My name is Tatum Alexander, and I’m a liar. There…I’ve said it. Now, before you judge me, hear me out. While I understand this might sound preposterous (if it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe it, either), trust me when I say it’s 100% true.
You see, what had happened was…my fiancé dumped me in the most epically humiliating way—while sitting at a table in a fancy restaurant, waiting for my friends and family to join us for my birthday dinner. But, he wasn’t just my fiancé (well, technically, my ex-fiancé), he was also the owner of the posh restaurant I worked at. And rather than quit my job after he dumped me, I stayed because it would’ve been career suicide to leave after I’d gotten so close to being a sous-chef (my dream job). The one thing I hadn’t expected was that a few months later, my ex-fiancé would hire his new girlfriend—who happens to work in the kitchen, one station away from me. Needless to say, I was unable to escape the embarrassment and devastation that surrounded my breakup…especially since the kitchen was full of nosy-bodies.
And since my ex has the heart of a corpse, he decided to schedule me and his new girlfriend to work side by side at the town’s annual foodie festival. She’s not a bad person—kind of sweet, really, aside from the whole dating my ex thing—so it wouldn’t have been that bad had she not spent the whole time discussing how “wonderful” her relationship was. Before I knew it, I was telling them all about the new guy I was dating. (I’ll let you in on a little secret…I wasn’t dating anyone. Didn’t really even know the guy, but that’s what I get for trying to sound like I wasn’t bothered by her stories of her “amazing” boyfriend.) I guess you can say that was the beginning of the train wreck. And boy, what a train wreck it was!
Looking back on it now, I can see where I went wrong. Then again, hindsight’s twenty-twenty. If I had to make a list of all the mistakes I made while forming this “half” truth of sorts (AKA my new boyfriend), I’d probably start with the boyfriend himself. You see…I had recently met my best friend’s older, extremely hot, sexy, and single cousin. And somehow, while describing my faux-beau, I ended up giving a very detailed description of said older, extremely hot, sexy, and single cousin of my best friend. The very next mistake happened about five seconds later when I was asked what his name was. Jay. Sounded simple enough. Except my bestie’s cousin’s name is Jason. Technically not the same name. But still, it would’ve been smarter to have gone with Ricardo…or Thor. Anything other than the first syllable of his real name. And the very next mistake happened five seconds after that…when I stupidly showed the girls his picture. It could be argued that that had been the biggest mistake of them all, considering the real Jason showed up to the very same foodie festival I was working. Although, with as well as I’d detailed his entire body, they could’ve very well picked him out of a crowd without a picture.
My story doesn’t end there, but I don’t want to bore you with the details of how my “lie” became somewhat of a “truth”…right after everyone I worked with witnessed him cheating on me (in his defense, he had no idea we were dating. In my defense, I had no idea he’d become interested in me after all my co-workers thought him to be a lying, cheating scumbag. But I digress.) All of that could’ve easily been avoided if I was a better liar, if I wasn’t such an awkward person—especially around a certain extremely hot, sexy, single guy—if I hadn’t kept it all from my best friend, or if that same best friend hadn’t “forbidden” me to see him in the first place. So all in all, it wasn’t entirely my fault.
But at least I now know what not to do when creating a fake relationship. So, if any of you find yourselves in a situation like I did (oh, who am I kidding? I’m literally the only person on the planet who could manage that) or in any situation where one might need an imaginary boyfriend, I have a few tips to keep in mind. One—never use a real person. Especially his name. It would be best if you take eleven or twelve different men and describe their physical traits as if they were one person. That way, the chances of anyone “finding” him will be slim to none. And if he is found…I’d say that’s as good as any sign I can think of that he’s your soul mate—which might behoove you to pick some pretty delicious-looking men, if you ask me. Two—and this one’s important, so pay very close attention…never, and I mean never show anyone a picture of this guy. If anyone asks why you don’t have any photos, make sure you have a realistic list of excuses. Such as: he’s camera shy; you lost all your pictures in the last software update on your phone; he’s a celebrity and doesn’t want to risk putting you in the public eye. Okay, that last one might be a bit too much. I never claimed to be a good liar. And three—which might very well be the most important tip I could ever give…do not, under any circumstances, fall in love with him (especially if you’ve made him up…because then you’d have a few additional problems to deal with rather than just getting caught in a lie).
Trust me…getting caught in what I call a “domino-effect” lie (once one falls apart, the entire thing comes crashing down) is not fun. So, if you’ve learned anything from me today, I hope that it’s the importance of a well-crafted lie. But in the event you get caught, always remember…it’s not a lie; it’s a “half” truth.
The (Half) Truth Excerpt
“You do know Michael used to be engaged to Tatum, right?”
“Yeah, he told me. But that was a while ago. Does it bother you, Tatum? You’ve never said anything about it.”
I thought about pointing out that six months wasn’t really a while ago, but I decided to let that go. And the idea of admitting how it felt to see him smile at her or whisper into her ear, let alone hear about all the things I didn’t have to witness, made me want to disappear. “Oh, no. I’m so over it. So, so over it.” And since stopping while I was ahead had never been my strong suit, I added, “In fact, I’ve been dating someone.”
“You have?” Both Rebecca and Amanda asked the same question at the same time, but while Rebecca’s voice was filled with excitement—which matched her bright eyes and ridiculous hand clap—Amanda’s was more cynical.
“Yup. And he’s amazing.”
“What’s his name?” Again with the doubtful tone from Amanda. She’d been part of my postbreakup support system, so I couldn’t exactly blame her for questioning my sudden confession. After everything Michael had put me through, this was something I definitely would’ve told her … had it been true.
“Uh … Jay. His name’s Jay.”
“Where’d you meet him?” This time, it was Rebecca asking, as if we were girlfriends sharing juicy gossip over mimosas at a spa.
I had no idea why I’d even started this. I should’ve known they’d jump all over it like rabid dogs on a T-bone. Yet I couldn’t back out now.
“We met at a barbecue.” Short and sweet, not many details I’d have to remember. Perfect.
“When?” Dammit, Amanda. She was no longer on my Christmas card list—not that I’d ever sent any out, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a list in case one year I felt ambitious. And if that year ever came, this heifer wouldn’t get one.
“Two weeks ago.”
“What’s he look like?” Rebecca’s blue eyes shimmered.
“Yeah, tell us what he looks like, Tatum.” And now she could forget getting a birthday present from me. It also helped that I had no idea when her birthday was.
“He’s tall. Hot. A man’s man.” That could’ve been anyone. I was still safe.
“How very nondescript of you.”
“Well, you know how it is, Amanda.” I glared at her, hoping she’d get the hint and go with it. “It’s still new, and I wouldn’t want anyone to get jealous of how perfect he is.”
“No need to worry about me. I’m very secure in my relationship with Michael.”
I wanted to ask Rebecca how secure she could possibly be with a man who, six months ago, had broken up with his fiancée on her birthday because he said he wasn’t sure if he was ready for something so serious. But I held back the wicked comments that longed to slip off my tongue.
The next words out of my mouth were Michael’s fault. Had he not forced me to spend the day with his new girlfriend, listening to every detail of their relationship, I never would’ve been in this position.
“He has dark hair that’s trimmed short on the sides and a little longer on top, just enough to look messy if he runs his fingers through it. His eyes are this amazing shade of green—sometimes they’re light, like blades of grass at the beginning of spring, and other times they’re darker, similar to the color of a Christmas tree. And he’s gotta be over six feet tall. When I stand next to him, I’m eye level with his chest.” I glanced at my phone in my hand, noticing that the photo still filled the screen, and realized I had described Jason to a T.
“Go on,” Rebecca prodded. “Is he fit like Michael?”
By this point, I was in it to win it.
“He makes Michael look like a wimp. And I’m not just saying that because Michael’s my ex, either. I could wash my clothes on his abs.” Well, that was taking it a little too far. I had to rein it in some if I wanted her to actually believe me. “He works out all the time, so he’s totally in shape. Not an inch of fat on him.”
“He sounds dreamy,” Rebecca said with a sigh.
“Yeah, he does. Almost too good to be true … like you made him up. You probably don’t have any pictures of him, do you?” As only a friend would, Amanda loved watching me dig my own grave.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” I thought about sticking my tongue out at Amanda in an immature “shows what you know” kind of way, but then I realized what I’d just done. In my need to prove her wrong—even though she wasn’t—I’d inadvertently dug my hole even deeper.
“Well, let’s see it.”
I had no choice but to show them the photo on my phone. I had to admit, though, the surprise on Amanda’s face when she saw it gave me a sense of victory—like winning Monopoly only because I cheated. Rebecca’s approval was simply the icing on the cake.
A cake that came crashing to the ground about thirty minutes later.
Rebecca stared at something over my shoulder and asked, “Hey, Tatum, isn’t that Jay?”
“Huh? Jay who?”
“Uh … your boyfriend,” Amanda reminded me with a quirked brow.
I craned my neck so fast it gave me a cramp. There was no way it was him. Okay, so that was wishful thinking on my part. Not only was there a chance he was here, but he was, in fact, here. At Taste of the Town. Standing a few tents away next to another guy.
My life was over.
Having Amanda believe I had lied about a boyfriend was one thing—having multiple people catch me in said lie was another. Add in the probability of Jason being one of those people, and … shoot me now.
About the Book
Author: Leddy Harper
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Tatum Alexander is so close to realizing her dream of becoming a sous chef she can taste it, but working at her ex-fiancé’s restaurant with his new girlfriend was never in her career plan. To save face and prove she’s moved on, Tatum cooks up a lie that she’s in a relationship with her best friend’s superhot cousin. There’s just one problem: Jason only recently moved to town, and he has no idea they’re already “dating.”
Jason’s a recovering ladies’ man who shouldn’t be on the menu, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to Tatum’s quirky charm. Giving her lie a kernel of truth, they decide some no-strings-attached fun between the sheets can’t hurt. But as Tatum’s forced to keep making up stories to cover her original fib, she has a hard time separating what’s real and what’s fake—including her feelings for Jason.
With too many tales spun, Tatum can only watch in horror as her collection of yarns begins to unravel, leaving everyone she cares about feeling betrayed. After so many lies, will it be too late to set the record straight? And more importantly, will she be able to convince Jason there’s truth in their love?
Leddy Harper had to use her imagination often as a child: she grew up the only girl in a family full of boys. At fourteen, she decided to use that imagination to write her first book, and she never stopped. She often calls writing her therapy, using it to deal with issues through the eyes of her characters.
Harper is now a mother of three girls, making her husband the only man in a house full of females. She published her first book to encourage her children to go after whatever they want, to inspire them to love what they do and do it well, and to teach them what it means to overcome their fears. You can learn more about Harper at www.leddyharper.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Leddy.Harper.
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