Love Story

Love Story

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USA TODAY BESTSELLER • Over the course of one wild road trip, feuding childhood sweethearts get a second chance at love in this charming rom-com—a standalone novel from the author of Blurred Lines and Good Girl.

When Lucy Hawkins receives a job offer in San Francisco, she can’t wait to spread her wings and leave her small Virginia hometown behind. Her close-knit family supports her as best they can, by handing over the keys to a station wagon that’s seen better days. The catch? The cross-country trip comes with a traveling companion: her older brother’s best friend, aka the guy who took Lucy’s virginity hours before breaking her heart.

After spending the past four years and every last dime caring for his sick father, Reece Sullivan will do just about anything to break free of the painful memories—even if it means a two-week road trip with the one girl who’s ever made it past his carefully guarded exterior. But after long days of bickering in the car turn into steamy nights in secluded motel rooms, Reece learns that, when it comes to Lucy, their story is far from over. And this time, they just might have a shot at a happy ending.

One-Liners
  • Me. My Ex. 2 weeks. 1 car. Shouldn't be a problem.
Accolades

“As many readers know, I am a sucker for second-chance romances, but enemies-to-lovers doesn’t always work for me. This combination of the two absolutely did and I think will satisfy any readers looking for a quick escape and a satisfying ending.”—All About Romance

“[I’ve] always admired [Lauren Layne’s] style of writing. This one is beautifully written and well executed.”—TDC Book Reviews

“I would recommend this book to fans of contemporary romance. This is a quick and incredibly satisfying story that was a lot of fun to read.”

—Carole’s Random Life in Books

“I love [Layne’s] writing style and her characters always make me laugh and feel real. Love Story is another great standalone book in her Love Unexpectedly series!”—Read-Love-Blog

Love Story is on the younger, lighter side of contemporary romance, and it is perfect if you need a little shot of sexy without a lot of angst.”

—Janet Reads!

“I thoroughly enjoyed Lucy and Reece’s journey—literally and figuratively. If any two people were meant to be together, these two are.”—Smitten by Books

“WARNING: This book will cause unexpected outbursts of laughter and massive amounts of swooning. Prepare your family and friends—you’re about to become obsessed with Reece and Lucy!”

—Cassie Mae, author of Pillowtalk

Love Story is a road trip gone wrong in all the right ways. I fell in love with Lucy and Reece during their journey, and Lauren Layne had me feeling all the right things throughout. Great read!”

—A.M. Madden, USA Today bestselling author of Dark Corners

“A trip where the journey becomes the destination. Another smash hit!”

— New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Moreland

“Road trip romance! Two star-crossed lovers trapped in a car with sparks flying all over the place. Love Story is another fantastic read by Lauren Layne. What a treat! From the sexy banter to the sweet, heart-tugging moments, Lauren steams up the pages with characters that you fall in love with.”

—Jamie K. Schmidt, USA Today bestselling author of the Club Inferno Series

“Definitely a must-read! Looking forward to the next book in the series.”—The Romance Reviews (five stars)

Love Story is far more than the relationship between Reece and Lucy; it is also the journey of the individual characters into a place in their lives where they are able to trust themselves in order to open themselves up to a fulfilling relationship.”

—Book Angel Booktopia

“As with all of [Lauren] Layne’s books, no matter what series I’m reading, she creates a romance with heart.”

—Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews

Love Story was an enjoyable, quick read that I easily devoured. . . . If you adore road trips and hate-to-love stories, then there’s a good chance you’ll likeLove Story too!”

—Star-Crossed Book Blog

“Love Story was emotive, engaging, angsty, humorous, and little steamy.”—Books and Bindings

“As much fun as I had devouring the book, I was sad when it ended. Just did not want to say goodbye to Lucy and Reece. Yet another phenomenal book, Lauren!”—Crystal Blogs Books

“I highly recommend picking this one up. It brought a huge smile to my face the entire time I was reading.”—Jack of All Trades, Master of None Book Reviews

Excerpts

And then I feel - I actually feel - the air change around me as the side door to the garage opens, and a new presence sucks all of the air out of the space.

I don't turn around. I don't move. But I feel his eyes on me. Over me.

Reece Sullivan. My brother's best friend. My parents' "other son." Slowly, I force myself to turn, and even though I'm prepped, the force of that ice-blue gaze still does something dangerous to me. --

When she held out her small hand for the card, he took a deep breath and handed it over, meeting her eyes. "Thank you. For staying with me." Lucy blinked, looking a little confused, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world that she'd spend an afternoon with a crybaby. Then she gave him a small smile, looking a little shy for the first time since going to him, as though she'd just realized something. "I'll never leave if you don't want me to."

I don't want Lucy Hawkins. I got that pipe dream out of my system a long time ago. And yet somehow, I hear myself uttering the most idiotic words of my life: "I wouldn't mind seeing Miami." The look she shoots me would have made me laugh if I hadn't been so rigid with the shock of what I'd just agreed to. Me. Lucy. Horny. And I'm not talking about the car.

Reece rolled his eyes then took a step toward her. “Don’t tell your brother, okay?” She frowned. “Tell him what?” He swallowed and then put both big hands on her shoulders, moving even closer. “And definitely don’t tell your parents.” Then, he dipped his head, and before she could register what was happening, before she could absorb the fact that Reece Sullivan was about to kiss her, his lips pressed against hers. He didn’t linger, but neither did he pull back right away. His mouth stayed on hers just long enough for her to register the kiss, and then he stepped back, and shoved his hands in his pockets. She stared at him in mute shock, and he looked everywhere in her room before finally meeting her eyes with an almost defiant look in his. “Okay? Now will you come down to dinner?” Lucy nodded even though she was pretty positive that she wouldn’t be able to eat a single thing. Reece had been wrong. First kisses were absolutely what they were cracked up to be.

She was just heading back into the garage when he called her name. Lucy turned. “Same time tomorrow?” he asked with a grin, shoving his phone back in his pocket. Lucy grinned back and nodded, hoping like hell that he’d never find out just how much seeing him had become the highlight of her week. The highlight of her everything.

The truth is… I don’t know the truth.The truth is I’m confused. And maybe the truth is, I’m a little curious as to why he said yes. Even more curious as to why I didn’t fight it. The man broke my heart. I should be keeping my distance, and yet...here we are.

As Reece and Lucy stood before “Reverend Brandi” and pretended to exchange vows, she snuck a glance at Reece, saw him giving her a knowing look. She broke eye contact, and bit her lip, wondering if he knew. Wondering if he knew as well as she did, that someday… They’d be exchanging vows for real.

I start to roll my eyes and turn toward the window, but he snags one long finger under my chin, pulling my face around to his. “Deny it.” he says, his voice low. “Deny that the outfit wasn’t for me. That you’re having a hard time remembering your boyfriend’s name when I’m around.” “That’s crap,” I snap. “I haven’t thought about you like that in years. I hate you.” He smiles as his finger strokes along my jawline. “Yeah. Yeah you do. But you want me.”

Now I’m realizing that I knew the boy. I knew the boy better than he knew himself. But the man? The man is new. The man is hot. And even as I bite my lip and contemplate the wisdom of spending an evening in his company. I know that I’ll do anyway. Because suddenly I’m desperate. Desperate to know the man as well as I knew the boy.

For the first time I realize that maybe there’s hope for me and Reece to get back to what we were before. Friends. Good Friends. Just...minus the whole messy falling in love part this time. Because that shit hurt.

My beer freezes halfway to my lips. What the hell is this? It looks fucking choreographed. My beer slams back down to the table when Lucy’s arm lifts, her hand hooking idly around the other guy’s neck as she leans into him, her head against his his chest, lips parted. Her eyes close as the guy’s hand moves down slightly, then up again, lifting her skirt a bit, and I’m moving before I can stop myself. The song fades into another as I step onto the dance floor, a Latin song with a sexy, driving rhythm. I watch the man’s hands slide toward her ass as her arms lift to drape over his shoulders and pull him closer. And then I’m there, shoving him out of the way, my hands replacing his. “Hey ----” “Mine,” I growl at him.

I’m not one for dancing, but this I can handle. This slow swaying is little more than a grind, and though I don’t know a lick of Spanish, the gist of the song is clear. It’s a promise of hot sweaty nights, of my hands on her skin, my mouth on her mouth… I’ve pulled her closer now, a little unnerved by how right it feels that after all this time we move together so well.

I can’t help myself. My hands skim over her sides, down over her hips, slowly teasing the fabric upward, just enough so that my fingertips can touch her bare outer thighs. I feel her freeze for a half second before she resumes her torturous wiggling, more deliberate this time, her ass teasing my cock which hardens more with every breath. We go on like this endlessly, torturing each other, the music, the lack of words, the unfamiliar city somehow letting us pretend that this is all a dream. That in real life, we didn’t break each other’s hearts, that we won’t hate each other tomorrow.

The heels of Reece’s hands push into my ribcage as he pushes me against the car. My breath comes out in a whoosh as I collide with the hot metal of Horny, but Reece captures the gasp with his mouth. I forget all about my sweat, all about the fact that my hands are grimy, and that he was hardly a gentleman in making me change the tire myself. My hands are greedy on his shoulders, the back of his head, his waist, and his hands equally hungry, touching me everywhere. His mouth tastes like the mint of his gum, his lips a little bit salty from the sweat. The kiss turns fast and hungry, and also somehow a little bit sweet for all its spontaneity.

“You want me.” I blink. “That’s what you have to say? You kissed me.” “You kissed me back.” I touch the corner of my stubble-grazed mouth and scowl at him. “So? What are you going to do about it?” Reece tiredly runs a hand over his face. “Hell if I know, Lucy. Hell if I know.”

“There’s something I’ve been wondering.” “Shoot,” she said, legs continuing to swing idly, as though she didn’t have a care in the world. “Did it ever get better for you?” “Did what?” Lucy asked, not following. “Kissing.” Her legs abruptly stopped swinging. “What?” Reece walked toward her until he was just a few inches from where she sat. Her position on the counter put them at eye level, and the sheer control in the way he moved made her suddenly realize that she’d seriously be in over her head with the guy if he ever decided to make a move. “I promised you it got better after the first kiss,” he said, moving even closer, even as his gaze stayed safely locked on her collarbone. “Want to make sure I didn’t let you down.” “You didn’t let me down,” she said without thinking. His eyes flew to hers. “Meaning?” Lucy decided to go for broke. As he pointed out, she was leaving in three months. Nothing to lose. Other than her heart. “Meaning that my first kiss remains my best kiss.”

OR

“I promised you it got better after the first kiss,” he said, moving even closer, even as his gaze stayed safely locked on her collarbone. “Want to make sure I didn’t let you down.” “You didn’t let me down,” she said without thinking. His eyes flew to hers. “Meaning?” Lucy decided to go for broke. As he pointed out, she was leaving in three months. Nothing to lose. Other than her heart. “Meaning that my first kiss remains my best kiss.”

And then his mouth closed over hers, hot and possessive. Lucy gasped in surprise before opening her lips to his. Reece’s hands found her shoulders, backing her into the front door. Once she was pinned between the door and his body, his hands lifted to her hair, tangling in it and tilting her head so he could take the kiss deeper. Lucy kissed him back with everything she had, as one word looped on repeat in her head: finally.

With wet bags sandwiched uncomfortably between us, both of us cold and shivering, the moment shouldn’t be sexy. But when she lifts her eyes to mind, framed by the wet spikes of her long eyelashes, her eyes dark and smoky, partially from her smeared makeup, partially from the heat between us… Damn but I want her. Always her. Maybe only her.

“I’m so sick of this, Lucy. We can’t keep doing this.” “Then you shouldn’t have agreed to the road trip!” I step closer. “Don’t put this all on me.” “But it is all on you!” “How the fuck do you figure that?” “You ruined us. We had something perfect, and you ruined it.”

Her kiss is both sweet and dangerous, both teasing and passionate, and lest she get confused about who’s driving this kiss, I slide my hand down slightly, gripping the back of her neck as my other arm wraps around her, dragging her all the way against me. I nudge her lips apart and she lets me in with a soft gasp. Mine. Always Mine.

“Why are you always mad at me,” I whisper. “I can’t do anything right.” “Mad,” he says with a laugh. “That’s what you think this is?” Reece reaches out a hand, slips it into my hair, palming my head as he tilts my face up. “I’m not mad.” I open my mouth, to say...I don’t even know what. Instead, I shake my head. We can’t do this -- we shouldn’t do this. Reece’s fingers tighten. “Tell me, Lucy.” It’s a command. “Tell you what?” I ask, giving in to the heat of his gaze and everything it promises. “That you want this. That you want me.”

I brace for the censure, maybe anger, but I make myself meet her eyes. The lower half of her face is hidden partially by her arm, and I can’t read the expression in her eyes. Then she lifts her face slightly, and my heart starts beating again when I see that she’s smiling. Grinning, actually. “We’re in trouble here, huh?” I smile back, relieved beyond belief that she’s not going to give me the lecture I deserve. And yet, she’s right. “Yeah, Luce. We’re in trouble.”

I smile. “Hands-on is still important. The most important, I’d say. But I’ve...I’ve been thinking about what you said. Thinking about what I want out of my life, and I don’t just want to be the guy drifting through the days from paycheck to paycheck.” “Okay.” She sets her purse carefully on the floor and crosses her arm. “And what do you want?” I take a step toward her, gaining courage now. Not because I’m not terrified of the power of her one-woman army has over my heart, but because I know the answer to her question with absolute certainty. I’m tired of being the man who runs. Tired of being that guy who won’t reach for something worthwhile because I’m scared it’ll disappear.

“Endgame,” I blurt out. Her smile fades. “What?” I step closer now. Her eyes go wary, but my heart surges with hope that she won’t take a step back. “You asked me what my endgame was with this job.” “And you’ve figured it out?” she asks. “Not with the job, no, but I’m getting there. Things are starting to feel...clear.” “Well,” she says, forcing a smile. “I’m glad. You’re meant for great things. I’ve always known that, even if you didn’t.”

“What I regret the most is not telling you how I felt about you. I should have told you when I was nineteen. Hell, I should have told you when I was nine.” Her bottom lip wobbles, and I lift a hand to brush my thumb across her trembling mouth. Suddenly, there’s no fear. No terror. There’s only this moment. Late, but still perfect. “I love you, Lucy.”

Then, I close my eyes. I am home. Even if this hug is all I get, it’s enough. I’ll make it be enough. At least until I can get better and braver, and demand that she gives me more moments like this one.

My heart sinks. This is what she wanted to tell me? I put my heart on the line, and she -- “I love you just as you are. I’ve always loved you.”