Thursday, March 17, 2022

Bring It Back(list) Two Truths and a Lie by PG Forte

Posted by: PG Forte


A special Bring It Back(list) post for St Patrick's Day

All work and no play has been the story of Brenda Donovan's life these past few months. Her concern about the future of her family's inn has her tied up in knots--and not in a good way. Between searching for a buyer for the business, and keeping secrets from her cousins, she's had no time to pursue an actual relationship. But pretending to date sexy Max Murphy, the hotel scout who's there to assess the property? That's totally doable. Especially when games, role-playing, and light bondage are included in the package. Falling in love was never supposed to be part of their deal; but now her heart's in play and all bets are off. 

 Max has no problem with hiding his true identity from Brenda's cousins. If that's the way she wants to play it, he's all in. But are Luke and Gwyn the only ones he's deceiving? It's game, set, and match this time around. And when all the scores have been tallied, and everyone's secrets are finally revealed, will the cousins lose the Wild Geese Inn?


“So, what made you decide to sell the hotel?” Max asked as he cut into his steak. They were having dinner together in the hotel’s dining room—their “test date,” as he’d called it when he’d talked her into it that morning in her office. And already Brenda was having second thoughts. 

“Not so loud!” She cast a worried glance around, but no one appeared to be listening. Still, it never hurt to be cautious. “I told you I don’t want anyone to know yet.” 


“And besides I haven’t decided anything. I’m just ‘entertaining offers,’ as they say.” 

“You know what I mean. You sent out feelers. You wouldn’t have done that if you weren’t at least considering it.” 

“What’s your point?” 

“The inn’s been in your family for quite some time now, hasn’t it? I’m just trying to understand why you’re suddenly looking to change things?” 

Brenda sipped her sauvignon blanc. “Fishing for information, Max? I thought this was supposed to be a ‘date’?” 

“It is. But we’re still in killing-several-birds-at-once mode. And, as far as I know, it’s considered usual for people on dates to ask each other questions, isn’t it? Or to share information about themselves?” 


“I’m not trying to trip you up—really I’m not. I’m just curious. I’d been told the property was under new management, so you’ll understand my confusion.” 

“It is under new management. My cousins and I only inherited the hotel a few months ago, after our grandmother passed away. So, if you think about it, it’s actually a very good time to reevaluate our situation.” 

“I’m sorry,” Max replied quietly. “I hadn’t heard about your grandmother. I apologize if I came across as insensitive.” 

“Thank you. And no, don’t apologize. As it happens, I’m a little defensive on the subject. As you’ve probably already gathered, I’m anticipating a fight. My cousins want to hold on to the place at any cost. I prefer to keep our options open and explore the possibilities. Don’t get me wrong,” she added. “I love this place as much as they do. There’s so much history here, so much potential for growth. But I want to see it reach that potential. I don’t want my mismanagement to be the cause of its demise.” 

“I’m sure that would never be the case.” 

“Thank you again. I wish I shared your confidence. But I’m afraid reaching that potential will require resources my cousins and I can’t supply.” 

“Such as money?” 

“In large enough amounts? Yes. Among other things.” 

“What if your cousins don’t agree to the sale?” Brenda shrugged. “If it’s a good enough offer, I’m sure I can get them to see the sense of it. If not…then I don’t know. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” 

After dinner, as they were leaving the dining room, Max paused in the entryway. “So I’ve been hearing about this famous kissing stone of yours. Since we’re ‘dating’ now, shouldn’t we uphold tradition?” 

That damn stone. Brenda sidestepped quickly to avoid it. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

“I’m saying that I’d like to kiss you.” He glanced at the floor. “Isn’t this where we’re supposed to stand? Isn’t the tradition that you kiss your lover here if you want the two of you to be together forever?” 

“We’re not lovers.” 

Smiling, he reached for her hand. “I’m hoping that’s about to change.” 

So was she. She didn’t try and stop him as he twined his fingers with hers, but when he tried to pull her close, she balked. Nope. Not happening. “I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, Max. But you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.” 

Max slanted her a skeptical look. “It’s your family’s legend, isn’t it? Won’t it look strange if you don’t kiss me?” 

“No, actually. It would look much stranger if I did. It might be my family’s legend, but anyone who knows anything about me knows I don’t believe in that nonsense. Never have.” 

“Never?” he asked, an unexpected note of challenge in his voice. “Not even when you were younger?” 

“Oh, well.” Brenda shrugged dismissively. “Sure. I believed in Santa Claus once too.” 

“Then you grew up and ‘put away childish things,’ as they say?” 


“Ah, c’mon. You’re not really that cynical, are you?” 

“How is that cynical? I’m just being an adult.” 

“Adulting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” 

Brenda was starting to get annoyed. “Maybe not. But someone has to do it.” 

“But not all the time, right? Don’t you ever want to take a break from it all?” 

Do I? “You have no idea how much.” 

“Why don’t we play a game? Just for one night.” 

“What kind of game?” she asked, intrigued despite herself. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d played anything. Maybe that was part of her problem? 

“Let’s make believe we’re lovers who are carrying on a secret affair. We’re here for the week, we’ve just had dinner, and now we’re on our way back to our room to make love.” 

He was here for the week. They had just had dinner. Two truths. Brenda frowned. That weird sensation of having been here and done this all before was back, stronger than ever. Was this still just part of their cover story? “You know my cousins are never going to believe something like that, right? We only just met.” 

“This has nothing to do with your cousins. This would just be for us. Haven’t you ever role-played?” 

“Not really, no.” 

“No,” Max repeated. His smile had a bitter edge. “No, I guess not. You’ve probably never felt the need to be anyone but yourself your whole life.” 

She really hadn’t. At the moment, however, she was kind of liking the idea. If she were someone else, maybe she wouldn’t feel so weighted down by responsibility. She wouldn’t have to calculate the consequences of every action, or worry how things would end. She could have fun. She was a little surprised at how unexpectedly exciting that seemed. When had her life become so endlessly dreary? “So how would something like that start?” 

Max smiled. “Like this, I think.” He tugged on their joined hands, used his other hand to cup the back of her neck, and pulled her close. This time she let him. 

It’s just a rock, Brenda reminded herself. Just a random block of inert minerals. It’s no different from the rest of the floor. There’s no such thing as magic—no spells, no curses, no fucking enchantments. I’m only doing this to prove to myself that kissing him means nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

All the same, she could feel herself trembling as he slanted his mouth over hers, as though an icy-cold wind had swept over her. And when their lips touched, she was rocked by something. A shock of recognition. A feeling of completion. Total nonsense, she was sure; just the product of her overactive imagination. But if the sharp intake of his breath was anything to go by, it had just hit them both. What was that anyway? The touch of a ghostly hand? A harbinger of destiny? An echo from the past? Or something completely prosaic—like the draft from an open door? 

Her money was on the door. But all the same, fear had her on the verge of pulling away until Max wrapped an arm around her waist. He held her in place, blocking her flight. He cradled her skull as he deepened the kiss, and she was lost. Nothing had ever felt this right. She slid her arms around his waist and kissed him back, and it didn’t even matter where they were. On the stone, in the restaurant, with a dozen people or more watching. Are you fucking kidding me? Maybe there was something special about the stupid stone. Because she’d only ever felt like this once before—the last time she’d kissed someone here.

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