“Quintessential Lauren Layne goodness—a sassy, feel-good and entertaining love story infused with laughter, sizzling chemistry and heartfelt romance.”—USA Today
Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: firefighter Luke Elliott, a known player who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan, but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.
Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.
Praise for Ready to Run
“A luscious LL read wrapped in small-town charm—I can’t wait for the rest of the I Do, I Don’t series!”—Jessica Lemmon, author of the Real Love (Candy) series
Lauren Layne’s New York Times bestselling Oxford Novel series can be read in any order:
I WISH YOU WERE MINE
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE
I THINK I LOVE YOU
Don’t miss any of Lauren Layne’s hot reads:
The Love Unexpectedly series: BLURRED LINES | GOOD GIRL | LOVE STORY | WALK OF SHAME | AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
The Sex, Love & Stiletto series: AFTER THE KISS | LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH | JUST ONE NIGHT | THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE
The Redemption series: ISN’T SHE LOVELY | BROKEN | CRUSHED
The I Do, I Don’t series: READY TO RUN | RUNAWAY GROOM
Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Simon, unless you want to die on the side of a Montana highway, I strongly suggest you find another song to sing along with.”
Simon broke off mid-chorus of “Eye of the Tiger” and gave her a disappointed look. “You’re never going to get your guy with that sort of attitude.”
“Oh, I’ll get my guy,” Jordan muttered. “I didn’t cross two time zones to not get him.”
Even as she spoke the confident words, she lifted a hand and rubbed her forehead, which had started aching at 32,000 feet, over one of the Dakotas, and had turned into a throbbing migraine by the time she and her colleague had loaded into their Ford Focus rental car at Missoula International Airport.
That had been nearly an hour ago, and Simon had been singing Survivor’s power anthem for at least half that.
Her friend lifted a water bottle from the middle console, unscrewed the cap, and held it out to her. “Told you you should have let me drive.”
Jordan snatched the water bottle and gave him a wry look before fixing her attention back on the two-lane road. “Do you even have your driver’s license?”
“Are you telling me I look young, baby doll?”
“No, baby doll, I’m telling you that you look like someone who hasn’t left the island of Manhattan in two decades and thus hasn’t been behind a wheel in at least that long.”
“It’s only been one decade,” he corrected.
She choked on her water and looked at him again. “Seriously?”
Simon laughed and grabbed the bottle, took a drink. “Don’t be ridiculous, Carpenter. You know I take a trip to Bali every year.”
“Yeah, well . . . Bali this is not,” she said, glancing out at the wide-open spaces around them.
“No,” he agreed, looking out the passenger window. “Pretty, though.”
“Don’t get attached,” she muttered, picking up her phone and glancing at the in-progress route to see how much farther they had. “I’m not planning to spend more than a night here.”
He lifted his eyebrows, which were better shaped than hers, thanks to his weekly—yes, weekly—grooming sessions. But, then, that was Simon for you. Perfectly coiffed wavy blond hair down to probably pedicured toes.
“You think you’re that good, huh?”
Jordan grabbed the water bottle back. “If I were that good, I’d have been able to wrangle Luke Elliott over the phone rather than having to drive to the literal middle of nowhere to recruit the guy.”
“I still can’t believe he never replied to a single email or voicemail,” Simon mused.
“Believe it. Either he didn’t get the messages or there’s actually a single man on this planet who doesn’t think getting paid to have twenty-something bikini-clad babes draped all over him sounds like a good gig.”
“Maybe he’s gay.”
She gave her colleague a look. “Don’t sound so hopeful. Jilted needs this guy a heck of a lot more than you do.”
Simon lifted a finger in objection. “I resent that. I’ll have you know it’s been two and a half months since I last had relations.”
“Oh gosh, really? Here, hold the wheel while I cry on your behalf.”
Simon reached over and chucked her under the chin. “Poor Jordie. How long has it been for you?”
Eleven months and counting.
She pulled her phone out of the console and tossed it to him. “The GPS doesn’t know where the hell we are. Can you guide us there the old-fashioned way?”
“Oh, sure. Let me just get my compass, lick my finger, and stick it in the air. . . .”
“Hey, you’re the one who insisted on buying cowboy boots for this little adventure. At least try to earn some country cred.”
Simon sighed dramatically, but he took the phone, zooming in and out on the map and cursing until finally declaring, “Straight, for another thirty minutes, give or take a cow or twelve.”
“So, for real, what are the chances that this guy’s gay?” Simon asked, turning down the radio. “It’d make sense, right? I mean, why else would he leave three women at the altar and then refuse to answer any questions about it?”
Jordan pursed her lips and pondered the very dilemma that had Simon and her driving through Nowhere, Montana, in the first place.
Luke Freaking Elliott, runaway groom extraordinaire, and hopefully the savior to Jordan’s career.
If she could get the guy to even talk to her.
As to Simon’s assessment that he was gay . . . maybe?
It was a good explanation for Luke Elliott’s complicated romantic history.
As Simon said, there had to be a reason he’d been the groom in three weddings that hadn’t happened.
But her instincts said that wasn’t the case, not here.
Or maybe that was just wishful thinking. Jordan’s career needed Luke Elliott to be very much into women.
Specifically, she needed him to be into twenty-five women, who would compete on national television to coax him down the aisle in a fairy-tale wedding, also on national television.
Forget The Bachelor.
Jordan’s network had taken the hit reality show and raised it a notch, focusing not just on sexy bachelors but runaway grooms—men who’d gotten darn close to saying vows, only to escape at the last minute.
To Jordan’s bosses’ thinking, a runaway groom represented the ultimate challenge. And, thus, being the one woman who could finally get a ring on his fourth finger represented the ultimate fairy tale.
As associate producer to the woman who’d pitched the TV show, Jordan had been tasked with candidate recruitment.
While there were plenty of douchebags who ditched women at the altar, not many of them were redeemable.
Or even appealing.
Jordan had spent the past six months looking for a runaway groom who wasn’t a grade-A a-hole, an immature jerk, or suffering from some substance-abuse or mental issues.
Luke Elliott was her best shot.
She’d read about the guy in a tiny local Montana newspaper. He was a thirtysomething firefighter who’d left three women at the altar over the course of the last decade and yet somehow had still managed to maintain his status as his small town’s darling.
The details had been sparse, but she hadn’t needed details. Just the picture.
Granted, the photo had been black-and-white and grainy, but there’d definitely been the promise of attractiveness.
It was all the encouragement needed to stalk the man.
Or at least she’d tried to. He wasn’t on Facebook or any of the usual social media suspects. She’d found what she was pretty sure was his email address but had gotten nowhere with that.
She’d even sweet-talked her way into obtaining his phone number.
Nothing. Not a single response in three weeks.
And so . . . here she was.
Out in the middle of nowhere, hoping that a face-to-face meeting would convince this guy that he’d be the perfect star for the inaugural season of Jilted.
As far as how she felt about that? Somewhere between pissy and freaked out, landing somewhere in the middle zone of irritated.
Thank goodness for Simon’s company. In the four years she’d been working at CBC, he’d become both good friend and valued colleague. Simon was on the network’s legal team, known as their “on the ground” lawyer. He worked mainly with the network’s reality shows and was the guy they sent to answer contract questions from possible candidates, as well as to identify red flags and wild cards to be avoided.
Jordan sighed, and Simon shifted in his seat to study her, his blue eyes assessing. “What’s with you? You’ve been edgy ever since JFK. Is it because Starbucks was out of hazelnut syrup?”
She let out a little laugh. “We’d better hope that’s not the reason. There’s no hazelnut syrup where we’re going.”
“Yeah, no Starbucks in Lucky Hollow. I checked.”
So had Jordan. But it didn’t matter, because she had a plan: She’d get in, get out, and be back to her SoHo apartment by the weekend.
“For real,” Simon said, reaching over and poking her cheek to keep her attention. “What’s up?”
Jordan pursed her lips. “I just hate leaving the city.”
“You leave the city all the time.”
“Yeah, for other cities,” Jordan countered. “Big ones. Los Angeles and Lucky Hollow aren’t exactly the same thing.”
She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. “It’s just, small towns sort of weird me out.”
“Because of the lack of Starbucks?”
She laughed again. “God, no. Okay, sort of. But because . . . it reminds me that I haven’t been home. Not in a long time.”
“Ahhhhhhh,” Simon said, acting as if he’d achieved enlightenment.
“The mysterious Jordan Carpenter finally shares a sliver of her past.”
She frowned. “I talk about my past.”
“Um, no. Not in the four years I’ve known you. For all I know, you came into this world as a fully hot twentysomething, delivered to Manhattan by spaceship.”
“Have you been binge-watching Battlestar Galactica again?”
“The guys are hot, but don’t change the subject,” Simon said. “Where’s home?”
She swallowed. “Kansas.”
“More detail, please.”
“You’ve never heard of the town.”
“Never heard of it.”
Jordan rolled her eyes.
“Okay, so, small town?” Simon nudged gently.
The smallest. “The population is less than most New York neighborhoods.”
“And you haven’t been home in . . .”
“A couple years,” she muttered.
He studied her. “Why?”
“Because there’s nothing left for me there.”
Jordan’s stomach lurched. “Okay, new plan,” Jordan said, reaching out and turning on the radio. “We’re not talking about this.”
He shrugged and leaned forward, squinting out the windshield. “Just as well. Looks like our road trip is coming to an end.”
“What? You said thirty minutes.”
“I also told you I couldn’t read maps.” He pointed to the sign.
lucky hollow. population 2,314
For now, Jordan thought. By the time she seduced Luke Elliott with the idea of hot women, household fame, and a fat paycheck, the town would need to update its sign to 2,313.