Running with a Sweet Talker
Jami Albright
Contemporary Romance/Humor

She’s a take-no-prisoners fireball. He’s a sweet-talking charmer. It could be love…if they don’t kill each other first.
Hotshot lawyer Luanne Price may not believe in happily ever after, but she’d do just about anything to earn her absentee father’s love. So when he waltzes back into her life with a plan for her to marry his business associate, she foolishly agrees. But on the wedding day, things go south. Fast. Luanne’s desperate to get away, even if that means hitching a cross-country ride with the infuriating Jack Avery.

Jack needs to get Luanne out of his system. He’ll watch her tie the knot and forget about her. Once she’s married to another man, then she’ll be off-limits forever. Solid plan. Until he spots her army-crawling through the bushes to escape the Wedding of the Season.

He knows he should let someone else deal with the runaway bride. But if there’s one thing Jack has never been able to do, it’s resist Luanne. Will their romance rev up on the open road, or will Jack and Luanne crash and burn?

Excerpt

Jack Avery stared at the scene before him while sucking on a cherry lollipop his godson Aiden had given him. His third-floor window gave him the perfect vantage point to observe the bride sprinting a serpentine pattern across the lawn of the wedding venue. Luanne Price was beautiful, brilliant, and surprisingly agile in a banana-cream-pie dress as she leaped over a fallen log in her path.

“What are you up to, tough girl?”

Not his business.

She’d already caused him enough distraction. Why he found a woman who gave him so much shit attractive, he’d never know. But something about her smart mouth lit him up like a Roman candle. This woman intrigued him. He couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. Lately, the beautiful and docile women he dated had begun to bore him to death. They paled in comparison to the feisty pixie who had just scurried behind the flower-covered altar. “What the hell?”

Why did her every move fascinate him?

Stupid, Jack.

He was ten kinds of crazy to even contemplate getting involved with her for any reason. Thankfully, in a little more than an hour she’d be someone else’s problem.
That was the reason he was here today. To see Luanne tie the knot. It would be tough to watch, but then it would be real, and she’d be off limits. He didn’t fool around with married women. Ever. His mama would come back from the grave and slap him into next week if he ever did.
He leaned closer to the window of the suite and watched as she hiked up her dress and ran out of sight to avoid a couple of waiters. The glimpse of tan leg she gifted him with ignited images of all the things he’d never get to do with her. Another man would have that privilege.
Jealousy tore at his insides. The irrational urge to beat his chest and bellow mine concerned him. Luanne wasn’t his. She barely gave him the time of day. And when they did converse, she bloodied him with her words. In spite of that, he fantasized about arguments with her that ended with the two of them sweaty and naked. It was damned inconvenient…and dangerous, considering he’d probably end up dead after such an encounter.
But what a way to go.
Gavin Bain sauntered into the room. “Hey, man. Where’s my kid?”
Jack’s friend was his number one client and the hottest thing in music right now. He looked every bit the badass rock star, even in a thousand-dollar suit and tie.
Jack pulled the sucker from his mouth with a pop. “He’s out siphoning gas from cars in the parking lot.”
“Good. The boy needs to learn life skills.”
Gavin wasn’t fooling him for a second. He may seem casual about his toddler son, but nothing could be farther from the truth. That three-year-old, and Scarlett, Gavin’s wife, were his whole world. “He went down for a nap about thirty minutes ago.”
Another flash of white caught Jack’s eye as Luanne threw herself against the trunk of a huge oak tree. She quickly poked her head out and then jerked it back like a CIA operative on a recon mission.
Seriously, what was she doing?
The answer came in a brain-scorching lightning strike.
“Hot damn, she’s running,” he mumbled.
“Jack?”
“Huh? What?” He couldn’t tear his gaze from the runaway bride. Especially when she dropped to the ground and belly-crawled through the flower bushes.
“I said I can stay with Aiden until the sitter gets here if you have something else to do.” Gavin’s brow wrinkled. “What’s so interesting out there?”
“Yeah. Great. Gotta go.” He grabbed his suit jacket from the back of the sofa and barreled for the door.
Gavin chuckled. “Okay. Don’t let me stop you.”
He wouldn’t.
He was on a mission
He had a bride to catch.

***

The prick of twigs poking into Luanne Price’s arms as she shimmied on her belly through the azalea bushes was only a slight annoyance. What were a few scrapes compared to the gaping wound in her heart? She needed to put that away and concentrate on escape. A few more precious inches and she’d be at the parking lot and home free. Army-crawling through the shrubbery wasn’t how she’d pictured leaving her wedding, but desperate times and all.

The thought of dear old Dad and his devil’s deal with her fiancé spurred her forward. If she could get to her car, she could run and not look back. Thank goodness she had put a hide-a-key under the back bumper, just in case. Ironic that fleeing her own wedding would be her just in case.
Her manicured fingers clawed the soil as she pulled herself along the ground. A tiny twinge of guilt dogged her. This dress looked like a cake topper and wasn’t her style at all, but it had cost five thousand dollars, and she was ruining it in her escape. But guilt evaporated when she saw a break in the bushes. One last surge and she’d be free.
Once clear of the greenery, she inspected the damage to the dress. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too much the worse for wear. She quickly forgot about her dress when the sound of the wedding quartet warming up reached her ears. Damn! It was time to move.
She crouched low and used the other cars as cover as she duckwalked to her little red Corvette. But her elation at seeing her baby was short-lived when she noticed it was blocked in on all four sides. How would she get out of here? Walking wasn’t an option if for no other reason than Jimmy Choo did not make walking shoes. The rhinestone-encrusted beauties she wore were made to be admired, not for functionality.
She peeked over the hood of her car to make sure she hadn’t been discovered. With every beat of her heart, her blood pressure ticked up another notch. At this rate, she’d be leaving here in an ambulance.

Calm the hell down, Luanne.

Whistling and the masculine tap, tap, tap of shoes on asphalt caught her attention, and she dropped out of sight. Her butt hit the hard, warm pavement with a thud. The July Texas sun beat down on her bare shoulder as she huddled as close to the front tire of her car as possible. She prayed whoever it was would walk by without noticing her.
The whistling and tapping stopped. “Luanne Price, fancy meeting you here.”
She cursed the escape gods. Of all the people to see her in this humiliating state, Jack Avery was the absolute worse. Well, he wouldn’t rattle her. No matter how fine he looked in that black suit and gold tie that set off his whiskey eyes. Damn him and his McDreamy good looks.

She smoothed her short hair from her sweaty face. “Hello, Jack.”

“Car trouble?” He pushed back the sides of his jacket and slid his hands into the front pockets of his pants.

“I noticed one of my tires was low when I got out of the car earlier. It’s been buggin’ me all morning, so I came to check on it.” She made a show of inspecting the tire. What the hell was she supposed to be looking for? The only thing she knew about cars was how to turn them on and how to drive fast.

He leaned a hip against the driver’s door. “Yeah, I can see how that would consume your thoughts. Why let a pesky thing like a wedding get in the way of good car maintenance?”

“Exactly.” His accessing stare unnerved her. She went back to inspecting the tire and tried to ignore him. “Well, it was good to see you, Jack.”

Take the hint, Jack-ass, and go away.

He didn’t.

Paper crinkled and a red lollipop appeared in front of her face. “Want one?”
She pushed his hand aside. “No, thank you.”
“Aiden gave me these damn things, and I can’t stop eating them.”
Against her will and better judgment, she followed the motion of his tongue as he licked the sucker.
“They’re nothing but pure sugar.”
Lick.
“Probably all kinds of bad for you.
Lick.
“But I’m addicted.”
Lick.
“I seem to be having trouble with impulse control lately.” He winked. “Know what I mean?”
“Um…no.” Sweat beaded on her upper lip. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. “Tire looks fine. I guess I better get back inside, the wedding starts in a bit.” She gave him her best pageant smile.
“Yeah.” He turned his face to the sun. “Beautiful day for a wedding.”
He wouldn’t take the hint and leave. Or maybe he was calling her bluff. Well, two could play that game. “Yes, it is.”
He straightened and buttoned his jacket. “May I escort you back inside?”
“No. I’m going to sit a bit longer and enjoy the sunshine.” She waved him off with a flick of her hand. “You go on ahead and have a good time.” She smashed down the skirt of her dress that poofed around her face. The thing had enough volume to float a boat.
“The sun is nice. I think I’ll stay and enjoy it with you.” He turned, rested his butt on the car and crossed his arms over his chest.
Why wouldn’t he leave? She ventured a look in his direction and couldn’t help but appreciate the sight. The sexy dimple in his chin had probably been the undoing of many women—that and the devil’s glint in his mischievous expression. As much as it chapped her behind, she was no exception. She tried and failed to settle the butterflies whipping around in her stomach, but it was no use.
Since the day she’d met his arrogant ass, she’d done everything she knew to get beyond her unhealthy attraction to him. He was the exact kind of man who could break her, and she didn’t touch those men with a ten-foot pole.
As if her thoughts drew his gaze, their eyes locked. Her body ignored the siren going off in her head. Every part of her that should be ignoring him saluted and reported for duty.
“You have a little something there.” He pointed toward her head.
Her hand flew to her hair, and she patted her head. “Where?”
“Here.” His fingers gently pulled a sprig of grass from behind her ear. A tremor ran down her neck when he lightly brushed her earlobe with his fingers.
“Thanks,” she breathed.
A sly smirk appeared on his face. “No problem.”
Jerk. He knew he got to her, and it rankled. “I want to look my best for Doug.” She gave him a tight-lipped smirk.
“Uh-huh. Then you might want to wipe that smudge of tire grease from your upper lip.” He waggled his finger in her face.
She slapped it away and wiped her mouth. “Go away, Jack.”
“I think I’ll stay for the fireworks.” He popped the lollipop back into his mouth.
“Fireworks? There aren’t going to be any fireworks.” Not that her father hadn’t tried.
He grinned around the sucker. “Oh, I think there will be when everyone figures out the bride’s bolted.”
“I’m not running.” She so totally was.
“Please. I know a runner when I see one.” He surveyed the area around them. “It doesn’t look like you’re going to get very far, Thumbelina.”
She hated it when he called her that. He only did it to annoy her. That was Jack in a nutshell—annoying. He could make the Pope cuss. “Don’t you worry about me, Jack Avery. I can take care of myself.”
“I was going to offer you a ride, but I guess you don’t need my help.” He rapped his knuckles on the top of the car. “No need to hang around if there isn’t going to be a wedding. I’ve got places to go and people to see.”
“And women to objectify.” Petty, she knew, but still satisfying.
His laughter filled the air. “See ya later, trouble.” He sauntered away, jingling his keys.
Panic at seeing his retreating back knotted her muscles. She needed help, but not from him. If she’d learned anything from her father, it was that nothing was free. The last thing she wanted was to be indebted to Jack.
Shouts from the house slammed into her like a missile. Her heart rate, which had ironically stabilized in Jack’s presence, hit the stratosphere. Doug and her father were yelling her name.
Strike that. The last thing she wanted was to marry Doug Divan. Decision made. “Wait.”
Jack pivoted to face her, still playing with his keys. The shit-eating grin he wore made surrender a bitter pill to swallow. But she gulped it down, along with her pride. There’d be plenty of time to get both back at his expense…later…when she was a hundred miles away. “I could use a ride.”
He sauntered back to her. “Well now, Luanne. I don’t know if I’m inclined to help you anymore. You were pretty mean to me.” He had the nerve to pout.
She hated him.
But she also needed him.
With will she didn’t know she possessed, she unclenched her teeth and beamed at him. “I’m sorry I was mean, Jack. Could you please get me the hell out of here?”
He offered her his hand. “On one condition.”
“What’s that?”
“Tell me why you’re running.”

Uncaged Review

A couple months ago, I read the first book in this series, Running from a Rock Star – and was thrilled when Jami Albright released this second one. In the first one, we met Gavin the rock star and Scarlett and so much fun ensued – I was hoping the second book lived up to the hype of the first. And I was not disappointed. This time around, we meet Scarlett’s best friend – Luanne, a slam dunk lawyer, and Jack, Gavin’s manager. Even though the two of them know each other, Luanne has never wanted anything to do with Jack – thinking he’s just a player and not her type. But when Jack spies Luanne running and crawling through bushes, in her wedding gown – he can’t help himself, he’s off to be the knight in shining armor, uninvited of course.

Hilarity ensues as Jack and Luanne go on a road trip, Luanne for trying to escape her father and Jack, to find out answers when his whole life has been a lie. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious issues going on, and the author handles it beautifully, but injects enough humor to keep the reader smiling and cheering this couple on. It is a worthy sequel and it can stand on its own without reading the first book, but these books are worth reading together – as you do run into Gavin and Scarlett again. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene

5 Stars