“I’m going to be your new father.”
I stared at him, eyes wide, not sure whether I wanted to run away, slap him, or scream. Probably a combination of all three. His face was so familiar and I almost felt like I knew him, even though I’d only ever seen him mentioned in articles and pictures online. He was handsome, with rugged scruff and deep, piercing green eyes. I could only guess how many women had fallen for that incredibly handsome face, and apparently my mother was now one of them.
“You can call me daddy if you want.” That sly grin made me want to stay and slap him after all.
“I’m definitely not going to call you daddy,” I said.
My mom gave Carter a look. “Don’t tease her, Carter,” she said and turned back to me. “I know this is a surprise, honey.”
“Surprise?” I said, barely controlling my annoyance. “A surprise is when you come home with a tattoo. Or that time you bought a cat without telling me.”
“I wonder where Whiskers is,” Mom said, looking around.
“Mom. This isn’t a surprise.” I glanced at Carter and his gorgeous grinning face, then back at her. “This is a nightmare.”
Carter burst out laughing and Mom gave me an exasperated look. “Come on, honey. You have to understand this situation. You know me.”
“I thought I did.”
“You still do. Mr. Green and I are only getting married for business reasons.”
“That’s right,” Carter cut in. “You and your mother are getting a big, fat check, and I’m getting some much needed respectability.”
I shook my head, glaring at him. Carter Green was one of the richest men under forty and a notorious playboy. He was in his mid-thirties but looked no older than late-twenties with his ripped, cut body and his boyish charm. He wore expensive suits like he was born in them, and the man was known to date multiple women at the same time.
Or, in his most recent scandal, multiple married women at the same time. He claimed that he had no clue, but I wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t think marrying my mom can possibly save your reputation,” I said to him.
“Your mother is a lovely and respected woman.”
“She was your secretary.”
“Men like me have a long and proud tradition of falling for their secretaries,” he said, winking at Mom.
She smiled. “Don’t be an ass, Carter.”
“Sorry, Evie, dear.”
“Evie,” I said, practically gagging. “Her name is Evelyn. Nobody calls her that.”
“I do. I figured I should think up some cute nicknames for the press,” he said.
“Oh, great idea,” Mom said, nodding. “We’ll have to come up with something for you.”
“I still like daddy,” he said, glancing at me.
I wanted to vomit right then and there.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. It just made no sense.
I looked at my mom, practically pleading. “Come on, Mom. You can’t be serious with this. I know that you’re—“
“Enough, Emily,” Mom cut in, glancing at Carter. “The past doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this is happening and I need you to accept it.”
I knew that tone. It meant that as far as my mother was concerned, the discussion was over.
Except that it wasn’t. My mother was under the impression that I was still a little girl, which was very far from the truth. Really, if they were going to pull off this absurd and stupid idea, they were going to need my help.
And so far, I had no interest in helping them.
“This has to be illegal,” I said to her. “You guys are lying to the world.”
Carter looked thoughtful for a second. “Not illegal,” he said, clearly musing. “Maybe immoral, but I can’t think of any laws we’re breaking.”
“Enough, honey. The money Mr. Green is offering will pay for your student loans.”
“And then some,” he said with a smile.
“I don’t care about the money.”
“You should,” Mom said, sighing.
“We can get money some other way.” Carter was smirking at me again, and to my total horror I found that I couldn’t look away from him.
“Is this really so bad?” he asked me. “It’s a temporary arrangement. You and your mother will come live with me—“
“Live with you?” I cut in, staring at Mom wild-eyed. “You didn’t say anything about that.”
“We’re married now,” she said, sighing.
“No way. I’m not living in his house.”
“Mansion,” he corrected. “And you can have a whole wing, if you want.”