Falling for the Groomsman ONLY
a Wedding Dare novel by USA Today bestselling author Diane Alberts
Photojournalist Christine Forsythe is ready to tackle her naughty little to-do list, and who better to tap for the job than a hot groomsman? But when she crashes into her best friend’s older brother, Christine realizes her list needs updating. And fast. Tyler Dresco took her virginity during the best night of her life, then bolted. Now that they’re trapped together at a destination wedding, she’s going to get her revenge.
Tyler has never forgiven himself for how completely he lost control all those years ago. Being in Christine’s arms had felt right…until he realized what he’d taken from her in the hallway of a cheap motel. And oh, how she’s making him pay for it now. The insatiable heat between them has only grown stronger, but every time things heat up, Christine walks away.
With every encounter, things go a little bit further until Christine’s caught in her own trap of seduction. And before their time’s up, Tyler’s not the only one wanting more…
Title: Falling for the Groomsman
Series: Wedding Dare, #1
Author: Diane Alberts
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 225 pages
Listening Length: 5 hours and 33 minutes
Release Date: June 2014
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Grab the rest of the Wedding Dare series!
- Dare to Resist by New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye
- Baiting the Maid of Honor by New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey
- Seducing the Bridesmaid by New York Times bestselling author Katee Robert
- Best Man with Benefits by USA TODAY bestselling author Samanthe Beck
An Excerpt from:
Falling for the Groomsman
by Diane Alberts
Copyright © 2014 by Diane Alberts. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Tyler Dresco closed the door to his hotel room and scanned the wedding itinerary. According to the schedule, the first event took place in a little under an hour, which left enough time for a quick drink at the bar, if he hurried.
God knew he’d need it.
He loved his sister, Kady, very much, as any older brother should, but a whole drawn-out event centering on one wedding seemed a little bit over the top. There were dinners, scavenger hunts—and ballroom dancing. Fucking dancing.
He’d been tempted to pretend the minor injury he’d gotten in Brazil was more serious than a bruise. There hadn’t been much time to do anything fun while working there for Doctors Without Borders, so his last day there, he’d done it all.
Bungee jumping. White-water rafting. Rock climbing. He’d injured his knee while zip lining, so he hadn’t gotten the chance to skydive. Maybe next time. But ballroom dancing? Yeah. He could do without that.
No one else could make him suffer through numerous days of flirtatious women, loud music, and fancy ballroom moves. But for Kady? He’d do it and smile, too, damn it.
But first, he’d get a fucking drink.
Without looking up, he turned on his heel and stumbled backward as someone crashed into him full force. He automatically steadied the person, making sure he didn’t lose his own footing in the process. Judging by the slender frame plastered up against him, he held a woman. She was about five foot three and had curves in all the right places.
Not that he was noticing or anything.
“Oof,” the feminine form in his arms said. She started to step away, but stumbled back into his arms. “Ah, crap. Hold on.”
The second her fingers closed on his biceps, he tensed. A shot of desire punched him in the gut, making him frown. Her light perfume teased his senses, making him think of warm nights on the beach, tropical drinks, and light laughter. And her voice. It sounded oddly familiar. Weird.
Clearing his throat, he stepped back and released his hold on her waist. She didn’t let go of him. He glanced down to see what the issue was. Her red heel was caught in the cuff of his pants. Slim legs were attached to that foot. Legs that made his mouth water. She had red hair that cascaded all around her shoulders, and that’s about all he could see. It was enough. He was intrigued by a woman who was literally stuck on him.
He shifted uncomfortably. “Do you need help down there, ma’am?”
The woman froze. For a second, he couldn’t figure out why. But she looked up at him, her bright-blue eyes that he’d never truly forgotten meeting his. “Tyler?”
Christine. Of course it was her. Shit. “Oh. Hey, Christine.”
No wonder his cock had immediately stood at attention. It always had with her. She’d always been special to him…well, back when they’d actually spoken, anyway. He’d unknowingly taken her virginity in Mexico in the heat of the moment, then left.
They really hadn’t spoken since.
“I…uh, didn’t recognize you right away.” She finally freed her heel and stumbled out of his arms, smacking her elbow on the doorjamb in the process. She grabbed it and hopped on one foot. “Ow, ow, ow.”
His lips twitched. “I see I’m as dangerous to your safety as always.”
“You’re as dangerous as a cuddly teddy bear,” she snapped, her blue eyes flashing with anger. Interesting. “I just wasn’t watching where I was going, like usual. Man, that hurts.”
“I bet it does,” he said softly, watching her. She was even prettier than the last time he’d seen her at her college graduation. They’d kept their distance that day. Something told him it would be a little harder to do so now. He sighed and held out a hand. “Let me look at your elbow.”
She gripped it tighter and scowled at him. “I’m fine.”
“Just let me look at it.” He dragged a hand through his hair. “I am a doctor, you know.”
“Oh, I know what you are,” she said, backing up another step. “I know exactly what you are.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He stepped toward her, snatching her wrist in between his thumb and forefinger. Holy shit, her skin was actually as soft as he remembered. “That I’m an asshole?”
She stumbled back again, a small breath escaping her. “I didn’t say that.” Her back hit the wall and her chin tilted up stubbornly, ignoring his hold on her. “But, hey, if the shoe fits…”
He laughed. “I suppose I deserved that. Now let me look at this.”
“I told you—”
“You’re fine.” He gave her a level look. “I know.”
She huffed. “You’re as stubborn as ever, I see.”
“Guilty as charged.” He pried her left hand off her elbow. The skin was a little red, but she looked otherwise uninjured. She didn’t even need ice, but for some reason, he didn’t want to let her leave yet. They’d spent years avoiding each other and had it down to an art form. The second she slipped away, this interaction would be over.
But they’d been avoiding each other for the sake of avoiding awkwardness long enough. Maybe it was time to try something new. To start over.
“Well?” she asked, her soft voice sending something shooting through his veins. “Will I recover full use of my limb, Doctor?”
Her graceful form drew his eyes, no matter how hard he tried to resist. Her slim waist curved to generously swelled hips, and her long legs stretched on for what felt like miles. She wasn’t in a short skirt—it reached just above her knees—but for the way his body reacted? She might as well have been strutting around in a fucking miniskirt.
“Yeah, but you need ice.” He turned away and mumbled, “And so do I.”
Christine watched Tyler swipe the card through the lock on his door with one smooth motion. He looked so in control of every move he made, while she was literally falling into walls and crashing into people. Bouncing off of Tyler wasn’t exactly the most flawless start to the wedding extravaganza, but it could have been worse. Heck, the last time he’d held her in his arms, he’d looked at her with horror after he realized what he’d done, apologized, and run away without any sign of hesitation.
Anything was better than that.
But still. Finding out his touch still affected her after all of this time was a bit of a shock, to say the least. Sure, she’d been half in love with him back then—hence him taking her virginity in Mexico all those years ago—but it had been years since they were within touching distance of each other. They’d both moved on.
So why did his touch feel so freaking good?
Maybe she was just that horny. After all, it had been months since she’d gotten any action. Close to a year, if she was being honest with herself. She’d been so wrapped up in her work that she’d neglected life. She’d forgotten how to have fun.
So…she’d made a list of things she wanted to do before the wedding was over. Things she’d read in romance books. Sexy things. She’d even titled it Christine’s Sex To-Dos. Not very creative but it would do. So far it had three items on it: Kiss a stranger. Have sex outside. Make out in the elevator.
Rekindle an old flame was not on her list—and it wouldn’t be, either.
But maybe, just maybe, she should add another thing: Get payback on Tyler.
She could make it sexy to fit in with the rest of the items on her list.
No, that would be too dangerous. He’d already hurt her once, and she wouldn’t be going back for seconds. She played it safe now, thanks in part to him.
Tyler came out with the ice bucket, his green eyes settling on her instantly. The weight of his stare made her want to fidget, but she forced herself to stand still. His brown hair was longer than she remembered, curling slightly at the edges. He had a little bit of scruff going on, and muscles like whoa.
It was obvious that he kept in shape while he was out saving the world. So not fair. He reached out and placed a hand on her upper arm. His fingers on her bare skin sent a shiver straight up her spine. She tilted her chin up. “Stay here while I go get you ice?”
And spend more time walking an unwilling trip down memory lane? No, thank you. She shook her head and looked over her shoulder. The elevator was awfully close. “I don’t need any. I’m fine, I swear.”
“Just wait here for me.” He skimmed his finger over her arm. God, he wasn’t even trying to tempt her, yet he was. So unfair. “I’ll only take a second. I promise I’ll be right back.”
Unlike the last time you left, she added silently.
And then? Blessedly, the anger took hold. Anger she’d thought long buried.
Oh, he thought she would stand there waiting for him, after all this time? He had another think coming. Time to turn the tables. Get payback on Tyler may not be on her actual sex list…but she was metaphorically penciling it in right now. Dangerous or not, she’d make him want her. Then she’d walk away and forget all about Tyler Dresco—and their sloppy past.
She gave him a sweet smile, satisfaction coming over her when he paused, his eyes heating up with…desire, maybe? She reached out and tucked one of his errant curls back in place. His nostrils flared. “Oh, I’ll be waiting, all right.”
His gaze dipped down to her mouth, making her stomach tighten, and then flew back up to hers. “All right then. Good.”
He left, his steps long and even. Even while leaving, he managed to look so damn confident and hot that it drove her insane. So much like a man, as opposed to the boy he’d been when he’d taken her virginity and apologized before running away. He might have changed, but not enough to make her change her mind about him. There was nothing between them except awkward silence and memories.
Time to go back to what they did best: pretending that night in Mexico had never happened. As soon as he rounded the corner…she spun on her heel and headed for the elevator.
It was her turn to run away.
Close to an hour later, Christine leaned back in her chair and fiddled with her wineglass. She glanced over her shoulder for what had to be the millionth time before looking back at her best friends. The girls were all arguing over some nonsense or another, but Christine was clueless. Normally, she would have been right there with them, fighting over…
What were they talking about, anyway? They could be telling her she was winning the Pulitzer Prize for her upstanding investigative journalist abilities, and she wouldn’t have heard a single word. Her mind was still stuck on Tyler Dresco and all the memories he’d brought back with him in that stinking hallway.
Now all she could think about was Mexico, and all of the intense emotions that went with that vacation. It had been three months after a drunk driver had killed her parents, and she’d been a shell of the girl she’d once been. She hadn’t even wanted to go, but Kady had insisted she should. Insisted she needed to live, and stop crying herself to sleep every night. She had reluctantly agreed, and tried to act as if she were having fun for the sake of her friends.
Tyler had seen through her act.
Regan, New York City headhunter and her Tri Delt sorority sister, leaned close, pulling her out of her thoughts. “You know how you haven’t told anyone else you’re moving to Maine? We’re all together, so now might be a good time.”
Christine sighed. Regan had a point, but it just didn’t seem right to draw attention to herself when it was Kady’s big week, let alone during the bachelorette party. Right before a wedding was not the time to make a huge formal announcement about moving away. It wasn’t even all that important, really.
Maybe she’d tweet about it…Hey… Surprise! Moving to Maine. Come visit me sometime! Wait. Was that more than one hundred and forty characters?
She sighed. “I’ll tell them after the wedding is over, but before we all leave. I don’t want to take attention away from the blushing bride.” Christine smiled at Kady as she animatedly talked to Julie. They all looked so happy, her news could wait. “But enough about me. How are you doing?”
“Great.” She made a show of looking around the bar. “But considering the man candy wandering around here, I’m about to get a whole lot better.” Regan popped a mint in her mouth and asked, “Are you excited to be going back home, living on your own for once?”
Of course her attempt to divert the attention from a topic she didn’t want to discuss failed with Regan. It always did. “Yeah. I went from living at home with my parents and Jake, to college with you girls, to rooming with Kady in San Francisco. Then, when she moved here to be with Colton, I actually came with her, which is crazy, too. Now I’ve got a crap roommate who is anything but my friend, and for the first time in my life, I’m going to be alone.” Christine shrugged. “For once, that doesn’t sound so bad. It’s time for me to try it out. Start over and all that crap.”
“Understandable.” Regan nudged her with her heel. “But if you ever want me to fly up for a good Chunky Monkey binge night, you know I’m your girl. I’ll be the closest one to you once you move.”
Regan sipped her drink. “How does your brother feel about you coming back?”
“He’s happy about it. He’s not the same Jake he used to be, not after the war, but he sounded excited about it.”
Now that he was a civilian again, Jake worked at a private security agency called Shillings Agency. He’d gotten out of the marines only recently, after injuring his leg. He wasn’t the same man anymore. He was quiet. Reserved. Serious. Not even remotely similar to the daredevil he used to be. And he definitely wanted his big sister to come back home.
He was finally getting his wish.
Christine brushed her hair over her shoulder, using the opportunity to peek backward again. She couldn’t concentrate on these things when at any second, a green-eyed, brown-haired, smooth-talking devil could walk through the door. She hadn’t really thought about him much at all over these past eight years, but now that she’d seen him again? She couldn’t think of anything else.
How utterly irritating.
“Holy crap. Why is Tyler wearing that god-awful shirt?” Regan whispered to Christine. “It’s got tropical flowers on it, for the love of God.”
Christine blinked and yanked herself out of her head, scanning the room with a racing heart. “Huh? He didn’t have it on earlier. Where is he? I don’t see him.”
“I know. But now I know you saw him already.” Regan looked at her skeptically. “I’d suspected as much, considering the way you’re acting. So, how did it go?”
Christine shifted in her seat. Regan didn’t know about her and Tyler. No one did. It was their dirty little secret. So what was Regan hinting at? Christine smiled. “It was fine. Why wouldn’t it be? We barely know each other.”
That much was true. They just knew what each other looked like naked, is all.
“You tell me,” Regan said, watching Christine too closely. “Every time someone mentions him, you tend to zone out and pretend he’s not real. Now that you’ve seen him, you’re acting like a space cadet. Something’s going on.”
“My distraction has nothing to do with him.” Christine forced a smile. “I’m just tired.”
“I know a good remedy for tired,” Regan said, using air quotes around the word “tired.” “Want me to share it?”
“Does it involve a hot man and a bed?” Christine asked, biting down on the corner of her lower lip to keep from laughing, since she knew it almost certainly did. “Because that’s totally on my list.”
“Ah, yes. The sexy list of ‘things to do while unemployed.’”
“I’m not unemployed,” Christine whispered, peeking at Kady. “I just didn’t start my new job yet. Thanks for the help, by the way.”
“Don’t mention it,” Regan said, waving away the fact that she’d helped Christine get her new job. “Back to the fun stuff…let’s talk about the party train you have planned. It’s about time you started living life instead of reading about it.” Regan leaned closer, her expensive perfume wafting over. “But as far as my earlier remedy goes? The bed’s optional.”
Christine laughed. “I’ll make a side note on my list.”
Julie came back in the room leading a wide-eyed woman by the arm who looked a lot like Colt, Kady’s soon-to-be husband. She had to be his little sister, Sophie. She carried herself with the same determined manner, and squared her jaw in the exact same way Colt did when he was dead set on winning an argument. But Christine saw the way her eyes flitted about the room and recognized the signs all too easily.
Sophie was nervous as hell.
“Hello, I’m Christine,” she said, smiling and reaching out to squeeze the other woman’s hand. “Your brother told me so much about you.”
Sophie smiled shyly. “Don’t believe everything you hear from him.”
“Honey? I’m a journalist. I fact-check everything,” Christine said with a wink.
Kady looked past Christine toward the entrance, let out a little squeal, and took off. If she was excited, it meant the men were here. If the men were here…
Tyler was behind her.
Had he been angry when he returned and found her gone? Or had he been relieved not to have to act all compassionate toward a woman he would rather not deal with?
Lifting her glass, she chugged the rest of her champagne. She wouldn’t turn around and check him out. She wouldn’t take a look at all the things she’d been remembering since she crashed into him, like how huge his biceps had felt. Or how soft his hair had been. Or how her stomach had tightened when her breasts had brushed his chest and—
Argh. She was doing it again. Thinking about him.
Time to stop. Maybe she should cross something off her sex list tonight. Find a stranger to make out with. That shouldn’t be too hard…but it wouldn’t happen if Tyler was in the same room. She’d be too busy trying not to look at him.
Regan leaned forward in her seat. “All right, tell me about these groomsmen so I can decide which lucky one gets to see me naked.”
Christine stiffened. Not Tyler. Not Tyler.
Just because she didn’t want him and he didn’t want her didn’t mean she wanted him with someone else. Yeah, super logical. But it didn’t matter if the logic didn’t make sense. She didn’t want to watch him hanging all over someone else, like, ever.
He could become a priest or something. That wasn’t asking too much.
When it came to men, Regan was everything that Christine wasn’t. Confident. Assertive. Fearless. Christine had no problem asserting herself professionally, or channeling confidence and bravery when necessary to get the story, because when it came to the job, she always knew what she was doing.
Personally? Yeah. Not so much. But hey, at least she was aware of her faults. She also spent way too much time playing Flappy Bird, loved all things Kardashian, and thought man had never actually walked on the moon. Oh, and she drooled when she was drunk, too. Apparently, she could add selfishly not wanting to see Tyler happy with anyone else, even though she didn’t want him, to that list.
She could live with that.
“So, who wants to bag a groomsman with me?” Regan asked. “Don’t leave me in this alone.”
“I’m in,” Julie blurted. Christine shot her a surprised look. Of all people, she hadn’t expected Julie to jump in on the idea. Julie prided herself on being the quintessential Southern lady—not the type for a one-night stand. “We’re on vacation, right? I want to be seen naked, too.”
So did Christine. But it wouldn’t be with a groomsman, thank you very much.
As Julie and Regan sparred back and forth about the best man to pick, Christine tightened her fists in her lap, opening and closing them reflexively. She wouldn’t look. She would not look. Not until she was good and ready.
She scratched her head and without even realizing her intention…she did one of those “not looking” things where you peek over your shoulder nonchalantly as if you’re just curious about your surroundings and not looking for someone.
And she, of freaking course, looked straight at Tyler.
When she glanced back, her gaze latched onto Tyler’s within seconds. Oh my God, had he been watching her? As soon as their eyes locked, he winked at her. Hot damn, he looked good. Way too good. He wore the same suit he’d had on earlier, but if anything he looked even hotter. More irresistible than ever.
Same brown hair. Same green eyes. Same devastating effect on her senses.
She turned around, her pulse leaping at the eye contact. Holy crap. She was so screwed…and not in the literal sense. Why had she looked? More importantly, why had she glanced away like a scared little rabbit when she had? She wasn’t supposed to be nervous.
Bold. Confident. Free.
That was her.
She peeked over her shoulder again. He still watched her with a heat level in his eyes that made her toes curl in her red stilettos and her breath whoosh out of her lungs. This time, she didn’t back down. She held his gaze for so long she couldn’t believe her heart didn’t jump out of her chest like in those cartoons.
And this time? He broke the gaze first.
But the way he’d looked at her? Oh my God. It made her want.
“Looks like Julie’s made her pick.” Regan said while filling up her glass. “You sure about that one? He is tall, troubled, and dangerously sexy. Not your usual type.” She paused. “Although maybe he’s exactly what you need.”
Forcing her attention back to the girls, Christine ignored the urge to look at him again. Tyler’s name had come into play again as a potential target. This was ridiculous. What was even more ridiculous? She wanted to publicly claim Tyler just so no one else would. “I agree. He’s definitely the one you should pick, Julie. So that’s settled, right? I vote for a topic change.”
Regan and Julie exchanged glances. “No. It’s not settled,” Julie said as her gaze moved over the men. She lingered on a smiling black-haired man with an athletic build. “That one. Logan. Best man, so he’s obviously trustworthy. I’ll take him.” Colton’s sister, Sophie, choked on her sip of champagne. Julie reached over and patted her on the back. “All right, darlin’?”
Regan nodded. “Driven, successful, total package. I can see why you’d want to go there. Wish I’d called dibs first, actually.”
“You guys aren’t really picking out conquests, right?” Christine asked, her mind still locked on the idea of claiming Tyler. “Can’t we just have a fun, relaxing girls’ weekend?”
“If you had the equipment, I’d consider it.” Regan waggled her eyebrows as she sipped her drink, then took in the men one more time. “All right, I’m staying away from Mister Danger.”
Christine easily located the groomsman Regan commented on. He glowered off into the distance, looking as approachable as an angry rattlesnake.
“Julie’s got her sights set on the best man.”
Ah, yes, the one who looked as if he belonged on a yacht or something else equally expensive.
“That leaves me with Kady’s big bro. I’ve always found him to be the sweet, strong, silent type.”
No. Just…no. “I don’t think he’s sweet at all,” Christine blurted out.
“In that case, I’m definitely going with Tyler,” Regan said, her eyes on Christine. “I think he’s got a certain je ne sais quoi. Sophie? You getting in on this?”
Sophie’s reply was lost on Christine. As was the rest of the conversation.
Regan was going after Tyler, and Christine had no doubt in her mind she could succeed without a whole lot of effort. She’d bet her last dollar that with Regan, Tyler wouldn’t apologize afterward. He wouldn’t regret a darn thing. But would Regan actually go after him? She had always been uncannily adept at reading between the lines, and right now Christine was screaming to stay away from him…
Between the lines, of course.
She shoved her chair back from the table with shaking hands. She wobbled on her feet, trying to keep her balance. The last thing she needed right now was to fall face-first onto the floor. “I-I need some air. I can’t breathe in here.”
Regan reached out and grabbed her elbow. “How much did you drink?”
“Apparently not enough.” Christine offered her a smile. “But I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“You know I was just messing—”
“I know,” Christine said, stumbling away and beelining for the door. Wait. Was Regan saying she knew about Christine and Tyler? But she couldn’t. “W-We’ll talk later.”
Regan let her go, but she watched her with a furrowed brow. Even though Christine knew she was worried, she couldn’t take the time to reassure her right now. She needed to get out, escape Tyler’s overwhelming presence, and start using her spicy romance novel tricks—such as going down on a guy in public—on someone who didn’t make her heart involuntarily stop and her toes curl.