The Fill-in Boyfriend

Chapter 17

Hayden slid off the stool.

“Where are you going? I’m not finished being inspired,” Olivia said.

Hayden directed Bec onto the stool in his place. “I need to take Gia home. She’s had enough of our crazy family for one night, I am sure.”

“Bye, Gia,” Bec said. “Thanks for doing everything I asked you to.”

It’s like she said it to remind Hayden . . . or me . . . that tonight was an act, not real. Hayden didn’t need to be reminded. He had put on a perfect show.

Olivia gave me a hug without using her hands, which were dotted with paint, pressing her wrists to my shoulders. “Good to meet you. I was serious about that bone structure. Come back and see me.”

I smiled.

“Dinosaur bones,” Bec said as Hayden and I left.

Hayden glanced at me a few times as we walked down the hall. “My family is weird but I love them.”

“Your family is awesome. You’re mom isn’t . . .” I trailed off, not wanting to bring up a bad subject.

“Isn’t what? Normal? Sane?”

I shook my head. “No, of course not. It’s just she and Bec were kind of fighting. She’s not mad, is she?”


“About the whole revenge thing.”

“No, she’s not mad.” He opened the front door for me and the cold air bit at my cheeks, making me realize they were hot. “And if you think that was fighting, then you haven’t seen Bec fight.”

“I just can’t believe you told your mom about your revenge plans.”

“It’s my sister. She’s the center of all our craziness.”

“I can see that.”

“I’m sure you can, considering what she forced you to do tonight.”

“She didn’t force me,” I said. I wouldn’t mind hanging out again, but I couldn’t admit that. It felt weird, like I wanted something more from him, and I didn’t. We were both putting on an act. It would be completely ridiculous to read into an act.

“Well, I know she asked you to, so thank you. You did really well. Have you ever thought about studying acting?”

I laughed as I climbed into his car. “No, I haven’t.”

“It’s fun, though, right? It’s like a natural high to perform a scene like we basically did tonight.” His eyes were shining and I could see that he’d enjoyed the night for a different reason than I did.

“It was fun.”

“My mom’s right, though,” he said. “It was super immature of me to want payback, but in a small way, I feel a little better now.”

“Do you at least have closure? I know that’s what you wanted.”

“Yes, I do. No looking back.”

“No looking back,” I repeated.

I directed him to my house and when he stopped at the curb I jumped out before he turned off the engine. I didn’t want to make him pretend to be my date anymore. So I was surprised when I was halfway up the sidewalk and he was suddenly beside me.

“You’re fast,” he said.

“Oh. You don’t have to walk me up.”

“I can’t help it. My dad raised me right.”

“Where was your dad tonight?”

“He goes to bed early and wakes up with the sun.”

“So your mom named you but are you more like your dad or your mom?”

“Do you mean am I a wild free spirit or a conservative early riser?”


“What do you think?” he asked.

“I don’t know. You went to prom with me at the drop of a hat, no questions asked.”

“I asked questions.”

“Not ones that mattered.”

“You were too pretty for those questions.”

I smiled and tried not to be too flattered but a few butterflies took flight in my stomach. “Don’t you mean too lonely?”

He gave me a smirk. “Well, that too.”

We made it to the doorstep and I turned toward him. “So prom night makes me think you’re like your mom. But . . .”


“But then you walk me up to my door out of the obligation instilled in you to be a gentleman and that makes me think you’re more like your dad.”

“My mom might take offense to that.”


“Because had she taken you home, she would’ve probably walked you to your door too.”

“So then I’d be standing on my front porch with your mom.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, not a great image.”

“So you’re saying you’re like your mom?”

“No. You got it right. I’m a little bit of my mom, a little of my dad, and a lot of me.”

“Well, that’s a very good mixture.” I pulled out my keys to unlock the door. “I had fun tonight.”

“What would you have done tonight if you hadn’t gone with me?” he asked.

Logan’s party. I hadn’t even thought about it since the beginning of the night. At first I’d even thought that the second Hayden dropped me off I would head straight there for the end of it, but I didn’t feel like doing that at all right now. “My friend from school is having a party tonight. He’s thrown some killer . . .”

I trailed off because I couldn’t remember the last time a party had really been all that killer. Hayden tilted his head like he was waiting for me to finish. He was giving me that look again, the one where he was searching for something beyond what I was offering. Hadn’t he learned by now that what he saw was what he got?

“Go on,” he said.

“Never mind. It was stupid.”

The front door opened then—how could I forget that my parents always waited up for me?—and my dad appeared.

“Gia?” he said.

“Yes, sorry. I’m coming in.”

My dad took one step out. “Hello, I’m Mr. Mont­gomery.”

“Good to meet you, sir. I’m Hayden.”

My dad looked at me to explain who this was and I didn’t know how. “He just brought me home. Thanks, Hayden.”

I walked inside and heard my dad offer a better good-bye than I had then close the door.

My mom sat on the couch reading. “How did studying go?”

“I don’t think she was studying,” my dad said.

“What?” My mom looked concerned.

“The girl you met earlier? It was her brother. The one I told you about. He gave me a ride home.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” my dad asked.

“I just did.” I looked between the two of them, waiting for them to ask more, to accuse me of not being where I said I was. My mom just folded the blanket she’d been using and placed it on the couch. I tried to imagine what would happen if I told them about revenge and fake dating. The images in my brain consisted of a lot of sputtering speeches and confused looks. “I’m going to bed.”

“Say good night to your brother too. He’s leaving first thing in the morning.”

“Okay.” I knocked lightly on my brother’s door but there was no answer. I cracked it open and saw that he was already in bed.

He rolled over and sat up a little. “Hi, G. You’re home.”

“Yes. Just saying good night. Have a safe drive tomorrow.”

He dropped back onto his pillow. “What was up with Goth Girl earlier? Why are you hanging out with her?”

“She’s just a friend. Sort of.”

He gave a sharp laugh that caused tension to spring into my chest and I shut his door before he said something rude. Hayden was wrong. My brother didn’t want a relationship with me. After spending some time with Hayden and Bec, I could see that what my brother and I had wasn’t great.

When I got to my room I started a group text with Claire and Laney to let them know I wouldn’t be joining them. We ended up texting about my date. They gave me the expected responses—lots of exclamation marks and all-caps—which tonight didn’t feel as satisfying as they normally did.

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