Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic Expectations

by Andie J. Christopher
Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic Expectations

by Andie J. Christopher

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Overview

When a relationship therapist gets dumped right before her new dating handbook hits shelves, she fake dates to save face in this spicy romantic comedy.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong on an author's publication day, but breaking up with her long-term boyfriend might just be at the top of Jessica Gallagher’s list. She also didn’t expect to run into her old crush, Galvin Baker, the very next day. When Jessica goes into crisis mode about the PR nightmare, she proposes the first solution that comes to mind: fake dating. Luckily, Galvin seems game.

Galvin Baker is used to being a constant disappointment, which is why he can’t—and won’t—commit to a relationship. Unfortunately for him, his last girlfriend used her vast social media power to make sure everyone knows how much Galvin "underperforms.” Fake dating for Jessica’s book promotion seems like the perfect cover—and maybe she can teach him something along the way.

Hookups “for science” and some seriously sweet gestures later, Jessica and Galvin’s fake dates are feeling more authentic than any of their previous relationships did. Have they replaced unrealistic expectations with unexpected realness?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593200087
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/26/2023
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 86,777
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Andie J. Christopher writes sharp, witty, sexy contemporary romance about complex people finding happily-ever- after. Her work has been featured in NPR, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and New York Post. Prickly heroines are her hallmark, and she is the originator of the Stern Brunch Daddy. Andie lives in the nation’s capital with a French bulldog, a stockpile of Campari, and way too many books.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Communication is key. Without open lines of communication-the real, vulnerable kind that you have when you're asking for your needs to be met-any relationship is doomed.

-Jessica Gallagher,
PhD, licensed clinical therapist

When Jessica Gallagher returned to her condo the day before the release of her first book, there were movers hauling out furniture and boxing up things in closets. She checked to make sure she hadn't gotten off the elevator on the wrong floor before entering the condo she shared with her boyfriend, Luke. Maybe there'd been some sort of plumbing emergency while she'd been gone, and they had to temporarily move some of their things? She checked her phone. Luke would have told her about any domestic disasters. No texts. No voice mails. Not even a missed call.

And it looked like the movers were only hauling out Luke's furniture. Her heart kicked up speed as she dodged a guy carrying the massage chair. Maybe Luke had finally listened to her about how ugly it was and was getting rid of it?

Something in her gut told her that Luke had not just decided to redecorate. "Luke?" She walked further into the apartment, stubbed her toe on a box, and almost tripped. "Son of a bitch." She looked down into the box to find that it contained medical textbooks.

She limped into their bedroom and found Luke standing in their walk-in closet, tossing his shoes into boxes. He was in scrubs, so he must have just come off call. He should be asleep, not packing. She stood there, bewildered, for a long beat.

It took Luke a second to realize that she was standing behind him. He'd always been absentminded, but Jessica had convinced herself that it was just because he was a brilliant medical mind who didn't have the brain space to keep track of his keys or the laundry that needed to be done or take-out orders he was supposed to pick up. But, right now, it infuriated her.

"What the fuck is going on?"

That startled Luke out of his furious packing. He turned, and his normally pale skin was tomato red. Probably because Jessica rarely yelled, but she was yelling now. "I . . . uh . . . I was going to tell you-"

"Tell. Me. What?" She'd managed to quiet her voice, but she knew there was still rage in her tone. "Because it looks like you are moving out of our home. And that seems weird to me, because you haven't said anything about us moving somewhere new together. So this must mean that you are moving someplace else on your own. Which is also weird, because you haven't mentioned anything about wanting to break up. But of course this means we're breaking up. People don't just live together for a decade and then not live together but remain romantically involved. Especially when they've been talking about having a baby." Jessica took a step toward Luke, and he wouldn't meet her gaze. "Do they?"

Everything below her neck was cold and numb, and she couldn't hear anything but her own thoughts screaming at her.

"Listen-"

"That's all I do, all day. I listen to people." For some reason, him telling her to listen to him, when she'd been his steady confidant for the majority of his adult life, made her want to scream. She'd often felt a little superior, despite herself, during sessions with clients who talked about having screaming arguments with their partners.

She and Luke had never had a screaming argument. They had discussions and made agreements. They-well, she-expressed feelings and needs, and Luke tried to meet them. They'd never been the kind of couple to make rash decisions or even the kind of couple who went to bed angry. Because they never made each other angry. Irritated-yes. So angry that she wanted to drag him out of the closet by his receding hairline and demand answers-no.

"I was going to tell you last night, at dinner."

"You were going to tell me that you were moving out and abandoning our relationship last night, at dinner? The special dinner that we were having to celebrate the release of my book?"

Luke flinched. "You just seemed so excited about your little book, and I couldn't stand to see you upset." He made a lame hand motion at her. "Like this."

"I'm not upset right now that you're moving out. I'm glad you're moving out. If you weren't moving out right now, I would be tempted to kill you and then retile the bathroom with your rotting bones behind the new tile."

"That would really start to stink after a while . . . the decomposition."

"I would dissolve your flesh with lye." This was probably not the time to make jokes about murdering him, but that had always lightened the mood before. He'd joke about giving her an air embolism in her sleep. She'd imply that she could deadlift his body easily enough to hide it-all the while knowing that they were adults, and they'd made a commitment to one another.

"You really do watch too much true crime."

"You mean that I watch too much television, when I'm at home, waiting for you." The only reason that she'd ended up writing the book was that she had most of her evenings and weekends on her hands and shows about murder had started to give her nightmares.

Luke put his hands on his hips and looked down at his feet. They'd had this conversation before, but the stakes had never been this high. Even though she'd had her moments of feeling lonely with him, their relationship had never been about their passion for each other'she'd thought that they were both passionate about the life they'd built together. He might have chosen her because she was convenient, but she'd chosen him because he'd never once made her worried that he would abandon her. He'd never given any indication that he wasn't ready to stick around for the long haul-not until now.

But here she was, standing in her half-empty closet, looking at a man that she'd spent almost her entire adult life with become someone she didn't recognize-someone who would leave her without warning. She'd been grateful at the beginning of their relationship that he'd been kind and friendly and it seemed to come from a place of wanting to get to know her, not from any compulsion to see what he could get from her.

"Is this because we haven't been having sex?" Their sex life had never been bad, but it also hadn't rocked her world at the very beginning-or the very end, it seemed. Over the last fifteen years, they'd gotten into a good rhythm. And most long-term couples didn't have much sex. That aspect of their relationship had never been the most important thing to Jessica, and she hadn't thought it was that important to Luke, either. But the way his skin flushed, when she asked him that, told her that she'd been making assumptions about their sex life, too.

Luke finally met her gaze again. "I care about you, and I want you to be happy."

"So, you were planning to disappear without telling me?" Jessica was shrieking again, and Luke looked a little befuddled. But that didn't stop him from pulling the few articles of clothing he hadn't packed off the rack. "You think I'd be happy about you leaving without a word? Without a discussion? Without even trying to work out whatever is making you unhappy?"

"I knew that if we had a discussion, you'd get me to go to couples counseling, and we'd talk things out like logical adults. And I'd never really leave, but neither of us would ever be happy." Luke sounded so defeated, and Jessica started shaking. Her body literally could not hold on to the shock.

"It almost sounds like you feel like a prisoner . . . in our life."

Luke stepped toward her with his hands outstretched, as though he was going to pull her into a hug. As much as she could use a hug right now, she couldn't accept one from him. Not right now. Not ever again.

He caught on and respected her space, dropping his hands to his sides. "No, not a prisoner. There's a lot of good stuff here between us."

"Just not enough." Jessica didn't want to pick at his words and turn them against him. She'd never advise a client to do that when having a fight with a partner. She'd advise deep, calming breaths and questions that didn't put blame on the other party. But Luke was to blame for all the pain swirling around her body-the tears she couldn't hold back any longer and the way her knees felt like they would buckle at any moment. She didn't want to lose control of herself like this, not when she could no longer trust the person she was losing control with.

"You're my best friend, Jessica." Luke sounded despondent, but Jessica didn't really feel sorry for him. He was a thirty-seven-year-old man, and yet he didn't have the cojones to tell her that he didn't want to be with her anymore. He didn't have the integrity to own up to the fact that he was having his midlife crisis about ten years early.

She wasn't going to address the fact that you also don't abandon your best friend without warning. "Is there someone else?"

Luke backed away from her, and he didn't meet her gaze when he said, "No."

She didn't want to believe that he was cheating, but he was doing a lot of cheater-like shit right now. Growing up with her mother had exposed her to the wide world of ways that cheaters behaved.

Jessica sighed. If he was cheating, she wasn't going to get a straight answer from Luke on the subject. Not when she'd already threatened to kill him.

"I don't want to lose you." More like he didn't want to end up being featured as the victim on an episode of Snapped.

Jessica wrapped her arms around herself and looked at him, dead in the eye. "Well, you did."

There was nothing left to say, so she turned and walked out of her condo. This time, the movers got out of the way.

Chapter Two

Healing from rejection takes time and self-reflection. It's really a great opportunity to become more self-aware. Be kind to yourself. Take your time. Don't let anyone push you into a new relationship before you're ready. The people you date going forward will be grateful for the work you've done.

-Jessica Gallagher, PhD,
licensed clinical therapist

Today on Date Hard or Die Alone, I have Jessica Gallagher, the author of Ten Things Not to Do If You Ever Want to See a Naked Girl Again: The Straight Man's Guide to Not Dying Alone in a Pile of Dirty Underwear. Jessica is a licensed clinical therapist with a decade of experience, and her practice focuses on helping singles figure out their relationship patterns so that they can change them. Tell me, Jessica, what made you write this book?"

Jessica shifted in her seat, took a deep breath before speaking, and hoped that it wouldn't mess up the sound. She was much more comfortable sitting across from a client in session than she was talking to a podcast host. For one thing, the podcast studio was extremely hot, and she usually didn't have giant headphones that pinched her ears and a mountain of recording equipment between her and her client. And in session, there was the opportunity to clarify and elaborate. In the media appearances that her publicist had arranged for the release of her new book, her words were digitally memorialized. If she messed up, there was no chance to back up and clarify. If she said something that someone took out of context, she could go viral and lose all credibility.

She hadn't written the book so she could become a public figure. The book proposal had come out in a chunk after she'd had to talk one too many of her clients out of giving a tenth chance to a walking red flag, after a long week of talking other clients out of giving more chances to men who frankly didn't seem to like or respect them very much.

"Well, Diana, a lot of the young people I see in my practice are extremely accomplished in their professional lives, and they have fulfilling and rewarding relationships with their family and friends. But so many of the young women I see-especially the young women who date men-are really struggling with dating and relationships."

Diana laughed. "Then why didn't you write a dating book for those young women?"

"There are thousands of dating books for straight women, telling them how to navigate the murky waters of dating," Jessica replied. "But, in my professional experience, the young women aren't the problem. Most of them, unless they've become jaded by the dating process, are earnestly putting themselves out there on dating apps and in group activities they think likely relationship candidates might be interested in. They're working on themselves and trying to present themselves in the best light. They're giving the men they meet the benefit of the doubt far beyond the point where-in my opinion-the men deserve it.

"And the men, who profess to want to date them and who benefit most from long-term, monogamous relationships, treat them like utter garbage. It's the men who need the advice. It's the men who need to be better."

"But men don't buy dating books. That's just the way it is."

Jessica wasn't sure how she was supposed to answer that. It was release day for her book, and this woman had just told her that no one was going to buy it. Now that she had to pay both halves of the mortgage, it would be great to earn out her advance and get some actual royalties. "Well, I'm hoping some concerned parents or ex-girlfriends will shove my book at the people who need it most."

Without missing a beat, Diana, a dating coach, not a licensed therapist, asked, "Don't you think the title of your book is a little inappropriate?"

Jessica did in fact think that the title of her book was inappropriate. However, her editor, publicist, and literary agent had insisted that "an eye-catching title like that will get you mentioned on The Viewpoint for sure." Instead, she was talking to a woman with no discernible training in the field of mental health or relationships-a woman who probably thought that psychology and psychiatry had been co-opted by "big pharma"-about whether she had the credibility to talk about a subject in which Jessica had a decade of experience and a whole fucking PhD.

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