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WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES
by Brenda Novak

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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Actor Simon O’Neal knows his reputation is shredded due to his bad behavior following a bitter divorce. He fired his PR agent, Gail DeMarco — who’s had a few things to say about him — and practically ruined her business. But then, hoping to salvage Simon’s career, his manager comes to him with a proposition ….

***

“Seriously? This is what my life has come to? A fake marriage?”

Suddenly finding it too much of a distraction, Simon put the football game he’d recorded on his DVR on pause. Ian was hoping to retain his job, so it was understandable that he’d come here with some crazy idea that was supposed to save the day. But even if it had been a good idea, Simon doubted he’d take him back as manager. In his opinion, Ian had revealed some disturbing character flaws.

Then again, Simon knew he probably wasn’t anyone who should be pointing a finger.

“It wouldn’t be fake,” Ian said. “It would be real.”

“That makes it worse. I’d be acting my own life.” Simon brought his recliner upright. He spent a lot of time in this room. It had no windows, so it was completely dark if he wanted it to be, and that helped whenever he had a headache. It was comfortable, too. After barging into Gail’s office and ranting like a madman early this morning, he’d come here to calm down and recover from a raging hangover. But he wasn’t succeeding, at calming down or feeling better.

What he needed was sleep. He hadn’t slept well in weeks. But nothing he did, short of pills, made sleep possible.

“This is what you come to me with?” he asked Ian. “This is how you plan to prove your worth?”

Surprisingly, his manager — possibly ex-manager — didn’t back down. He was completely convinced he had the answer to all of Simon’s problems. “Yes. It’s brilliant.”

“It’s crazy!” Wincing, he eased himself back. Raising his voice had been a mistake. “There’s got to be another way out of the mess I’m in,” he added. “I’ve got more money than I know what to do with. Let’s put it to good use.”

Ian shook his head. “Money’s not enough this time, Simon. You need a more drastic solution.”

“This is drastic, all right,” he responded with a humorless chuckle.

“Are you listening to yourself? You’re suggesting I pay Gail DeMarco, a woman I don’t even like, to be my wife.”

“She’s a PR professional, the best in the business. We can’t expect her to give up two years of her life for free.”

“Two years?” The sour taste of beer was making his stomach queasy. He should’ve eaten something.

“You’ve got to create a track record of stability, give her time to build the illusion of peace and happiness, a life in control.”

Simon said nothing. He was too busy trying to subdue his nausea. Maybe he didn’t want to admit it to Ian, but he knew one thing—he couldn’t go on like this. He’d known that for a while.

“Think about it,” Ian said. “You won’t have much to do with her. It’s mainly for appearances. You get married, you lie low, you get your son back and then you part amicably. This is a PR campaign, not a marriage in the normal sense. You’re taking it way too seriously.”

Simon tried to picture Gail as his wife and couldn’t. They’d worked together too long in carefully defined roles that rarely crossed into their personal lives. And what he’d seen of her on a personal basis hadn’t impressed him. Talk about a straight arrow!