Michael Clifford is Australia’s bad boy. Rebecca Eaton is America’s sweetheart. Which makes them perfect for each other, at least according to their managers, who arrange for Michael and Rebecca to pretend to be engaged for a year in hopes of smoothing out Michael’s troubled reputation while simultaneously heightening Rebecca’s global appeal. They both agree because they have nothing to lose, but the more time they spend together, the more they start to wonder what’s real and what’s a charade.


1. one.

“The sound of a million hearts breaking in despair was heard across the world today when Michael Clifford announced his engagement to rising American pop sensation Rebecca Eaton. Clifford, 22, is the guitarist Australian pop-punk band, 5 Seconds of Summer. Although Clifford and the 21 year old singer, who is considered to be America’s sweetheart, have never been linked before, representatives for both parties confirm the couple is extremely excited about the engagement and hope their fans will be supportive as well. The Australian heartthrob, known as the playboy of the band as well as one of Australia’s most eligible bachelors, was last linked to British television actress Sofia Jennings. In other news-“

Rebecca switched off the television and tossed the remote to the side, where it landed on the couch with a soft thud, still unable to believe this was actually happening. When her manager had first suggested that she enter a relationship for the sake of publicity, she had scoffed at the idea, but it had taken her a night of finishing a bottle of wine by herself while she looked herself up on the internet to find an appalling lack of content to realize that it needed to be done.

She had hit it big in the music industry about a year ago, and although she was just beginning to be the talk of all the elite music circles, her manager, Helen, believed that if Rebecca was linked to someone as famous as Michael Clifford, it would kick start her career even more. Thus, Helen had come up with the contract. Michael and Rebecca would be engaged for a year before calling it off due to conflicting work schedules and the inability to spend enough time together. By the time the engagement was over, the publicity stunt would have worked its magic and both their album and tour sales would be through the roof.

Rebecca was shocked when the idea was proposed to her and even more surprised when she learned that Michael had already agreed to it. Though, truthfully, he needed the image shift just as much as she did, if not more. 5 Seconds of Summer’s management was concerned that Michael’s reputation of loving and leaving was starting to taint the band’s image and tarnishing the public perception of the group. They needed to prove that Michael could maintain a solid, stable relationship – at least for a little while. Despite having piercings and tattoos since he was a teenager, it wasn’t until Michael began a campaign of nightly club visits and random hookups two years ago that he was officially given the label of a bad boy.  

Rebecca was the perfect solution. She was mild in terms of tabloid presence: she had never had bad press, never been the center of any kind of scandal. She was exactly the kind of girl Michael needed to calm his wild ways; sweet and innocent and seemingly wholesome. At least that’s what the headlines had read the morning the news of their engagement was announced to the press: “Australian bad boy Michael Clifford is finally tamed by Rebecca Eaton.”

Tamed. She snorted at the thought as she stared out the window to her left. As if she could ever tame anybody. She had no powers over any kind of men. Especially not men like Michael Clifford.

A knock on her hotel room door brought her out of her reverie. Blinking a couple times, she pushed herself from the couch to answer it, pulling open the door to reveal her manager, Helen, who bustled in without saying hello.

“Come on in,” Rebecca whispered sarcastically as her manager took a seat on one of the plump leather chairs in front of the television, apparently buzzing about something. As much as Rebecca was annoyed with Helen for getting her into this situation in the first place, she wouldn’t trade her manager for anything.  After all, she was practically the mother Rebecca never had.

Helen was bouncing in her chair, patting down her silver hair, worn in a pixie cut, when Rebecca turned from closing the door and the singer couldn’t help but smile at her manager’s excitement.

Rebecca plopped down on the couch next to her manager, lacing her fingers together over her legging covered thighs. “What’s up?”

A grin spread across Helen’s face, her gray eyes lighting with joy. “Michael’s on his way.”

Rebecca blinked slowly as she processed this information. Michael. Her now fiancé. It was still too strange to think about.

She would be lying if she said that she wasn’t just a little bit excited. The whole idea of faking a relationship still didn’t sit well with her, but Helen certainly couldn’t have chosen a better partner.

Michael Clifford had powers over Rebecca that she couldn’t quite comprehend. She had only met him once, backstage at the previous Brit awards where she had been presenting an award his band had won, but she had developed a little bit of a crush in the few minutes they had spent together. He was surprisingly charming, with a sunny disposition and a perpetual mischievous twinkle in his eyes, which, when coupled with that heart stopping mile wide grin, was a deadly combination.

She couldn’t explain it. Michael had some unidentifiable way of making her melt. He had no idea, though. She was a better actress than she was given credit for, playing it cool, as if he had no effect on her. And that was the way she would play their relationship as well; their fake relationship, that is.

Helen grabbed Rebecca’s hand, snapping her back to reality as she patted it comfortingly. “Are you alright, love?”

Rebecca smiled slightly and nodded as convincingly as she could. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just still can’t believe this is actually happening.”

Helen nodded sympathetically. “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. It’s just a year. Just one year and all of this will be over.”

Rebecca turned her gaze to look out the window, wondering why the knots in the pit of her stomach were indicating that a year wouldn’t be long enough. “Why is he doing this?”

Helen smiled softly. “Because he needs to survive. His management needs him to survive. The world needs him to survive.”

Rebecca scrunched her eyebrows together in confusion at the cryptic words. “What do you mean?”

Helen shrugged. “The band needs good publicity to keep their careers going. And lord knows the world needs them. All of them. You and I both know the world wouldn’t be the same without Michael Clifford.”

A few miles away, Michael chewed on his bottom lip out of nervous habit as he stared out the window of the car and he tugged his fingers upwards and outwards through his perpetually messy hair, currently dyed jet black with streaks of bright blue. He was on his way to Rebecca’s London hotel to see her for the first time since announcing their engagement.


He still couldn’t believe it. He was only twenty-two, after all. It seemed far too early in his career, or his life for that matter, for this to be happening. It wasn’t as though he really had a life plan besides making music and touring the world with his three best friends, but he figured getting married would be a little further down the road.

But management had insisted he get his act together and when the band mates he considered to be brothers had echoed those thoughts, he knew that he didn’t really have a choice. Besides, the last thing he ever wanted was to disappoint the people he loved the most. To them, Rebecca had the perfect reputation to offset his playboy ways. She could do no wrong in the eyes of the press and that kind of adoration was exactly what he needed at the moment.

He didn’t mind too much, actually. She could’ve been a lot worse. From the brief interaction he had with Rebecca Eaton at the Brits last year, he had surmised that she was very normal. In every sense of the word. Personality wise, she was sweet and extremely down to earth. And Michael was satisfied with that. Maybe normal was exactly what he needed.

As the car pulled up outside Rebecca’s hotel, Michael fingered the velvet box tucked into the pocket of his leather jacket. Exhaling nervously, he thanked the driver before exiting the car, thinking it was nerve wrecking to know that so much of his life was about to change.

When Rebecca swung the door open to find Michael on the other side, she had to pause for a moment to take in the beautiful sight. She understood immediately why he was considered a heartthrob. His trademark dyed hair was effortlessly tousled to look sexy as hell, the rod pierced through his eyebrow looking extra shiny. His clear green eyes sparkled with mischievous delight and the way he shoved his hands into the pocket of his black skinny jeans made her slightly weak at the knees.

She regained her composure before smiling brightly at him. “Michael!”

He returned the smile, his lips stretching slowly in a way that caused her heart rate to quicken. “Hello, Rebecca.”

She opened the door a little wider and gestured for him to come in. He immediately made his way over to Helen and hugged her.

Helen grinned. She loved Michael. Rebecca was fairly certain that if Michael asked for a kidney, Helen would gladly give it to him. She squeezed him. “Michael, darling, how are you?”

He smiled down at her. “My days always get better when I get to see you, Helen. You look lovely, as always.”

Helen patted him on the arm. “Charming as ever, aren’t you. Well I better be going, I have a meeting with a very important magazine editor. Remember that you two are making your first public appearance as a couple at the movie premiere on Saturday. Michael, I believe you and the boys have an interview on the Late Late Show in Ireland next week and Rebecca will be on Alan Carr later next week as well.”

Rebecca and Michael both nodded. Helen came over and squeezed Rebecca’s hand. “I’ll see you later, love. Have a nice night you two.”

With that, she was out the door.

Rebecca bit her lip nervously as she closed the door behind Helen. This was the first time she had ever been completely alone with Michael and it set her on edge that he didn’t seem antsy at all.

Shoving his hands in his pockets again, he smiled at her. His grin immediately put her at ease. “So, Rebecca. How have you been?”

She let out a small laugh. “What since the first time we met?”

He continued smiling, replying easily as he nodded. “Yeah. Since then. What have you been up to?”

She shrugged as she made her way over to the couch. He followed, and they both sat down, facing each other, her fingers twisting together in her lap. “You know, singing and stuff. You?”

He laughed. “Yeah, banding and stuff. This is all kind of strange, huh?”

She nodded. Strange didn’t even begin to describe their situation. She tilted her head to the side slightly, taking in his appearance as he sized her up. “Why did you say yes?”

He seemed taken aback by her question, chewing on his lower lip for a moment as he contemplated his response, his eyes somewhat glazing over. “Because I want my best friends to be proud of me again.”

She gave him a small nod, accepting his answer. “Ok.”

He raised his eyebrows in surprise as his gaze returned to her. “Is that it?”

She gave him a half smile and shrugged. “For now. I figure we’ll get to know each other pretty well throughout this whole little project.”

She flinched inwardly when she realized she had just referred to their relationship, albeit a fake one, as a project. It seemed a little harsh, almost as though she didn’t take it seriously.

He didn’t seem to mind though, shrugging casually. “Fair enough. Speaking of this project, I have something for you.”

Reaching into the pocket of his black leather jacket, he slowly extracted a navy blue velvet ring box, opening the lid to reveal a gorgeous diamond ring.

Rebecca’s lips parted in awe as she stared at the piece of jewelry. “You got me a ring?”

He laughed at her reaction. “Don’t sound so surprised. We are pretend engaged after all. Who’s going to believe it’s real if you don’t have a ring?”

Those words left his lips sounding extremely casual for a guy who had nearly started hyperventilating while picking out this particular piece of jewelry a few days before. It had been a completely surreal experience partly because he knew nothing about diamond rings and partly because he was choosing it for a woman he knew equally little about.

She bit her lip and blushed a lovely pink. Perhaps she should have thought of this too, but she still appreciated the gesture. “That’s sweet of you.”

He shrugged, smiling widely. “I know.”

Reaching out, she attempted to take the ring from him, but he pulled the box away before her fingers could grasp the thin silver band. Lifting the corners of his lips into a small smile, he slid from the couch to the floor, kneeling on one knee to her front. She scrunched her eyebrows in confusion. “What are you doing?”

His smile widened, his eyes glinting wickedly. “I figure if we’re going to do this, we might as well do it right. I mean, how many times does a girl get proposed to in her life, right?”

Somewhat flustered, she nodded as a blush spread across her cheeks. “Um. Ok.”

Mentally slapping herself for that completely inarticulate response, she scooted forward on the couch and sat up a little straighter in preparation.

He looked into her eyes, a slow smile spreading across his face, which caused her to flush even redder, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from his gorgeous jade orbs. They were mesmerizing. “Rebecca Eaton, will you marry me?”

She took a deep breath and decided to play it coy, despite the fact that her heart was racing. “I don’t know, Michael. I mean we haven’t known each other for very long, this all seems a little rushed.”

He rolled his eyes. “Just take the ring, Rebecca.”

She laughed and held out her left hand, holding her breath as he slipped the ring onto her finger. She took a moment to admire it before looking up to find Michael watching her with an amused smirk on his face.

Once again, she blushed. “What?”

He smiled and shook his head as he rose to take his seat beside her on the couch once more. “Nothing. It’s just cute how fascinated you are by it.”

Once again, her cheeks became red. She really needed to stop doing that, it was getting kind of ridiculous. “I just appreciate beauty I guess.”

He bit down on his bottom lip as he smiled at her, making her heart flutter slightly. “I understand that.”

He seemed to be in some sort of trance, staring at the space slightly to the left of her. He blinked a couple times as if snapping himself back into reality before sending her another dazzling smile. “So when do you want to move in?”

She blinked once, shocked by his question. “Excuse me?”

His eyes crinkled as his smile widened. “Well, since we are engaged, we should probably be living together. I figure it would be easiest if you moved into my place, seeing as you probably don’t want to be living out of a hotel room for the next year.”

Michael and his band mates were from Australia, but because they spent so much time in England and America while recording and writing, as they were doing currently, they each had apartments in the city that they kept on hand for when they were in this part of the world.

Her eyes widened at the suggestion because she hadn’t really thought about it in that much detail. To be honest, she hadn’t thought through the details of any part of their arrangement. She was glad he was on top of it, seeing as being around him caused her to lose her ability to think clearly. “Oh, right. Well I don’t have many things with me, here. Most of my things are back in my apartment in New York. I’ll go back at some point and get them. But for now, I can probably have all of my things packed up by tonight.”

He nodded and stood up, smiling. “Ok, perfect. I’ll come pick you up at eight. We can hang out and get to know each other better.”

“Sounds good.” She stood up and walked him to the door, pausing as she held it open for him. “Hey, Michael, I’m not exactly sure how to say this, but thanks.”

He turned to look at her, shoving his hands in his pockets and raising his eyebrows. He leaned forward slightly, resting his shoulder against the door frame. “What for?”

She bit her lip nervously. “For helping me out, I guess. That’s kind of a weird way to put it, but I guess I don’t really know what to call our little arrangement.”

He smiled slightly. “You can relax Rebecca. This doesn’t have to be awkward. We act like a couple in public, but at home, we can just be…friends.”

This relaxed her slightly. Though honestly, she was kind of hoping for more than friendship. She scolded herself for acting like a child. This was a contract. They were supposed to be professionals. She wasn’t sure what it was about Michael that made her such a mess around him. Maybe it was the fact that he was exactly the kind of boy she would have liked in high school. She was the shy, awkward good girl and he was the bad boy musician.

She held in a sigh. It was such a cliché. She should have grown out of the phase where she crushed on bad boys by now. She promised herself she would play it cool. She wasn’t going to let him find out how much of an effect he really had on her. She wasn’t going to become another one of the notches in his bedpost.

She realized he was still in the door way, gazing at her with that same amused smirk. Resisting the urge to lean forward and kiss him, she instead opting to smirk back. “I guess we’ll see, won’t we, Clifford. I’m very picky when it comes to my friends. I’ll see you at eight.”

His eyes twinkled, clearly intrigued with her response. She was inwardly delighted that she was able to remain so collected. But then he leaned towards her, his lips grazing her ear, and her entire thought process went out the window as his warm breath sent shivers up her spine. “Who knows. Maybe we’ll be more than friends.”

Before she had time to respond, he pulled away, winked at her, turned, and walked down the hallway. She was left in the doorway, gaping. Damn him. He won this round.

Rebecca Eaton may be sweet and innocent, but simple she was not. Michael Clifford was a fool if he thought he could have her that easily. 

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