Published by Random House Publishing Group on January 30th 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
For one charming playboy, getting cast on a Bachelor-esque 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 on Jilted, 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.
I’m not going to see Gage tonight.
It’s been my mantra all day. All throughout the booze cruise, where I watched him make
out with just about everyone with breasts.
All through the ride home, while I had to stare at the back of his head and listen to him
laugh what I now know is his fake laugh.
All through dinner, where I did my best to ignore him. And all through the invitation
ceremony, where we’d made eye contact only once, and it was rife with meaning.
I don’t know.
I feel my phone buzz under my pillow again, but refuse to look at it, because I’m pretty
sure it’s him. I told everyone in my personal life that I wouldn’t have access to my phone for the
month-long duration of the show, and most of them took it to heart. Other than a few thinking of
you messages from my mom and Marjorie, my phone’s been quiet besides the texts from Gage.
Eden and Paisley both passed out almost immediately following one too many drinks on
the boat, and then more drinking at dinner, then champagne at the pool. I’d cried headache and
kept it mostly sober, although I’m not sure that was the best idea. The only thing my sobriety is
earning me is crystal clear images of Gage and Cora, Gage and Hannah, Gage and Aurora . . .
My phone buzzes again, and I reach beneath the pillow and hit the power button without
looking at the messages, then roll onto my back, flinging both arms over my head.
What is wrong with me?
Surely I’m not turning into a Gage Barrett groupie. I’m better than that. I’m not looking
for a relationship, and when I do get around to that, it’s not going to be with the hottest thing in
Hollywood with a reputation for leaving women at the altar.
I hang over the side of the bunk to look at the clock. Twelve-thirty.
He’s probably not even there anymore. Gage doesn’t strike me as the type of man to wait
more than five minutes for a woman. Not when there are dozens of others to take her place.
I wonder what would happen if I left. If I made him eliminate me. Would he find another
Even more heartbreaking to think about – who would he propose to? Paisley would be a
solid choice, but she’s too good for him. He’d probably choose someone like Brooklyn. Someone
who’s sweet and gorgeous but who will never challenge him.
The kicker is, I actually do have an idea about who he should send home next. He’s not
doing well on his own. I mean, Hannah went home tonight, and that was a solid choice—girl was
mean. But last night he sent home Skylar. After I specifically told him to trust his gut and pick
someone he wanted to see gone. And of all the contestants—the aggressive Cora, the mean
Brittany B., the full-on-crazy Eden—he gets rid of Skylar? She was sweet and harmless. Not the
love of his life, perhaps, but better than most of the remaining women.
He got rid of her for me. So he and I could keep meeting. Even though I told him I want
to go home.
I fling the covers back, quietly climb down from the top bunk, and slip on my flip-flops.
He’s probably not still there, but if he is, I’ve got things to say to him.
I’m still fuming by the time I make it to the closet, and I tell myself that my heart is
pounding with anger and not anticipation because I see the faintest light coming from beneath
When I open it, Gage is sitting on the love seat, leaning forward, his shoulders slumped,
his head down as he stares at his hands.
His head snaps up, his eyes finding mine a split second before a smile spreads across his
face as though he’s glad to see me.
I start to smile back before I remember that I’m mad at him, and I step into the room,
shutting the door behind me.
“I wasn’t going to come at all,” I say, dropping unceremoniously onto the love seat beside
He nods toward the table, where he’s got the usual bottle of wine and two glasses. “Your
head still hurt, or you want a glass?”
How’d he know I was telling people I had a headache? The man’s more observant than I
give him credit for.
“No thanks on the wine,” I say. Not because my head hurts, but because I need to keep it
clear. “So, Hannah.”
He lifts a shoulder and pivots to face me. “My spy disappeared on me—didn’t give me
any tips on who to send home.”
He opens his mouth as though he wants to respond, but then gives me an indifferent
shrug. “Why not?”
I narrow my eyes, because that’s an evasion if I’ve ever heard one. “And Skylar? She was
“Are you here to lecture me about the women I’ve already sent me home, or to tell me
who I should send home tomorrow?”
I chew my lip for a second. “Fine. Naomi.”
A line appears between his eyebrows. “Why? She seems cool.”
“Cool? Or a good kisser?”
It’s not even a good jab—Naomi wasn’t one of the ones who kissed him on the boat. But
who knows what he’s been up to when I haven’t been around?
His head snaps back slightly, and I want to punch myself in the face, because that is so
not what I meant to say. The words came out petty and, well . . . jealous.
I hold up a hand. “Forget it, totally not my business, I know. But anyway, Naomi . . .
yeah, she is cool. She’s also married.”
“She and Sidney are tight and she confided in her friend, only Sidney had way too much
to drink and blurted it out to Brittany B., who promptly told the rest of us after dinner tonight.”
“What the hell is she doing on the show? Where’s her husband?”
“Apparently she signed a prenup, and if she leaves him, she doesn’t get a penny.”
“Yeah, well, pretty sure she’s not going to get a dime once the hubby learns about this.”
I shrug. “I dunno. Maybe she’s trying to get him to leave her. I don’t know the details, or
what’s going on there. Just that legally she’s married, which would make you marrying her
illegal at worst, a hot mess at best.”
Gage groans and drags his hands over his face. “What is wrong with these people?”
I give his knee a friendly pat and stand. “You’re surviving just fine.”
He drops his hands. “Where are you going?”
“Back to my room. I did my girl spy part.”
Gage reaches out and grabs my hand, pulling me back down to the love seat.
I resist the pull, I really do, but it’s no contest. I collapse with a quiet “oof,” my chin
awkwardly knocking his shoulder. Irritated, I punch the same shoulder. “Damn it, Gage. Let me
He’s still holding my hand, his face just a few inches from mine. “What was the deal with
“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.
But then I remember that’d make me the fourth woman he’s kissed today, and I pull back.
“I need to get to bed. You should too. We both have another stressful day in paradise
tomorrow looking at waterfalls on the road to Hana.”
Gage groans, and I smile a little as I climb to my feet once again. “You don’t like
“I like looking at waterfalls just fine.” He rests his head against the back of the love seat,
closing his eyes, and looking so exhausted and miserable that my heart lurches. “I just don’t love
the fact that I’ve got to entertain thirteen women at the same time.”
“Twelve women,” I correct, stepping backward toward the door. “You won’t have to
His eyes open, and he pins me with a green stare. “Of course not. Ellie Wright’s too good
for the rest of us.”
I pause, a little stung by the sharpness of his tone. “I don’t think that.”
“No?” he asks, climbing to his feet.
“You’re the one who asked me to be your eyes and ears with the other women,” I remind
him, punching a finger into his chest. “You’re the one who bugged me to come here tonight.”
“And yet you agreed to my terms, and you came tonight,” Gage retorts. “Your choice,
Ellie. So you don’t get to be pissy.”
“I’m not!” My finger pushes his chest again.
“You are.” His hand lifts, wraps around my hand, crushing my fingers lightly. “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.”
“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.
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.
“Yup, avocado,” I say with a smile.
He doesn’t smile back. “About the boat today . . . the women I kissed . . .”
“I get it,” I say on a rush. “You told me the other day that the producers were complaining
because you hadn’t kissed anyone yet, so you did that and one better, kissing multiple women.
They must have been thrilled.”
“They were,” he says quietly.
It’s not what I want to hear, not at all, and I yank my hand away and spin back toward the
I open the door, and he shuts it again. “Would you just fucking admit it?”
“Admit what?” I tug on the doorknob, but he leans a shoulder against the door, holding it
closed with his weight.
“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
“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’ve had my fair share of kisses in my life, with a lot of decent ones, I’d thought at the
time, but kissing Gage is on a whole other level. The man knows what he’s doing, because I feel
like the only woman in the world—the only woman in his world.
One of his arms drops around my waist, pulling me against his hard body, his other hand
cupping the back of my head as he takes the kiss from deep and sensual to light and teasing and
It’s the perfect kiss, as though he were made for me, and I for him, except . . .
I open my eyes.
Except we aren’t made for each other.
He’s good kisser not because of some magical chemistry between us but because he’s had
so much practice.
I can’t do this.
I’m not the kind of girl Gage Barrett wants, and I don’t say that in a self-disparaging way
so much as . . . well, he’s the Sexiest Man Alive, and I sell T-shirts. He lives in a mansion, I live
in a studio apartment. He’s gorgeous, I’m . . . regular.
But none of that’s even the agonizing part.
It’s that I could lose myself in him, which is dangerous. He’s the type of guy who can and
will walk away without a backward glance, and I’d be left to pick up the pieces.
Somehow I think it’d be so much harder with him than it was with Sean.
I wrench away from him with a gasp, and both of his hands tighten reflexively, as if he’s
reluctant to let me go. But when I squirm again, he releases me.
We stare at each other, breathing hard, and I lift a shaky hand to my mouth. “Well. I guess
I did tell you to kiss all the women.”
He frowns in confusion, then glares in anger when he puts the pieces together. “That’s not
“Yeah, it is,” I say, reaching for the doorknob and jerking the door open before he can
keep me here and convince me to do something stupid. “You said it yourself—you kiss women
for a living, Gage. Just do me a favor and keep me out of it. When I kiss guys, I like it to be for
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?
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