A jilted bride
with trust issues.
A disgraced photographer
with something to prove.
A Love at Sea cruise
determined to distract them both.
Instead of walking down the aisle, my fiancé walked out the door. So I’m taking our honeymoon cruise without him. I’ll enjoy seven perfect days of endless margaritas, pristine beaches, and island excursions even more with my best friend instead. What I need is a complete break from ANYTHING akin to romance. Complete break. That includes the tempting Grayson Hamilton, I remind myself. No matter how much of a crush I had on him back in high school. No matter how lickable his abs turned out to be. I AM ON A BREAK!
Scoring my dream job with the industry’s leading travel magazine was a lucky break. Unfortunately, I’m just about out of luck. This all-expenses-paid cruise my employer sent me on is my last chance to save my reputation. I have to stay focused despite all the beautiful, single women on this Love at Sea cruise. Yep. Focused. Focused on my job. NOT on my best friend’s little sister, all grown up and smoking hot, looking like she needs someone to help her get over her freshly broken heart. On second thought, maybe a little distraction couldn’t hurt. Maybe an offer of a no-strings-attached rebound will help get her out of my system. Then I can concentrate on saving my career before we both abandon ship.
There’s nothing worse than being jilted a day before your wedding, it’s been months and now Abby is going on the cruise that was to be her honeymoon with her best friend Jazz.
It’s an unexpected surprise when she literally runs into Greyson. He was one of her brother’s best friends and soccer teammate back in high school. He’s a travel photographer doing an article on the cruise.
Unbeknownst to either of them, there was a mutual crush back then. This cruise just may be the way to see if that can grow into something more.
With the help of Jazz, Abby proceeds with her plans to put everything regarding the wedding and whole jilted bride thing behind her. Including wreaking the dress with Greyson photographing the whole thing.
Lots of fun and laughter as well as a touch of drama as this delightful tale unfolds. A bit of presumed betrayal, some tears but plenty of romance and a touch of sizzle too.
5 Contented Purrs for Kerigan!
Copyright 2022 @Karigan Hale
I am reinventing myself. I’m a ME not a WE. Since I’m no longer Asshole’s fiancée, I can be anything I want to be. I could be a recovering circus performer who left the big top for big adventure. I could be a famous yet reclusive novelist willing to show my face for the first time. I could be a rich German heiress just waiting on wire transfers from my father— oh wait, that’s already been done.
I could definitely be carefree and happy and not have people look at me like I’m going to crack with the slightest provocation. I can find myself again or become someone new or entwine the two together.
As we pass the group of oglers, I smile brightly and toss my hair, as Jazz instructed. Instead of looking cool and collected, I am momentarily blinded by the sun and miss the small step to the ramp, pitching me forward into the crowd.
“Oh!” I exclaim, tuning out the chuckles from the guys beside us.
“Shit, Abby. You okay?” Jazz asks, trying to grab my elbow to help steady me. She misses.
Luckily, my fall is broken by the person in front of us.
Unluckily, my nose ends up embedded in his ass crack. I grab his thighs to keep myself from sliding down his backside. He clenches his muscles in surprise, but that only makes my face smoosh harder into his ass. I’m sucking in his khaki shorts instead of air, but if I let go, I will face-plant onto the gangway. So, I hold on until I can get my feet under me and pray I don’t pass out from lack of oxygen. I can imagine the headline: “Jilted Woman Suffocates in Man’s Ass on Love Cruise.”
Jazz grabs my arms and helps me to stand. I suck in air, trying not to gag on the exhaust.
“At least buy the man dinner first,” she quips.
The man I bumped into glances over his shoulder with a frown. I give him a sheepish smile and a finger wave. “Crowds, am I right?”
He nods, lips twitching, and turns back around, putting his earbud back in his ear. The gesture and the way his dark hair falls over his forehead slams me with déjà vu, but I can’t think of why. I shake off the feeling. I’m just too mired in memories today.
I can’t help but glance at his backside now that I’m at a distance to examine it. It looks damn good in the shorts he’s wearing. If I had to face plant into a butt today, I’m glad it was a nice one.
“Well, that’s one way to make an impression,” Jazz says, suppressing a laugh as we follow the slowly moving crowd up the ramp to board the ship. “I didn’t peg you for being into ass play. I guess what they say about school teachers is true.”
I roll my eyes at her. “Go on. Get it all out of your system so we never have to mention this again. Like ever.” I groan. “I’m so not good at this flirting thing. I’ll be your wingman and live vicariously through your overly friendly vagina. Just put a sock on the door if you don’t want me walking in.”
Her eyes widen. “That’s not a bad idea. I mean, the sock on the door is a little too obvious, but we should have a signal for when we need some alone time.” She taps a manicured nail against her lips, thinking.
I wave my cell phone in front of her face. “We could just text each other. Something like, ‘If you don’t want to see my amazing tits bouncing on a stick, stay out of the room for an hour.’”
She laughs. “That’s not quite as fun, but it works.”
As we inch our way along the gangway to check-in, I can’t help flicking my eyes back to the stranger in front of us. The sense of “I know him from somewhere” is very strong. A parent to one of my students? Another teacher or coach at the high school where I teach? Someone I’ve seen around town?
Jasmine’s shrill squeal brings me out of my trip down memory lane— it was too foggy to see anything clearly anyway.
“Oooo, get a picture of me in front of the check-in booth.
And I’ll get one of you too.” She shoves her phone into my hand and pretends to blow a kiss at the screen. I’m distracted by her over-the-top poses and trying to find the camera amongst her bazillion phone apps, so I miss the man’s name as he checks in.
“Next please?” the woman at the check-in booth says with a forced smile. Her cheeks must hurt by the end of the day.
“Sorry,” I say, handing over my passport to her and the phone to Jazz. Jazz does the same.
“Welcome aboard, Abigail Winters and Jasmine Bucolo. You will be in Sea Terrace 13090A.”
Jazz squeals. “That’s my favorite number!”
The cruise member doesn’t lose her bright, customer service smile. She’s like the guards at Buckingham Palace— nothing shakes her. “Great.” She draws out the word. She goes through a rote welcome speech.
After she puts the electronic bracelet around my wrist— an atrocious looking, slide-adjusted, cloth band connected to a bulky silver box that will open our cabin door, act as a passport onto and off of the ship, and be used to access ship amenities— I shuffle through the turnstile and wait for Jazz to get hers.
I’m looking at the cheeky inscription on the bracelet— Feeling’ Nauti— when a deep male voice startles me. “Excuse me.”
I jump a little and turn to face the man I bumped into earlier. My face heats to match the red carpet of the entrance way.
“I’m so sorry for earlier. I don’t normally grope strangers. I tripped and—”
“It was an accident. That isn’t why I stopped you. I— uh— this is weird, but did I hear your name is Abby Winters?”
I tilt my head at him, the fog of embarrassment lifting. And holy shit. “Grayson Hamilton?”
A broad smile lights up his face, smoothing out the strong angles, and my memories start clicking into place. Grayson and my brother dominating the soccer field in high school. Grayson and the rest of my brother’s annoying friends teasing me to no end. Grayson’s adorable, crooked smile. Grayson dominating my fevered teenaged dreams.
“Little Breezy Winters. Of all the cruise ships in all the world, you had to board this one.” He holds out his hand.
I laugh a little too loudly and take his hand. “God, no one’s called me Breezy in years. In fact, I think you and the rest of Alex’s soccer friends were the only ones who ever did. How are you?”
Besides really freaking hot. His handsome features— that I used to discretely study more than my homework… but in a not-at-all creepy way— have filled out into strong manly angles. Small lines form around his mouth and deep brown eyes when he smiles. In short, he has aged very, very yummily.
No, I scold myself. I am most definitively on a break from men.
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Karigan Hale is a writer, reader, wife, mother, teacher, and photographer. She married her high school sweetheart and has been a hopeful romantic ever since.
She’s highly susceptible to sudden summer thunderstorms and happily ever afters. Highly allergic to poison ivy and early mornings. And highly addicted to fountain sodas and true crime.
When she’s not reading or writing swoon-worthy romances, she’s usually stalki…er, chasing her two daughters around with her camera, grading papers, or cleaning up after the animals on her
mini-farm (at least emus, goats, chickens, dogs, and cats are cute, right?).
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About The Love at Sea Series
Get ready to set sail through the Caribbean on Festival Cruises’ most alluring voyage with eight of your favorite authors – happily ever after guaranteed!
Experience everything the Love at Sea series has to offer. From speed dating to masquerades, guests are sure to enjoy the hot days and steamy nights. Explore hidden waterfalls, swim with dolphins, and watch as eight couples find their forever on the open ocean.
Each story features a brand new couple and a fun trope from our amazing line up of authors including: Kate Stacy, HM Thomas, Mari Sol, S.A. Clayton, T.L. Anderson, Karigan Hale, Susan Renee, and A.M. Williams.
This promotional event is brought to you by The Indie Pen PR