Faking for Keeps #5 by Morgan Hale

Chapter One


hat is she thinking?

My mom scrutinized me from head to toe, nodding. Waiting for her to voice her thoughts made my stomach churn.

“Do I look horrendous?” I kept my back to the mirror, afraid to turn around and see.

“Don’t be silly. No one ever looked horrendous in a dress worth thousands of dollars.” She rolled her eyes. “You’re gorgeous. I swear it was made for you.”

I stroked the black dress, still doubtful. “You think so?”

“I know so.”

I spun around to face my reflection in the mirror. “It doesn’t look bad.” It honestly didn’t. My fair skin glowed against the black. The diamond plated bodice glittered in the room's lighting. The knee-length silhouette swayed from side to side as I moved, highlighting my curves.

Miles sent the dress to me a few hours ago with a pair of red designer heels and a matching red designer purse. Is this his idea of making things right? Not bad. I giggled.

Mom’s gentle voice came from behind me. “Do you believe me now?”

I nodded. “You were right. It’s beautiful.”

“It’s beautiful because it’s on you.” She came closer behind me, staring into the mirror. “You’re beautiful, my sweet girl.”

“Well, I’m glad I took your genes rather than Dad’s.”

She snorted at my joke, gleaming as her eyes wrinkled with her full laughter. “Don’t do your dad like that. We both know he was the better looking one between us.”

The doorbell rang, interrupting us. Mom went to get it while I stayed in front of the mirror a little longer, looking myself over. She returned a minute later. “He’s here.”

My chest fluttered. “Miles?”

She shook her head. “His driver. You should go.”

I gave my mom a brief hug before heading outside and getting in the car.

Despite a comfortable ride, I couldn’t relax. What did Miles have in mind for us? And what would he think of the dress on me? What if he thought I was ugly? I got so caught up in my thoughts; I didn’t realize it when we reached our destination. The driver pulled over in front of a restaurant I’d only ever seen on television.

A giant building made of glass and gold steel.

A valet wearing a black coat and a wine-colored vest opened my door and let me out. Just in front of the entrance, a host stood with her hands folded in front of her. I assumed they’d both been waiting for me to arrive. When I emerged from the car, she stepped back and pulled the front door open for me. With her brown hair, tan skin and a smile so bright, I couldn’t help but smile back at her, despite my nervousness. “Good evening, Miss West. Please, follow me.”

She led me through a large dining room, up a spiral staircase, and down a hallway. Where is Miles? We passed through some double doors marked “Staff Only” and stopped at an elevator. She pressed the gold trimmed button to summon it, and the doors opened.

“Is Miles here?”

“Yes, Miss West. I‘m taking you to him.”

We rode the elevator three floors up, as far as it went. When the doors opened, she stepped out, grinning over her shoulder at me. “Come this way.”

My lip curled on one side. Miles, what are you up to?

She led me down a hallway and opened one of two heavy doors to a wide concrete staircase. As soon as she opened it, the scent of fresh roses and vanilla wafted across my nostrils. On one side of the stairwell, white candles in glass rosebud-shaped holders sat on polished silver stands. They flickered and painted the walls with their warm glow.


She gestured up the stairwell. “He’s waiting for you, Miss West.”

I took a deep breath and put a hand on the cool steel rail opposite the candles. In an instant, the memory of the night I met him came back to me. I’d climbed a stairwell similar to this one to get to that rooftop and drug him down the same stairs an hour later. With each touch of my hand on the rail, my heart warmed with gratitude for that meeting. Without it, I wouldn’t have Aria. Or a chance with Miles.

When I reached the top, the night air caressed my face. A cloudless sky spread out overhead, twinkling with bright stars that cut through the glow from the city’s lights. I glanced to the left, and the hair on my neck raised at the sight of the New York City skyline, the most beautiful I’d ever seen.

A path of plush red carpet lay at my feet, lined on either side by more white candles in the same rosebud holders. My eye followed the carpeted aisle to a table covered in white cloth. On it, two place settings of crystal glasses, gleaming white China, and silver cutlery awaited.

Miles stood next to it, his lips curling into a smile as he spotted me. His blue eyes sparkled, reflecting the candlelight, and his black three-piece suit caught the light of the full moon, shimmering under its kiss.

As I walked towards Miles, my eyes traced his sharp jawlines and his broad shoulders. God, he’s so handsome. I opened my mouth to speak to him, but it came out in a mere whisper. “Hey.”

“Hey.” His eyes moved down my body, unblinking as they took me in. “You’re…you’re so beautiful, Layla.”

“Don’t flatter me.” Heat spread to my cheeks like wildfire. My mom told me I was beautiful, and I believed her sincerity, but when Miles said it, I felt different. My chest and neck tingled. Like I was about to leap off a cliff, somehow believing love might catch me. Like he’d offered me the deepest longings of my heart, and I dared to reach out and accept them.

“I’m not flattering you, Layla. You’re stunning. Beautiful beyond words.”

Those darn butterflies in my stomach. “Thank you.”

He pulled out the other chair and gestured for me to sit. Then he returned to his own chair. “How’s Aria?”

“She’s alright. Deep asleep.”

Miles nodded to the host, and she left us. He had a mischievous smirk on his face. “I hope it’s ok. I took the liberty of making our selections tonight. No menus.”

“Hmm, that means I have to trust you.”

“I can understand why that might be challenging.” A glint of brokenness peeked through the playfulness in his eyes.

My heart ached to reach out to him. This gorgeous man wanted to make things right, and I was losing my will to make him work for it. “Well, I think I’m willing to give that trusting thing a second chance.”

“I think you’ll like what I picked.”

“Always the confident one.” I winked at him.

He laughed. “Just wait. You’ll see.”

Two wait staff emerged from the same stairs I’d come up. They both wore crisp white shirts under matching vests with black pants. One carried a small tray of beverages, while the other brought a larger tray with plates covered in silver domes.

A smile spread across my face when the beverages arrived. The server placed a Long Island Iced Tea in front of me and a glass of water in front of Miles. Same drinks as our first meeting. I picked up the glass and took a sip, letting the sweet sting roll through my synapses and relax my body. “Mmm, that’s good.” I set it down while the other server placed the plates in front of us.

Once finished, he tapped his heels together and straightened his legs in a rigid stance. “Will either of you be needing anything else?”

Miles raised an eyebrow at me, checking to see if I needed anything. “No, that’ll be all. Thanks.”

I traced the rim of my glass with a finger. “You know, the last time we drank these particular drinks, we ended up making a baby.”

He chuckled. “A beautiful baby.”

“Are you trying to get lucky, Mr. Jackson?”

“Yes. But not just for a night this time.”

I broke eye contact with him and swallowed. His words stroked the strings of my heart, and the ground beneath me felt unsteady. I wanted to fall into him, but a small part of me clung to an invisible rail, hesitant to let myself go just yet.

He reached across to my place setting and grabbed the handle on the silver dome covering my plate. “I want you to see what’s for dinner.”

As he lifted it, a familiar scent washed over me. The sweet and savory mixture of honey chili chicken. Mom’s honey chili chicken. My mouth fell open. “Is this…?”

His eyes lit up, and he grinned. “It is.”

“You picked the first meal we had together?”

“Yep.” His shoulders pressed back, and he set the plate cover aside.

I smirked at him, trying to suppress the girlish giddiness bubbling inside. No one had ever shown me so much thoughtfulness.

My stomach growled as the delicious smell teased my nostrils, and I picked up a fork to dig in. As soon as the first bite hit my tongue, I hummed. “Oh my god, Miles. That’s so good.” My eyes rolled back in my head. “This tastes just like Mom’s. Did she make it?”

“Not exactly.”

My cheeks spread into a grin, and I covered my mouth, still finishing my bite. “What do you mean ‘not exactly’?”

“Well, the chef had a little consult with Violet today.”

I cocked an eyebrow, still grinning. “A consult, you say?”

“By phone, yes.”

“And they did this today?”

“Shortly after I left your place. What do you think?”

I took another bite and hummed again. My taste buds danced with little mouth-watering tingles. Nodding, I held the back of my hand against my lips. “It’s fantastic.”

“It seems Violet’s an excellent teacher.”

I swallowed my bite and huffed, almost choking on my food. “All she taught me was how to make coffee.”

Miles lifted the water to his lips but paused before drinking. “I think she taught you a lot more than that.”

“Such as?”

“Such as how to be an amazing mother.”

A lump formed in my throat. This man who had taken me on such an emotional roller coaster with his many stern looks and words now did something much scarier. He gave me his unreserved kindness. And my heart melted under the warmth of it.

He put a hand on mine. “And you had to do it without me. I’m really sorry I wasn’t there to help you all these years, but I promise things are going to be different from now on, Layla. I will do everything I can to be the father you both need me to be.”

The space behind my eyes prickled. Don’t cry. You’ll mess up your makeup. My voice cracked as I tried to respond. “That sounds good.”

He took the fork from my hand, scooped a bite off my plate, and lifted it to my mouth. Our eyes locked as I opened my lips, and my heart fluttered like it might take flight from my chest. The warmth in his smile washed over me as the succulent flavors of the bite hit my tongue.

“You know, Layla, you’re a wonderful teacher, too.”

I swallowed the morsel and took another sip from the Long Island before tilting my head to the side. “How so?”

“Before I met you, I didn’t know what love was.”

Heat expanded in my chest, and my eyes stung. Oh, Miles.

“I think, with Scarlett, I saw someone broken, and I wanted to fix her. To save her. But with you, it’s different.” His eyes glistened as though tears might form in them. “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfect.”

I swallowed hard, caught in the swirling blue seas in his eyes. My makeup will not survive this. My finger trembled as I tried to point at his glass and make a joke. “Are you sure you’re just drinking water over there?”

He laughed. “I’ve never been more sober or clearer. I knew I didn’t want what my parents had. Or what I experienced with Scarlett. But you came into my life like a beacon of light. And no amount of my darkness has been able to extinguish it.”

He stroked my hand.

“I know I’ve been so awful to you, Layla. I don’t deserve a second chance, but if you give me that chance, I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you. Because I love you.”

Tears spilled from my eyelids, matching the ones brimming over his. I sniffled. “Fuck, Miles.” I laughed as I lifted a napkin to the corner of my eye.

He squeezed my hand. “So, Layla, there’s a question I need to ask you.” He looked behind me and up, nodding his head in that direction.

What is he looking at?I pursed my lips, turning slowly and following his gaze. In the sky, a huge yellow balloon—easily the size of a bus—floated overhead. Except this balloon had a head and an orange bill. Legs dangled beneath it with webbed feet. “Is that a… a duck?” I giggled. “Where did you find a duck that big?”

He slid up behind me, placing his hands on my shoulders.

The balloon rotated in the sky overhead so that the side of the duck came into view. And on it, in enormous scripted lettering, I read four words. The four words I’d fantasized about for four years, but never believed I’d hear from him.

Will you marry me?

Stunned, I turned back to Miles. He’d pushed his chair away and took a knee in front of me. In his hand, he held a black jewelry box bearing a ring with tiny diamonds circling it and one huge glittering diamond in the middle. I threw my hand over my mouth.

“I didn’t know if this was the right time to propose or not, but I can’t bear to lose you again. Fuck, I don’t know if this is even close to anything you expected, but I wanted this to be a memory we could hold in our hearts for eternity. Just the two of us.” He took a deep breath and glanced around. “We met on a rooftop on a night like this four years ago. I’d hit rock bottom and was about to give up, but you saved me. You were my light that night, Layla. You’ve been my light ever since you came back into my life, even when I didn’t know your name or anything else about you. Tonight, I’m asking you to be my light for the rest of our lives.”

Miles held the jewelry box and the ring out to me.

“Will you marry me, Layla?”