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Lorana Hoopes

The Cowboy's Reality Bride

The Cowboy's Reality Bride

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Lights, camera…love? (Includes The Reality Bride's Baby bonus epilogue)

Cowboy Tyler Hall never thought he’d be a contestant on a reality dating TV show, but after his latest breakup, he decides to audition. At best, he finds the woman of his dreams. At worst, he spends some time away from his ranch and meets some new people. But what he hadn't bargained on was falling for the one woman he can't have.

Laney Swann has been trying to re-invent herself for years. But now, as a fabulous makeup artist, she can use her talents on the hot new reality show in town. What she doesn’t expect from her new job is to get hit by a thunderbolt of desire when she sees Tyler for the first time. Laney is tripped up when she sees Tyler for the first time. Handsome, rugged, and the perfect gentleman, she realizes she needs to become a contestant herself to have a chance with him. But there are rules – she's an employee, he's the talent. It could never work. Right?

When Tyler attempts to prove to Laney he's all in, she's not sure she can believe him. He's getting paid to fall in love, after all. Laney has to decide to open up her heart, and possibly get it broken, or give up on Tyler completely.

But this cowboy isn't going down without a fight…

Find out in this sweet and funny romance that will steal an afternoon from you. This is the first book in the multi-author Blushing Bride series. Each book will be standalone but have the common thread of brides and weddings running through them. Be sure to grab your copy of this newest Christian romance from USA Today best-selling author Lorana Hoopes and pay attention for a special offer at the back of the book!

First Chapter

Laney Swann clutched the strap of her black Tory Burch bag tighter as she weaved in and out of the crowded sidewalk. Why did the crowd have to be so thick today, on the one day she overslept? Normally, she was out the door by six am giving her plenty of time to travel uptown, stop at the bustling coffee shop, and walk into work by eight. However, sleep had eluded her last night, and she’d slept through her alarm waking instead to the soft rays of the sun peeking in her window. Now, she was paying the price.

She flipped her delicate silver watch around to read the face and quickened her pace. She was going to be so late, and Victoria Bonavich detested tardiness. It was a fireable offense in her book if you stepped in the office even a minute late, and Laney couldn’t afford to lose this job. The call offering her this job and a move to New York had been a dream come true. She’d moved away from home with big dreams but a small savings after college. If she lost this job, there would be no paying her rent, and she’d have to go home. A nervous spring coiled in her stomach. She couldn’t lose this job.

“Watch it!” The man’s gruff tone only spurred her on as she squeezed between him and another man with a cell phone glued to his ear. Both wore immaculate suits and tight expressions under their furrowed brows.

“Sorry,” she called back over her shoulder as she lengthened her stride. It was rude not to turn fully around when she offered her apology, and Laney’s mother would have her head if she ever knew but turning around would cost precious seconds and she had none to spare. Her heart thudded a constant drum of the precious seconds slipping away. How many did she have left?

A tendril of blond hair appeared in her vision and she blew it off her forehead with an exasperated breath. Great. Now, not only was she late, but her hair was eking out of its sprayed mold, another issue she would have to remedy before seeing Madame Bonavich or The Man-eater as they called her in the office. Unkempt hair was only slightly better than tardiness in Madame Bonavich’s eyes.

The woman was fearsome. With short grey hair, hawkish eyes, and thin lips that rarely smiled, she exuded a no-nonsense air wherever she went and reminded Laney of a fierce predator in constant search of prey. But Laney enjoyed working for her. Mostly. She had learned much in the six months she had been at the agency even though she was still just an unknown assistant to Madame Bonavich. 

Actually, she had learned everything from Myra, the makeup artist she assisted before photo shoots, but Laney still hoped to become Madame Bonavich’s assistant one day. Then she would have a chance at becoming a well-known makeup artist herself. At least she had received the promotion to coffee gopher the last month. It gave her a chance to interact with The Man-eater if only for a minute.

However, today, it could be her downfall. Only fifteen minutes remained to obtain the coffee and return to the office, and it wasn’t looking good. Time was slipping away faster than her feet were carrying her. Laney stepped up her pace a little more. Not too fast though. The last thing she wanted to do was trip, and sadly, she was a bit of a klutz.

“Excuse me,” she said as she pushed through another clump of pedestrians. Why did it seem as if people walked slower and in impenetrable groups whenever she was in a hurry? The busy city was always like this, she knew that, but her need to move at a faster pace exaggerated the normal bustling bog and edged her anxiety up another notch. An eye twitch joined the nervous stomach.

At last the coffee shop came into view. Sweet relief flowed over her even though her feet ached already from the rigorous pace she had set the moment she stepped out of her door. The four-inch heels were a requirement in the agency - something that had taken Laney months to get used to - and though she agreed they added style to her outfit, her feet were not fans. They screamed for a nightly soak, and she had purchased so much Epsom Salt in the last few months she should buy stock in the company.

A sigh billowed out of her lips as she pulled open the door, and the spring coiled tighter. At least four other people stood in line. Laney bit her lip and checked her watch again. Thirteen minutes remained. Her foot began a rhythmic cadence on the floor, the impatient tapping garnering a few irritated stares, but Laney didn’t care. She didn’t have time to care.

The man in front of her turned around. “You appear to be in an awful hurry. Would you like to take my spot?”

“Could I? That would be amazing.” Laney stepped in front of the man but remained facing him. He had the most amazing eyes. Blue with tiny green flecks. She was a sucker for eyes. Window to the soul and all that. “My boss is a bit of a time manager, if you know what I mean. If I don’t get her coffee and get back to her in just over ten minutes,” she blew out a puff of air as she shook her head side to side, “I don’t even know what will happen, but it won’t be good.”

The man said nothing, just raised an eyebrow at her, but Laney couldn’t shut her mouth. Perhaps it was his beautiful blue eyes - blue eyes were her kryptonite.

“Normally, it’s not an issue, but last night sleep evaded me. I just tossed and turned - my sheets look like a tornado touched down on them.” She made a swirling motion with her finger. “So, when my alarm clock rang, I guess I didn’t hear it. Though I must have turned it off because it wasn’t still beeping when I did finally wake up. I woke up to the sun if you can believe that. I never get to wake up to the sun, but of course it made me late. And now I’m in danger of incurring her wrath.” Laney paused her verbal spew as the man’s lips pulled into a smirk. “What?”

He pointed a finger toward the register behind her. “I believe it’s your turn to order.”

“Oh, right, thank you.” A heated flush crawled up her face as she turned to face the woman behind the counter. She had made a fool of herself with the handsome man behind her. Why did her mouth always seem to run unchecked whenever she was nervous?

“Can I help you?” The woman’s voice was flat, but perhaps that was simply her personality because her facial features held no emotion either. Not even a hint of a smile pulled at the lips under her bored brown eyes.

“Yes, I uh...” Laney cleared her throat and forced her mind to focus. She could berate herself later.  “I need a tall caramel macchiato and-” she shook her head. Even after a month, she didn’t have Madame Bonavich’s order memorized, but who could blame her? It had to be the longest order she had ever seen. “Sorry, just a second.” Her fingers rifled in her purse until they touched a folded piece of paper. She pulled it out and unfolded it. “A double ristretto venti half soy nonfat organic chocolate brownie iced vanilla double shot gingerbread Frappuccino extra hot with foam upside down double blended, one Sweet N Low and one NutraSweet.”

The cashier blinked, and a momentary shell-shocked expression covered her impassive face. Then composure set in, and she rang up the order and picked up two cups. Laney felt sorry for the woman. Her job required her to read off an order, but this woman had to put that nonsense on a cup in a way that the barista making the coffee would understand. Not for the first time, Laney wondered if Madame Bonavich ordered this drink because she enjoyed it or because she relished putting others through the ringer.

With the bill paid, Laney continued down the line to stand at the other end where the barista placed completed drinks. She kept her gaze low to avoid her eyes seeking the nice man again. He didn’t need any more verbal diarrhea from her.

Nine more minutes. She was cutting it so close. The office sat just around the corner, but her high heels kept her from running, so she’d have to opt for long strides and hope for the best.

“Caramel Macchiato and gingerbread frap,” the barista called as she placed the two drinks down.

“Thank you.” Laney flashed the woman an apologetic smile as she grabbed the drinks.

As she pushed open the door, she realized she should have asked for a tray. A cup in each hand made it nearly impossible to adjust her purse strap which kept threatening to slip off her shoulder with every step. Unable to stop, Laney adjusted her body by throwing her right shoulder as high into the air as possible in hopes gravity would keep the purse strap there.

She must look a sight, hunched over to one side like a modern-day Quasimodo. Madame Bonavich would blow her lid if she saw Laney, but it was this or arrive late with the woman’s coffee, and Laney honestly didn’t know which would be worse.

A sigh of relief spilled from her mouth as the office came into view. She would not chance looking at her watch, but she figured she had a few minutes to spare. However, she also had a conundrum. How was she going to open the door? She hated taking the chance but stacking one cup on top of the other appeared to be the quickest option.

Before her mind changed, she set the venti on top of her Grande and secured it with her chin. Then she reached for the door handle, but as her fingertips brushed the cold metal, the door swung open.

The force knocked her backwards. Her chin lifted from the lid of the cup, and without something to secure it, it teetered. Laney observed in slow-motion horror as the cup tipped off its perch and onto her chest. The lid popped off and flew through the air as the contents of the drink spilled down Laney’s front.

Her body unfroze when the searing hot liquid broached her skin. Laney jumped farther back sending the venti cup crashing to the pavement - the liquid spilling out like caramel colored blood.

“I’m so sorry. Can I help?”

Anger flared in her stomach, and Laney flicked her eyes up to take in the perpetrator before she let loose her vitriol on him. However, the flame fizzled at the sight of the young man with glasses who stood gaping at her. His wide eyes held an apology and his baby face placed his age in his early twenties - probably a college intern. She swallowed the harsh words she wanted to bark at him. If she’d had Madame Bonavich’s coffee order written anywhere else, she would give him the paper and tell him to go replace the coffee. It would be late, but perhaps late was better than never, but she didn’t.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll take care of it.” She didn’t know how exactly. The only option she had was giving Madame Bonavich her drink which probably wouldn’t sit well with the woman. She could only hope her boss was in a good mood and that was like hoping for it to be Christmas every day.

“Again, I’m so sorry.” The man ducked his head and scurried away looking very much like a scolded puppy with its tail between its legs.

Laney spared one glance at her formerly white shirt now stained brown and sighed. She was late; she didn’t have the woman’s coffee; and she looked like a slob. These were not the makings of a good day.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.