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Faking It to Making It

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«Faking It to Making It» - Элли Блейк

A dilemma, a deal… a date!Charmer Nate Mackenzie is in the middle of a plus-one dilemma for his friend’s wedding. Any of his recent dates would start dreaming of a solitaire for their own left hand. Worse, going stag will leave him at the mercy of a set-up by his ever-hopeful sisters. Discovering that Saskia Bloom is doing on-line dating research for a website, he strikes a deal. She’ll take the research rather than a relationship and he’ll get a fake date.There might be no shortage of sexual attraction between them – but as complete opposites will they be at all convincing as a ‘happy couple’… ?‘I know it’s a cliché, but I physically could not put this book down!’ – Stephanie, 41, Hampshire www.allyblake.com
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“Faking it in front of a guy’s family is hardly a common occurrence in my life. How about yours?”

Nate’s sensuous mouth grew flat, his stare much the same.

“No, didn’t think so.” Saskia reached for the top button of his shirt, her hand hovering an inch from his chest. “May I?”

“May you what?”

“Ruffle you up a little.”

He breathed deep, his chest lifting till the weave of his luxurious woollen jacket brushed the hairs of her arms, creating skitters of…something all the way to her elbows.

His gaze finally left his family home to connect with hers. The tangle of blue was enough to take her breath clean away.

“Ruffle away.”

About the Author

In her previous life Australian author Ally Blake was at times a cheerleader, a maths tutor, a dental assistant and a shop assistant. In this life Ally is a bestselling multi-award-winning novelist who has been published in over twenty languages, with more than two million books sold worldwide.

She married her gorgeous husband in Las Vegas—no Elvis in sight, although Tony Curtis did put in a special appearance—and now Ally and her family, including three rambunctious toddlers, share a property in the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane, with kookaburras, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and the occasional creepy-crawly. When not writing she makes coffees that never get drunk, eats too many M&Ms, attempts yoga, devours The West Wing reruns, reads every spare minute she can, and barracks ardently for the Collingwood Magpies footy team.

You can find out more at her website www.allyblake.com

Recent titles by the same author:




Did you know these are also available as eBooks? Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

Faking It to Making It

Ally Blake


Dear Reader

When the hero in this book, Nate Mackenzie, first appeared on the page in my last book, THE SECRET WEDDING DRESS, he was such a doll. Such a charming, industrious, energetic foil for that hero—big, bad Gabe Hamilton.

The more I got to know him, the greater my crush on the guy grew. So handsome, so funny, so strong, so resolute. And did I mention handsome? So when an idea sprang to mind about Saskia Bloom, a hopeful, helpful, sweet, bossy, left-of-centre statistician researching a piece on online dating, I thought, Who better to throw in her unsuspecting path than my darling Nate?

I just love having a vehicle for stories like this—joyful, warm, wacky, fresh, touching, cheeky…and hot, hot, hot. And I can’t wait to sit down and meet my next lucky couple, who are currently tootling along, thinking life’s just dandy, until—WHAM! I do so love my job.

For more about my books swing by my website at www.allyblake.com

Till then, happy reading!


For team Arabella Rose.

Josh, Laura, Cat, David, Sam, Kristy,

Liz, Emma & Gemma.

It was an honour and a trip, with extra sauce!


SASKIA BLOOM FICKED her dark fringe out of her eyes and peered through her vintage glasses at her laptop screen before madly scribbling notes on the yellow legal pad under the mouse.

“I’ll eat my shoes if you’re even a day under forty,” she mumbled at the photo of a guy grinning inanely back at her from the Dating By Numbers website.

Undeterred, StudMuffin33 kept on smiling, as if the dauntingly athletic profile was so appealing any woman would let the age-fib slip.

Favourite Movie: The Fast and the Furious

Collects: surfboards

Who’d Play You in the Movie of Your Life? Jason Statham Looking for: an open-minded lady with a twinkle in her eye

Good lord.

Mouse hover and click.

The photo of the next guy gave her such a fright she flinched. BirdLover28 had tufty hair, wore a grimace rather than a smile and had a chicken on his shoulder. A live one, she hoped.

Favourite TV Show: Dr Who (the original!)

Sundays are for: garage sales

Celebrity Crush: Tyra Banks

Looking for: fun in all the wrong places

Alas, Saskia would not be partaking of said fun. For, even though it had been several months since she’d been booted back into the dating pool, she wasn’t online looking for The One. Or a “Saturday night special” as one possibility had so gallantly offered.

Her account with Dating By Numbers was research, pure and simple. She and her business partner, Lissy—together known as SassyStats—had been hired by the site to collate a fun statistical analysis of online dating. In order to do the best job possible, she’d jumped from an aeroplane for a piece on adrenalin junkies. Dived with sharks for a study on phobias. In comparison, creating a dating profile was cushy.

Saskia lifted her booted foot to the chair, wrapped an arm around her woolly-tights-clad knee, and, chewing on the end of a pen, shook her head at the dozen more possibilities in her inbox.

Research or not, it was actually pretty flattering.

With her wavy brown hair, her mother’s olive skin, eyes that were kind of brown and a lean frame that puberty had pretty much ignored, under the right lighting, with humidity low, she could just about pull off cute. The idea that so many guys had considered her for a follow up email was a marvel.

If she’d known this was the response she’d get, she’d have signed up long ago! She’d met Stu in a pub, and look how that had turned out.

There he’d sat hunched in his old coat, looking so dark and mysterious, with pen smudges on his fingertips. He’d looked as if he’d needed a warm meal and a hug. Turned out he’d needed her mobile phone, her TV, her computers, her appliances and more. In recompense he’d left a nasty note, a huge debt and his dog.

Saskia glanced over at Ernest, the big wiry Airedale currently lying on his back, legs in the air, snoring on the dinky old armchair in the corner of her office.

With a sigh, she slid her feet back to the floor and shifted the legal pad an inch. She and Ernest might have discovered a bona fide fondness for one another, but she’d never get used to the angry red envelopes that fell through her mail-slot on a weekly basis. Never wanted to. The only way to make them go away was to work. And work some more. And then, when night fell and her bed was beckoning, get back to work.

Mouse hover and click.

Saskia lifted her hand off the mouse, ready to take notes on the next candidate, but at the sight of him her hand wobbled pointlessly in midair.

She might, in fact, have gasped at the sight, because Ernest suddenly snorted, his legs twitching like an up-ended spider, before settling back into a dream-filled sleep.

Gorgeous didn’t even begin to describe the man. Dropdead, movie star, take-your-breath-away gorgeous came a tiny bit closer. The shot was candid, with the man looking at something over the photographer’s shoulder. Dark blond hair precision cut. Sleeves of a pale blue business shirt neatly rolled up to his upper arms, a vein or two roping from wrist to elbow. A solitary raised eyebrow, a barely there lift to one corner of a truly sensuous mouth. But who’d even notice, considering the guy had the bluest eyes Saskia ever seen.

How does a man who looks like that not have someone in his life? she wondered. Though, considering the fibs the other men had told, she couldn’t count on it!

He did look resolute, as if he wouldn’t be used to hearing the word no, so maybe he was plain mean. Or into cross-stitching. Or he had halitosis. Or really gnarly toenails. Or maybe he was looking for something even more outrageous than “fun in all the wrong places.”

Intrigue levels rising, Saskia wriggled the blood back into her fingers and scrolled to the mini-profile that had been sent out with the guy’s initial contact.

Favourite Book: Catch-22

Drink of choice: double espresso

Thing you say more than any other: Next

Looking for: a wedding date, no strings

Pretty much bang-on to his picture, which was an anomaly unto itself. And Saskia did love an anomaly. That love had sent her from pure statistics into research in the first place. That moment reminded her why, as a seed of an idea sprang to life inside her.

Lifting her backside from her chair, she flicked through a pile of random papers till she found the press release Marlee at Dating By Numbers had sent over as part of the initial brief.

The number of people who had signed on—and only to that one site—was staggering. All of them had struggled using traditional avenues in their search for companionship, for sex, for love. Including her. And if a man who loved coffee as much as she did, had awesome taste in literature, and looked enough like a young Paul Newman to induce a drool epidemic had reached his thirties without finding someone, what would it take?

She’d been looking for an angle for her infographic, and she might just have found one.

When a massive Big Bang Theory mug appeared next to Saskia’s elbow, she nearly jumped out of her skin. “God, you scared me half to death!”

“Not surprised. You have that weird scientist look in your eyes,” said Lissy. The blue and purple tips of her long blonde locks bounced as she landed with a whump in the bouncy chair on her side of the paint-splattered old table they used as an office desk. “If it was legal I’d marry your espresso machine.”

“Get in line.” Saskia put her glasses on the desk, blinked to clear her eyes and, breathing in the rich scent of the cocoa enriched brew, let the huge mug warm her hands before closing her eyes and taking a sip. After Stu had taken off with everything she’d leased computers but bought a replacement espresso machine. Horse before the cart and all that.

“So, what are we working on?” asked Lissy. “The railway map thing? The business listing thing?”

“The online dating thing.”

“Ooh, much more fun.”

“I’ll drink to that.” They clinked mugs. “I think I’ve just had a bit of a breakthrough. I’m considering adding something extra to my analysis—along the lines of an equation for finding love.”

Lissy stopped sipping at her coffee and blinked. “Like, chocolates plus flowers multiplied by heaps of hot sex equals never having to say you’re sorry?”

Saskia laughed as she scrawled curlicues in the top corner of her legal pad, her mind whizzing now it had hit on something. “Not quite. Mathematics is natural. Love is natural. It only makes sense that it’s mathematically quantifiable.”

Lissy glanced pointedly at the pile of bills on Saskia’s side of the desk which, for the first time ever included a late mortgage payment.

“I wouldn’t be making work for myself, as I’m doing the research anyway,” Saskia said. “And I think it would make a great anchor for the bottom of the infographic.”

Then again, maybe Lissy was right. If Saskia wanted to wrestle back control of her mortgage payments, let alone get back to the renovations she’d been in the middle of doing when Stu absconded, she needed to focus.

Unfortunately, while Lissy was a crazy brilliant graphic artist, to her, focus was a foreign word. “It’s never been done? This love formula thing?”

“Maybe,” Saskia said, enthusiasm spiking again. “Or maybe nobody’s ever tried. Perhaps somebody just needed inspiration.”

“Like when Einstein was hit with that apple.”


“Whatever. So, what hit you?”

“Nothing hit me.” Saskia made the mistake of glancing at her laptop.

Lissy’s eyes narrowed. Then, quick as a rattlesnake, she spun her chair round the desk and looked over Saskia’s shoulder before she had the chance to snap the thing closed.

“Ha!” Lissy pointed. “Talk about inspiration. Who is that?”

Saskia’s eyes skewed back to the monitor, to the bluest eyes and the hint of what would have amounted to an indecently sensuous smile if the photographer had only been kind enough to wait half a second more. “His handle is NJM.”

“Handle? He’s one of our online dating guys?” Lissy blew out a long, slow whistle. “Why did I let you be the guinea pig on this one?”

“Because you were dating Dropkick Dave and when he saw you smile at the greengrocer he snapped all your carrots in half.”

Lissy winced at the memory. “I’ll admit the guy was high strung—”

Saskia coughed out a laugh at the understatement of the year.

“—but Lordy the man knew how to kiss.” With that Lissy disappeared into a daze. Saskia made a mental note to check Lissy’s phone and make sure Dropkick Dave had been deleted.

With a shake of her head Lissy came to, tiptoed her chair back to her side of the table, and angling her mug at the back of Saskia’s laptop, said, “Stats please.”

Saskia shuffled the mouse and clicked on the link for NJM’s full online profile. The sight of neat and tidy columns, of horizontal bars filled with information, of questions with answers, and she found her zen. “Six-two. Blue eyes. Dark blond hair. Financier. No interests listed.”

Well, now, that just seemed a little sad.

“I put up my hand to give him some!” said Lissy.

Saskia laughed, then realised she was still rolling a finger over the mouse like a caress.

She lifted her hand and cricked her fingers. She was mid-knuckle-crack on her second hand when Lissy came out with, “Screw research. You should date him. For real.”

Saskia’s mouth twisted sideways. She noticed that her hand was on the mouse again, and it had somehow shifted till the little arrow hovered over the bright yellow button with the happy-fonted “Why not?” scripted inside of it.

Why not? “He’s not my type.”

“Honey, he’s everybody’s type. And don’t even try to tell me you wouldn’t be his. You’ve got that sexy geek girl thing that’s so hot right now. And if he’s on that site, he’s looking for love.”

“First, this is a job, not a cattle call. Second, he’s not looking for love—he’s looking for a wedding date. Third, for all we know this is one of twenty dating sites he’s listed on and he’s completely indiscriminate.”

“Wow. Strident, much?”

Saskia breathed out long and hard. “Lissy—”

“I know, I know. You’ll get there when you’re ready. But, sweetheart, how long has it been since What’s-his-name decamped?”

Saskia glanced at Ernest and in a stage whisper said, “Seven months.”

Lissy whispered back. “The dog can’t understand English.”

“Oreos,” Saskia said, this time at a normal decibel level.

Ernest woke with such a start he fell off the armchair. Three seconds later he was at Saskia’s side, paws on her lap, claws stretching out the zigzags on her woollen tights in the hope of finding cookie crumbs.

“Later, baby,” she said, ruffling his ears, and sending him back to the chair with a pat on the bum.

“Way I see it, this is your chance to try something new.” Lissy reached out and turned Saskia’s monitor so she could get a better look at the man thereupon. “Not some indigent fixerupper, but a guy who’s sexy and brilliant. A man who looks like he knows how to take care of himself for once. And take care of you, if you know what I mean?”

Lissy finished with a Groucho-style eyebrow-wiggle, then slurped at her coffee, shuffled in her chair and got to work.

Saskia tried to do the same, cracking the spine of a fresh yellow legal pad, writing “Dating By Numbers” at the top and “Love Formula” beneath. She crossed it out, tried to think of a more appropriate title and, no thanks to Lissy, couldn’t.

Also thanks to Lissy, her mind kept curling back to the same conversation she and Lissy had had a million times over. Lissy postulating that Saskia’s yen for needy guys came down to a childhood spent trying, without much success, to lighten the life of her clueless, maths professor, single dad. Saskia contending that she simply liked who she liked. And if that happened to be men who made her feel indispensable, then what was wrong with that?

Apart from the fact that it never lasted.

Her gaze swept back to the screen and she let it trail over every inch of yum.

NJM looked like the least needy man on the planet. But could he kiss a girl so well she’d forgive him for snapping her carrots? Yeah, she thought, tingles curling into existence inside her belly, I have a feeling he could.

But that wasn’t why she clicked on the happy yellow “Why not?” button on NJM’s email. She had a job to do—a well-paying job. NJM was an anomaly in the heretofore predictability of the remainder of subjects in her study and therefore worth investigating further.

And while she had more work than she would ever have taken on at one time under normal circumstances, a girl had to eat.

Weddings did it every time.

It had taken years, diligence and dogged immovability, but Nate Mackenzie had finally trained his sisters to leave him well enough alone when it came to his confirmed bachelorhood. Until a wedding invite arrived in the mail. Then all bets were off.

He’d just hung up from his oldest sister, Jasmine, when the twins, Faith and Hope, came at him, conference-call-style.

“She’s lovely!” one of them exclaimed before even emitting a hello.

He leant back in his office chair, executed a half turn till the sunshine slashing past the Melbourne skyline and through the intimidating wall of windows nearly blinded him. “I’m fine, thanks. You?”

Ignoring his sarcasm, the twins tag-teamed. “Jasmine’s friend makes the best macaroons.”

“I’ve seen photos. She’s just your type.”

He opened his mouth to ask just what his type might be, but he snapped his mouth shut at the last second.

They were good at finding weak spots. He was better.

After all, he’d taught them all they knew: a consequence of becoming the man of the house at fifteen.

He pressed his feet to the floor and a thumb to the temple that had begun to throb. “I’m thrilled you are all so content in your own lives that you have the time to stick your collective noses into mine, but you need to focus your impressive energies elsewhere. Third World hunger, perhaps?”


“No more set-ups. Consider that an order.”

At that, a pause. Then lashings of laughter which had his other temple throbbing in syncopated rhythm against the first.

When they shifted into a familiar tune about how his natural born charm and adorable baby blues wouldn’t get him by for ever, Nate slowly turned his chair back to face his vast office as his brain flicked through possible ways to convince them to leave the subject of finding him a good woman the hell alone. He could honestly beg work, but that was nothing new. A weekend was something other people had. He hadn’t set foot on a beach in so long he couldn’t remember how sand felt between his toes. And telling them he was only keen on bad women hadn’t stopped them before; it had merely expanded the pond from which they fished on his behalf.

“I’m seeing someone!” The walls of Nate’s vast office seemed to heave away from him as the import of the words he’d just uttered echoed into the ensuing silence. Damn twins—they were like a pair of hammers banging at an exposed nerve. It had been bound to jerk eventually.

But when the silence deepened, Nate wondered if he’d hit on something inspired. If he oughtn’t to have invented a significant other years ago—someone who travelled often, was ethically against telephones, who had lost her whole family in some tragic accident so he could therefore never subject his love to the pain of meeting his.

Caught up in his own daydreams of freedom, he realised his chance to hang up on a high a moment too late.

One twin said, “Someone who can string a sentence together without saying ‘um’?”

“What the hell do I care?” he heard himself bellow. “So long as she looks good, smells nice and goes home happy.”

“Nate,” they said on twin sighs, with familiar waves of guilt pouring down the phone line. They knew they should be nicer, considering all he’d sacrificed to make sure they were well-adjusted after their father died. Knowing didn’t make it so. They had stubborn Mackenzie genes after all.

“The worst part is I don’t think you’re kidding,” said one.

“That the perfect Nate date wants no commitment, no happy-ever-after, no way,” said the other.

“Find her for me and then we can talk,” said Nate as his office door swung open. Gabe poked his head through the gap. Done with being outnumbered, Nate waved his recently returned business partner in with a brisk flap of his hand.

One raised eyebrow later, Gabe shut the door behind him and ambled across the room to lower his huge form into a chair that would have been plenty big enough for any other man. Gabe, on the other hand, looked as if he’d need a crowbar to get out.

“I have to go,” said Nate. “My ten o’clock is here.”

“Say ‘hi’ to Gabe from me.”

Then, “Tell him if it doesn’t work out with Paige, he can always—”

Nate hung up before any more of that image made its way into his subconscious.

“The girls on the warpath?” said Gabe, as Nate once again rubbed his thumbs across both temples.

“This time, it’s your fault.”

“How’s that, exactly?”

“If you weren’t with Paige, you’d never have met Mae and Clint, who’d never have invited me to their wedding. And Macbeth’s witches wouldn’t have made it their life’s mission to find me a woman.”

Gabe’s dark stare flattened. “Are you wishing away my woman?”

“Not,” said Nate, settling back in his chair. “For years you walked around like a bear with a sore tooth. Now you’re practically cuddly.”

Gabe’s lip curled as he as good as snarled. But then the big guy seemed to soften, sweeten, and the smile that slipped through confirmed cuddly was fine, if it meant he had her.


Thankfully Nate was spared, as Gabe’s mobile rang and he answered with a gruff, “Hamilton.”

To think, Nate mused, it felt like only yesterday that together he and the big guy had sketched out their radical dream of a maverick venture capital business on the back of a beer coaster in a pub near uni. And now that crazy dream was a shining beacon of trust, fiscal responsibility and innovation within the morass of world-wide financial tremblings.

Nate had reached the heights he’d envisioned that long ago night, and had soared higher still. He had property all over the world, a stake in some of the most successful businesses in the country, and more money than he could count. And yet the heart of that dream, the pinnacle he’d aspired to, the moment when the pendulum of success had hit its peak and he could ease back, content with his success and enjoy the spoils, had never eventuated.

Every decision, every purchase, every paperclip was still under his tight control—as though if in letting go he’d lose it all. And it wasn’t lost to him that he was nearing the age when his own hard-working father had gone to work one day and never come home.

Gabe hung up and said, “You free for lunch? The gaming guy I was telling you about is meeting me at Zuma at one, and I’m sure having us both there’ll put the requisite sparkle in his eyes to get his scrawl on the dotted line.”

Nate ran his hands over his face, pushing the mounting signs of frustration down deep. “I can swing by at quarter past.”

“Better. Keep ’em keen.” Gabe pressed himself from the chair and only when he reached the door did he look back.

“So, have you got a date for Mae and Clint’s wedding, or what?” Gabe asked.

Nate lugged his stapler all the way across the room. It bounced off the wall a foot from Gabe’s shoulder.

“I take it that’s a no?”

Then Gabe was out through the door, leaving Nate to deal with the onset of a new range of throbs in his temples.

It was a no. And yet he’d told Faith and Hope he was seeing someone. When the actual truth was somewhere in between.

He’d get a damn date, if only to get them off his back for the next few weeks till the big day. But it wouldn’t be anyone they knew. Or even anyone he knew for that matter.

Asking a woman on a date was one thing. Asking a woman to a wedding was akin to smothering himself in catnip and taking a swan dive into a pride of lionesses. There wasn’t a kind way to tell someone with confetti stuck to her eyelashes that it was never going to happen.

But it was never going to happen.

For the six years between the day of his father’s heart attack and the day his trust fund had been opened to him he’d devoted himself to being the man in his young sisters’ lives. They’d repaid the favour by using his toothbrush, and wearing his shirts to bed. He’d asked them to stop and they’d acted out by dating his friends. And no matter how he’d managed to swallow it down, to let them do what they had to do, they’d cried themselves to sleep. He’d heard them, night after night, the sound tearing away at his insides. Until he’d become impervious to tears, to mood swings, to raging hormones and wily feminine ways. It was the only way he’d lived to fight another day.

Two hours after Mae had told him to “save the date,” he’d tagged a research team to find him a dating website. All he’d told them was that it had to boast discretion and success; they didn’t need to know why.

Since then he’d met six perfectly nice, attractive, elegant, smart women, every single one of whom had taken one look at him and sized him up for a tux, a four-bed house and a Range Rover with a reversing camera.

But time had run out.

He checked his email to find another of his “Maybes” had come back with a “Why not?”

More determined than ever, he opened the email. Her tag was Bloomin.

Favourite Pizza Topping: ham & red peppers

Favourite Music: retro grunge

If I Could Be Anywhere in the World I’d Be: right where

I am

Looking for: someone to talk to

Retro grunge? What the hell was retro grunge? Sounded dire. And yet he opened her picture for a second look. And then he remembered.

After an hour of trawling the site that first night he’d hit a point where the string of women in bikinis grinning suggestively at the camera had become a blur. He’d rather have tugged out his own eyelashes than read another thing but the very next picture that had appeared on the screen had been so unexpected it had stopped him short.

A woman in her late twenties sitting in a café, with a shaggy scarf-thing around her neck, dark hair in a messy twist that just reached one shoulder, and an old felt fedora perched on top of her head.

Nate leaned his elbow on the desk and rested his chin between thumb and forefinger. With the other hand he zoomed in till her eyes filled the screen. She was attractive, in an off-beat kind of way, with her fine chin, fine nose and soft pink lips curved into an easy smile. But those eyes of hers were something else. Wide-set, the colour hovering on the edge of brown, the long dark lashes creating sultry shadows below.

But within them was the most captivating thing about her, that one thing that had eluded him for so long…Contentment.

He wasn’t sure he even knew what that felt like any more. And here, at his fingertips, was a woman who claimed to be happy being right where she was.

Without another thought he hit “Reply,” picked a time, asked her to pick the place. Even if he’d built a client base on becoming on a first-name basis with some of the best chefs in town, in this case it was far better to go somewhere atypical or it would get back to his sisters.

It always did.

And a man had to have his priorities straight.


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