Chapter 1

 

     Austin ended the conference call and leaned back in his office chair. “That went well.”

     “I expected as much.” Marv, Austin’s long-time partner, crossed his arms. “Did you get my note about the event?”

     “I hate attending that kind of stuff. You know that.” Austin didn’t have the time to hunt down a date, and he wasn’t sure he could find one that was interesting but not after his money.

     Marv gave Austin a disappointed-dad look. Even though Marv had been grey nearly two decades, the fit CFO kept up appearances and showed up at events, especially ones where venture capitalists congregated. He often urged Austin to do the same. “It would help if you made a point to attend. Being seen is good for business.”

     “All right.” Austin made himself a note to scour the dating app, though even before he started, it felt like a bother.

     “My daughter’s about your age if you want me to set you up.” Marv had offered before, multiple times, which annoyed Austin.

     He let sarcasm get the better of him. “My fiancée wouldn’t appreciate that.” He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth.

     Marv lit up like a Christmas tree set ablaze. “You sure know how to keep secrets.”

     “It was a joke.” Austin shook his head. He spent way too much time at the office to even think about a romantic relationship.

     “Don’t worry. I won’t say anything. When’s the big day?” Was Marv serious? He had to be joking.

     Austin couldn’t resist making it more unbelievable. “Thinking in a month.”

     Such an outlandish claim would surely make Marv realize Austin was trying to be funny.

     Marv either did a great job of keeping up the act or he’d lost his mind. “I’m happy for you, Austin. And I understand why you are keeping it quiet, but I’d love to be there.”

     Austin owned a company and held a spot on the shortlist of billionaires under thirty-five, and he couldn’t tell if his CFO was joking. That didn’t bode well for future business dealings.

     Choosing to ignore the continued joke, Austin changed the subject. “Good. Yeah. Well, send me the info about Fautech. I’m curious what the Bobs had to say about it.”

     “Will do. And congrats on the upcoming nuptials!” Marv slid a finger across his lips.

     Austin shook his head as he walked back to his office. Marv knew it was a joke and was simply teasing, taking it too far. Austin didn’t have time to be bothered.

     Before getting back to work, he wandered out to his assistant’s desk. “Daphne, I need you to get me two tickets to whatever gala Marv’s been talking about.”

     “Did you say two?” Her eyebrows shot up, and she leaned back in her chair, nearly tipping it over.

     “Yes, more than one and less than three.” He needed to be more careful with the sarcasm.

     “Marv already has his tickets.” She bit back a smile.

     “They are for me. And please book me dinner reservations for that same night some place close to the hotel.”

     She clapped before picking up her pen. “Someone special?”

     Austin shrugged. “Don’t know yet.”

     Her grin was not the response he expected, but asking about it only meant he’d be subjected to the answer.

***

     Austin set his backpack down near the entry table. “Mom, I’m home. Want me to order dinner or call a chef?”

     “Dinner is just about ready. Rich or not, I can still cook.” Mom wiped her hands on her apron. “I hear congratulations are in order.”

     “For what?” Austin grabbed a chilled bottle of sparkling water and twisted off the cap.

     “When do I get to meet your fiancée?”

     Lemon-infused water droplets landed on the floor. “Wha—how?”

     Mom laughed and handed him a rag. “Marv called.”

     “Crap.”

     “He thought it was quite funny.”

     “I’m sure he did. Meanwhile, I still have to find a date for Saturday.”

     “Want me to find you a date?”

     “Very funny.”

     “Oh, but Austin, I’m serious. Grab plates and silverware.”

     Austin obeyed and considered her offer. He did need a date. “I’ll give you three days.”

     He’d get more work done if he didn’t have to spend the week trying to find a suitable companion, and his mother knew what he liked and didn’t like.

     “Will you marry her?” Mom sat in the chair he pulled out. His mother was on a never-ending quest to marry him off.

     “Oh, Mom.” He laughed and shook his head.

     “But, you’ll think about it?”

     “Maybe.” Non-committal, that word was the easiest way to end that line of questioning.

     “Dallas and Victoria are coming to visit in a few weeks. I told them we had plenty of room.” His mom worked at keeping the family connected. She’d moved in with him shortly after his father died a few months before.

     It helped make Austin feel closer to family and evenings less lonely.

     “That’s fine. Families too?”

     “Yep. They want to be here for the wedding.” Laughter echoed in the kitchen.

     “You can drop the joke.”

     “I thought a backyard ceremony would be nice.”

     “Seriously, Mom, I’m not getting married.”

     “You gave me three days, and you said maybe.” She sounded giddy.

     “To find me a date . . . only a date.”


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