Will a ploy to impress old high school classmates turn into a second chance at love for Jenny and Owen? Find out in MEANT FOR YOU by Michelle Major.
Single mom Jenny Castelli has a temper to match her red hair. When the former mean girls of her high school insult her son, Jenny fires off a big lie—that she’s engaged to a rich, handsome guy and is bringing him to their ten-year reunion. Now she needs to find the perfect fake fiancé for one night. And only one man fits the bill.
Geek turned tech entrepreneur Owen Dalton already had his heart broken by Jenny Castelli. Still, he finds himself agreeing to her proposition—even as he struggles to remember that the chemistry sparking between them isn’t real. But when Jenny’s ex makes a play for custody and Owen is forced to deal with the family who always treated him as “second best,” their arrangement suddenly becomes very personal. And that lie they’ve been telling everyone? It isn’t nearly as big as the one they’ve been telling themselves.
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Jenny Castelli stood in the lobby of Dalton Enterprises later that afternoon, taking in the impressive view of the Front Range from the floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the space.
Owen had purchased the building on the south side of Denver a few years ago. She’d met him when Rocky Mountain Landscapes had been hired to create the landscape plan for the newly renovated building. The native grasses she’d planted waved in the warm summer breeze.
The project had been one of the first she’d managed, and she’d had a hand in every piece of the design. It had also given her the chance to get to know Owen, who was one of the kindest, most authentic men she’d ever met, despite his power and wealth.
He was way too good for someone like her, so she’d sabotaged their burgeoning relationship only months after they’d started dating. He’d remained friendly, if distant, when they’d seen each other at Ty and Kendall’s wedding last summer, but how would he react to what she was about to propose?
Her stomach lurched. She was about to propose to Owen Dalton. She glanced down and almost groaned out loud at the realization she was wearing her work boots from earlier that day. She’d stopped at her house on the way from lunch to change into a casual denim dress and slap a little makeup on her face. She tried to smooth her wild hair, but most days it had a mind of its own, so she settled for a braid at the back of her head. The more time she took to get ready, the more nervous she’d become, until she’d given up on making herself presentable and rushed over before she lost her nerve. That had clearly led to her stuffing her feet back in the scuffed and worn boots instead of the pair of ballet flats she’d planned to wear.
She couldn’t possibly go through with it, and she turned to flee just as a feminine voice called, “Ms. Castelli?” The older woman, with silver hair in a spiked pixie cut and wearing tailored pants and a fitted jacket, gave her an assessing look. “Mr. Dalton will see you now.”
Jenny’s gaze darted to the exit, then to the young woman staring at her from the receptionist’s desk, then back to the secretary, who raised a brow as if daring Jenny to make her escape.
“Right,” Jenny muttered. “Let’s do this thing.”
The woman pursed her lips, then turned and headed down a hall without another word. Jenny felt the eyes of the workers in the airy open-concept office boring into her as she hurried to catch up to the secretary.
“Employees here seem pretty curious,” she murmured, wondering if she was imagining the disapproving energy that seemed to be surging toward her like the tide.
“We’re protective of Owen,” the woman told her.
Jenny was used to disapproval. Her knee-jerk reaction was to get defensive, but she couldn’t muster a bit of temper. She’d convinced herself and her friends that she needed to do this for Cooper. Jenny would do anything to take care of her son. He was truly her one best thing in life.
Suddenly she wished she’d taken Kendall’s advice and come clean about her story, or Sam’s suggestion of hiring an escort. It would have been a lot easier than facing Owen.
But Jenny was there. With how jumbled the rest of her life felt, somehow she couldn’t admit that she’d made up the story of her engagement. It might be the tiny push that sent her over the edge. If she could prove—even for one night—that she had things together, maybe she’d begin to believe it herself.
She turned to the secretary as they reached a closed door at the end of the work space. “I’m not going to hurt him,” she said softly.
The woman only stared at her until Jenny added, “Again.”
“I remember how happy he was with you,” the woman answered with a slight nod.
“I don’t think we ever officially met.” Jenny held out a hand. “Jenny Castelli.”
After a moment, the woman slipped her hand into Jenny’s but pulled it away seconds later. “I’m Diane Bricker.”
“Owen is lucky to have someone so loyal working for him.” He deserved to be surrounded by people who would take care of him. He was too nice for his own good, and he needed protection from people who would take advantage of that. People like Jenny.
The secretary inclined her head toward the massive door of a corner office. “I don’t like to see him sad.”
“Me neither,” Jenny agreed honestly, because although she’d broken his heart, she still told herself she’d done it for the right reasons. She let herself into Owen’s office and closed the door behind her.
He glanced up from his computer as the door clicked shut but didn’t rise to greet her, which was odd, because Owen Dalton was a gentleman. Yet she barely recognized the man staring at her from behind the massive reclaimed-wood desk. The Owen she knew wore sweater vests and wire-rimmed glasses, the faint hint of high school science club always surrounding him.
This man was dressed in a crisp white shirt that had to have been custom made for him. It fit perfectly over his strong shoulders and stretched across the hard planes of his chest. She could see his defined biceps as he lifted a hand to tap a key on his keyboard.
Wait a minute. When did nerdy Owen Dalton get biceps?
“What happened to you?” she asked without thinking. A muscle ticking in his jaw was her only answer. “You don’t even look like . . . you.”
One corner of his mouth curved, but even that felt unfamiliar. Owen had a huge smile, sweet and a little goofy. Nothing like the man in front of her. “Did you come here to talk about my appearance, Jenny?”
She blew out a breath. His voice hadn’t changed. It was still soft and rich like hot buttered caramel. The way he said her ordinary name like it was the most precious word he’d ever spoken made shivers run the length of her body. Her physical reaction to him was dangerous, a piece of the equation she couldn’t control, and another reason the whole thing was a huge mistake.
It wasn’t too late. She could walk away before she made herself the biggest fool in the history of fools. Instead she took a breath. “I came here to ask you to marry me.”
Michelle Major grew up in Ohio but dreamed of living in the mountains. More than twenty years ago, she pointed her car west and settled in Colorado. Today her home includes her husband, their two children, several furry pets, and a couple of well-behaved reptiles. She’s grateful to have found her passion for writing stories with happy endings