He handed her a coffee cup. “Two creams and two sugars. Just like you like it.”

“Thanks,” Amanda mouthed. She opened the door and climbed in.

Tate raced over to the driver’s side. He didn’t want to miss a word of her conversation.

“Why would I be mad? Just tell me—WHAT! He’s staying with you? Is his fiancée there too? Yes, I know he’s engaged. Why are they staying with you? Seriously? That’s terrible. Well, I guess you didn’t have a choice.”

“No, I’m not upset.” She made a motion to throw her phone out the window.

Tate put his key in the ignition and played with the heat. Something was going down with her ex-boyfriend. He thought back to last night. On their ride to Lacy’s, she had cried the whole way. He had taken off his tie and wiped her tears. What creep dumps his girlfriend on Christmas Eve in front of her entire family? No wonder she was bitter. She had every right to be.

He continued to eavesdrop.

“When were you going to tell me, Mom—when I bumped into them on my way to the bathroom? Who is she, anyway?”

Oh, boy. He would need to prepare for a fresh batch of tears if she knew the fiancée.

“You know what? Don’t answer that. It doesn’t matter. What he did to me is water under the bridge. I’ve moved on.”

Tate felt her tug on his suit.

“It was going to be a surprise, but I’m bringing someone home.” She glanced over. “His name is Tate Ryan. He’s my boyfriend.”

Tate leaned back in his seat and cracked a smile. Was this really happening? The faux boyfriend train had just left the platform. Final destination, Amanda’s heart. But his first stop would be to kick Brad’s ass.


Amanda drummed her fingers on her knee, waiting for Tate to return with more coffee. He had stopped for gas just over the Maryland border. They were making good time even after stopping at her condo so she could freshen up, change, and pack her bags.

She peered outside the window at the bare tree branches covered with snow. They were fortunate that the roads were clear.

What a crazy twenty-four hours. The news story she’d get over, but Brad getting married?

And now he and his fiancée were living with her parents. What the hell? According to her mother, their apartment building had caught on fire last weekend and they lost everything. Amanda knew that Quinn and Mark didn’t have the extra room in their one bedroom cottage behind her parents’ house. They were saving to build their own log cabin the spring.

She fiddled with his satellite radio, landing on a nineties station. Much better than the alternative rock music Tate had made her listen to for the last three hours. Maybe a little Britney, Christina, or the Spice Girls would cheer her up. It usually did.

It didn’t surprise her that her parents would extend the offer to stay with them to Brad. She suspected that they had long forgiven him for what he did to her. He was Quinn’s brother-in-law, after all.

Who was he marrying? Her mom had been about to tell her when she had cut her off by blurting out that she was bringing a boyfriend home.

She couldn’t believe she had done that. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but what did she really know about Tate? Could he play the part of the doting boyfriend?

It was only this past January, not even a full year ago, that he was hired to co-anchor with her. She leaned her head on the passenger side window and pressed her cheek to the cool glass, remembering the first time she met him. That bus ride seemed so long ago . . .

* * *

“I really . . . hate . . . the . . . bus . . .” Amanda mumbled and took a seat. Her Nissan’s dead battery that morning forced her to take public transportation. “I’ll never get there.” She tapped her foot impatiently, watching fellow passengers slowly board. She should e-mail her new assistant, Lacy, and let her know she would be a few minutes late for the fourth of a series of unimpressive interviews for her new co-anchor. A stranger sat down in the empty seat next to her. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the man buttoning up his shirt.

“Morning,” he chirped.

“Morning,” she mumbled back, looking out the window to avoid his gaze. He couldn’t seriously be getting dressed. She tapped on her phone, texting Lacy. “OMG . . . You will never believe what the man sitting next to me is doing.”

“Let me guess,” the man said. “You’re probably typing ‘WTF’ to a friend right now.”

“Assistant,” she corrected him, without looking up from her phone.

“Sir, your tie is on the floor.” An older woman sitting behind them tapped the man’s shoulder and pointed toward the ground.

“Oh, geez. Thank you, ma’am.” He picked it up and draped it around his neck. “I had to run to make the bus.” He studied Amanda. “Hey, do I know you from somewhere? You look really familiar.”

She watched him put on his tie. It matched her royal blue suit perfectly. He was attractive with short black hair, blue eyes, and wire rimmed glasses. She also had to admit the suit he was piecing together made him even cuter. “No. I don’t think so.” She added, “Well, you may recognize me from television. I anchor the local NBC news. That is, if I ever get there.” She sighed impatiently.

“Sure! That’s it. Say, you’re quite good. That piece you did earlier this week on the mayor’s inauguration was really something.”

“Thank you,” she replied. She was currently working on another story on that elected official which was far less flattering. She began scrolling through her messages in hopes of avoiding any more chitchat.

Five minutes later, the bus turned the corner onto her station’s street. “Well, this is my stop. Excuse me.” She jumped up. The stranger quickly stood and stepped backwards, allowing her to slide out. Her bag accidentally hit him. “Sorry. Nice to meet you . . . um . . .”


“Tate,” she repeated. Where had she heard that name before? She didn’t know anyone with that name. “Well, have a good day.”

“Thanks. I intend to. Hey, I’ll see you on the news,” he called out as she walked down the aisle.

* * *

Amanda laughed sarcastically. That had been the morning of Tate’s interview. He had known who she was all along on that bus ride and had been playing her. Typical.

Since he’d become her co-anchor, they’d had a tolerate/hate relationship. Mostly he got on her nerves. Where she was genuinely passionate about the work she did and logged long hours, he seemed to breeze in every day—often just before they went on air—without much ambition.

Despite this, their ratings skyrocketed shortly after he started. Viewers really liked and trusted him. She tried to not let his pompous indifference get to her, but yesterday’s humiliation set her back.

The driver-side door swung open. Tate slid in. “Let’s sail, Vicki Vale.”

A blast of cold air followed him, smacking Amanda straight in the face.

She rolled her eyes at the latest of a long line of reporter nicknames he called her. She reached for the cup of coffee. “Thanks.”

“Hey, you looked deep in thought. What are you thinking?”

“I was just thinking about . . .” She glanced away. “Never mind.”

“C’mon. You can tell your boyfriend.”

“Well, if you must know, I was thinking about the first time we met.”

“First time we met?”

“You know. On the bus. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh, right. The bus.”

She studied Tate’s face. How odd. He almost looked relieved. “You were going to your interview and sat next to me and pretended you didn’t recognize me.”

“I remember. What a great day.”

She laughed. “For you, perhaps.”

“Perhaps.” Tate started the car and turned up the heat, angling the vents toward Amanda. “Say, you should really try to cut down on the caffeine.”

“Are you kidding? If I could, I would have it injected intravenously. It’s my lifeline.” She took a large gulp, gave a smug smile, and shifted the vents toward him. She hated heat blowing directly on her.

“Have it your way.”

“I will.”

He had changed out of his suit into casual clothes. He now wore a maroon half-zipped sweater decorated with Christmas trees. A white t-shirt poked out underneath.

“Seriously?” she asked.


“Your sweater.”

Tate glanced down at his chest. “What? My Aunt Bridgette gave me this sweater last year for Christmas. You don’t like it?”

“No. It’s not that. It’s just the Christmas trees. Let’s just say you’ll fit right in with my . . . Forget it. It’s fine. I guess I’m just not used to seeing you in anything but a suit and tie is all.”

“There’s a lot of things you haven’t seen me in.” Tate winked. “Or out of.”

Amanda snorted. “Ha, ha. Can we just go, please? I’d like us to see my family before Easter.”

Tate backed out of the parking lot. “So, tell me how are you going to explain your bringing home a boyfriend you’ve never even mentioned?”

Amanda ran her hand up and down her coffee cup, her fingers absorbing its warmth. “I’ve been thinking about that while you were putting on your Santa’s helper sweater,” she teased. “We’ve got to get a few facts straight.”

“Facts straight?”

“About us, silly.”

“You mean about our courtship? Say, have we slept together?” He chuckled.

She ignored him. “There are just a few details about you that we need to agree on.”

“About me? Okay, so what did you have in mind? Won’t they just be happy that you brought a man home and are not pining away for Brad?” He reached over and pushed number two on his radio, sending it back to the alternative rock station.

“Let’s start with the rules. You will no longer refer to me as Nancy Drew, Katie Couric, or any of the women from The View. Got it?”

“Got it.” Tate took a sip of his coffee. “No silly nicknames.”

“Beyond maybe—and let me stress maybe—a little hand holding, there will be no other public displays of affection. Keep your hands to yourself.”

“So, will we be sharing a room this weekend?”

Of course he would go there. “I hadn’t thought of that.” She hated to admit it, but their relationship would probably be more believable if they shared a room. She shrugged. “I guess we have to, but you get the floor.”

“You’d really put me on the floor?”

“I’d give you a pillow.” She laughed. “Maybe a blanket.” She turned and glanced out the window. Yesterday she’d wanted to strangle him and tonight they would be sleeping in the same room. What was wrong with this picture?

“Why are Brad and his fiancée staying with your parents?

“My mom said their apartment caught on fire. They had nowhere else to go.”

“That sucks.”

“Yes, it does.” For me, too.

A few awkward seconds ticked by. Tate broke the silence. “Okay so back to the public displays of affection. What happens if, say, you just happen to be standing under the mistletoe—then can I kiss you?”

“Absolutely not.”

“But wouldn’t it look strange for us not to kiss? I mean, we wouldn’t want to arouse suspicion.”

“Fine,” she relented. “If for some odd reason you find me under mistletoe you may kiss me, but quickly.”

“Let me get this straight. No hand-holding and no kissing, except under the mistletoe? Why am I pretending to be your boyfriend again?”

“This was your idea.”

“Yes, but wouldn’t you just love to make Brad jealous? We could really take this faux relationship over the top.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know. Something big though. Maybe I do something incredibly romantic at Christmas dinner.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”

He smiled mischievously and patted her knee. “That’s for me to know.” He pulled back. “Sorry. No touching. Got it.”

She looked down at her knee that was oddly now tingling. Did his touch do that? “Well, just don’t embarrass me. Now where was I? Oh, yes. In any conversation regarding us, I will always take the lead. You can then follow and add to the conversation, but you can only make comments that back up what I’ve already shared.”

“Easy enough.”

“Let’s practice. So say my brother asks you what we are doing for New Year’s—”

“I say that we’ll be out of town skiing with friends,” Tate said confidently.

“No. Wrong answer.” Amanda shook her head. “I don’t ski anymore, and they know I don’t. Not since I twisted my ankle going down a slope when I was sixteen. Haven’t been on the slopes since. Wait for me to interrupt and respond with something like, ‘Oh, it will be low key this year. Because we took this weekend off to come here, we’re working New Year’s Eve.’ Then you can follow with . . .” She motioned for him to finish her sentence.