He’s ready and waiting. She’s wanting…but wary.
Watkin’s Pond, Book 1
The groom is back in town.
Abigail lost her best friend years ago when he ditched her at the altar like a loaf of stale bread. Now he’s back and determined to do whatever he has to—even lie, apparently—to get under her skin. Although he makes her hormones rev to life in a way that no one has since he left, she is equally determined not to fall for his boy-next-door charm.
His bride-to-be is somewhat reluctant.
Braxton Dean was too young and stupid to know better when he walked away. Years of trying to fill the Abby-shaped hole in his heart have left him empty, and now he’s going to win back his girl—or get over her. But first he needs answers. Particularly why she never responded to any of his letters.
With the help of their friends, the two battle it out. The army? An entire town of busybodies. The prize? Happily ever after.
Warning: Contains indignant old ladies, steamy sex (but not with indignant old ladies), seduction cake, and condom bouquets. Yes, we went there.
Enjoy the following excerpt for Runaway Groom:
July 7, 2005
I’m sitting in a diner in the desert. The sun peeking over the mountain lights up everything in these reds so bright they almost hurt the eyes. You’ve never felt a hot like this, all dry, nothing like the days that we went swimming over at Watkin’s pond…
I don’t really know why I’m writing you. I don’t have answers and right now you probably want them. I just know I couldn’t do it.
I miss you though.
Knuckles white, Abigail put her beat-up Ford Focus in Park, and glanced at her best friend. “I can’t do this.”
“Pussy.” Applying a coat of lipstick to her lush red lips in the mirror, Carnie shot her a glance. “You can do this. It isn’t like you’re about to face a firing squad. It’s just a bonfire.”
Shoving her hand through her short, pixie-cut brown hair, Abigail blew out a frustrated breath. “I would rather face a firing squad. If you ditch me to go running off with the new boyfriend…”
Carnie gave her a dirty look, tucking her red hair behind her shoulder. “I would never do that. I know how bent out of shape you get every time we go anywhere that Braxton might be. Really, though, it will be fine. The crap happened a thousand years ago. You’re adults now.”
Abigail didn’t feel like an adult. She felt like the rejected teenager even thinking of Braxton Dean.
It didn’t help that he’d become sexier with age. Heartbreakingly handsome, Braxton made her thighs clench with just a glance. She needed to remember the pain and humiliation rather than how it felt to be pushed into a bed by him. Better to remember the chest-constricting, blinding terror when he’d ditched her and vanished rather than remember his face a mask of unleashed passion and his green eyes wild with need. The former would keep her knees together.
The terror of that time—it wasn’t something she shared with anyone, not even Carnie.
Remembering gave her the strength she needed to peel her fingers from the wheel. “You’re right, of course. I can do this. No big deal. We’re both more mature now. He probably won’t even say a word to me.” The last came out a bit hopeful, even to her own ears.
“Yeah, at his birthday bonfire, he isn’t going to say a word to the woman he dated for years and ditched at the altar like a loaf of stale bread. Really, Abs, you need to get pissed off rather than feeling pissed on. You’re totally the injured party here.”
“He had his reasons. I’m sure he did.” Why was she defending his dumb ass?
“What reason could be good enough for that grand act of douchebaggery?” Carnie raised one well-plucked brow at her. “Besides, these are our friends. You need to remember why we’re here. He took off. He stayed gone. This is our town. You’re going to walk in there and show him what he is missing. Rub in his face what he can’t have.”
“I don’t know. He really wasn’t a jerk…not most of the time.”
“Let’s just go find Mike and the crew, and have a good time. All of our friends from high school are here and it’ll be good to catch up with them.”
Nodding, stomach still a bit of a knot, Abigail opened her door and stepped out into the muggy Ohio night. Stars hung like tiny lanterns above the recently mowed field and the sound of laughter carried on the breeze. The bonfire, a huge conflagration, was surrounded by what looked like hundreds of folding chairs, coolers and other party miscellany that beckoned Abigail onwards. Who knew? Maybe she would meet someone new and end up being really happy she wasted the extra five minutes to make sure everything was shaved and neat?
Carnie strode with her usual impulsive bravery into the melee. Abigail stuffed her hands in her jeans and resisted casting her head down to avoid any stares that might be coming her way. Instead she held her head high, but refused to meet anyone’s eyes. In small-town Ohio, everyone knew she hadn’t seen Braxton since that fateful day when he left her standing, flowers in hand, waiting for a runaway groom. Everyone knew that instead of marrying her, Braxton—golden boy and football hero—ran off to parts unknown, and she’d neither heard from him nor caught a glimpse of him when he’d come to town until a few weeks ago. He only returned home now to help his father with his tool store after his father’s stroke made it hard for the old man to get around like he used to.
Everyone watched to see how she’d handle it.
She wouldn’t give them a show to chew over for the next decade. She’d act like it was ancient history, like she hadn’t spent years wondering how a man could go from saying he loves her to leaving her to stand alone against a whole swarm of gossips with nothing better to do than tear her to shreds for being moronic enough to think he would stay.
She concentrated so hard on what she wouldn’t do, she slammed to an abrupt halt against a firm chest. His firm chest. Braxton. He smelled the same, damn him.
Even over the scent of wood burning, the ripeness of summer and the bitter tang of someone’s spilled beer, she inhaled his soap, familiar cologne and under it all, simply Braxton.
Her stomach clenched. Part of her wanted to smack him and demand answers. Part of her wanted to run away. Part of her wanted to pull his face down and kiss him because she’d missed him so much.
Instead she hid behind an armor of polite civility and gave a short, sharp nod. “Braxton.”
“Abby.” The word came out almost a plea. His eyes held a sad look she quickly identified. He pitied her.
Double damn him. “Happy birthday.”
And even though she promised herself she wasn’t going to give everyone a show, promised herself she wouldn’t feed the rumor mills...
The sound of her slap rang out across the field. Even in the flickering light from the bonfire, her handprint marked his strong jaw and she couldn’t ignore the pleasure it gave her. Silence seemed to spread across the night as he touched his cheek. Her mouth hung open, shock rippling through her as his gaze locked on hers.
“I deserved that.” The timbre of his voice seemed to stroke across her skin, stirring up a potent cocktail of emotions—lust, love, fury and pain. The worst part was disgust at herself for feeling anything.
“You deserve worse.”
Instead of arguing with her, which almost would have made her feel better, like it meant something to him, he simply nodded. “Wanna go somewhere to talk?”
About the Author
Virginia Nelson believed them when they said, “Write what you know.” Small town girl writing small town romance, her characters are as full of flaws, misunderstandings, and flat out mistakes as Virginia herself. When she’s is not writing or plotting to take over the world, she likes to hang out with the greatest kids in history, play in the mud, drive far too fast, and scream at inanimate objects. Virginia likes knights in rusted and dinged up armor, heroes that snarl instead of croon, and heroines who can’t remember to say the right thing even with an author writing their dialogue. Her books are full of snark, sex, and random acts of ineptitude—not always in that order.
1. So…RUNAWAY GROOM, huh? Did you ever know any of those in real life?
Nah, mine stuck around for that part. It was after the wedding ceremony was over that we started having problems…lol
2. I love scenes in runaway bride movies, like Julia Roberts scampering away from the altar, or in The Graduate, where Dustin Hoffman steals Katherine Ross from her wedding and they’re riding on a bus, her in her wedding gown. Brides running away on motorcycles, on horseback. How does your groom do it?
He just leaves before the ceremony takes place. No phone call, no notice…he just never shows up at the church when Abby expects him. Not as dramatic, but she lives in a small town. It is quite hard to live down being the girl who got left at the altar like a loaf of stale bread.
3. Did you have any trouble redeeming your RUNAWAY GROOM?
Sure! Abigail isn’t terribly interested in his reasons for why he left and, when she finally lets him tell her, she smacks him down—hard. The reason he couldn’t forget her was she was his best friend…which is exactly the reason it is hard for her to forgive him.
4. If they made a movie of RUNAWAY GROOM, who’d play the heroine?
Maybe Katie Holmes or Zooey Deschanel? Brown haired, 30s, lovely, but in an understated way.
5. And (maybe more importantly, LOL) who’d play the hero?
Jonathan Rhys Meyers or Colin O'Donoghue could both pull off Braxton. Handsome, dark haired, light eyed…a little bit naughty. Brax is the kind of man who is willing to bring up that one time you skipped wearing underwear because he asked…and pretty likely to ask you to do it again.
6. If they made a movie of YOUR life, who’d be you?
Me? Yikes. Melissa McCarthy has the bod and the attitude. Dye her hair rainbow colors and she’d nail it.
7. What would they title it?
Stranger than Fiction
8. What type/flavor of wedding cake? Go ahead, be graphic. I will live vicariously through the sugar.
I only had a tiny wedding cake from a grocery store—a birthday cake repurposed at the last minute by scrawling our names on the top—so if I’m getting or writing a cake? It has to be chocolate with whipped icing and ganache filling. Layers of chocolate, towering so high toward the ceiling it looks as if it will topple in a giant chocolate avalanche that you could just swim in…
9. What type of ring? Big? Small? Platinum? Jewels? Rainbow Loom?
My darling son would say rainbow loom, but if I’m picking for me? Platinum with blue stones around the diamond or maybe chocolate diamonds. If I’m picking for Abby? She’s a traditional gal, so I think she’d prefer yellow gold and a nice, not overly pricy, diamond set. Then again, any ring that actually got put on her finger rather than sitting in a jewelry box would have pleased her.
10. What’s your perfect / ideal / dream honeymoon location?
Mine would be to tour Ireland, maybe for a month or two to really soak it in. I think Abby would like to stay at a nice, local B&B…since she wouldn’t plan on leaving the room.
11. What are some wedding traditions you absolutely love?
The dance with the parents always touches me. I think because I’m a mother and there is something so final about your child picking who they are spending their life with that it tears me up to think of my own children starting their lives with someone... I bawl at every wedding, regardless of my relationship with the couple, but especially for those I know and love. It is such a beautiful, life affirming event and life is full of so many dark ones.
Also, cake. Because…cake.
Also, cake. Because…cake.
12. What are some wedding traditions you absolutely loathe?
Dress sizings. Gah, the dreaded three-way mirror. I’ve been a bridesmaid far more times than I’ve been a bride so, yes, having my fat actually measured is traumatic. Can’t we just get me a tent to wear and be done with it?
13. As a reader, what’s your favorite type of hero? What do YOU look for in a hero?
I love to read historicals and my favorite kind of hero comes from those—the rake. Other than that, I love my heroes like I love my real men—knights in rusted and dinged up armor, heroes that snarl instead of croon, men who are heavy on the intelligent snark and low on the charming prattle. I like my men to be men—which means, yeah, they’re not afraid to cry, but they don’t WANT to cry. They don’t always say the right thing, but they try to be good people as a general rule. And brains? Brains are a must. Talk nerdy to me, baby.
14. As a writer, what kind of hero do you like to write best?
Book two in my Watkin’s Pond Series, the follow up book to Runaway Groom, features probably one of my favorite heroes of all time. He’s not a terribly nice guy, he was very hard to redeem, but he had a heart of gold under his cactus like armor of snarl and growl. I like those heroes best because they are a challenge to wrangle…and often think more than they say. (Literally, he might have a paragraph of thoughts in his point of view, but all he said to the heroine was, “No.”) Writing a character like that? Well, it’s a bumpy ride, (I described him as barbed wire in my brain) but it is soooo worth it in the end.
15. What’s your favorite kind of heroine?
Smart, unbreakable even when the odds are stacked against them, sometimes lacking in elegance and grace, and willing to go toe to toe with the hero rather than swooning when he bats his eyes at her. Not that my heroes do a lot of eye batting, but you know what I mean.
16. Can you tell us (without having to kill us) what you’re working on now?
I would hate to have to kill anyone…blood stains are really hard to get out of carpet. Instead, I’ll tell you what is coming out soon.
Runaway Groom releases in January from Samhain and it’s the first of an at least five book series. The second book of the series, While You Were Writing, is slated to release in October of 2014. These stories are all set in small town Ohio and feature heroes who aren’t afraid to get a bit of mud under their nails. I can’t begin to tell you how fun it has been for me to write what I live daily—small town life full of small town snark.
Magical Curves, the first of a paranormal trilogy, also releases in January, but with Evernight Publishing. Featuring a plus sized bookworm who travels to another world in her dreams to spend time with a magical prince in a kilt…who finds out that her dream world might be more real than reality… this series has been a blast for me to write.
I don’t have a release date for Calling Caralisa, but it is also the first of a planned five book set, The Bond of Three Series, with Ellora’s Cave coming some time in 2014. This series features ménage situations for a race of people…who aren’t quite like anything I’ve ever read or written. I look forward to introducing readers to their world.
Other than that, I have two stories currently out on submissions. The first is a contemporary with a hero inspired by Robert Downey Jr. (swoon) and the second is another paranormal, this one dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. All in all, lots of exciting things coming this year!!
Thanks so much for having me! These questions were fun J
And thanks so much for stopping by to play, Virginia!