Runaway Groom

Runaway Groom

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For one charming playboy, getting cast on a Bacheloresque reality TV show is the shock of a lifetime—until he finds love where he least expects it. And now the chase is on!

Gage Barrett’s reputation as a ladies’ man has been greatly exaggerated, but none of that matters after a drunken bet lands him onJilted,a reality TV show that matches runaway grooms with wannabe brides. Now he’s stuck at a Hawaiian resort with nineteen women competing to drag him back to the altar—and one contestant who’s even more miserable than he is. Gage has no idea how feisty, independent Ellie Wright wound up in the cast, but it’s obvious she hates his guts. And if there’s one thing Gage likes, it’s a challenge. . . .

Ellie can’t believe she let her best friend talk her into exchanging her dignity for a glorified bikini contest. Still, she could use the exposure—her business is struggling—and she’ll probably be one of the first to get eliminated anyway. But Gage isn’t the shallow jerk Ellie anticipated—and he’s in no rush to send her home. As stolen kisses turn into secret trysts, she finds herself losing track of what’s real and what’s for the camera. With the wedding finale looming, this runaway groom is tempting Ellie to start believing in storybook endings.

One-Liners
  • 25 women are competing to get him down the aisle—expect the one he wants.
Accolades

“Romantic comedy at its finest . . . Readers will not want to put it down.”—USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog

“Lauren Layne gets the red rose for this one, and fans of The Bachelor will fall in love with this thoroughly charming story.”—Kate O’Keeffe, bestselling author of One Last First Date

“Runaway Groom was a charmingly fun romance centered around a Bacheloresque reality show, and underneath the backdrop of this show was a wildly hot and explosive love affair steeped with interesting characters and Layne’s signature wit.”—Book Reader Chronicles (five stars)

“If you’re a fan of Lauren Layne, The Bachelor, or witty contemporary novels, this book is for you. It’s the perfect beach read—or snow day read, if you’re stuck in cold weather like me!”—All About Romance“

I haven’t read anything else by this author yet, but now I just have to. Five suns!”—Up ’Til Dawn Book Blog

“I loved it. You just know it’s going to be good with a happy ending that makes you smile. It did!”—My Reading Journeys

“Runaway Groom was so good.”—Obsessive Book Nerd

“Runaway Groom is such a fun, witty and laugh-out-loud kind of romance. I think readers will enjoy this addition to the series.”—Smitten by Books

“Runaway Groom was just what the doctor ordered. . . . Light, fun and flirty with a stunning setting guaranteed to whisk you away from real life for a few hours.”—Book Angel Booktopia

“Runaway Groom is a fun and romantic getaway filled with all the drama and craziness you can expect from a reality dating show, characters that will charm your pants off, and a chemistry that starts with a sizzle and ends with a bang.”—Of Pens and Pages

“Hilarious, sigh-worthy, crazy at times, and so much fun!”—Star-Crossed Book Blog

“I was absolutely obsessed with Runaway Groom, reading it in one sitting. I literally couldn’t put it down because I had to know how it would all shake out.”—Kimberlyfaye Reads

“Holy cow, this book was good. It was the perfect book to read after a really bad book because Gage and Ellie’s antics perked me right up. . . . It was so good that I read the entire thing in one sitting. I can’t think of a single thing that I didn’t like about it.”—Weendizzle

“Lauren Layne does it again! What a fun and charming read!”—Ebs and Her Reads (five stars)

“What fun! Runaway Groom is destined to be a runaway hit. Packed with smart snarky humor, witty banter, poignant insights, and steamy love scenes, this rom-com is one of Layne’s best.”—Books & Bindings (five stars)

Excerpts

“But here's the thing about learning from other people's mistakes: you miss out on the chance to make some mistakes on your own. And sometimes you get so busy dodging the potential mistakes that you miss the potential magic.

“Right. You’re here for . . . what was it again? To find your one true love?” I don’t bother to keep the skepticism out of my voice.

He surprises me by grinning. “Why do you think I’m here?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” I say, waving my hand breezily as I again attempt to ease by him.

He reaches out to stop me, his fingers resting lightly against my stomach, his fingers seeming to burn through the thin fabric of my shirt, and I’m embarrassed at the way my breath hitches

“All right, then,” I say quietly as I back up. “I guess we’re done here.”

“Like hell,” he snaps, reaching out and hooking a finger into the V-neck of my hoodie. “Will you just stand still a second and let me explain?”

“You already did. You’re not a gentleman, and you lied,” I sum up succinctly.

I hear what sounds like the grinding of teeth, and it’s slightly mollifying to know that I’m not the only one who’s feeling frustrated.

We’re both breathing heavily, and slowly I become aware of the back of his knuckle against my chest. It’s up high, not like he’s fondling my boobs or anything, but it’s skin on skin, and we’re a dark room, and he’s Gage Barrett, and—

He stands as well, studying me. “That’s what you want?”

I nod. “I’m not cut out for the camera or this fake falling-in-love thing. I want something real, with a real guy.”

He blinks, and I could have sworn I hurt his feelings. “I’m real, Ellie.”

“You’re Hollywood,” I correct.

“You’re right. Which equates to no brain, no substance, and I just bleed air, right?”

I feel a sting of regret. “That’s not—”

“Forget it,” he says, pushing past without looking at me.

“What’s your last name?” I ask once we’re on the main road and out of sight of both the van and the cameras.

She pulls a hair elastic from her wrist and winds her long dark hair into a messy knot atop her head to protect it from the wind. “Why?”

“Are you always ornery, or is it just with me?”

“I’m not ornery,” she says indignantly. “I’m just wondering why you need my last name. We’re supposed to remain anonymous.”

“We both know I can find out within two minutes of being back at the villa.”

She looks out at the ocean, then back at me. “Wright. With a W. But don’t go stalking me when the show is over.”

“I’ll try to contain myself.”

"I’ve seen the Killboy movies, where you seduce anything with boobs. I know your pre-kiss moves, Barrett.”

I smile wider, enjoying her. Enjoying us. “Well, here’s the thing. The producers are on my ass about the fact that I haven’t kissed any of the contestants yet.”

“Huh. Well, you’d better get on that,” she says huskily.

I step closer, my head dipping toward her. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. But Hollywood . . . ?” Ellie says on a whisper as her eyes flick up to mine, and now it’s my breath that catches, because for all her T-shirts and straight talk, Ellie Wright can be alluring as hell when she wants to be.

“Hmm?” I ask, already fantasizing about what she’ll taste like.

She lifts herself on tiptoe until her mouth is inches from mine, her hand rising to my cheek . . . which she gives a sisterly pat before slipping away. “You really should save it for the camera,” she calls over her shoulder as she heads back toward the car. “And one of the other girls.”

I don’t want any of the other girls.

The thought hits me hard, but there it is . . . an inconvenient truth if there ever was one.

Ellie sees me coming, her eyes going slightly wide when she realizes I’m headed right toward her, then they narrow in warning. Go away.

I narrow mine right back. Like hell.

“Ellie.”

“Gage.”

I step closer to her, and she steps back, only to find that she’s pressed against the van and can’t go any further. She huffs in frustration. “What do you want?”

I open my mouth, only to realize . . .

I don’t know what I want. I don’t know why I’m here, or what I want to tell her.

I mean, I do. I want to tell her that the kisses with the other women meant nothing—that they kissed me, and I didn’t particularly enjoy a single second.

But I don’t know why I want to tell her that. It’s not as though Ellie’s a jealous girlfriend I need to explain myself to. She’s not even jealous at all.

And that right there . . . that’s why I’m in a bad mood.

I want her to be jealous. I want her to want me like I want her.

He’s still holding my hand, his face just a few inches from mine. “What was the deal with you today?”

“What do you mean?” I avoid his eyes.

“You were acting weird. You ignored my texts. You wouldn’t even look at me on the boat. Or at dinner.”

“I never look at you. Your ego shines so brightly, it hurts my eyes.”

Instead of letting me escape with the joke, Gage snags my chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting my face to his as he searches my expression. “Talk to me.”

He’s so close. My eyes drop to his mouth for a split second, and I have the insane urge to press my lips to his.

“You’re mad at me, and you won’t tell me why. I’m not even sure you’ll tell yourself why.”

I keep my eyes locked on his Adam’s apple. “I’m not mad. I just want to go home.”

“Two nights ago, you were fine staying. You were good with it. Something changed.”

“Nothing changed.”

“Yeah? Look me in the eyes and say it.”

“You’re just hoping I’ll compare your eyes to guacamole again.”

He laughs, causing his chest to lift and fall beneath my hand. I try to tug it free, but he holds me still.

“Ellie.”

“What?”

“Ellie.”

My eyes close a second, then I take a deep breath, force myself to quit being a ninny chicken, and lift my gaze to his.

“You were jealous.”

I scoff. “No.”

“No?” He touches my ear gently, and it shouldn’t be sexy, because it’s an ear, but his fingers are warm, his touch gentle, and my eyes close. “They kissed me.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t exactly see you shoving them away,” I say on a whisper.

“I’m an actor, Ellie. Kissing for the camera is part of my job. It’ll always be part of my job.”

“I know that!” I practically shout, turning toward him and batting his hand away. “I get that. What I don’t get is why we’re talking about it! I didn’t ask you not to kiss them. I didn’t even bring it up, you did! You can kiss whoever you want. You should kiss the women. If you’re going to freaking marry one of them, you should kiss all of them, you should—”

Gage captures my face with both of his hands, derailing the rest of my rant with a kiss so unexpected and demanding that I gasp against his lips.

My hands lift, my fingers wrapping around his wrists as I open my mouth to his.

The second I do, Gage groans and deepens the kiss, his tongue sliding against mine. His fingers tunnel into my hair, and my hands slide from his wrists and up his arms until I can wrap my arms around him, pulling him closer.

I slip into the hallway before he can reply, but I have to walk away now. Before I can dwell on the fact that pain flashed across his face at my words.

For the second time today, my eyes sting with the threat of tears—for myself, yes, but also because I’ve been so damn worried about not letting him hurt me that I haven’t really realized . . . what if I hurt him?

And why does that bother me so much?