De La Fuente #3
Wide receiver, Mateo De La Fuente was out of control. One more misstep and he’d be cut from the team. In a last ditch effort to save his career; Mateo’s agent and PR team devised a plan to restore his image. He had to get engaged.
Caprice Taylor was hired to play a part. Acting callous and uncaring went against her moral fiber; but with the contract signed and bills to pay, she had no choice. Lying about herself, being someone she wasn’t, quickly took an emotional toll. One last event and she’d finally be free. The charade was coming to an end.
Except…nothing ever goes as planned.
Happy to be nearly done with the woman who had made his life hell, Mateo was floored when he learned the truth. Who was the real Caprice? Thoughts of ending it with her were quickly set aside as he discovered the real her. This time around Mateo gradually started to lose more than his head as things heated up between them.
18 Months Ago
Mateo slumped in the chair, fighting the urge to cover his eyes from the brightness of the office. He’d been out the night before and drunk more than he should have considering he knew about the meeting this morning.
His head felt like a sledge hammer hit away parts of his brain and he wished like hell that he was anywhere but here. Actually, he would prefer to be at home…alone.
He stifled a groan and wasn’t sure if it was his head that caused it or the whole mess. It wouldn’t have gotten out of hand if he’d thought before he acted. He couldn’t go anywhere without women throwing themselves at him, and that, combined with alcohol, always made front page news. The thing was he knew that he was doing it, but couldn’t seem to stop. He had friends, but they didn’t keep him warm at night, or give him the release he craved.
At thirty, he was still living as though he was twenty-one and that had caused several problems in the past. This time, however, he’d landed in hot water that he couldn’t get out of by himself, which was why his agent, Donny Roscoe, had gotten together with the PR team to straighten his image out.
Donny was pissed that he’d been losing money thanks to Mateo’s behavior, which had garnered more attention off the field than on.
Mateo should have seen this meeting coming, but he hadn’t, and because of his partying lifestyle, he would have to listen to them and do what they basically told him to do.
“Mateo,” Roger Evans hissed through his teeth, “I’ve been talking to you for the past five minutes and you’ve been in dreamland.” Roger waved his hands in exasperation, and Mateo grimaced. “You need to pay attention before you agree to something that you’re going to regret.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Mateo leaned forward, his eyes searched around the room as he tried to silence the noise in his head. He took a deep breath through his nose so he wouldn’t puke. “Look, just give it to me straight. What do you want me to do?” He looked at Donny who’d stayed quiet while Roger took the meeting, which was a sure sign that his agent was more than angry.
Mateo tried to focus on Roger Evans, the head honcho of the PR team, who picked an imaginary hair from his expensive suit. He tried not to laugh as the man never had a mark or wrinkle on him. He was so put together that he looked out of place as he paced back and forth behind his desk with the occasional glare at him.
Mateo had no idea what was expected of him to get the press to see him in a new light after the crap of the past few months, so he supposed Roger had a point about him paying attention. If he hadn’t gone out last night, he might have been able to concentrate today.
As Mateo brought the large Starbucks’ coffee to his lips, he finally met Donny’s gaze, as his agent announced, “You’re about to get engaged.”
The coffee landed in his lap. “Fuck.” He jumped out of the chair, tugging the sweats away from his leg, which he’d just burned. “What the hell did you say?”
“I think you heard me just fine. Engaged.” Donny grinned and seemed to be enjoying himself at Mateo’s expense. “I’ll tell you the basics.” He indicated the chair Mateo had recently vacated with a wave of his hand.
Squeezing his eyes closed, Mateo pressed the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb, praying he was dreaming.
He had to be.
No way could this nightmare be real.
Only one way to find out.
So he dropped his ass back in the chair and waited for Donny to fill him in on the great plan of his. Mateo knew that there was no way the club would have instructed it to play out this way. Regardless of how Mateo had been portrayed in the news, they wouldn’t come up with something like this…something that could blow up in their face. That explained why his agent and the PR team had called him in.
“The deal is that you have a fake fiancée.” Donny’s eyes filled with reproach as he sat down and leaned forward. “Look Mateo. You’ve been running wild and it’s cost the club a lot of PR. They spend more time cleaning up your messes than they do running the team and the fans are reacting in a negative way…which, has been losing me money.”
Donny sighed as the words spun in Mateo’s head. “When you were younger it was fine. Fans loved that wild side because it spilled into the game. But now, after all these years of your antics, fans want to see you grow up, both on the field and in your life. The fans and the club are not going to put up with your stunts for much longer.”
Mateo nodded. What Donny said made sense, and in a way, he was getting tired of everything. He focused as Donny continued, “We spin it so that it looks like you’ve been looking for ‘the one’ for a while. We laugh off any stupid comments that will arise with the way we’re going to go. Your fiancée, Caprice, is twenty-four, blonde and stacked, with an amazing figure, so you won’t have a problem having her on your arm. You take her to functions. You act like you’re in love with her. You basically save your career.”
When Mateo realized his teeth were grinding together, he unclamped his jaw and tried to relax. He liked blonde and stacked, but fuck! He didn’t want to be led around on a leash, and how the fuck would he explain the mess he’d made to his family?
He slumped forward and dropped his aching head into his hands, knowing that he was screwed.
“It’s only for a few months…six tops depending on how things change…but,” Roger sat behind his desk, his fingers steeped together, “you can not go off with other women while you’re supposedly engaged to Caprice. If the press get wind of that, they’ll have a field day.”
The silence surrounded him while he tried to take in the idiotic scheme. No way would it work it was too instant. “Wouldn’t it look odd for me to suddenly show up with a fiancée on the arm?”
“No,” Donny said.
“No! Are you crazy?” Mateo sat back flabbergasted.
“Look,” Donny paused before glancing at Roger, and then back to Mateo, “you disappear for a few days and come back engaged. Spend time together out in the open and just remember to keep your zipper zipped.”
Mateo closed his eyes and rubbed at his temple, hoping that it really was a bad dream. “I seriously do not want my family finding out about this.”
“You have to tell them, Mateo, they’re your family. How’s it going to look if you don’t and they find out?” Roger laughed and Donny frowned.
“My family shouldn’t have anything to do with this.” He felt the blood rush to his face as the reality of the situation started to sink in.
“You tell them that you’re engaged. Don’t tell them that it’s part of an image clean up though. We need it to be real.”
He stared at Donny and cursed, “Fuck…Fuck!”
He got to his feet again, glared at the gloating dick behind the desk and his money hungry agent. “Send all the details over to me.”
And with that he slammed the door behind him as he left.
He’d fucked up big time.
Part of him wanted to say fuck it and let the team kick him out—sever his contract—but the biggest part of him didn’t want to disappoint his family like he’d do if his recent bout of stupidity got back to them. His family had supported him since school when they’d figured out he had talent out on the field.
The one thing he never wanted to do was disappoint them.
He was engaged.
“Miss Taylor, thank you for taking the time to come in today,” Roger Evans said as he ushered her into a chair opposite his desk. He went back to his chair and offered her a pleasant smile as he sat.
He reminded her of a toad, but she thought it best if she kept that to herself because he held a job opportunity in his hands.
This was the last place she’d applied, or rather the stadium had been and they’d sent her to the offices of the Club’s PR team. Although she currently majored in business finance, she had no PR experience so wasn’t sure why she’d be here.
The office was shiny and looked brand new. It was all bright, airy, and sleek smooth lines. It certainly dazzled visitors with the brightness and wealth found in every room.
“Would you like a coffee, or something cool, perhaps?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you. Um, I’m curious as to why I’m here.”
Roger looked excited as a child, which he was obviously trying to contain. He looked like he was ready to leap across his desk and she felt her nerves dancing in trepidation. Eventually, after some effort and quite a bit of nervous twitching, he finally got on with the meeting. “You’re just the right person for the job,” he said abruptly. “No one else will do and it pays handsomely, which I know will come in very handy for you.”
“How do you—”
“Yes, yes, we’ll come to that in good time. But basically, you’re needed for an acting job. The salary is based on what will be required of you.”
“Erin,” he paused, “please let me finish.”
She sat back, figuring she might as well let him get it all out. It seemed as though she wouldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“I need to hire you to be someone’s fiancée.” He glanced at her shocked face and continued, “His image needs to improve, which is where you come in as his fiancée. He’s known for making split second decisions, so this won’t seem such a shock to people. Well, it might, but they’ll get over it. I’ve already given him your name. You’ll become Caprice, first class bitch.”
She choked on her own saliva. No way was she touching that job, especially arranged by the freak behind the desk. She shook her head as the thought filled her mind, but froze when he mentioned the dollars involved.
Erin chewed on her lower lip—a nervous habit.
Her heart pounded in her chest. She wasn’t a bitch. She wasn’t even sure she’d be able to pull that part off. However, the money would go into her bank account, which meant that she’d have enough to survive while she finished her degree. The rest would tie her over for a short while after graduation.
Would her conscience let her do it? She wasn’t a bitch…as far as she knew, she’d never been one to anyone before and wasn’t sure she wanted to start now, whether it was for pay, or not.
The more she thought about it, the more she wondered. “Why do I have to be a bitch? Surely his fiancée would be loveable. No one gets engaged to a bitch. That doesn’t sound right.”
Roger’s toad like face grew puffier and redder with everything she said and there was a small tick of agitation in his left eye. “Look, don’t worry about the whys or whatnots. You’ll be paid month to month providing you play the part well. He’s a wild card and needs reigning in…definitely needs some of his own medicine. The ‘bitch’ stays between us. You tell him, or anyone else, then our deal’s over and you’ll receive no more money.”
Something was off with the whole thing because surely the man should know what was going on. “Did the guy agree to all this?”
“He agreed, but no reason to trouble him with the minor details about your personality. You do it well, without anyone finding out and you won’t have to worry about staying at the university, or having a roof over your head, which I know is currently on the line.”
“It sounds…wrong.” She watched Roger, anger and irritation flashing in his eyes as he tapped his fingers on the desk. It was clear that he was getting annoyed with her.
“There is nothing wrong with making his life hell, like he’s done to others.” Roger moved to his window and kept his back to her.
The money tempted her more than it should have.
But she had no family.
No one to help her if she lost her apartment.
No one to help her finish at the university.
She was alone…
At least her mother wasn’t alive to witness her fall from the sweet girl next door.
“Whose life do you want me to make hell?”
Roger turned and grinned. “Mateo De La Fuente.”She was in trouble…