Two best friends at a destination wedding in Mexico are forced into a fake relationship; but when one kiss turns into a week-long fling, could this change everything?
Dean Grayson doesn't do commitment. So when his cousin asks Dean to bring a date to his wedding in Mexico, he asks his best friend, Carly Jensen, to come with him. After a recent break up, Carly’s feeling like she’ll never find love, so a week in Mexico with her best friend-slash-boss is the perfect way to take her mind off things.
As fate would have it, Carly’s ex is also a guest at the wedding…with his new girlfriend. To protect her pride, Carly and Dean decide to fake a relationship for the week. But between the sand, surf, and sharing a bed, these friends turned lovers realize they’re meant for something more.
In Until the Sun Sets, Tara Wyatt combines everything summer into a sweet, sexy novella that’s the perfect beach read!
About the Author
Tara Wyatt is a contemporary romance and romantic suspense author. Known for her humor and steamy love scenes, Tara’s writing has won several awards, including the Librarian’s Readers’ Choice Award and the New England Readers’ Choice Award. A librarian by day and romance writer by night, Tara lives in Hamilton, Ontario with the world's cutest dog and a husband who makes all of her heroes look like chumps.
Read an Excerpt
Dean Grayson pulled his truck up to the curb in front of his cousin Luke's house, a curious sense of apprehension tightening his shoulders. Luke's big navy blue truck — emblazoned with "Grayson Carpentry" on the side in white letters — was parked in the driveway. A silver and blue bicycle sat near the front porch, likely tossed down and forgotten when Luke's ten-year-old son Ethan had come home from school. A breeze stirred the leaves of the birch tree in the front yard, sending warm spring air drifting in through the open windows of Dean's truck. Afternoon sunshine dappled the leaves.
He cut the ignition and pulled his phone out of his pocket, pulling up Luke's text and reading it again.
Can you swing by later? Something I need to ask you re: wedding.
Dean had replied with a simple "sure," knowing he could stop by before heading in to work at the Tipsy Bison. He'd squashed the urge to text Luke back and ask for details. Besides the fact that he would be a guest, Dean had nothing to do with Luke's upcoming destination wedding in Mexico, which was why Luke's text had him both curious and just a little on edge.
He hopped out of his truck and strode up the path to Luke's front door, ringing the bell. There was movement behind the mottled glass windows and then Luke answered.
"Hey, thanks for coming over. This won't take long," he said, shaking Dean's hand. He tipped his head, indicating that Dean should follow him into the house, and Dean could feel his pulse creep up, mounting in time with his curiosity. He moved to follow Luke and almost ate it when his foot caught a skateboard lying in the middle of the floor. He managed to stay on his feet, but just barely.
With a long-suffering sigh, Luke scooped up the skateboard. "I warned him that if he left this lying around again, it was mine for a week." He quickly stashed it in the garage while Dean made his way into the living room, sitting down in one of the comfy armchairs.
"Beer?" asked Luke when he returned, heading straight for the fridge.
A creeping wariness made its way through Dean. Was this a conversation that required beer? Just how big a favor was Luke about to ask of him? Jeez, maybe he needed a kidney or something, and he thought because they were cousins, they'd have a better chance of being a match. Granted, he probably wouldn't be giving him beer — or drinking one himself — if he needed a kidney, and he'd said what he had to ask him was about the wedding, but ...
"Yeah, sure," he answered, smiling his thanks when Luke handed him a bottle of Goose Island.
Luke sat down on the couch across from him and grimaced, as though not sure where to begin. "So, this is awkward," he finally said after a minute, his hands clasped in front of him, his forearms balanced on his knees. "But Christie and I are a little worried."
Dean frowned, his grip tightening on his beer bottle. "Is everything okay? With the wedding?"
Luke cleared his throat and silence filled the room. A plane flew by in the distance. A car horn honked. Ethan laughed at something upstairs. Luke rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, glancing down at the floor.
Dean leaned forward, his curiosity giving way to worry and the sinking sensation that he wasn't going to like where this was headed. But shit if he had a clue what it could be about. "Dude, whatever it is, just lay it on me. It's fine."
Luke looked up and Dean shot him a smile, trying to reassure him, even though he was starting to feel like he'd been dragged into the principal's office.
Luke blew out a long breath. "Christie and I have been talking," he said, knitting his fingers together. "And I know it's short notice, but we'd really like it if you brought someone to the wedding. To Mexico."
Dean's eyebrows shot up. Not what he'd been expecting. He'd RSVP'd long ago, and even though his invitation had included a plus-one, he'd planned on going solo. "Well, I'm not seeing anyone right now, so that might be tricky." Truth be told, Dean saw a lot of women, but not in any official capacity. Never in a let's-go-to-Mexico-together capacity.
Luke opened and closed his mouth a few times, clearly searching for the right words. "Right. But you're ... Shit." He cleared his throat and scratched at his temple. "I'm not trying to be an asshole, but we're worried about how you'll behave in Mexico," he said all in a rush, as though ripping off a verbal Band-Aid. "With the bridesmaids, and Christie's friends."
An emotion he couldn't name washed over him. Not shame, exactly, but it was on the same spectrum. Indignation? Maybe that was the right word.
Before Dean could respond, Ethan bounded down the stairs and sent a curious glance Dean's way. Then he looked at his dad and shrugged. "His pants look zipped to me."
Luke's face went red. "Go do your homework."
"I'm getting a snack," he said, completely oblivious. "Have you seen my skateboard?"
"I have. It was in the middle of the front hallway, not put away like I asked you. You'll get it back next week."
Ethan's small face tightened. "But Dad! I can't believe you —"
Luke cut him off with a raised eyebrow. "Really?" he challenged, his voice flat. "Choose your next words carefully."
Ethan sighed, his shoulders slumped. Without further argument, he headed back toward the fridge.
Dean let out a little laugh and shook his head, entirely unsure how to feel about the situation and grateful for Ethan's temporary distraction. Apparently, Luke and Christie had been talking about him, and his perceived inability to keep his pants zipped. He knew he had a bit of a reputation, but ... shit.
The entire first floor of Luke and Christie's house was open concept, and another silence settled over the room as Ethan rummaged around in the fridge for what felt like an eternity. The front door opened and closed.
"Luke, honey?" called Christie from the front hall. Luke rose from his spot on the sofa and went to greet his fiancée, returning to the kitchen with several grocery bags and setting them down on the counter. Ethan went back upstairs, two cartons of yogurt, an apple, and a granola bar in hand. The kid was growing like a weed. Every time Dean saw him, he seemed to have gained yet another inch.
"Oh, Dean. Hi," said Christie, her Southern accent stretching the vowels out. She glanced between Luke and Dean, the question obvious on her face.
Luke sat back down, and Christie perched on the arm of the sofa beside him. She laid a hand on her fiancé's shoulder and nodded encouragingly at him.
"I feel like a shit, Dean, but we'd like you to bring a date to the wedding so that your focus isn't ..." Luke shrugged and took a sip of his beer. "Elsewhere. We'll pay for the extra ticket."
"And just so we're all on the same page here, focus means dick, right?" Dean cringed, the words sounding more bitter than he'd intended. He took a long pull on his beer and shook his head. He let out a short laugh, trying to dispel the strangling mix of emotions making it harder for him to breathe. The surprise, the hint of shame, the irritation, all combined with the sense that they were blowing his reputation with women way out of proportion. Even worse was the tiny seed of doubt that maybe they weren't. "Come on, guys. Really? You seriously think I'd chase women at your wedding?" But even as he asked the question, he knew that he probably would. Even when he didn't mean to, it just sort of ... happened. He'd been doing it for so long that it was a habit now.
Christie let out a little laugh as she rose from the couch and knelt down in front of Dean, taking one of his hands in hers. Shit. Whatever came next was gonna suck, wasn't it?
She bit her lip before diving in. "Dean, honey, we love you, and we're happy you're coming to the wedding. But ..." She shrugged. "You're kind of a manwhore, and the last thing I want at my wedding is drama because you slept with someone, or several someones. Especially seeing as the pretty, single someones are my friends and family."
Dean scoffed, clinging to his exasperation. "Drama? When have I ever caused drama?"
Luke and Christie exchanged a look, and Dean had a feeling he was going to regret that question. Luke arched an eyebrow. "In recent memory? Let's see." He held up a hand, ticking his examples off on his fingers as he went. "My first wedding. Matt and Ellie's engagement party. The family camping trip to Yellowstone. That time when —"
Dean held up his hands in surrender. Even though he'd asked, he didn't need a litany of his transgressions. "Okay, okay. Point taken." He met Christie's eyes, and put his wounded ego aside to make the bride happy. "I don't know if I'll be able to find someone to come with me on such short notice, but I sincerely promise I won't cause any drama." Dean didn't make a lot of promises, but when he did, he was a man of his word. He held Christie's gaze, hoping she could tell he meant it.
After a second, she nodded. "Thank you. I really appreciate it." She returned to her spot beside Luke, and when she looked at him, her eyes were bright. "I can't believe it's only a week away!" She held her hand out in front of her, gazing down at the diamond sparkling on her finger.
Luke slipped an arm around her. "Only a week until you're Dr. Harmon-Grayson."
She leaned toward him, pressing her forehead against his. "God, do I love the sound of that."
Dean glanced away and took another sip of his beer, feeling like he was intruding. Something tightened in his chest as he watched them, something raw and wistful, and he wondered if he'd ever have anything like that. If he'd ever manage to find someone who didn't scare him shitless when it came to commitment. He set the bottle on the table beside his chair and stood. "I should get going. I need to head to the bar."
Christie gave him a hug and a pat on the arm before heading into the kitchen to put away the groceries she'd brought in. Luke walked him to the door. "We're good?"
"Yeah, man, of course. I promise, you don't have anything to worry about." A rock settled in the pit of his stomach at the idea that his family thought he was a thirty-year-old fuck-up-drama-magnet-manwhore. The rock wasn't there because they thought that of him, but because he knew they weren't wrong.
And that wasn't who he wanted to be. Not anymore.
He drove through Cheyenne toward his bar, The Tipsy Bison. His father had opened the bar and restaurant over thirty years ago, and had poured his blood, sweat, and tears into it to make it the success it was. It was the only thing that had kept him going after his wife — Dean's mom — had died over ten years ago, now. The ovarian cancer had been swift, taking her only months after the diagnosis, and leaving both Dean and his father completely bereft. He didn't have any brothers or sisters, so it had just been him and his dad — and his father's endless string of women — after that.
Dean had grown up working at the Bison, busing tables, washing dishes, and then bartending after he'd turned twenty-one. Over the past several years, he'd taken on more and more responsibility, and two years ago, his father had officially retired, handing the Tipsy Bison over to Dean. He took great pride in running it and making sure it remained successful. Professionally, he was fulfilled. On a personal level ... maybe not so much.
After his mother's death, he'd picked up his father's habit of chasing girls to help him forget the pain of losing her. Of watching her waste away. Of watching her try to hide her pain. He'd found solace in connecting with a woman, but only physically. Any time things got emotional, he'd bailed, unable to deal with the vulnerability that came with it. After a while, the bailing had simply become habit. It was one he wanted to break, but fuck if he knew how. He'd been doing it for so long that it was ingrained in him, and he couldn't help but wonder if he'd stunted himself, and was past the point of no return.
Maybe it was the fact that his friends were getting married and having kids. Maybe it was the fact that he'd just turned thirty. All Dean knew was that he wanted more, even if he didn't know how to go about getting it. He didn't want to be the weird pervy guy still chasing women at forty. At fifty. Didn't want to end up alone because he'd pushed everyone away out of fear.
As he drove, he replayed the conversation with Luke and Christie over and over again, his mood sinking with each turn. Manwhore. The word beat through his skull, interrupting his other thoughts, over and over again.
God, he just wanted to be ... better. And happier, if he was honest with himself.
Step one: keep it together in Mexico so that he didn't turn into Cockzilla and ruin his cousin's wedding.
Carly Jensen ran her cloth over the gleaming cherry wood surface of the bar, polishing it more out of habit than necessity. The crowd was thin at this time of day, before the start of the dinner rush, but she liked to keep moving. Staying busy made the shifts fly by.
"Hey, darlin', can I get another Miller Lite?" asked Tom, one of her regular customers. He sat in his usual seat, his eyes on one of the flat screen TVs over the bar.
"Sure thing," she said, turning and pulling a cold bottle out of the fridge. She cracked the cap off and slid it down to him, then added the bottle to his tab. Working the bar wasn't glamorous, but the Tipsy Bison's atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and for the most part, the customers were friendly. The tips were decent, and the schedule was flexible, which allowed her to take last-minute or out-of-town gigs when they came up.
"You okay, darlin'? You're lookin' a little blue." Tom frowned, his kind brown eyes studying her. Thinning salt-and-pepper hair covered his head, and he scratched at his stubbled cheek.
Unable to help herself, Carly sighed. "You know what, Tom? I've been better."
"You wanna talk about it?"
She laughed softly, bracing her hands on the bar and arching her eyebrow at him. "I think that's my line."
He took a sip of his beer and smiled sadly at her. "You're too young, too pretty, and too sweet to look so sad."
Something in her chest softened at his kind, unsolicited words. She wagged a finger at him. "Flattery will get you everywhere, but you still have to pay for your drinks."
"Well, shit. You figured out my master plan." He shook his head, the smile still on his face. "So what's gotcha down?"
She pulled her water bottle out from below the bar and took a sip, then wiped up a few drops of condensation. "Just life, I guess. Things aren't going the way I'd hoped."
Tom nodded slowly. "Sorry to tell ya, but that's usually the way it goes."
"So I'm learning." She wiped at the bar as she talked, finding comfort in opening up to a neutral party. "I'd been dating this guy, Mike. A doctor."
Tom let out a low whistle. "A doctor. Very nice."
Carly nodded. "Right? Might as well aim high." She sighed, and waved a hand through the air, as though she could brush everything she was feeling away. "But it didn't work out. We broke up a few weeks ago." The ass. Just thinking about him sent anger burning through her.
She kept wiping the bar, tracing the same circles over and over again as she unburdened herself. "He met someone else." She shrugged and glanced up at Tom, wondering if he could see the bruise on her pride. She sure as hell could feel it. "Guess I aimed too high."
She'd dated Mike for about three months, and God, she'd really liked him. Smart, funny, cute. A doctor, with a nice family. An all-around good guy. The kind she could've seen herself marrying, someday. But that vision had been completely one-sided, because he'd left her for a nurse at the hospital. And it wasn't even so much the fact that he'd left her that stung — she hadn't been in love with him so much as the idea of him. No, the pain came from the reasons why he'd found Ashley so much more appealing than her.
Not a bartender-slash-stand-up-comedian? Check.
Mike hadn't been comfortable with her dream of being a comedian, or her lack of cooking skills, or her inability to walk in heels, and so he'd gone out and found someone with bigger boobs and a smaller nose who fit his definition of the perfect woman.
Excerpted from "Until the Sun Sets"
Copyright © 2017 Tara Wyatt.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The topsy - turvy ride of love plays out in this flirty friends to lovers read. Until the Sun Sets, morphs from fun in the sun to some steamy summer nights. Tara Wyatt makes sure to never lose her sense of humor as she tempts readers with some summer lovin'. Carly and Dean make a commonplace scenario feel brand new. It's obvious what happens next, but it's well worth the replay.
the third grayson novella, until the sun sets, focuses on dean grayson, cousin to luke and matt and playboy extraordinaire. when luke requests that he bring a date to his and callie's upcoming wedding because they want to avoid drama with single bridesmaids, dean is horrified to realize that he's developed a reputation. it's not that he's kept his exploits a secret. but he also can control himself. at least he's pretty sure he can control himself. but it's so insulting that he cousins think he can't. and he's not quite sure what to do about this. when he talks to his friend, and employee, carly, she's just getting over being dumped for someone younger and more respectable. when dean invites her to mexico with him, he does it to cheer her up. fun in the sun is the perfect salve for a broken heart. except it turns out carly's ex is at the wedding. and when she runs into him she foolishly blurts out that she's there with her new boyfriend. dean goes along with it and thinks that actually, it's a ruse worth continuing if it will get his family off his back about being a manwhore. the thing is, carly has always liked dean. he's just never signaled any interest. besides she knows his commitment issues, so she's never pursued anything. and it's not that dean wasn't interested. it's more like he had put her in this untouchable box. she was his employee, his friend, something he couldn't mess up. so he left it alone. but when they make the decision to pretend to be dating it's like all bets are off. the rules that they had adhered to don't seem to apply. and the insane chemistry between them suddenly explodes. but dean doesn't do commitment. he's scared of hurting someone. he's scared of being hurt. so in order to get things on the right path he needs to make a choice. it takes him a while, but eventually, he realizes what he needs to do to make things right. this is a quick, enjoyable read. although i have to say that the scene where luke and callie give dean a talking to is totally cringeworthy and makes them seem like jerks, even though i totally liked them in their original novella. **until the sun sets will publish on july 11, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.
An excellent fun quick read. A friends to lovers story that made me laugh, swoon, and sigh. Dean Grayson can't believe it when his cousin asks him to bring someone with him to the destination wedding the family is attending. Why? To keep Dean's hound dog ways to a minimum. To comply he asks his best friend Carly Jensen along. Nothing safer than your best friend, right?? I highly recommend this one.