The Prenup

The Prenup

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Ten years ago, I married my brother’s best friend. I haven’t seen him since. Until now ...

Charlotte Spencer grew up on the blue-blooded Upper East Side of Manhattan but she never wanted the sit-still-look-pretty future her parents dictated for her. Enter Colin Walsh, her brother’s quiet, brooding best friend, and with him a chance to pursue her dreams. One courthouse wedding later, Charlotte’s inheritance is hers to start a business in San Francisco and Irish-born Colin has a Green Card.

Ten years later, they're happily married. On different coasts. With separate lives. In fact, she hasn't even seen Colin in a decade, and that's just fine by her. But fate throws her a curveball when her husband calls her back to New York, and she realizes the boy she's married is long gone. In his place is a shockingly appealing man ... who wants a divorce. The problem? The terms of their prenup arrangement state that before either can file for separation, they have to live under the same roof for three months.

Now, in order to get divorced, they have to pretend to be married. For real ...

A note from the author: This is a PG-13 romantic comedy written in first-person, heroine-only POV. There is plenty of sexual tension, but it does not have any of the explicitly steamy scenes of many of my earlier books.

Accolades

Monica Murphy, New York Times Bestselling Author

The Prenup is a delicious slow burn romance. Loved every minute of it!

I'm a major Lauren Layne fan and The Prenup didn't disappoint!

You can always count on Lauren Layne delivering a fun, modern romance!

R.S. Grey, USA TODAY Bestselling Author

The Prenup is utterly charming—a binge-worthy rom-com you won’t be able to put down. With non-stop wit, this feel-good romance pays homage to the old-school rom-coms we all loved so much. A perfect beach read."

Noelle Adams, New York Times Bestselling Author

It’s all the best things about contemporary romance wrapped up in one beautifully written bundle of fun wit and real emotion.

Rachel Van Dyken, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Layne's best work yet—a compelling reminder of why we all fell in love with romance in the first place.

Jessica Lemmon, Bestselling Author

"Your #1 fun summer read is here! With its easy banter, sharp humor and toe-curling sexual tension, The Prenup is guaranteed to satisfy.” 

"Lauren Layne’s voice sparkles in The Prenup. With its sharp humor, easy banter and toe-curling sexual tension, it's the ultimate LL experience.” 

Apple Books - UK

The Prenup reads like the sort of screwball rom-com you wish Hollywood still made. Its great strength are the two leads: Charlotte Spencer (razor-sharp New York socialite determined to take Silicon Valley by storm) and Colin Walsh (Charlotte's brother's low-key Irish best pal) are the sort of characters that feel instantly familiar. They're attempting to get divorced after a 10-year marriage of convenience (Charlotte needed to be married to unlock her inheritance, Colin was after a green card), but must live together for three months to be granted a divorce. This proves more problematic than it appears since the pari haven't seen each other since their perfunctory nuptials. Surely, love can't Blossom in these most unromantic of circumstances? Lauren Layne is exactly the writer to ensure the story stays believable, utterly charming, and laugh-out-loud funny.

Jennifer Probst, New York Times Bestselling Author

“The Prenup is a sexy, sassy romantic comedy that hooked me from the start!”

“Layne does it again with this sexy, sassy romantic comedy with all the feels!”

Excerpts

I reach his table and he gives the slightest nod. “Charlotte.”

The voice is the same. Gorgeous and lilting, and every bit as Irish as I remember.

“I almost didn’t recognize you,” I say breezily, lifting my cheek to receive his kiss.

Damn. He smells good too. Expensive and clean.

Why did nobody warn me about this?

“Almost didn’t recognize me?” he says, lifting his eyebrows. “If I had to guess, I’d say you didn’t have the faintest clue who I was,” he says, pulling out my chair for me before settling back in his.

“Charlotte.”

“Yeah?” I give him an encouraging smile.

He looks nervous but determined.

Then he lays it on me: “I want a divorce.”

I glance back down at the prenup. “It says … it says neither one of us can file for divorce until …”

I can’t say it. I can’t even think it.

But Colin’s apparently had more time with the concept, because he says it calmly, as though it’s not about to turn my life upside down.

“We can’t get divorced until we live under the same roof for three months. As husband and wife.”

“What if you get …” He lowers his voice. “Investigated?”

I glance over my shoulder, then, to play it safe, I shut the office door. “You mean, how am I not in hot water for marriage fraud?”

He shrugs. “I’ve seen The Proposal.”

I pretend to write on my palm. “Note to self, spouse does not share his space well.”

“While you’re making notes, jot this down … stay out of my bedroom.”

“Were you this much fun when we got married?” I ask.

“Were you this annoying?”

I give his chest an affectionate pat as I walk past him. “Oh, hubby. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

I go to the closet and slide open the doors, inspecting the unimpressive space. “This is smaller than yours. Criminally so.”

“It’ll hold whatever’s in that suitcase and then some.”

“Yes. But not the stuff arriving tomorrow.”

“What stuff arriving tomorrow?”

I turn. “You really thought I was going to move across the country with no more than what fits in an overhead compartment?”

“I have more important things to do with my life than lose my temper.”

“As opposed to me, who just fritters away her days getting manicures and shopping?”

He doesn’t bother to dignify that as he stands and goes to the door. “At least there’s one upside to all of this,” he says, turning and gesturing between the two of us.

“What this?” I ask. “The fact that we don’t like a single thing about the other person?”

His smile is grim. “Exactly. With all this antagonism and bickering, if Immigration Services comes looking for us, there should be no doubt in their mind that we are, in fact, man and wife.”

“What are you wearing?” he asks again, and because I’ve taken the first sip of sweet, sweet salvation, I humor him.

“Pajamas.”

“Where’s your robe?”

“Well, Grandpa. I live alone, so I don’t need a robe.”

“Well, you don’t live alone anymore, so yes, you do need a robe.”

“You already went to the gym?” I ask. “I thought you were going to show me where it was.”

“It’s six forty-five.”

“You say that like I slept until noon,” I say.

“I like to be at the office no later than seven thirty.”

I roll my eyes. “What a thrilling life you live.”

“So, is this your drink of choice?” I ask, settling on a barstool, determined to lure him into conversation, and maybe, just maybe—something resembling civility.

“I’ve been known to order it.”

“But is it your favorite?”

“What am I, twelve?”

“I didn’t ask you to please rate your favorite Power Rangers in reverse order,” I say, striving for patience. “I was just asking if this is your go-to drink order.”

“No.”

God give me strength.

I spin my drink in a slow circle. “Why did we last so long, do you think?”

He gives a casual shrug. “I never really had reason to end it.”

“Until now.”

“Until now,” he agrees.

“What changed? I mean, I’m not complaining, I’m just curious.”

“I guess I realized I’m an adult. No longer a kid in need of a green card.”

“And I’m no longer a rebellious girl in need of her trust fund to escape her parents.”

“No. You’re not.”

I narrow my eyes because there’s a little something extra in his tone.

“So, did you know my mom once grounded me for getting my hair cut?”

“Yes, of course. I keep track of all your past haircuts and have a list of all the times you were grounded as a child.”

I let out a little laugh, delighted by the dry sarcasm, but I forge ahead to make my point. “I was seventeen. I read an article on pixie cuts in Cosmopolitan, thought it would look cute on me, so I went to the salon, showed them the picture, and came home with a pixie cut.”

“Fascinating stuff.”

“What are you doing here?” I blurt out.

“Charlotte, be polite,” Mom says, not liking my West Coast manners any more than she likes my willy-nilly time table, apparently.

Colin idly lifts a cocktail glass in greeting. “Wife.”

“You said you had plans,” I accuse. I haven’t seen him since he left our place around noon.

“I do, and they involve Sunday dinner with Eileen and Paul.”

“Since when has your weekend plans involved dinner at my parents’?”

“Since always.”

He glances down at me as I approach, his gaze skimming over my outfit. His expression is detached, as usual, but I don’t miss the way his eyes linger on the V-cut of my camisole before dropping to my leather pants.

“Nice outfit. Where’d you park your motorcycle?”

His fingers tighten on my wrist. “Now who’s the one acting like the put-upon spouse? Don’t pretend that you want to stay married to me. Not when it’s just the two of us. And don’t pretend you ever wanted to get married in the first place. It was a business transaction, pure and simple. For both of us.”

He’s right, but in this moment, nothing between us feels businesslike.

The zipper is near the bottom of the dress, running halfway up my back, and I realize after a moment of flailing that the zipper tab is just out of reach.

Colin’s dark eyebrows lift. “Need a hand?”

“Fine,” I mutter, turning around. “Don’t get frisky.”

“I’ll try to contain myself.”

“In order for that to work, you’ll have to prove that you’re trying to be my husband. For real.”

“Which means, what, I follow along behind you and carry your purse?”

“How about a smoldering look across the room?” I suggest. “That way we won’t have to talk to each other, but people will think you can’t wait to drag me home and have your way with me.”

Colin gives me a dark look, and I sigh. “No, no, dear, I said smolder, not glare. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice at the party.”

“Charlotte, what the hell?”

“What the hell am I doing in your bedroom, or what the hell is with the flowers?” I ask.

He drags his hands over his face, rubbing his eyes slightly, then shakes his head and repeats. “What the hell?”

“Okay,” he says.

“Okay, you forgive me?” I ask.

“Okay, you can get out of my room now.”

“Fair enough. I made coffee. I’ll go get it.” I heave the flowers upwards slightly, as I lose a couple of tulips to the floor. “Can I set these down first?”

“Please don’t.”

I pretend I don’t hear this.

“Paper cut pain,” I say, taking a sip of my coffee.

His gaze flicks up. “So, the worst kind of pain on the planet?”

I smile. “Pretty much.”

He lets my shirt drop, though I notice it takes him just a second too long to remove the finger that had been resting against my stomach. I also notice that my body is throbbing in ways that have nothing to do with any cuts from the flowers.

“I would, but that would take far too long,” I say with a sigh. “I fear my little black book filled with available men is close to bursting.”

“Is it now?” he says, and I pause in the process of taking a sip of my coffee because there’s a slightly dangerous element in his tone, something almost … predatory.

I meet his eyes, and for a single moment, they seem to darken before he looks away. What do you know? He does know how to smolder.

“Out,” he orders, kicking slightly at my hip. “I need to get up.”

I try and fail to rid my brain of dirty thoughts at the image his phrasing conjures.

“Because I may need to know at some point,” I say, standing up by the side of the bed and gesturing over him with the mug. “Do you sleep half naked, or all the way naked?”

He glowers up at me. “When would you ever need to know that?”

“You know, in case the marriage fraud investigators come knocking. As your bedfellow, I would know.”

“Bedfellow?” He points to the open door. “Out. Now. And close it behind you.”

“Well, that answers that question,” I say with a pleasant smile. “You sleep all the way naked. You wouldn’t need me to close the door if you had boxers on under there.”

His head moves ever so slightly toward me, his cheek pressing against mine. The scratch of it against my skin makes me tingle as I wonder what that slight rasp would feel like on other parts of my skin, wondering what he’d do if I pulled back just enough to press my lips to his, to challenge his insistence that there are no sparks between us.

“Oh, Colin?” I call, unable to resist.

He gives me a look over his shoulder, and I smile even wider. “Briefs, huh? That’s adorable.”

He slams the guest room door.

True. Very true. I hold out my hand. “Let me see your ID.”

“Why?”

“I’m bored. I want to make fun of your picture.”

“You know my birthday?” I ask, changing lanes to get around a semi.

“Apparently.”

“How?” I press.

“Oh, you know,” he says, dropping my phone back into the console and stretching out his legs in the passenger seat. “I have multiple calendar reminders set up. Every year, I agonize what to get you. I finally decide on something extremely sentimental but chicken out before I give it to you, so I have a decade’s worth of gifts carefully tucked away in my closet for when I get the courage to tell you how I really feel.”

“So hilarious,” I say in my best Irish accent.

“I have a room reserved under Walsh?”

“Two beds,” Colin says before the woman can say a single word. “We’ll need two beds.”

I step hard on Colin’s foot, gratified when he winces.

“Yes, two beds would be great,” I say smoothly. “My husband here has a pretty intense rash.”

Now he tries to step on my foot, but I’m way ahead of him and shift out of the way.

He pops the cap with a bottle opener then, setting the bottle on the counter, and holds up both the opener and cap for me to see. “In case you want to take notes. This, in the garbage.” He throws the cap in the trash. “This, back in the drawer.” He puts the opener away.

“Are you sure that’s where that goes?” I ask. “Because I can think of another place to put it. Here’s a hint: the sun nevvvvver shines there.”

He reaches out and grabs my hand. “Charlotte, wait.”

“Oh, thank God,” I say gratefully, flipping the box open. “You saved my ass—”

I break off when I look down at the ring then glance up, knowing I must look as stunned as I feel.

“Don’t be weird about it,” he mutters.

“Yeah, about that—what are you doing?” he asks in alarm as I reach out for his shirt.

I tug one side of it, pulling it upwards until the tail of his shirt is just barely tucked into his slacks.

“Trying to make you look relaxed,” I say. “As though this is your haven, and when you walk in the doors, you let loose.”

“I can’t let loose with my shirt tucked in?”

I shake my head. “No wonder our marriage is crumbling.”

I let out a laugh, but it’s more of an exhale because I suddenly realize how close we’re standing. I freeze, my eyes lifting to his.

There’s no hint of a smile on his face now, and his eyes seem to burn both bleak and hot as they lock onto mine.

His head dips lower, and I feel his breath on my cheek. “Charlotte.”

He swallows and eases even closer, his gaze leaving mine to drop to my lips.

His eyes close, but other than that he doesn’t move, his expression as tortured as I feel. “Damn it, Charlotte,” he says on a breath, his voice rough.

“All right,” he murmurs. “All right.” And then he steps forward, his hands slipping around my waist and pulling me a little roughly against him.

One-Liners
  • A marriage of convenience. A divorce that's anything but.
  • Ten years ago, I married my brother's best friend. I haven't seen him since. Until now ...
  • For ten years, they've been happily married...on opposite sides of the country. Now, one tiny hiccup in their prenup agreement means in order to get divorced, they'll have to pretend to be married...for real.