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Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride

Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride

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Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride

4/5 (1 évaluation)
236 pages
3 heures
Jun 9, 2020


"deliciously page-turning"

Friends? No. Enemies? Maybe. Lovers? Never!
Ten years ago the hot but cocky Navy SEAL went from ignoring her, to kissing her, to rejecting her.
Now, the last thing she wants is his help, even if he is willing and uniquely qualified to give it.
And she really doesn’t want to want him . . .
She was the girl next door. Too young. Too tempting. Too off limits.
Ten years later, she’s all grown up and all woman.
He steered clear of her then. But now?
Now is a different story entirely . . .

A standalone boy next door/girl next door enemies to lovers romantic comedy featuring a Navy SEAL, a sassy girl who's hated him for a decade, and a really bad reality television show.

Jun 9, 2020

À propos de l'auteur

New York Times & USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author Cat Johnson. Sign up at catjohnson.net/news to get new release and sale alerts.

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Aperçu du livre

Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride - Cat Johnson


Ten years ago the hot but cocky Navy SEAL went from ignoring her, to kissing her, to rejecting her.

The last thing she wants now is his help, even if he is willing and uniquely qualified to give it.

And she really doesn't want to still want him . . .

She was the girl next door. Too young. Too tempting. Too off limits.

He steered clear of her then. But now? Ten years later, she's all grown up and all woman.

Now it’s a different story entirely . . .

Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride is a slow-burn standalone romantic comedy with a snarky heroine, a seductive Navy SEAL, a really bad reality show and a romance a decade in the making.

Reader Note: If you’ve downloaded and read the preview, Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride Preview, comprised of the first four chapters of this book, you might want to skip ahead and start reading at Chapter 5 Present Day.


Ten Years Ago

I can't do this.

Dani froze mid-step, the maid of honor bouquet she'd just pulled out of the florist box poised in her hands. What do you mean? You can't do what?

With a swoosh of white fluff, her sister spun to face her. This. I can’t do this.

With a sweeping flourish of her arms, Jessica indicated her dress, the flowers, the bridal room . . . everything.

Confused, Dani shook her head. What are you talking about? You've been dating Michael for ten years.

It felt as if Jessica had been planning this wedding for at least that long.

That's just the point. We've been together since I was sixteen. I've never even been with another guy . . . You know . . . sexually. Her sister hissed that last word but it still burned Dani's brain just hearing it.

Between the two of them, Jessica always had been the dreamer. She’d dreamed of a big fairytale wedding . . . and now she wanted to call it off?

At nineteen, Dani was far more practical than her twenty-six-year-old sister. Jessica’s flighty, spur of the moment declaration at the eleventh hour pissed her off.

"Jess, Mom and Dad spent lots of money on this wedding."

I know! You don't have to remind me. Jessica reached up and knifed her fingers through her hair. The curls the stylist had painstakingly put in two hours ago broke under the force.

Dani cringed but didn't mention the messed-up hair. Right now, that would surely put her sister over the edge. Instead she stepped toward her, still burdened by her bouquet.

The damn flowers were heavy and delicate and just one more wedding reminder that might set off Jessica. Dani set down the flowers on the side table and, with both hands free, gripped her sister by the arms.

Jess, you love him. You've loved him since you were fourteen. You talked my ear off every night about how you were going to be Mrs. Michael Nelson.

That was until Jessica went through a feminist period and decided they would hyphenate their last names. Jessica Garcia-Nelson. It made for an interesting combination, but Dani figured it could have been worse.

Now it looked like the wedding might not be happening at all and everyone would leave here with their original last names intact.

What could have set off Jessica? Cold feet? Another man?

That last idea had Dani's eyes widening. Is there someone else?

No. Of course not. The deep, angry-looking frown that creased Jessica's brow convinced Dani she was telling the truth.

Then what?

I don't know. You can't understand. You're just a kid. I'm an adult. This is my life we’re talking about here.

Dani drew in a deep breath. Any other day she'd lay into her sister and call her out for being a self-centered brat.

While Dani had been working her butt off in high school to get good grades, while working a part-time job after school and weekends so she could afford the college she wanted without burdening her parents financially, Jessica had coasted through life.

Head of the cheer squad. Dating the boy next door, who was also the starting quarterback. Going to the local state school so she could be near him when he got a football scholarship there. And now, after she'd convinced their parents to blow God only knew how much money on this elaborate wedding, she wanted to walk away?

No. No freaking way. Dani was going to fix this.

Listen. I think this is a panic attack. It's a big day. Very stressful. We just have to calm you down.

For once, her sister didn't make a face and call her stupid. That Jessica actually nodded and agreed made Dani realize how unlike her usual self her sister was behaving.

Not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, Dani gave Jessica's arms a little squeeze. You stay here. I'm going to get you something and be right back.

What are you going to get?

Something to help you calm down. Since Dani wasn't sure what that was yet, she dropped her hold on Jessica and slowly backed out of the room. But I'll be right back with it and then you'll feel better and everything will be fine.

What if it's not? Jessica asked, the panic back.

Dani took a gamble that placating her sister, even if it was a lie, would calm her down and said, Then I'll walk out there and tell everyone the wedding is off.

Jessica's expression softened. You'd do that for me?

Of course, I would. I'm your sister. God, she hoped it didn't come to that. So you're gonna sit down and wait here for me. Right?

Her sister nodded, sending the messy curls bobbing.

Realizing if Jess got a look at herself in the mirror, she'd flip out, Dani grabbed her sister's hand. She led her to one of the upholstered chairs the winery had provided in the dressing room—the chair facing away from the mirror.

Sit right here in this nice comfy chair, take off your shoes, close your eyes and relax. Okay?

Okay. Jessica drew in a short sharp intake of air and Dani started to wonder if there was a paper bag nearby in case her sister hyperventilated.

Did that even work? It did on television, but what did she know? She was nineteen-years old, for cripes sake. She wasn't supposed to be solely responsible for keeping her sister from becoming a runaway bride.

But who could she go to for help?

Not their parents. Her mother would flip out. That wouldn't help the situation.

Her father, with chronic high blood pressure and high cholesterol, would probably have a heart attack after he realized how much money he'd wasted.

But who else was there?

Jessica had like zero really close girlfriends. She'd spent all of her time with Michael. She had acquaintances and classmates, some of whom were invited, but no one was close enough to call in here to help.

Out in the hall, Dani glanced right and left, torn.

She'd give just about anything for some sort of pill to fix this. She pawed through the guest list in her mind. Grandma Eileen was always popping pills for her arthritis. Would that calm Jessica down?

What were those drugs people took for stress? Like Xanax or Prozac or something like that.

She covered her face with both hands and let out a growl of frustration.


She uncovered her face and glanced up at the sound of the deep voice.

The familiar sight of the tall, brown-haired, blue-eyed, boy-next-door gave her hope. Though she couldn't call him a boy. He was most definitely a man now.

Nicky, she breathed.

The groom's brother. He'd graduated in the class the year before Dani and joined the Navy. He'd known Jessica and Dani's family his whole life. He'd know what to do.

Danielle. He nodded in greeting. Nice dress.

Sarcasm was the last thing she needed from him right now.

Yes, the dress was hideously puffy and uncomfortable. Then there was the color. Mimosa. It didn't matter what you called it. It was still bright yellow.

The hue made her look like she should be sitting in a giant Easter basket. Not to mention how it looked against her skin, but this was not the time for all that.

Any other time she'd enjoy sparring with Nicky over his smirking criticism of the dress she didn’t choose to wear but was required to. Not now.

Dani glanced at the door where her sister sat, hopefully calming down. She grabbed Nicky's hand and pulled him farther down the hall.

Jessica is in there freaking out, she whispered.

Why? His eyes widened. Did she hear about what happened at the bachelor party?

Dani’s mouth dropped open. No. What happened at the bachelor party?

Uh, nothing. He shook his head. So why's she freaking out?

I don't know. Cold feet. Nerves. She just is. Do you think any of your relatives have anything we could give her?

You're going to drug her? he asked.

You have any better ideas?


Dani folded her arms over her chest. Then please, explain, sailor boy.

Damn, he looked good in his uniform. Why did he get to wear that as his best man outfit while she had to look like a yellow marshmallow Peep in her maid of honor dress?

Again, this was not the time for her mixed feelings about this gorgeous stuck-up boy she’d grown up next door to.

She yanked her gaze back to his face. That didn't help much.

His features had gotten sharper, more defined over the years since he'd graduated and moved away from home, taking him from cute to almost devastatingly handsome. His muscles where more defined too, judging by how they strained the fabric of the arms of his uniform.

You just stay here and make sure she doesn't go anywhere. I'll be right back. He spun on one heel and she panicked.

She dove forward, reached out and grabbed his arm. Where are you going?

He turned back. To liberate a bottle from the bar. I'll be right back. Trust me. Okay?

Surprisingly, she did.

Maybe the jock troublemaker from next door—the guy who'd never missed an opportunity to tease her, particularly during her awkward nerdy stage-crew and debate team phase—had grown up to be a responsible man.

Okay, she said, and noticed her heart was beating faster, only it had nothing to do with her sister and everything to do with her sudden desire for Nicky.

Now was definitely not the time for that.


Nicky. Hey. How the hell are you? I heard you joined the Navy. What, you couldn't get a real job? Grinning, his Uncle Sal punched him in the arm. Just messing with you, kid.

Nick set his jaw. If any one of the guys in his unit had punched him like that, good-naturedly or not, he would have taken them down. But worse was the real job comment.

Idiot. His mother's brother didn't know shit. Not about him. And not about his goal to join the teams.

Even on a normal day, Nick would have tried to avoid his least favorite uncle on his mother's side. But today, especially. He had a wedding to save—if what Danielle said was true and she wasn't exaggerating.

She'd always been prone to creativity. Making up stories. But for all the stories she made up she hadn't been much into dramatics—that trait belonged to her sister.

The award for drama queen in the Garcia family clearly belonged to Jessica. That was the one reason Nick was inclined to believe Danielle about how dire the situation they were trying to avoid was.

But before he could do anything, he had to get away from Uncle Sal, looking red-faced and glassy-eyed like he'd pre-gamed a bit before arriving for the ceremony. And he had to not punch the man in his bulldog-like face.

Hey, Uncle Sal. Good to see you. I was just on my way to do something for Michael. I'll catch up with you later. It wasn't exactly a lie. Saving this wedding from a runaway bride disaster was definitely something he had to do for his brother the groom.

Before the man could say anything else, Nick took off at a trot toward the bar set up in the cocktail party area.

Sorry, we're not serving until after the ceremony, the bartender said when he approached.

Yeah, I know that's the plan. But my brother is the groom. He asked if I could get just a little something for him to take the edge off before the ceremony. Nick held up his thumb and pointer finger a few inches apart. Nerves. You know how it is.

The mention of the groom changed the bartender's attitude. Sure. What'd you have in mind?

Score! Nick smiled and eyed the bar. Maybe a nice double shot of Bailey's.

You got it.

Thanks, dude. Appreciate it. Nick grabbed the generously filled glass and headed for the coffee pot set up for the guests to enjoy as they milled around waiting for the ceremony to start.

Armed with an innocent looking coffee mug, which was anything but innocent, he took off for the hallway where Dani waited for him.

She was pacing the hall when he rounded the corner.

You didn't go back in to sit with her? He frowned.

No. I’d promised her that when I got back, I'd have a solution or something to help and since I don't— She shrugged and eyed the mug in his hand. You're bringing her coffee? You really think caffeine's going to help?

It's half Bailey's. More than half actually, but who was counting?

Oh. Her dark brown eyes widened as she focused again on the contents of the mug. Okay. Let's go in. We've got less than half an hour to calm her down and save this wedding.

He was well aware.

Hoping this worked and he wouldn't be taking his brother out to get drunk later after his bride ditched him at the altar, he followed Dani into the small dressing room.

Jessica's eyes flew wide at the sight of him before her gaze shot to her sister. What's he doing here?

Nick took the few steps required to close the distance between them. Jess, I'm not here as Michael's brother. I'm here as the boy next door you used to babysit. Remember? My parents didn't trust my brother to be responsible enough to do it.

He set the mug on the table and took both her hands in his.

I’m the same boy who had a crush on you since the year you got your braces off, grew your hair out and turned into a hottie. He grinned when she actually smiled.

That was a good sign.

And you know what? Nick continued. "My little schoolboy crush that year paled in comparison to the way my brother felt about you back then. And that's nothing compared to how he feels about you now. He loves you, Jess. With every breath he takes. Every waking moment he's thinking of you."

But . . . she began.

But what? What are you worried about? he asked.

We've never even dated other people.

Hell of a freaking time to consider that—when they were literally on the way to the altar.

Besides that, Jessica’s concern wasn’t quite accurate. At least, not for both of them.

There was one time during senior year Jessica had dumped his brother. Michael had been heartbroken. Angry. Hurt.

It had only lasted a couple of weeks but judging by how late Michael came sneaking in a few nights during that period, Nick had a feeling he'd been soothing his pain with another girl.

He kept that suspicion to himself. Whatever his brother had or had not done to get by after his girl dumped him was his own business. And when Jessica came crying back to him, saying she’d made a mistake, Michael had taken her back. Gladly.

Nick sure as fuck wasn't about to let this girl break his brother's heart again. And on their wedding day, no less.

He drew in

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