Home > The Friendship Pact (Sunrise Cove #2)

The Friendship Pact (Sunrise Cove #2)
Author: Jill Shalvis

 

Chapter 1


For the better part of her childhood, all Tae Holmes had wanted was to be an adult, only as it turned out, adulting was overrated. Take tonight, for example. She’d planned everything down to the very last little detail, and things had still gone FUBAR.

So she did what the Holmes women did when facing disaster—something she had a lot of experience with—she pretended all was perfectly well. Chin up, she strode across the ritzy hotel lobby like she owned the joint, shoving the inner echo of the emo teenager she’d once been deep. Because this wasn’t about her. It was about making sure her fledgling event company became a success, starting with tonight’s fundraiser for her biggest client.

Moving through the post-dinner-and-auction crowd in the lobby, she forced the confident smile of someone not at all worried that the heels she wore were so high she risked her neck with every step, or that her updo kept quivering, threatening to escape the pins that held it together.

The epitome of a girl playing dress-up.

Her gaze caught on the sight of a guy standing by the twenty-five-foot-high rock fountain in the center of the lobby and her fake smile congealed. It was the guy she’d had an awkward first—and last—date with a week ago, Michael Someone-Or-Another. She was pretty sure the decision to never see each other again was mutual, so why was he here at her work event?

When he craned his neck her way, she hurriedly crouched behind one of the dozens of potted blue spruce pine trees and tried to bargain with karma. I’m an okay person, right? I try to recycle. I give fifteen bucks a month to an elephant orphanage in Africa. I—

“Tae?”

She closed her eyes tight, like that could make her vanish. She’d gone out with him because she’d made that stupid promise to her mom, that they’d both put themselves out there for some badly needed fun in their lives. Fun had been a rare commodity, what with work and the whole pesky keeping-a-roof-over-her-head thing.

“It is you.”

Drawing a deep breath, she opened her eyes to find Michael closer, in a slim-cut blue suit, his long hair neatly contained in a man bun, his goatee perfectly manscaped.

“Wow,” he said, looking her over with surprised appreciation. “You didn’t look like this on our date.”

True story. She looked like this never. Not to mention, he’d taken her on a hike to Five Lakes, a straight uphill climb, where he’d then decided to “test her outdoorsiness” by suggesting they go skinny-dipping. When she’d balked, he’d stripped anyway and jumped into the water. She’d promptly hiked back by herself.

“Seriously,” he murmured, still taking her in. “Wow.”

One more “wow” and she was going to start her own drinking game. “Listen, I’m not sure how you managed to find me here, but I’m working, so—”

“There you are.” This was uttered by a beautiful woman in a killer red dress with a camera strapped around her neck and a flute of champagne in one hand. Her smile was warm and welcoming. “Hello, darling.”

Tae sighed. “Hi, Mom.”

April Holmes shifted the camera aside so she could squeeze Tae in close for a hug. “Dress number three,” she whispered. “It’s perfect for you.”

Okay, so Tae had rented three different dresses for the evening, no big deal. But her mom had promptly said the first two looked like they were meant for the sixty-five-years-and-older set. So here she was, in the third dress. Sexier than she’d wanted for a job, but that was what happened when you and your mom—only fifteen years your senior—had a codependent relationship. You did dumb stuff to keep the peace.

“Hold up,” Michael said and looked back and forth between the two women as if he’d won the lottery. “You’re . . . mother and daughter? I mean, sisters, sure, but no way mom and daughter.”

April laughed in delight.

Tae, who’d heard the sisters comment a hundred million, billion, trillion times, just rolled her eyes. Yeah, yeah, whatever, they looked very much alike with the same five-foot-seven build and dark, shoulder-length brown hair. They each had brown eyes as well—though April’s were dark brown and always smiling, and Tae’s were light brown and usually not smiling.

“Tae, you look beautiful tonight,” April murmured. “Doesn’t she, Michael?”

Aaaaaaand there it was—her mom was matchmaking, part of her New and Improved Mom plan. “Mom, Michael and I have already figured out we’re not a match.”

Michael nodded in agreement. “Because you’re uptight and don’t know how to let loose. It messes with my aura.”

Tae looked at her mom. “I mess with his aura.”

“Wow,” Michael said at her clear sarcasm.

Tae took the flute of champagne from her mom’s hand and drank.

“But for the record, she’s right,” he told her mom. “We didn’t vibe. But you and me, April . . .” His smile warmed and was actually quite charming. “We vibe.”

Tae laughed, but it backed up in her throat at Michael’s serious expression. “Wait. So now you want to date my mom?”

“Until two minutes ago, I had no idea she was your mom.” He winked at April. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Robinson. You’re stunning, by the way.”

“Aw.” April smiled at him. “You’re sweet.” She turned to Tae. “Honey, I’m sorry. I had no idea he was the same Michael you went out with when I arranged to meet him here for a nightcap after the event.”

Tae nearly choked on her champagne. “Wait. You’re on a date with him?”

April smiled at Michael. “Would you mind giving us a minute?”

When he moved off, her mom sighed. “I’m truly sorry. I had no idea. And your eye twitch is back.”

Tae pressed a finger to her eye. “This is what happens when you go rogue and set us both up for the same dating site.”

“I’ve got just the thing.” Her mom went through her purse and pulled out a piece of butterscotch candy. “Here. Your favorite.”

Tae had to laugh. “Mom, that only worked when I was a little kid.”

April took the candy back and popped it into her own mouth. “I’m just so sorry. I went out with Michael two days ago and you never came up in conversation, not once. We planned to go out for dessert tonight, and then a walk along the lake.”

“Warning, he likes to skinny-dip.”

“Oh boy.” Her mom sighed. “Let’s make a motion to strike him from the dating pool. The truth is, he’s kind of smug, but I went out with him because I made you pinkie swear you’d get back into the dating pool, and I couldn’t let you go swimming alone.”

Tae had to laugh. “Always a giver, Mom.”

“Remember that.” She drew a deep breath. “Off I go to let him down.” She fanned herself. “Look at me, I’m sweating behind my knees. I’m usually the one being dumped.”

“Mom,” Tae said softly, pained for her because it was true. April’s dating life had been erratic over the years, to say the least. But that was what happened when you raised yourself with no authority figure—you made a whole bunch of mistakes along the way. The men April had chosen weren’t bad guys, just lazy and unambitious, often siphoning off April as a result.

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