The Fill-In Boyfriend Page 3

I threw back my shoulders and faced the gym doors. I didn’t need a date, real or otherwise. My friends liked me regardless of who I was or wasn’t with. Even as I thought it, I wished for it to be true. I couldn’t lose my boyfriend and my friends all in one night. I needed them in my life. As I started to walk, headlights cast my shadow on the asphalt in front of me. I turned as the car and lights went off.

The guy stepped out. “Were you going to go in there without me after all that begging?”


I smiled. I couldn’t help it. He was actually wearing a suit—black, with a light gray tie. His glasses were gone and he was tall.

This was exactly what I needed. We’d be seen. He could break up with me at the end of the night. No smug looks from Jules, no pity sighs from Laney, and no just-tell-the-truth head tilts from Claire. And it would be close to the truth. My fill-in guy was just rearranging tonight’s order of events for me a little. There was no harm in that. Especially if it kept the quarter-evil Jules at bay.

“Hi,” I said, approaching his car, where he still stood by the open door as if he hadn’t completely committed to this idea yet. “You look great.” My eyes went to his hair that I could see better now that I was closer. It was a mess. A mess that he had tried to tame, it seemed.

“Sit for a sec.” I pointed to the seat of his car. He raised an eyebrow but obeyed. I fished out a small comb from my clutch and used it to style his hair. When it was off his forehead and shaped nicely I gave a satisfied nod. “You clean up well.”

He let out a sigh. “Let’s get this over with.”

He stood and offered me an elbow. I grabbed his hand instead and pulled him toward the gym.

“Whoa. Hold on there,” he said, my body jerking to a halt, which wasn’t very fun in my heels. “I need a little backstory here. You are trying to convince your friends we actually know each other, yes?”

“Oh, right. Let’s see.”

“A name would be a good start.”

I laughed. I hadn’t even told him my name. “I’m Gia Montgomery. Seventeen. Senior here at lovely Freemont High. I’m on the student council and don’t usually have to beg for dates. As in, I never have before today.”


“And for the next two hours you are Bradley Harris. Junior at UCLA, which is why my parents disapprove, by the way. They think you’re way too old for me.”

“I am,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if he was talking about Bradley or himself. I thought he had implied earlier that he was in high school. “How old are you?”

“If I’m a junior that would make me at least, what? Twenty-one?”

He was talking about Bradley. I rolled my eyes. “Yes. But that’s only four years older than me.”

“Which wouldn’t be the end of the world if you weren’t still in high school. And underage.”

“I’m only in high school for five more weeks and you sound like my parents now.”

He shrugged. “They sound like good parents.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. At the end of the night you get to break up with me. In front of my friends, preferably. Try not to make a big show of it. Quickly and quietly. Then, like the real Bradley, you can walk away forever and this will be over.” A lump formed in my throat as I said that, as I pictured Bradley walking away from me as if it was the easiest thing in the world to do. I pushed the image away and offered him a smile.

“I can handle that.”

“Good. So what about your sister? Is she going to give us trouble in there? Run across the gym screaming your name?”

“No. My sister will not expect me to be in there, looking like this. And she’s really into her date. But if I see her coming, I’ll make sure to head her off and fill her in. She’s cool. She’ll play along.”

“Why don’t you text her? Just in case.”

“I would, but in my quick change, I forgot my phone.” He patted his pockets to show me he was serious.

“She’ll be cool?”

“She’ll be cool.”

“Okay, I think we’re set, then.”

He smirked at me like I was missing something obvious.


“Nothing. Let’s go.” He had a slow, confident step as he walked with me to the gym. He didn’t even seem to mind holding my hand.

Just inside the door I handed over to the teacher behind the table the tickets I had purchased for Bradley and me and we continued into the main room. The music was loud—a live band—and not very good. The band was the winner of the auditions we had held for this event, so they were the best of the worst. Last year we had hired a popular local band, but with “more affordable” ticket prices, Mr. Lund said we didn’t have the budget for it this year.

I saw my friends and their dates across the room, standing around a high table. I closed my eyes for a moment and channeled every ounce of acting ability I had in my body, which wasn’t very much but would have to do. Beside me, my fill-in date didn’t even seem nervous. Of course he wasn’t—he had nothing to lose.

“My sister is dancing, so I think we’re good for now,” he said.

I followed his gaze to a girl dressed in blue—the skirt of the dress full of puffy layers. She was cute—long brown hair, friendly face. I’d never seen her before in my life so she must’ve been younger than me. Although he had said they just moved here, so maybe they’d moved here very recently. I didn’t recognize her date either, though, so I went back to the younger theory.

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