekend escape. Where there are no cameras and no reporters. Nothing but the two of them and a “fake” relationship that’s starting to feel very, very real.

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Hi. I'm Brenda.  I'm a displaced New Yorker living in the UK. I lived in London for almost six years, but now I'm living in The North, in a tiny English village. We used to have sheep in our backyard! (Sheep!!)  Now we have a building site for a new housing development, so I mostly avoid looking out the kitchen window.
My novels are about teens and twenty-somethings. When I'm not reading or writing, I'm hanging out with The Boy, talking about random things and being overly strict about television.
I like running and Doritos, not necessarily in that order. I also like libraries, old churches and Paris. One day I'm going to write a novel set in Paris, which will necessitate lots of trips for "research."
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