Angel Point, Book 5
Release Date:

Jul 13, 2023



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The Fake Marriage Proposal


Susan Lute

When a fake marriage fails, what comes next?

Following a disastrous relationship, successful divorce attorney Wynne Olsen is ready to put her past firmly behind her and start fresh in sunny California. But first she’ll need to help plan her sister’s wedding and quit her new position as Angel Point’s city attorney. A local hero’s Nordic good looks are a distraction she doesn’t need at any time, much less when she’s tying up loose ends on her way to a better future.

Former marine and single dad Brett Macauley is focused on raising his daughter and opening a veterans village. There’s no time left for courting love, but when his daughter proposes a fake marriage between him and Wynne in order to adopt her best friend out of the foster system, Brett thinks that’s a worthy reason to pop the question. Especially since he’s realizing Wynne is quickly winning over his heart.

Another failed fake marriage isn’t what Wynne wants, but she does believe in Brett. Can Wynne finally say “I do” to a happy future…one with Brett in it?

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Man and woman smiling on book cover for The Fake Marriage Proposal by Susan Lute

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Chapter One

Wynne Olsen parked her Volkswagen across the street from Ginger’s Coffee House and went inside to wait for her sister. She ordered a caramel latte and something called a pita sandwich, which sounded good—veggies, feta cheese, lettuce, onion, and mayo. After placing her order, she chose a table that gave her a good view of the door and incoming customers.

The stiffness left her shoulders. She took her seat and glanced around the coffeehouse. The place was cute with the counter on the white-painted shiplap back wall. A small glass case displayed a variety of muffins and scones. Windows looked out onto Warren Avenue and there was a cross street at the side of the building, but she hadn’t paid enough attention to it to catch the name.

The coffeehouse was relatively new, if opening sometime in the last ten years could be considered still new. It wasn’t too busy, but there was still a semi-steady flow of traffic for takeout orders. At another table close to the counter sat two young girls, maybe twelve-ish, one dark blond, the other with almost black hair. They leaned over their drinks and appeared to be in a serious, intense, whispered conversation. Oh, to be that age again, when the worst that had happened was she’d needed a tutor to help improve her lagging math skills.

When was the last time she’d enjoyed or even had a serious conversation with a good friend? That would be her sister, Gwen, and dang it, Ian. Since she wasn’t that good at making friends or staying in one place for long, that about did it for her friends list. Having a long list was Gwen’s gift.

She studied the girls a little longer.

Don’t fall in love with Ginger’s. You’re not staying in town long enough to make this your go-to place for coffee or meeting up with new friends or family.

She glanced at the door again, then sank back into her seat. Gwen wasn’t late. Wynne was early. She hated being late, even for her own fake marriage. But that was a story for another time, or maybe never, if she was lucky and could keep Gwen distracted enough. Sooner or later she’d have to tell her sister what happened with Ian, what a fool she’d made of herself, but not yet. Not until after she gave two weeks’ notice for her current job as Angel Point’s city attorney.

She didn’t know what she’d been thinking, applying for the position in the first place. It was just a knee-jerk reaction to her complete disappointment at the sudden ending of her marriage. She had to get out of Seattle, and Angel Point, where her sister was the deputy mayor, seemed a safe bet.

When Gwen insisted she apply for the city attorney position, even though her only experience with corporate law was a semester in law school, she decided to go for it. Then, barely a week after she was hired, she got a call from a college friend to set up an interview with Drummel, Sanford, and Zimmerman, a prestigious Southern California law firm specializing in divorce litigation. The interview process went very fast. They’d offered her the job. How could she not take it? Especially since it was as far away on the West Coast as she could get from Seattle. But now, she had two jobs.

After she straightened things out with Gwen, she could really start over. Not here in her sister’s town, where everything had fallen apart when Wynne was a teenager just a few years older than the girls at the other table, but in a sun-filled part of the country that had secretly been her dream location for a while, where no one knew her or of her penchant for making the wrong choices in her personal life.

The decisions she made for her professional life were so much easier. What did you do when everything fell apart? You moved on. That was Wynne’s rule. Don’t wallow. Move on. That was exactly what she intended to do. She just had to explain it to Gwen.

“Here you go.” A gray-haired lady with purple highlights placed the order in front of Wynne. “Caramel latte and a pita sandwich.”

“Thank you.” Wynne glanced up at the woman. Her nametag said Ginger. “Are you the Ginger on the sign outside?”

The lady crossed her arms and leaned against the sturdy chair opposite Wynne. “I am.”

“You have a lovely place here,” Wynne said, and sipped the coffee. The warm smell of the pita bread assailed her. She hadn’t eaten since leaving Seattle before lunch.

“Thanks. I think so.” Ginger grinned. “Are you new to town?”

That was a good question without much of an answer. “I guess you could say I’m not. I lived here until I was fifteen. Gwen Olsen is my sister.”

“The deputy mayor?”

Wynne nodded.

“Everyone in town is excited about Gwen and Carson getting married. They make the perfect couple.”

Wynne smiled at Ginger. “I’m here to help Gwen plan the wedding.”

Absolutely, she wanted what was best for her sister. And, from her brief interactions with Carson, he seemed like a good guy who would stand by Gwen’s side through thick and thin. At least she hoped so. Better than anyone, Wynne knew there were no guarantees in marriage or life. Aside from her personal experiences, her job as a divorce attorney had made that abundantly clear.

Maybe Gwen would have better luck than her baby sister.

“I think I heard from Adele—she’s your grandmother, right?—that you’re a divorce lawyer?”

Wynne nodded. Small towns. Nothing was secret, except her most recent blooper. She certainly hadn’t told anyone, not even Gwen, though that was about to change. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that the tweens had stopped talking, their attention shifting in her direction. The brunette stared at Wynne, then turned back to the blonde, animatedly resuming their heart-to-heart.

Wynne thought she heard, “That’s it. Just what I need,” but couldn’t be sure.

“Welcome back. I’m sure Gwen is glad you’re here.” Ginger glanced over her shoulder at the growing line of customers. “It looks like I’d better get back to work. Enjoy your stay.”

Wynne took a bite of her sandwich, which was very good, and glanced at her watch. It was close to three thirty, when Gwen had said she’d be getting off work. She searched through the windows to see if her sister was anywhere close, then shrugged. Easily distracted, Gwen would get here in her own time. She had a lot on her plate. A successful Valentine’s Day weekend in the rearview mirror. A new fiancé. A house remodel she was spearheading. A job that kept her running.

Her sister’s life was a good one, if you could get it. It must be nice to be living the dream. A small—very small—part of Wynne was kind of jealous. Not a lot. Just a little bit. Gwen had worked hard for what she had.

On Wynne’s side of the court, it wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done, agreeing to a fake marriage with Ian so he could make partner at his firm. They hadn’t been dating that long when he’d suggested they merge their separate lives. It was a practical solution that would fix Ian’s work problem without too much fuss, and give her a good reason to finally settle down in Seattle and let go of her constant habit of changing locations every few years. As an added bonus, after moving his things into her apartment, the rooms didn’t seem so empty.

Gwen would say she was crazy, and her sister would be right.

Speak of the cute she-devil. Gwen pushed open the coffeehouse door, the brass bell over her head giving a lively little jingle.

Wynne took another gulp of coffee before standing as Gwen made her way over and enveloped her in a strong hug. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Me too.” Wynne held on tight, really glad she’d made it this far, even though she wasn’t planning to stay longer than she had to. A new life was waiting for her, but the one thing she didn’t want to do was disappoint her sister. She pulled back. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“I’ll get it.” It didn’t take Gwen long to return and slide into the chair on the opposite side of the small round table. “What a busy day.”

“Too much work for the newly engaged woman?” Wynne grinned.

Gwen wrapped her hands around the cup and leaned on her elbows. “I know your romantic life is none of my business, but tell me what really happened with Ian. I can’t believe he broke up with you because you have no staying power. That makes no sense. You can hang in there longer than anyone else I know.”

Great. Too smart for her britches, it hadn’t taken her sister long to take a swing at the one subject Wynne wished to avoid. And the “no staying power” comment had been the best she could come up with at the time. “Why don’t you tell me about Carson and Flynn instead? How have they been doing since I last saw them? Have you set a wedding date?”

It had been only about three weeks since they’d all come to Seattle to help Wynne pack up her things. Still, there might be something new and interesting, like which venue she and Carson had chosen for the wedding and not that she’d taken another job.

Gwen gave her that familiar look that said she knew the avoidance game her younger sister was playing. Raising her brows, Wynne let it pass. For now. She didn’t doubt that they would circle back around to the subject of Ian in due time. The delay suited her just fine.

“June fourth. Carson is supervising the work on the Caldwell place so we can move in as soon as we get married.” Her sister’s green eyes lit with mischief. “You’ll stay with me, of course, but I was hoping that while you took your time to look for something more to your liking, you’d be interested in staying at my place after the wedding.”

There was no time like the present to share bad news. Wynne took a deep breath. “I’ll take you up on the offer to stay with you for now. But I have an update myself. I’ve taken—”

“Excuse me,” a young voice at her elbow said. “Can I ask you something? It’s very important.”

Wynne looked into the serious, dark-brown eyes of the brunette tween who’d been watching her earlier. The other girl was standing on her other side, next to Gwen.

She glanced at Gwen, who shrugged. “Okay. Do you want to sit down?” Wynne asked.

Both girls nodded, but then seemed to get tongue-tied after taking the empty seats.

“What are your names?” Wynne leaned back and folded her hands in her lap.

The blonde put her hand on her chest. She was a wiggler, hardly able to sit still. “I’m Gillian Macauley. My dad is Brett Macauley. And my granddad is Nick Macauley. He owns the Last Stop Inn. He lets my dad and me help. I bake the cookies.” She pointed at the girl next to her. “Harrie is my best friend.”

“Well, Gillian. It’s nice to meet you.” Wynne held out her hand over the table. Gillian didn’t hesitate. Her handshake was firm for a kid, her smile lighting light-brown eyes. “My name is Wynne Olsen. And this is my sister, Gwen.” She turned to the girl who’d sat next to her. “Hi, Harrie. What an interesting name.”

“My name is Harriet Jax, but everyone calls me Harrie for short.”

“Nice to meet you, Harrie. What can I do for you?” Wynne held out her hand, but the girl pushed both hands under her thighs and sat on them. Apparently, she wasn’t a hand-shaker. Wynne could appreciate that. She waited patiently for Harriet to get her question past the frown that drew her brows together.

Gillian bumped Harriet’s arm with her elbow. “Tell her, Harrie.”

“Would you ladies like a lemonade?” Gwen asked.

They both nodded. Gwen went to the counter to order.

Finally, Harriet asked her question. “Are you really a divorce attorney?”

“I am,” Wynne said, not sure why that was important. So they had been listening to her conversation with Ginger.

Wynne glanced at Gwen, who was just returning with their drinks. In the middle of a public coffeehouse was not the best place to have a discussion about her next job options.

The dam that held Harriet back broke. “I need a divorce and want to hire you. I have some money saved—”

“Hold on there.” Wynne held up her hand. To hide her surprise, she joked, “You don’t look old enough to be married, much less to need a divorce.”

“I have to get divorced,” Harriet insisted as she uncovered her hands and curled them into fists. “From foster care.”

“You want a divorce from your foster parents?” Gwen asked, her surprise matching Wynne’s.

Wynne leaned back, taking note of the worried looks on both their young faces. Harriet uncurled her fists, then gripped her glass of lemonade. “From the whole foster thing.”

“Why? Do they abuse you?” Gwen asked, a frown forming between her brows like a fast-growing rain cloud.

“No!” Gillian inserted. “Tell them the whole story, Harrie.”

Harriet stared down at her drink. She took a deep breath before looking back at Wynne. “When I was born, I only had my mom. I don’t know who my dad is. My mom never said, just that he wasn’t ready to be a dad. Then one day, she left me with the neighbor. She said she would be back, but she never came.”

“How old were you, Harrie?” Wynne asked quietly, her heart breaking for the girl.

Harriet apparently didn’t want any sympathy, just action. She raised her chin. “Six. This lady from social services came and got me. I’ve been in foster homes ever since.”

The girl reminded Wynne of someone she knew quite well. She breathed one deep breath to keep her emotions in check. “What grade are you in now?”

“Sixth.” Harriet’s determined gaze stayed on her, but Wynne wasn’t sure how to help. “The Johansons are nice, but they’re moving to Colorado for Don’s work. I can’t go with them, and I don’t want to go to another family who doesn’t live in Angel Point.”

Gillian filled in the big picture. “Harrie’s my best friend. Nobody’s ever been able to find her mom, but if Harrie has to leave Angel Point, and her mom ever comes back—She has to stay here.”

Wynne remembered how unhappy she’d been when her mother moved them to Bend after her parents’ divorce. Gwen was eighteen, so she didn’t have to go. But she was fifteen, and it was the last thing she wanted to do. “How old are you girls?”

“Twelve,” they said together.

Impossible. How did she always land in impossible situations? “I’m sorry, but I’m not that kind of lawyer.”

Harriet straightened, blinking away the sudden sheen of tears that threatened to spill. “Why not?”

“Well, because the divorces I deal with are marriages that stop working. I don’t know the first thing about foster care or how to separate from the system. That’s a question for your social worker.”

“Ms. Smith won’t help. I’m too much trouble. She just wants to get rid of me.”

Wynne frowned. “Did she actually say that?”

“Not exactly, I guess, but there’s this family in Astoria—” Harriet pushed her glass away. “That’s too far away. My mom might come back. And if I move away, I won’t be able to go to the same school as Gillian or spend the night at her house whenever we want. I only have a month to get divorced before the Johansons leave.” Yup, impossible.

Wynne had agreed to Ian’s proposal because it made sense. Why shouldn’t they get married, even if it was fake? They could still be committed to each other, perhaps even find common ground and comfort in a friends-with-benefits relationship that, if they worked hard enough at it, could lead to something more. Not love, of course—they’d both tried the traditional route and failed. But she’d thought they could have mutual respect and become comfortable with one another. It’d been worth a try.

Only here she sat, with Gwen, talking about giving a twelve-year-old a divorce from foster care, instead of having a coffee and bagel with her fake husband.

Harriet deserved to get her chance at the family she wanted, but Wynne had to think this through at least a little better than the last time she should have said no to a crazy scheme. “I can check with some colleagues and see if they have any suggestions.”

Harriet sat back in her chair, a big smile spreading across her young face. “Really?”

“Really.” Wynne almost laughed at the girl’s eagerness.

Gillian wiggled in her seat. “How long will that take?”

Wynne glanced at Gwen, only to find her sister leaning back in her chair, her eyes sparkling as she sipped her coffee and watched the tough lawyer versus cagey tweens show.

It probably was pretty funny. It’d been a long time since an opponent, and not a young one like Harriet, had gotten the best of Wynne. “I should have some news within a couple of days.”

“Why will it take so long?” Harriet asked, her eyes narrowing.

The girl probably didn’t have any reason to trust the adults in her life. Wynne wished she could do more. “Lawyers are busy people, and they may have to check the foster care laws before they can give us an answer.”

Her gaze remaining on Wynne’s face, Gillian leaned into Harriet’s shoulder. “That would probably be okay, don’t you think?”

“I guess.” Harriet stared off into space for a minute. Wynne would love to know what was going through the girl’s mind. It didn’t take long to find out. “On TV, the people hiring the lawyer always give them money, like a down payment. I have twenty-three dollars hidden under my bed. You can have all of it, Ms. Olsen.”

Gillian was typing on her phone. “It’s called a retainer.” She put the cell on the table. “I have thirty-six dollars in my safe at home. You can have it, Harrie.”

Harriet faced her friend. “You have a safe? How come I didn’t know that?”

Gillian’s slight shoulders shifted up and down. “I don’t know, but my dad gave it to me last week. He said if I was going to save money, I should keep it somewhere safe.”

The bell over the coffeehouse door jingled, but Wynne was too caught up with the girls and their desire to put her on retainer to pay much attention. Across from her, Gwen’s eyes filled with laughter as she put her hand across her mouth.

Someone stopped beside her. Jean-clad legs, work boots, and a deep baritone finally pulled her attention away from the kids. “What’s this about the money in your safe, Gillian?”

“Dad. Harrie and I are giving our money to Ms. Olsen. She’s a lawyer, and she’s going to help Harrie get a divorce from foster care.” Gillian jumped out of her chair. “Isn’t that a great idea?”

Above Wynne’s shoulder, a throat cleared, a very masculine sound. Quickly, she said, “Um, I think there’s been a mistake.”

Scooting her chair sideways, Wynne stood to meet Gillian’s father and explain. She came face-to-face with a tall man she had to look up to, something that didn’t happen often. At five foot nine, she was tall for a woman. His dark-blond hair was on the longish side but brushed back off his forehead. Light-brown eyes speculated as he studied her face carefully. So he was where Gillian got her unique eye color. Deep dimples and an appealing cleft in his chin kept her gaze on his face longer than was polite.

Oh. My. Word.

His Nordic good looks, which she shouldn’t have noticed straightaway, was a distraction she for sure didn’t need.

“I’m not taking money from the girls,” Wynne said in her defense, and pushed her hand out between them.

His grip was strong. His daughter interrupted the spell Wynne found herself caught in. “But you said you would.”

Wynne pulled free. The last thing she needed after her last debacle with Ian was to be overwhelmingly attracted to the girl’s father while being accused of taking advantage of a couple of minors.

Focusing on Gillian and Harriet instead of the man who could take her breath away if she let him, she said with a gentle finality, “I didn’t say I wanted your money. I said I’d make a phone call.”

The man raised his brows before turning to Gwen. “Hi, Deputy Mayor.”

“Hi. Brett, this is my sister, Wynne Olsen. She’s moving here from Seattle. As you’ve heard, she’s a lawyer, but she’s not representing Harrie.” Thank goodness her sister decided to butt in on her behalf. “Wynne, this guy with the precocious daughter is Brett Macauley.”

As she turned back to Macauley, Wynne repeated, “I’m not taking money from Gillian or Harriet.”

“I figured as much. These two get into a ton of mischief. It takes a lot to keep up with them.” He half smiled. Butterflies launched in her stomach.

Being attracted to this complete stranger could not happen. He seemed like a man most women would be lucky to grow old with, but not Wynne. She had other plans. The tension in her chest eased off enough that she could smile at the guy. “I appreciate the vote of confidence.”

He smiled back. Did he actually wink at her? “No problem.” He looked at the girls. “We’ve got to get going. Grandpa is waiting for us to meet him so we can go on that hike you’ve been begging for.”

“I don’t beg,” Harriet huffed.

“I do.” Gillian jumped out of her chair. Before she turned away, she asked Wynne, “Do you have a business card?”

“I want one too,” Harriet quickly followed suit.

Where did kids get these ideas? Social media? Wynne hesitated but couldn’t come up with a reason not to give them her calling card. She easily found the few she carried, but held them up before she handed them each a card. “Don’t call me. I’ll be in touch as soon as I have any useful information.”

“Okay,” they both agreed too quickly and headed for the door. If they hadn’t moved so fast, she would have quizzed them to make sure.

Brett caught their shoulders before they’d gone far. “Hey, guys. What do you say to Miss Gwen and Miss Wynne?”

They were like twins. They both rolled their eyes, and Wynne had to work hard to keep her expression composed.

Gillian straightened her shoulders, standing absolutely still under her father’s steady gaze. “Thanks for letting us sit at your table. And for getting us lemonade.” She scratched her chin. With a quick look up at her dad, she added, “And for helping with Harrie’s divorce.”

Brett shook his head. Wynne locked gazes with Gwen. Cute girls, she wanted to say, but instead, she turned back to the threesome. “It was nice meeting you all.” She included Brett because, surprisingly, and with brief input from the man, it had been interesting anyway to meet the Macauleys plus one. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I hear from my colleague in Seattle.”

“Are you sure you don’t want our money?” Harriet asked, stopping, half-turned toward the door.

Wynne resumed her seat. Harriet was something else. “I’m sure.”

“Come on, girls.” Brett, the Nordic handsome guy, followed them out of the coffeehouse.

“Oh. My. Gosh!” Gwen broke out in a rolling laugh. “That was so funny.”

Chuckling with her sister, Wynne agreed. “I can honestly say, I’ve never been in that situation before.”

“Do you want to head straight to my house or stop for dinner on the way? We could go to The Chowder House.” Gathering her shoulder bag, Gwen watched her, a speculating look replacing her humor. “What do you think of Brett?”

Wynne ignored the second part of her sister’s question. “Let’s go to your house. It’s been a long day. Do you have eggs?”

With a smirk, Gwen nodded. It was a silly question. Her sister always had eggs.

“Good. We can make omelets and toast.” At the knowing look in Gwen’s eyes, the one probably arising from the fact that she was in love and wanted everyone around her to be swimming in the same sauce, Wynne finally gave in. “He seems like a nice guy and a devoted dad.”

“He’s both of those, for sure.” Gwen’s smirk deepened. “The single ladies in town are already competing for his attention.”

Lucky man. Making omelets would give her plenty of time to come clean with her sister about Ian and the job in California. At the same time, if she had to, she’d make it very clear to Gwen she wouldn’t be joining the swaths of ladies lining up to be the attractive Brett Macauley’s next girlfriend.

There was good news, though. It wasn’t likely that she’d run into him again before she had an answer for Gillian and Harriet. It was kind of funny, how the girls had assumed she could get Harriet a divorce from foster care. Not funny ha-ha at the tween’s expense, but funny-sad that a twelve-year-old had to fight so hard, hoping her mom would come back and to stay in the same town as her best friend.

Wynne sympathized. For her, at fifteen, it’d been her dad. At least she knew where he was, even though he hadn’t been great at staying in touch over the years.

“I’ll follow you,” she said to Gwen, as they left the coffeehouse after waving goodbye to Ginger.

A short drive away at Gwen’s house, Wynne put her bag on the bed in the spare room before joining her sister in the kitchen. The makings for their omelets were already on the counter by the stove, along with a bowl and whisk.

To put off the uncomfortable conversation as long as possible while she whipped up the eggs and put bread in the toaster, she introduced the only topic she knew would distract Gwen. “So, how are the wedding plans coming along? Have you got a venue yet?”

“We’re having the wedding and reception at The Whale’s Head Lighthouse.”

“Where Carson proposed?” Very romantic, which was good for Gwen, but not what Wynne would want, obviously, seeing as how she’d gotten fake-married at the county courthouse. She’d given up on romance a long time ago, before Ian, when her first attempt at marriage had fallen apart. She wasn’t that starry-eyed young woman anymore.

Gwen nodded. “It’s the perfect venue and available in June.”

“Nice. I’ll check that off the list then.” As Wynne poured the egg mixture into the omelet pan, Gwen finished cutting up mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes, and added the vegetables to the pan. Wynne followed up with cheese.

They worked together like clockwork, just like when they were teenagers and they would help their mom with meals. Wynne missed that when she cooked only for herself. It was one of the things she’d liked about Ian. Not only did they work well together at the office, they were a well-oiled machine in the kitchen too.

She carried the plated omelets to the table just off the kitchen, each with a small bunch of grapes she’d found in Gwen’s fridge. Gwen brought the homemade lattes.

“This is such a cozy place.” From the moment she’d stepped through the door, Wynne had started to feel less stressed. She looked around. Gwen’s house smelled faintly of lavender and roses. Wynne would call it happiness—if happiness had a smell. “How are the renovations to the Caldwell place coming along?”

“Pretty good. Nothing unexpected so far.” Gwen scooped a bite of omelet onto her piece of toast, then left it sitting on her plate. “Okay, you’ve avoided the subject long enough. Tell me what happened with Ian.”

There was no point in putting off the conversation any longer. Wynne put her fork down and, clasping her hands together, leaned on her arms. “It’s not a pretty tale.”

“I figured,” Gwen acknowledged before taking a sip of her coffee. “It’s better to talk about it than keep it bottled up.”

Was it? Wynne had to take Gwen’s word on that.

“Don’t hate me or think I’m crazy—”

“I would never hate you.” Gwen smiled over the rim of her cup. “And I already think you’re kind of crazy. You can tell me anything.”

So Wynne told her sister everything. Ian. His proposal that they merge their lives together in a fake marriage so he could make partner. How well they got along, that was until he went and fell in love a month after they got married with a new family friend. After that he wanted out of their agreement. Because they had a prenup, they were both protected, so she gave him what he wanted.

She signed the divorce papers just before Valentine’s Day and arrived at Gwen’s Valentine’s date night in time to see Carson’s proposal. At the time, she’d wanted to prove how adult she could be, how well she’d survived after taking a chance on not marrying for love. “All that’s left now is to move on,” she concluded, for herself if not for Gwen.

“So, when you applied for the city attorney position, it was because you were moving on?” Gwen didn’t sound as understanding as Wynne had hoped she would be.

The silence thickened while Wynne tried to find the best way to tell her sister the part she really wasn’t going to like.

There was no easy way to say it, except to just blurt it out. “The week after I got the job here, I got a call from a college friend, asking if I’d like to apply for a position opening up at their firm. It all happened pretty fast. They offered me the job and I took it.”

Gwen jumped up from her chair. “You did what?”

“I took the job,” Wynne said, using her calm courtroom voice. “I told them I had to give two weeks’ notice. I start in three weeks.”

“Where?” Wynne had her deputy mayor’s face on, the one that said she would listen to all the facts before letting you have it with both barrels, although with the same dignity that had gotten her the city hall job, which was quite a lot.

“Southern California. The firm handles high-profile divorces, which I’m good at.” Better than breaking her heart trying to make marriage—fake or otherwise—work.

“What about Harriet and her wanting you to help with her divorce?” Gwen carried her half-empty dishes to the sink.

Wynne followed with her own plate. She’d definitely lost her appetite. “We both know there’s no such thing, Gwen.”

“I know, but Harriet doesn’t know that. She needs your help, and she’s put her faith in you.” Gwen wiped her hands on a tea towel, then folded it on the counter before facing Wynne. “Are you saying you won’t help her?”

This was why her sister would be a great mayor of Angel Point one day. She could be tough as nails when she wanted to be.

“Of course I’ll help Harriet.” Even if it meant that she’d have to spend time with Gillian’s handsome father too.

The determination in Gwen’s expression deepened. “Alright, but I need something from you. If you’re handing in your two weeks’ notice—I want that in writing—I want you to promise you won’t leave before Angel Point has a new city attorney. And I want you to screen the applicants yourself. You know what we’re looking for.”

Two could play her sister’s game. “Fine, but you can reciprocate by talking to Carson about signing a prenup.” When Gwen started to shake her head, Wynne interrupted. “It will protect you both.”

“Huh,” was the only commitment she got from her very unhappy sister.

Later, with the bedcover under her chin and as sleep pulled at her mind, Wynne’s thoughts wandered to the conundrum with Gillian and Harriet, and then on to Brett Macauley. There had been no mention of a mother or wife during their brief encounter. Was he married? Was there a prenup? Not that it was any of her business.

Her personal experience in the marriage department had proven the necessity for a prenup protection. Her first engagement had been a disaster. She’d been too trusting, and her fiancé had walked off with everything in her bank account and her heart. Ian, thank goodness, had followed their prenup to the letter, and neither of them had gotten financially or emotionally hurt. Just as it should be.

Her eyes started to close. She loved this room. Gwen had dressed it in muted colors of blue, blush, and pale green. There were bowls of succulents on the dresser. Wynne liked the plants. At least they didn’t take as much maintenance as her life did.

Brett, on the other hand, would be a different story. She had a feeling he was the kind of guy a girl could fall head over heels in love with, a heart song that would last a lifetime. But she didn’t know that song. She definitely didn’t know how to stay long enough to learn the words.

That kind of love, the kind that came when a woman found the right guy, hurt too much when their relationship inevitably ended. If that happened, Wynne was afraid she would never recover.

End of Excerpt

The Fake Marriage Proposal is available in the following formats:

Man and woman smiling on book cover for The Fake Marriage Proposal by Susan Lute

ISBN: 978-1-959988-47-2

July 13, 2023

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