The Unreal Boyfriend Release Day

The Unreal Boyfriend is out now!

Hope you enjoyed Chapter One and Chapter Two of The Unreal Boyfriend. Now you can read Bernadette and Derek's full story. I've loved writing this book and I'm so excited for you to read it. If you don't have your copy yet, you can get it from the following stores: | Other Amazon Stores | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play

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Thanks so much for your support.

Happy reading!


Miranda xo

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The Unreal Boyfriend: Chapter Two

Hi again! Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of The Unreal Boyfriend.

Before the book releases on the 30th, I'm excited to share Chapter Two with you as well. Here it is.

The Unreal Boyfriend Chapter Two

Bernadette shrugged into her coat and put on some lipstick. Then she practised a happy face in front of the mirror.

Good. She looked genuinely okay. Paige should be the only person she had to be extra careful with. Her best friend had a knack for guessing if she was feeling low. Still, she’d managed time and again to convince Paige there was nothing to worry about.

“Bernadette! We need to change my bedsheets!”

Bernadette exhaled harshly. Now that she was about to leave for Lara’s third birthday party, her mother had started to find things to hold her up and spoil her fun.

She grabbed her bag and left her room. “We’ll do it tomorrow, Mum, before I do the washing.”

June plopped herself in her favourite armchair in front of the TV and glared at her. “All you know how to do is to enjoy yourself. Look at you, all dressed up to join your rich friends for yet another party, and you can’t even give your mother enough money so I can go out and entertain myself.”

“Not when your idea of entertainment is pouring all of your cash into poker machines,” she retorted.

“Playing the pokies relaxes me! Isn’t that important for someone who’s had a heart attack? Anyway, I keep telling you to ask those bazillionaire friends of yours to help you out with a better-paying job. Then you won’t have to be stingy with me. And don’t forget you owe me your friendship with them. If I hadn’t taken you with me to the Shiptons’ house when you were little because there was no one to look after you while I worked there as a housekeeper, you wouldn’t have met Paige, and you wouldn’t have become best friends with someone from a wealthy family. And if you hadn’t become Paige’s best friend, then you wouldn’t also have met her rich husband and his rich friends. Come to think of it, you should tell Paige that I want to meet her again to say hi. She really owes me something too, you know, because if I hadn’t brought you to her parents’ house, she would have been a lonely only child with no one to play with—”

“I’m going,” Bernadette interrupted, heading for the door. “I’ve cooked your lunch and dinner. You just need to heat them up in the microwave.”

“If you let your Auntie May get you a date with her husband’s nephew, our problems will be lessened. We could be rich, too! But I just don’t understand why you—”

Bernadette shut her apartment door behind her and ran for the exit. It didn’t matter that this happened almost daily since her mother had reappeared in her life and moved in with her a year ago. Time and repetition only increased her hurt.

She got in her car and slumped on the driver’s seat. At least she’d soon be at Lara’s party. Any break from her mother’s favourite pastime of making her feel guilty for almost everything was very welcome. Unfortunately, today was also the day she’d get to meet Holly.

She sniffed and turned on the engine. She couldn’t decide if she’d rather suffer her mother’s incessant whining or see Derek with his girlfriend. But she wouldn’t think of not being there to celebrate Lara’s birthday.

She drove down Parramatta Road, grateful that the traffic wasn’t as bad as she feared. Congestion had been increasing more and more on Sydney’s roads, and she’d worried she might be late in getting to Rick and Lexie’s house.

She normally enjoyed driving so she could be alone with her thoughts. But right now, all she could think of was the possibility of witnessing Derek cuddle up with Holly. Ugh. Now she was getting a headache.

Hey, good! She could have a valid reason to leave the party early!

She snorted and pushed the button on the console to turn on the radio. Love song. Gah! She’d rather have silence.

Her mind strayed back to her mother as soon as she’d turned off the music.

June’s mild heart attack a year ago had suddenly turned Bernadette’s world upside down. Estranged for eleven years, June had called Bernadette from the hospital, saying she didn’t have anyone else to turn to in her time of need.

Seeing June unwell and looking years older than her age had shocked Bernadette. And to her surprise, she’d found herself open to a reconciliation. When June had expressed remorse for kicking her out of the house a day after her seventeenth birthday for choosing to go to university and only work part-time, instead of working full-time so she could hand more money to June, Bernadette had been ready to forget about the past.

But after two or three months of relative cooperation, things had started to get more difficult. June had gone back to moaning and whining that being a single mother had robbed her of her hopes and dreams. As if June was still supporting Bernadette! To the contrary, Bernadette had been doing everything for her mother, including cooking, cleaning, washing—practically all the housework. June even refused to look for a job, claiming she wasn’t ready to return to the workforce in any capacity as the stress would be detrimental to her health. Yet June nagged Bernadette to make more money so they—June, in particular—could have “a better life”.

Bernadette was already earning a good salary, having worked her way up in the insurance industry. But June wasn’t even impressed that Bernadette was now a senior underwriter in one of the biggest multinational insurers in the world. As far as June was concerned, Bernadette wasn’t doing enough to milk the relationships she had with her “bazillionaire” friends. To June, that was a sign of stupidity, especially when they “needed the money”.

Bernadette was nearing the end of her tether. The only thing holding her back from throwing June out was the fact that June was her mother. Somehow, she couldn’t do to June what June had done to her eleven years ago.

Perhaps it was because she sympathised with her mother, even if June’s attitude caused her grief. Being aware that her mum had had a difficult life, having been raised by different foster families, Bernadette somewhat understood June’s own emotional scars. And even though June hadn’t wanted to get pregnant at eighteen, June had done her duty of making sure they’d had a roof over their heads, putting food on the table and sending her to school.

Compare that to the father Bernadette had never known. Apparently, her then-teenaged dad had walked out on them when she was only six months old, unable or unwilling to stick around. At least June had raised her even if she wasn’t a wanted child.

And, truthfully, despite everything June had done, Bernadette still sought her mother’s love and approval.

She sighed. Would the need ever go away?

A car honked behind her and she noticed the red traffic light had turned green. She pressed the gas pedal and continued on her journey. As she got closer to Rick and Lexie’s, she shook herself and tried to relax. She wouldn’t want to inadvertently wear her heart out on her sleeve in front of her friends.

Soon she was parking her car about a block away from the Donnellys’ house. Judging by the number of cars parked in the area, most of their guests had arrived. She grabbed her present for Lara—a life-sized stuffed koala she’d crocheted herself from a pattern she’d bought online—and got out of her car. Was Derek already there? With Holly?

Well, time to meet the girlfriend of the man she had the hots for.

She made her way to the house, pasting a smile on her face as she neared it. The gate was open and she spotted Lexie and the birthday girl by the front door, greeting guests.

“Auntie Bernie!” Lara said, waving enthusiastically.

“Hello, sweetie! Happy birthday!” She hugged the child and exchanged kisses with Lexie.

“Is that for me?” Lara asked, pointing to the gift-wrapped present. “Mummy said I’ll open all my gifts later.”

“Yes, it’s for you. I made it myself. Hope you like it.”

Lara grabbed the parcel and grinned. “I think it’s a toy!”

“What do you say, Lara?” Lexie prompted.

“Thank you, Auntie Bernie. Do you like my fairy dress?”

“Yes, it’s very pretty.”

“And my wings?” Lara turned around to show her back. “Mummy got lots of wings for my party. You get one, too!”

“Thank you. Yes, I believe we’re all wearing wings today.”

“Yes. Including my daddy and my grandpas and Julian and Nate and Tanner and Uncle Brad and Uncle—”

“Everyone, including the boys,” Lexie interrupted with a laugh.

“Mummy, I want to give Auntie Bernie her fairy wings now.”


Bernadette followed Lara to the big family room at the back, where Lara’s grandmother was handing out costume wings. Bernadette selected a pair and slid her arms into the elastics, adjusting her dress around the armpits. “How do I look?”

“Good!” Lara said with a pleased grin. “Now you can go to the garden.”

“I’d love to.”

Lara led Bernadette to the Donnellys’ large backyard. It was already full of people, with both kids and adults wearing fairy wings of different shapes, sizes and colours.

Bernadette’s gaze landed on Derek immediately. He was sitting near the pool area with Tristan, Brad, Erin and a couple of people she didn’t recognise. Well, those two strangers appeared to be together, so the woman couldn’t be Holly.

Maybe Holly couldn’t make it? Or maybe Derek had changed his mind about introducing her to the gang today? Wouldn’t that be good?


“Hey!” She greeted Paige with a kiss and noticed a stunning brunette standing beside them. Her mouth dropped open as she recognised the face. It was Holly Stirling, the singer who’d won a popular talent show three years ago and was now one of the biggest stars in the world. Bernadette even loved her songs. She was such a fan.

Oh, hell. This was Derek’s Holly?

“Um, Bern, you know Holly Stirling,” Paige said. “Holly, this is my best friend, Bernie—Bernadette Luna.”

Holly extended her hand for a shake. “Pleasure to meet you, Bernie.”

“The pleasure’s mine, Holly,” Bernadette responded, her eyes still wide even as her heart constricted.

“I’m so happy to finally be meeting Derek’s friends,” Holly said with a smile. “We kept on talking about it, but it just hadn’t happened until now because I’ve been so busy these past couple of years.”

“We’re glad it’s finally happened,” Bernadette said brightly, her acting chops kicking in.

Holly chuckled. “I did tell Derek I’ll take the blame for him keeping my identity from you guys. I just had so much pressure coming from so many different directions that I’d asked him not to mention to anyone that he was going out with me. Even up till now, I’m still trying to adjust to the craziness of showbiz. And if the media discovered my relationship with him, it would just add to the pressure. Luckily, Derek’s also keen to keep the media from hanging around him in case they sniff out the dealings of his well-known clients. As you know, if the media finds out that he’s a buyer’s agent for some of the most recognisable celebs on the planet, he’ll have trouble keeping his clients’ affairs a secret from long-range camera lenses. Plus, he’s naturally very private, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys that.”

“Yeah,” Bernadette murmured.

“And,” Holly said secretively, stepping closer to her, “we’re still pretending we’re not together. We’re telling people I’m here as Rick and Lexie’s guest, not as Derek’s girlfriend. I’m only coming out to Derek’s closest buddies because you guys have been insisting on meeting his girlfriend Holly.”

“Oh, right. Sure, no problem.” Any hope Bernadette had had that Derek wasn’t serious with his on-again, off-again girlfriend had faded fast. Ouch.

“Hey, Bernie, you’re here!”

Her heart skipped at the sound of Derek’s voice before sinking back to her stomach like lead. She managed to come up with a grin, though. “You’re a naughty one, keeping Holly Stirling away from us for so long,” she said in a low voice.

Derek let out a laugh that sounded forced. “Well, here she is, finally.”

“Careful, Derek,” Holly said under her breath. “Don’t stand close to me. A caterer already saw us talking privately inside the house and she’s been whispering to her workmates ever since—and sneaking glances at you.”

Derek casually moved away from Holly to inspect Bernadette’s wings. “Obviously, we have the same taste, Bern. Your wings are exactly the same shape as mine, just a different colour.”

“You two are so cute,” Holly said with a giggle. “The gorgeous prince and princess of the fairy kingdom.”

Bernadette chuckled nervously. Wow, she wasn’t expecting such a comment from Holly—

“Would you like a drink, ma’am?” a caterer asked Bernadette.

Ah, Holly was merely trying to deflect attention away from her and Derek. Okay, Bernadette was fine with helping throw off a scent. “Shouldn’t we be king and queen since Lara would probably want to take the princess role?” she said in a teasing tone before eyeing the selection of beverages on the tray carried by the hired worker. They all seemed alcoholic.

“Bernadette can’t handle much alcohol,” Derek informed the caterer. “Or you’ll find her passed out on the floor before you can count to ten.”

“Oh,” the server said. “Should I get you something else, ma’am?”

“I’ll get it,” Derek said. “You want your usual?”

“Yes, please,” Bernadette answered.

The server gave their little group a nod of acknowledgement and walked away to offer drinks to the other guests.

“Thank you, Bernie,” Holly said. “Hopefully, that would give that woman and her friends something else to think about.”

“No worries,” Bernadette murmured. If only Holly knew just how much she’d want to trade places with her in Derek’s heart, Holly might be horrified at what she’d just put Bernadette through. Pretending to be Derek’s girlfriend. Imagine that!

“Shall we go get your drink?” Derek asked.

Bernadette nodded and followed Derek to the makeshift adult drinks bar at the far end of the garden, away from the kids’ play area.

“Holly Stirling, huh?” she said softly. “So she’s not on-again, off-again, after all, hey?”

Derek didn’t answer, and she wasn’t sure if it was because she’d hit the mark or Derek simply didn’t want to be overheard by the other guests who were coming up to greet them.

Let it go, Bernie. No point wallowing in that question.

Easier said than done. Pretending to her closest friends that she wasn’t touched by the pain of disappointment would be hard. But for the rest of the day, she had to do her best.

By five in the afternoon, Bernadette felt proud of herself. The guests had left except for the gang, and here she was, chatting comfortably even though Holly and Derek were sitting right in front of her.

She couldn’t help but keep glancing at Derek, though. They hadn’t had a chance to talk about their little act. But then again, what was the need for a discussion? She was the one who’d effectively volunteered her services to Holly and Derek’s cause when she’d followed Holly’s lead of trying to confuse the caterer. Fortunately, the party was officially over, and the hired help had gone. Act well and truly finished.

“This was the most relaxing time I’ve had in a long, long while,” Holly declared. “I’m still enjoying myself, but I’m afraid I have to go. Dante, my manager, is about a minute away to pick me up. We have to go through a few things for a round of interviews tomorrow for my new release.”

“I’d walk you out,” Derek said, “but it might be better if I don’t. Paps might still be hiding out there.”

“Sorry about that,” Lexie said. “I’ll walk you out.”

Holly waved a hand dismissively. “No need to apologise. There’s nothing anyone can do about the paparazzi.” She hugged everyone goodbye, expressing her thanks for a wonderful day.

To Bernadette’s surprise and relief, Holly and Derek only kissed each other on the cheeks, not the lips.

“Catch up with you guys again soon,” Holly said as she hurried to the side gate with Lexie.

“See yah!” Bernadette said cheerfully along with the others. Her glance strayed towards Derek, and she found him gazing at her in a way that made her heart race.

She couldn’t look away, and she felt a pinching in her chest when Derek broke their eye contact.

Why, oh why, did he have to look at her like that?

Paige casually leaned over to whisper in her ear. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I survived the day,” she said under her breath.

“I still can’t believe you agreed to pretend to be Derek’s date today.”

“You know me. Ever ready to be of assistance,” she said dryly.

“Sorry, hon. I know it’s not as easy as you make it out to be.”

She smiled at Paige. “I just need to keep looking for my Mr. Right. He has to be out there somewhere, unless I’m permanently cursed.”

“Stop saying that about yourself! You’re going to find love and you know it.”

Bernadette merely sighed. She’d be kidding herself if she didn’t admit that she was hurting a lot at that moment. Out of all the men she’d met, she’d been hoping against hope that Derek was her Mr. Right. Clearly he wasn’t, so she had to try harder to kill the love bud that kept growing fast and unstoppable like a weed. Luckily, she seemed to have found an effective poison for it now: Holly.

“I think I’m gonna go, too,” she said to Paige.

“Oh, please stay. There’s plenty of food left and we’re partying till dinner, like we usually do.”

“I really just want to go home.”

Paige squeezed her arm. “Okay. We’ll have lunch sometime this week. Just the two of us.”

She nodded, rising from her seat as Lexie made their way back to them.

“Gosh,” Lexie said. “I’d hate to be someone constantly on the media’s radar. A guy sprang up from nowhere after Holly crossed the road to get to her manager’s car. Holly had to speak with him just to make him back off.”

“Now you know why I’d been so quiet about Holly,” Derek said. “I’d get in trouble with my clients if paps followed me around and got a photo of them checking out properties.”

“Still, how could you have kept this from us for so long?” Tristan asked with a frown. “Since when have we become untrustworthy?”

“Hey, you know it’s not that I don’t trust you. I was just keeping my promise to Holly not to tell anyone. That’s all it was—me keeping a promise.”

Tristan shrugged, still scowling. But he did clink Derek’s beer bottle with his when Derek held it up as a peace offering.

“Hey, guys,” Bernadette said. “I think I’m gonna head home, too. I have this headache that’s starting to get bad.”

Her friends murmured their sympathies, and she refused to change her mind despite their pleas to stay for dinner.

When she turned to Derek to say goodbye, their gazes locked for a moment—long enough to make her blush.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, Bernie, the man has a girlfriend! And what makes you think you can compete with Holly Stirling?

“I’ll walk you out, Bernie,” Lexie said.

“Okay,” she said gratefully. She had to leave now. She couldn’t take much more of any of this.

Lexie steered her towards the house instead of the side gate. “You okay?”


“I’m sorry I didn’t warn you about Holly the moment you got here. It was just that other guests were arriving and I couldn’t tell you—”

Bernadette put an arm around Lexie’s shoulders. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”

Lexie returned her hug and squeezed her tight. “Before you go, I have something to tell you about the paparazzo who approached Holly.”

“I’m sure he’s not interested in me,” she said with a laugh.

“I heard him ask Holly if she was going out with Derek McCarthy, the owner of Alpha Property Buyers Advocates.”


“Yeah. The man said he had photos of Derek leaving Holly’s house at eight in the morning last Wednesday, and that several publications were bidding for them.”

“Gosh, Derek wouldn’t be happy about that.” And Bernadette didn’t like the picture that invaded her head. Her chest felt heavier.

“No. But the pap also said that he was giving Holly a chance to give him the true story because he was a big fan, so he wanted to be as fair to her as possible. So Holly said she was definitely not dating Derek McCarthy. She said she simply had a meeting with Derek to interview him as a potential buyer’s agent for her brother, who was overseas, but that her brother has since decided not to buy anything yet. She also said she was sick and tired of all the fake stories being published about her, and pleaded with the pap not to sell the pictures.”

“I don’t blame her for lying,” Bernadette murmured.

“Me neither. Anyway, the guy tried to make a deal with Holly. He’d pull Derek’s pictures from sale, but he wants a couple of exclusive photos of her that he could actually sell. But before anything else, he wants proof that Holly and Derek aren’t an item. He said it was too juicy a piece of information to pass up if it was true. So… well… Holly said that Derek has a girlfriend and it wasn’t her. And guess who she mentioned when the pap insisted on a name.”

Bernadette’s mouth dropped to the ground. “No way.”

Lexie placed a comforting hand on her arm. “I’m so sorry, honey. This just sucks for you big-time. But obviously Holly thinks you’ll be okay with it after the help you gave them today.”

“Serves me right for being too helpful, huh?”

Lexie smiled sympathetically.

“Bernie!” Derek came rushing to them, eyes wide. “Thank God you’re still here.”

Bernadette’s lips twisted. She already knew what Derek was going to ask. Could she go further with their act?

And why on earth was she even considering it?

“I just got a text from Holly and…” Derek raked his hair, his face a picture of mortification, uncertainty and apology.

She sighed and gave him a smile. It wasn’t Derek’s fault he couldn’t return her feelings. Besides, she liked to think she was magnanimous enough to continue doing a good friend a big favour. What had she got to lose? Her heart was already used to suffering, especially when it came to him, anyway. So no big deal, right?

And might as well be useful so she could forget being so… unwanted.

***End of Chapter Two***

Not long to go now before you can read the rest of Bernadette and Derek's story. Here are the preorder links for The Unreal Boyfriend. | Other Amazon Stores | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks

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The Unreal Boyfriend: Chapter One

 Only a handful of days to go before the release of The Unreal Boyfriend on the 30th of November! Before the big day arrives, I'm excited to share Chapter One of Bernadette and Derek's story with you.

Here it is. Happy reading!

The Unreal Boyfriend Chapter One


Bernadette Luna grinned at the utterly handsome Derek McCarthy, thrilled at the glint she saw in his chestnut-brown eyes. “How high?”

“As high as you can,” Derek answered with a quirk of his lips.

Bernadette inhaled deeply, staring at the dark brown hair she was itching to run her hands through. Forcing herself to peel her gaze away from Derek, she looked around. A few of their friends were helping the little kids play basketball on the other side of the giant jumping castle, not paying any attention to them. So she bent her knees, raised her arms like chicken wings, and launched herself into the air.

Her eyes widened as she felt her right foot land awkwardly, and a little yelp escaped her throat as gravity pulled the rest of her body towards the soft ground. Drats! She quickly smoothed down her billowy skirt that had ridden up her thighs, praying that no one had gotten a peek at her underwear.

“You okay?” Derek asked.

She laughed to cover up her embarrassment. “See? This is exactly why I hate being in these inflatable things.”

“At least I’m not jumping all around you like some mean boys did when you were twelve years old,” Derek teased.

“I guess. And at least you’re not chanting ‘we saw your pink panties’,” she said dryly.

Derek helped her up, not giving an indication if he’d had an eyeful of her… well… pink undies.

Frankly, she wouldn’t have minded if he had. In fact, she’d love it if Derek saw her naked—as long as he was naked with her in a room with a bed. Ugh, how bad did she still have it?

“So let me get this straight,” Derek said. “You hate jumping castles because you lost your footing in one before, and you couldn’t get back up because mean boys were jumping all around you while they teased you mercilessly about your pink panties?”


Seventeen years ago?” Derek asked softly.

She flushed. “That sounds silly, doesn’t it? But didn’t I just prove to you that bouncy houses and I don’t get along?”

“Come on. Time to get over this silly fear. Jump higher.” Derek clapped his hands like a coach encouraging his charge.

Bernadette raised an eyebrow. She’d like to think Derek was somehow flirting with her. Sure, it was usual for him to be this friendly and fun, but he’d never spent this much one-on-one time with her before. She had a feeling it meant something. “Am I your case to solve now?”

“You’d disappoint Tanner if you didn’t enjoy this castle, too. Look at him. He’s so loving it in here.”

She chuckled and turned her attention to the birthday boy, the son of Paige Grant—her best friend—and Tristan Grant—Derek’s best friend. The one-year-old’s laughter was infectious as he sat in the far corner between his grandmothers, watching his two-year-old and three-year-old playmates shoot small beach balls into a plastic hoop with the help of their daddies and uncles.

Without saying a word, she attempted another jump… and stumbled towards Derek.

He caught her, his hands gripping her upper arms tightly.

“I’m okay,” she said, giggles bubbling out of her. “I’m starting to seriously believe I’m cursed when it comes to jumping castles.”

“And you’ve been in how many in your lifetime?” Derek asked, his hands sliding down to her wrists.

“Two,” she said a tad breathlessly, the warmth from his touch travelling throughout her whole body. Derek was probably only wanting to make sure she’d gotten back her balance, but so what? Derek McCarthy was holding hands with her—almost. After a year and a half of being secretly in love with him, she’d allow herself to enjoy this moment.

“Two, huh? Yeah, maybe the jumping castle fairies have something against you,” Derek said teasingly.

“Auntie Bernie, Uncle Derek! Watch me!” said the three-year-old son of Lucas and Jade Renner-Bilton.

Bernadette felt bereft when Derek let go of her hands to watch Julian jump.

“See, I didn’t fall!” Julian said proudly.

Bernadette clapped. “That’s great, Julian. If I jump and fall again, will you help me get up?”

“Of course!”

“Julian helped me when I falled,” Lara informed.

Bernadette grinned at Rick and Lexie Donnelly’s cute daughter, whose third birthday was up next in two months. “Wow, Julian helped you when you fell?”

Lara nodded vigorously. “You can do it, Auntie Bernie.”

“I can jump, too!” shouted Nate. Gavin and Natasha Redford’s son started bouncing up and down, and his cousin, Carter and Cassie Garrett’s daughter, Chelsea, took his hand to jump with him. The two-year-olds shrieked in laughter as they lost their balance and tumbled together.


“Mama! Dada!” Tanner suddenly cried out, his face lighting up as Paige and Tristan entered the jumping castle. The birthday boy snatched his arms from his grandmothers’ grips and crawled with speed towards his parents.

Bernadette sighed. Gosh, these kids were making her clucky! She glanced at Derek, the guy she hoped to be The One. The man of her dreams was putting his phone against his ear.

“Holly, what’s up?” Derek said to his caller.

Bernadette’s breath hitched. Holly? Suspicion quickly rose up inside of her as she watched him from out of the corner of her eye.

“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow night,” Derek said before hanging up.

“Who’s Holly?” Tristan asked.

“Oh, just… a friend,” Derek said casually.

Tristan smirked. “I bet it’s your on-again, off-again girlfriend. Now we have a name for her.”

Bernadette gulped. No.

But Derek remained silent, not contradicting Tristan’s declaration.

Bernadette took a sharp breath. Of course she’d misread Derek’s extra friendliness. She had a habit of doing that, then reality would always whack her in the face. Good thing she’d learned how to deal with disappointments a long time ago—pretend she didn’t care.

She kicked hope out of her chest and placed her heart back in its protective box. Then she plastered a smile on her face.


Paige stood close to her and murmured in her ear. “The girls are plotting to get Derek to introduce us to this invisible on-again, off-again girlfriend.”

Bernadette kept her lips curved up. “Why?”

“Why not? We’re all finding it very strange that he hasn’t so much as shown us a picture of her after all this time. Besides, I think it’ll be good for you. You’ve been holding yourself back from getting serious with other guys. Being face-to-face with Derek’s girlfriend might help put out the torch you’ve been carrying for him.”

Bernadette sighed. Paige knew her better than anyone. “So what is the plan?”

“Don’t know. The girls are discussing it right now.”

Bernadette peered through the castle’s window. The other women were huddled at one of several outdoor tables decked out in Disney-themed decor in the large garden of Tristan and Paige’s country property. The sun was shining brightly on this beautiful spot in the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia, but her mood was becoming bleak.

She didn’t particularly want to meet Derek’s girlfriend, but she supposed it would be better to know what was being planned so she could prepare herself for it. “Okay. I think I’ll join the girls.”

“Sure,” Paige said.

“Hey, where’re you going?” Derek called out as Bernadette headed for the exit. “We’re not done yet.”

Her heart skipped a beat. “I’m just taking a break.”

“But we’re going to have a dancing competition, right, kids? We’re all gonna see who can dance the best without falling down.”

Julian started shaking his hips. “Dancing contition is fun, Auntie Bernie!”

“Dancing competition, bubba,” Lucas said, ruffling Julian’s hair.

Julian scowled at his dad. “I’m three already! Bubba means baby. Marissa is a baby. Aimee is a baby.” He pointed first to Jarryd Westbourne and Marilyn Grant’s five-month-old daughter, then to Brad and Erin Mead’s six-month-old child. “The baby in Auntie Geri’s tummy is a baby,” he added.

“Sorry,” Lucas said with a grin. “But you’ll always be my bubba, no matter how old you get.”

Julian rolled his eyes. “Fine. Can we do the dancing contipition now, Uncle Derek?”

“When Auntie Bernie comes back.”

“Don’t go, Auntie Bernie!” Lara said. “We’re dancing now!”

Chelsea ran to Bernadette and clung to her hand. “Please?”

Bernadette relented and walked back to the group. “Okay, then.”

“Yay!” the children cried.

Derek played a fast song on his phone. “Okay, everybody. Dance!”

Bernadette let out a laugh as Derek took her hand and twirled her around. At least Derek was being a wonderful friend who went out of his way to make her feel like a valued part of a big family—something she didn’t get from her own flesh and blood.

She appreciated the man, even though he unknowingly kept on breaking her heart over and over again.

* * *

Derek released Bernadette’s hand to dance with Lara, ignoring the curious glances being thrown at him by his buddies. What a time for Holly to call him. And how stupid of him to have called her by name. He bet his friends wouldn’t let up until they’d learned more about the woman he’d told them he’d been dating on and off for years. He could only hope he’d continue to get away with simply fobbing off their questions about her.

“So you’re seeing Holly tomorrow night, huh?” Tristan said, one of his arms around Paige’s waist while he carried Tanner in the other as he danced with his family. “Exactly when do we get to meet Holly?”

Derek filled his lungs with air, careful not to look like he was sighing, and even more careful not to give in to his strong desire to check out Bernadette’s reaction.

He’d been thoroughly enjoying Bernadette’s company today. And, as usual, he found her laughter thrilling… and her long-lashed chocolate-brown eyes captivating… and her sweet smile fetching…

“Dude, we’re dying of curiosity here,” Lucas said.

“Nothing’s changed,” he answered in a bored tone.

“You should have brought Holly here today,” Tristan said.

“Hey, no one told us we’re having a disco here,” Marilyn said, walking inside the bouncy house with her husband Jarryd. “And who’s this Holly person you’re talking about?”

Argh, the last thing Derek wanted was for anyone else to hassle him about Holly, no matter how close he was with everyone in this tight-knit group.

Holly is the name of Derek’s mysterious girlfriend that he couldn’t wait to introduce to us,” Tristan said with sarcasm.

Marilyn’s jaw dropped. “Really? Holly, huh? So when do we finally get to meet her?”

“I’ve told you guys before,” Derek said patiently, “there’s no reason for you to meet her at this point. We’re still only casual.”

“Look,” Marilyn said, “I know it’s really none of our business, but I honestly don’t understand it. You’ve always introduced girlfriends to us in the past, even if you weren’t serious with them. So what’s so different about Holly that you don’t want us to meet her?”

Derek shrugged. All this bullshitting about his relationship with Holly was taking its toll on him, but it had to continue. “It’s just one of those things. I don’t know where to take it with Holly yet and, like I’ve said, I don’t want her to think our relationship is serious enough to introduce her to you guys.”

“But you’ve been dating the woman for over two—or is it three?—years now,” Marilyn said. “If you’re still not serious about her after all this time, then shouldn’t you… I don’t know… set her free and move on?”

“And aren’t you misleading her anyway by still keeping her around when you know you’re not serious?” Tristan pressed.

Derek shook his head. “It’s actually the same for Holly. She’s not serious about me, either. We’re just in an on-and-off relationship because it suits us to have a casual connection every once in a while.” This time, he couldn’t help glancing at Bernadette. She was dancing with Nate, and her long, silky black hair covered her face from his sight. Argh, he wished he wasn’t being grilled about Holly right now.

“So,” Paige said, “do you mean that you and Holly get together simply out of convenience?”

“Yeah, you could say that.” He refrained from looking at Bernadette again.

“I think it would help both you and Holly if we meet her,” Marilyn said. “It couldn’t be fun being in an emotional limbo for over three years.”

Derek snickered. “Who said we’re in an emotional limbo? And before you get on my case because you bet on me for our Captured by Love game, I can tell you I’m not the next guy going down on one knee in front of a woman.”

“Literally all of us here had bet on you to be the next person to propose to someone,” Marilyn said with a wink. “Actually, the girls and I were just talking about that. Since it won’t be fun if we all win—or lose—we decided that we’ll also bet on when you’re going to give up your bachelorhood. Whoever nominates the closest date to your actual proposal will win.”

“Hey, I like that idea,” Lucas said. “So this is an additional game?”

“Yes. The wider game is still ongoing, since there are now over a hundred people putting in their bets for charity. Nine different bachelors have been named to win this round. But this separate game is just for our gang because we all put our money on Derek to be captured by looove next.”

“Okay,” Tristan said. “The date I’m nominating for Derek to propose to someone is this time next year—Tanner’s second birthday.”

Derek snorted. “Are you kidding me?”

“Hey, I married Paige within months of meeting her. I’m sure that you proposing to someone in a year is not that impossible.”

“Your relationship was supposed to be fake!”

“Don’t let me down, bro. I haven’t won a single Captured by Love game yet. I’m counting on you.”

Derek groaned. “Don’t anyone tell me their dates anymore. I don’t wanna know.”

Everybody laughed, but they did let him off the hook and got busy doing funny dance moves with the children.

Derek watched Bernadette surreptitiously. Her movements weren’t as energetic as everyone else’s. He hoped she was only watching her balance, and that the conversation about Holly hadn’t depressed her.

Had he done the wrong thing by seeking her out and spending a lot of alone time with her today? He knew she’d had a crush on him not long after they’d first met on Tristan and Paige’s wedding day, but he was also certain she’d gotten over him quick smart since she’d been dating other guys. Hopefully she hadn’t read much into his actions. He didn’t want to give her the wrong impression.

Well, in a way, he’d been giving her the right impression since he very much wanted to enjoy her company. But he should stop and watch himself in case the others started to notice. He wouldn’t hear the end of it otherwise, and it really wasn’t fair to Bernadette.

“Excuse me, Paige. We’re ready for lunch,” a man in a pirate costume said by the castle’s doorway.

“Oh, great! Yes, please,” Paige said.

Mr. Pirate rang a handheld bell. “Boys and girls, who wants to join me at the captain’s table, har har?”

“Me!” all the kids cried, raising their hands.

“Great! Follow me and we will eat delicious food while I tell you a very exciting story!”

“I’m not hungry,” Chelsea said, crossing her arms against her chest.

“Everyone eats first before we start playing again,” Carter said firmly to his daughter.

With some coaxing, all the kids agreed to eat their lunch with Mr. Pirate and his able assistant, and the adults made their way to the long buffet table brimming with mouth-watering dishes.

“So,” Tristan said to Derek as they settled themselves on one of the outdoor settings after filling up their plates. “Is tomorrow night with Holly just a booty call, or are you trying to work something out with her?”

Derek bit into his mini burger, buying himself a few seconds to think of a good answer that would put a stop to this topic.

“Seriously, Derek,” Marilyn said, joining them. “We can’t figure out your relationship with her.”

He held back a sigh. Tristan and Marilyn were among his oldest friends and they’d always been open and honest with each other. But he simply couldn’t share this particular matter with anyone, not even them. “Right now, our on-and-off relationship works for us. We’re only on when we want to hang out with each other, and we’re off for the rest of the time. But because we’re both busy with our work, we always end up just dating each other instead of other people.”

“So what’s with flirting with Bernie all day?” Marilyn asked casually.

His eyes widened. Had he been that obvious? “I wasn’t flirting with her.”

Tristan snorted. “Come on. You’ve been all over her today.”

“I honestly wasn’t,” he insisted, running a hand over his face.

“You know,” Marilyn said, “I’d thought in the past you’d be married by your mid-twenties—well before any of the other guys. You took relationships more seriously than they ever did in our younger days. Yet here you are, thirty-three years old and the only remaining bachelor in our group. I really think you’re hiding something.”

Derek glanced sharply at Marilyn.

“Why don’t you want to introduce Holly to us? Before her, you’ve always taken your dates—even the non-serious ones—to our get-togethers. But you’re so reluctant to let us meet Holly. Why?”

“I already told you why.” What else could he say?

Tristan let out a heavy breath. “I know what Marilyn’s saying. In the beginning, I kept buying your story that you simply weren’t serious enough about this Holly person to warrant introducing her to us. I got distracted from looking more closely into your situation because of my past drama with Paige’s parents, and then getting married and having a baby. But now I smell that something’s off with all the excuses you’ve been feeding us.”

Derek shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Marilyn leaned closer to him. “What’s really going on? I can’t imagine you continuing to see the same woman for over three years and still calling it casual. That’s just not you.”

“You guys are reading too much into this. It is simply a casual thing that’s been going on for a while. Introducing her to our group might wreck something that’s working perfectly fine for Holly and me.”

Tristan’s brows furrowed. “We might wreck something? If it’s only casual, why are you worried about that? There are a lot of inconsistencies with your answers, bro, and I’m starting to get worried.”

“Really? What’s there to worry about?”

“How can it be casual and yet be exclusive? For over three years? I still can’t believe we—your best buddies in the whole world—know virtually nothing about the woman you’ve been seeing for over three years. Hell, we’ve only just discovered her name today! And if Holly’s also not serious about you, why are you concerned that she might get the wrong impression if you got her to meet us? See? Lots of holes and very weird.”

Derek’s gaze flicked away from Tristan’s probing eyes. “I told you, it’s just one of those things that happened to work like that.”

“You know,” Marilyn said, “I could always ask Gavin and Carter to check if everything’s okay with you. It’s so not you to be this secretive about your relationships, especially to us.”

“Hey, good idea, Marilyn,” Tristan said.

Derek’s heart raced. Surely these guys were only joking. But, knowing them, they just might act on Marilyn’s suggestion if he didn’t assuage their concerns. The last thing he needed was for their private detective friends to start snooping around his affairs. He couldn’t take that risk.

He let out a chuckle. “Fine. If you guys are really that keen to meet Holly, I’ll introduce her to you. If she’s free, I’ll bring her to Lara’s birthday in a couple of months.”

“Finally!” Marilyn said, looking up to the heavens.

“Good,” Tristan agreed.

Derek’s gaze involuntarily went to Bernadette, sitting at the table next to theirs. He caught her staring at him before shyly looking away.

His chest squeezed, and he frowned at the strength of it.

Damn it. He was in such a big fucking mess.

***End of Chapter One***

That's all for today. In the meantime, you can preorder The Unreal Boyfriend right now from the following stores: | Other Amazon Stores | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks

The store link to Google Play will be available very soon.

Keep an eye out for Chapter Two tomorrow!


Miranda xo


Cover Reveal and Preorder: The Unexpected Husband

Hi there!

I've been quiet for longer than I intended, but I finally have a release date for The Unreal Boyfriend. Derek and Bernadette's story will be published on the 30th of November!

For all those who helped me choose the guy and the special object to go on the cover of this book, thank you! I love this dude and I certainly enjoyed incorporating the pearl necklace in the story.

So here's the final version of the cover. Hope you like it as much as I do.

Preorder The Unreal Boyfriend Now

You can preorder Derek and Bernadette's story right now from:

Amazon US | Other Amazon stores | Apple iBooks | Barnes & NobleKobo

It will be available on Google Play on release date.

That's all for now. Have a wonderful day!

Lots of love,

Miranda xo


The Unexpected Husband: Out Now!

Happy Release Day to The Unexpected Husband!

I'm so excited that this day has finally arrived! It took me longer than expected to finish this book, and I'm so grateful to my editor, Eliza Dee, and to my proofreader, Donna Rich, for working cheerfully with my tight schedule and helping ensure that Tristan and Paige's story is all polished and ready for today.

If you pre-ordered your copy, The Unexpected Husband should already be sitting in your devices. If not, here are the links to the stores, including Google Play: |  Other Amazon StoresApple iBooks | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Google Play

I really love this story, and I'm sure you'll love it too.

Thanks again for your support. I'll be back very shortly with a fun giveaway relating to the cover for my next book! In the meantime, enjoy The Unexpected Husband!

Much love,
Miranda xo

The Unexpected Husband Book Description

Can Tristan afford to trust the woman he wants?
Tristan Grant's entertainment venues are now the most popular in the country, but his success has come at a price. Larry and Debbie Shipton, his main competitors, are resorting to sabotage to regain their number one position. But that's not the most shocking news. The woman he had a one-night stand with claims she's pregnant with his baby. The problem is, he can't afford to trust her–because her name is Paige Shipton, and she is Larry and Debbie's daughter. Too bad he didn't know that before he slept with Paige, but he's determined not to make any more mistakes when it comes to dealing with the devious Shiptons. If only he can find a way to stop being so attracted to Paige…

Can Paige save her heart from being irreparably broken?
Paige Shipton is going ahead with her pregnancy. It doesn't matter that the father is Tristan Grant–the man who accuses her of deception simply because of who her parents are. She wants the baby, and she's prepared to raise it alone. When she tells Tristan he doesn't need to be involved, his answer surprises her, and she soon finds herself falling deeply for the man determined to ruin the Shipton name. With the conflict between Tristan and her parents escalating to destructive heights, can Paige avoid getting her heart irreparably broken?