His Perfect Fake Engagement - Shannon McKenna


“I was set up.”

Experience had taught Drew Maddox to keep his voice even and calm when dealing with his volatile uncle, but nothing was going to help his cause today.

“The damage is the same!” Malcolm Maddox flung the crumpled handful of cheap tabloid magazines he’d been clutching in his fist onto the conference room table. “For anyone who looks at this, you’re just a coke-sniffing scoundrel with a taste for eighteen-year-olds! Why in God’s name were you at a party at that lowlife degenerate’s house in the first place? What in holy hell were you thinking?”

Drew let out a breath, counting down slowly. The photos in the tabloids were of him, sprawled on a couch, shirt ripped open, looking clouded and disoriented, while a young woman in a leather miniskirt, large breasts popping out of her skin-tight silver top, sat astride him.

“I was trying to help a friend,” Drew repeated. “She found out that her younger sister was at that party. She couldn’t get in herself, but she knew that I used to run with that guy years ago, so she asked me to check up on her sister.”

“We were supposed have dinner with Hendrick and Bev tonight,” Uncle Malcolm said furiously. “Did that even cross your mind before you got into this mess?”

“I do remember the dinner, yes,” Drew said. Hendrick Hill was Malcolm’s longtime partner and cofounder of their architecture firm, Maddox Hill. Drew had always liked the guy, uptight and humorless though he usually was.

“Then Bev reads about your drunken orgy at Arnold Sobel’s house at her hairdresser’s!” Malcolm stabbed the tabloids with his finger. “She sees the CEO of her husband’s company in these pornographic pictures. She was horrified, Drew.”

“It wasn’t a drunken orgy, Uncle, and I never—”

“Sanctimonious bastard,” Malcolm growled. “He had nerve, sputtering at me about morals and appearances. As far as Hendrick is concerned, it doesn’t matter how many architectural prizes and honors you’ve won if you can’t keep your pants zipped. He thinks you’re a liability now, and if he persuades the rest of the board, he has the votes to oust you, no matter what I say.”

“I know,” Drew said. “But I was set up at that party. Someone played their cards carefully.”

Malcolm let out a savage grunt. “You’re the one who’s playing, from what I can see. And if the board fires you, all of our clients will smell blood in the water. It’s humiliating!”

I was set up. He had to stop repeating it. Uncle Malcolm didn’t want to hear it, so at this point he’d be better off just keeping his mouth shut.

PR disaster or not, he couldn’t have done anything differently. When his friend Raisa found out someone brought her sister Leticia to one of Arnold Sobel’s famously depraved parties, she’d been terrified that the younger woman would fall prey to a house full of drunken, drugged-up playboys.

Then Leticia had stopped answering her phone, and Raisa had completely freaked out. If Drew hadn’t intervened, she would have forced her way through Arnold’s security and into Sobel’s party by herself—with a gun.

It would have ended badly. Certainly for Raisa. Maybe for everyone.

Drew couldn’t let that happen.

Of course, as he discovered afterward, Leticia had never been at the party at all. He and Raisa had been played. The target had been Drew all along.

But Uncle Malcolm didn’t want to hear it.

“I was set up.” He knew the words wouldn’t help, but he couldn’t stop repeating them. “They staged those pictures. The photographer was lying in wait.”

“If there’s one thing I hate more than a spoiled ass who thinks the world only exists for his pleasure, it’s a whiner,” his uncle snarled. “Set up, my ass. You’re a Marine, for God’s sake! Taken down by a pack of half-dressed showgirls?”

Ava, his younger sister, jumped in. “Uncle Malcolm, think about it,” she coaxed. “Drew’s not a whiner. A rebel and a screwup, maybe, but he always owned it. And this is so deliberate. The way those girls ambushed him—”

“Doesn’t look like an ambush to me. It looks like a damn orgy!”

“Someone’s telling you a story, Uncle,” Ava insisted. “Don’t be a sucker.”

“Ha. All I see is that your brother couldn’t care less about the reputation and the future of the company I spent my life building! If Hendrick uses his muscle to get the board to remove you as CEO, I can’t stop him. So start brushing up your resumé. As of today, you’re job hunting. Face Hendrick tonight like a man. He