It had been rainingfor hours and I’d gotten soaked getting to my car when I left work. I was already running late for dinner with my family, but as I pulled into my spot in the garage, I realized I was going to be even later because I had to freshen up. My hair was matted against my head and my makeup had smudged. Not to mention my silk blouse was so wet my bra was visible through the fabric. And my seventy-four-year-old grandfather definitely wouldn’t approve.
I grabbed my bag and hurried up the back staircase to my room, stripping out of my clothes and pulling on black jeans with a pretty top. We were having company tonight, but I’d been too busy at work to ask who, though I suspected my grandfather was up to his usual tricks, trying to play matchmaker. My grandfather had pulled this nonsense for years. More so when I was younger, and then he’d seemingly given up for a bit. It had been six months or so since the last time he’d tried to set me up with someone, but his timing sucked.
My phone buzzed and I ignored it, assuming it was my mother asking where I was. I had to dry my hair and touch up my makeup and I’d be ready to go, so they could all just wait. I had a busy career, after all, and I wasn’t a child. At twenty-eight, it seemed unfair that my presence be demanded at dinner on a regular basis, and I was considering moving out next fall.
I wasn’t dressed for a dinner party, but that was okay because I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. Based on past experience, my grandfather and I had very different tastes in men. But Granddad didn’t seem interested in my thoughts on the matter. Normally, it didn’t bother me. I was an adult and led a full, busy life, but times like this, when he commanded my presence, made me a bit resentful. He’d never do something like this to my brothers, and since my father had passed away five years ago, it had only gotten worse. I’d thought he’d finally give up, but apparently not.
I touched up my lipstick and made my way downstairs. Most evenings, we ate in the less formal room just off the kitchen, the same room where we had breakfast or lazed around on weekends. Tonight, Granddad was pulling out all the stops, and I wondered who he’d set his sights on as a husband for me.
“Hello, love.” Granddad stood up as I walked into the dining room, and l lifted my cheek for a kiss.
“Hello, everyone.” I smiled politely, averting my eyes from the thirty-something-year-old guy sitting next to my empty place. “Sorry I’m late. Busy day at work.”
“Our girl works far too hard,” Granddad said, pulling out my chair for me.
“Wine?” Mum murmured, holding up the bottle.
“Thanks.” I nodded politely and took a sip as I waited for the inevitable introduction.
“Isla, love, this is the grandson of a dear friend of mine,” Granddad said, taking his seat at the head of the table.
I glanced up with a forced smile. “Oh?” I met our guest’s gaze with as much interest as I could muster up.
“Gideon Sinclair, this is my only granddaughter, Isla Campbell.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Gideon got halfway out of his chair and held out his hand.
“Likewise.” I shook his hand and took another sip of wine to avoid anyone seeing me sigh. I really hated these set-ups and made a mental note to nip this in the bud. If my grandfather wanted me to move out, I could and would, but continuing to allow him to manipulate me with regard to my personal life had to stop.
“Gideon’s grandfather is a founding partner at Sinclair and Associates.” Granddad met my gaze meaningfully.
Sinclair and Associates was the legal firm my grandfather had been courting to take over the family’s legal affairs for over a year. And now he’d thrown a grandson into the mix, as if I wasn’t under enough pressure in the dating department.
“Are you an attorney?” I asked Gideon politely.
He smiled. “I am. Junior partner as of now, hoping to make full partner next year.”
“And you’re a…physicist?” He seemed uncomfortable even saying the word and I wanted to laugh, but I managed to nod instead.
“I teach physics and study astronomy. Black holes, to be exact.”
His eyes rounded slightly, but I wasn’t sure if he was overwhelmed or impressed. Didn’t matter to me either way since I had no interest in dating him, but it was occasionally fun to mess with the guys Granddad brought around.
“Isla’s always been a little too interested in books and her studies,” Granddad said. “It’s high time she started living a bit.”
“Granddad, we’ve just sat down,” I said with a chuckle. “Let me catch my breath before you attempt to find new extracurricular activities for me.”
Luckily, my mother took pity on me and turned the conversation to the excellent meal our housekeeper, Merrie, had prepared. Finn and Mac, two of my younger brothers, were also in attendance and they kept up a steady stream of conversation so I didn’t have to. Gideon paid polite attention to me, without making his interest too overt, but I figured an invitation to go for a walk or see the grounds or some such thing was forthcoming. Instead, he surprised me.
We’d just started dessert when Gideon met my gaze. “Isla, I have a proposition for you. My family and I will all be attending Ian’s wedding, and since I hate going to weddings without a date, I was hoping you’d accompany me.”
I froze. He wanted me to be his date for my twin brother’s wedding? Bloody hell, this was worse than I thought. There would be five hundred guests at the wedding and it was going to be quite the event. Anyone that saw us together would immediately assume it was serious, and I wasn’t on board with that at all. Luckily, I was pretty quick on my feet.
“Going to weddings alone is no fun,” I said with a friendly smile. “But I’ve been spared that plight this time around. I apologize for any misrepresentation on my grandfather’s part, but I’m involved with someone, so I’ve already got a date.”
Gideon looked chagrined, murmuring an apology while Granddad frowned. “What are you talking about, Isla? You haven’t brought round any young men.”
I’d hoped he wouldn’t push me for details in front of company, but now I had to think fast and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Of course not. He lives in Las Vegas.”
“He—what? Is it one of Ian’s friends, then?” Granddad looked confused and Mum was giving me side-eye, but I’d gone too far to back down now, especially since Gideon looked as interested in who it was as my brothers did.
I smiled and gave a little shrug. “Sorry. I should have told you.”
“Yes, you should have.” Mum gave me a pointed look that told me I had a lot of explaining to do.
“Well, are you going to tell us who it is?” Finn pressed, looking at me intently.
I hoped I wasn’t blushing, but now I had no choice but to go full steam ahead with this, and I definitely hadn’t thought this through. Fuck, I was in so much trouble and every eye at the table was now on me.
I swallowed, mentally cursing my grandfather for putting me in this untenable situation.
“Is it a secret?” Mac asked, arching a brow.
“Of course not.” I breathed in and then out, slowly and methodically, summoning up my courage. “It’s Dax.”
“Dax?” My mother looked startled and my brothers immediately started teasing me, threatening to call my twin brother, Ian. Who just happened to be Dax’s best friend. Oh, this was going to be a mess.
“Another hockey player in the family!” Mac chirped.
“But then we’ll be outnumbered,” Finn said.
“Better than American football, though.”
“Aye.” Finn grimaced before bursting out laughing.
I wasn’t paying much attention to them, though, as I contemplated my next move. Dax was my twin brother’s best friend, and though I’d had feelings for him for a long time, I didn’t think he returned them. However, we were good enough friends that he might go along with this if I approached it right. Just for the wedding. I had no idea how to approach it, though, so I was going to call Ian immediately. He’d help me come up with a plan before my family figured out I’d lied, and if I was lucky, he’d talk to Dax for me too.
What had I done?