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Runaway Love

Monroe Brothers, Book 1

When I started planning my dream wedding at a Christmas tree farm, I never thought that, on my wedding day, I would literally bolt from my wedding.

I run through the Christmas tree farm until I find my favorite spot, which is where Emmett Monroe finds me, still in my wedding dress. The grumpy mountain man offers me a much-needed respite from the chaos, inviting me into his cabin to "hide out" until all the wedding guests leave. But I never think that we will get stuck together for days in the one-bed cabin during a major snowstorm, completely cut off from the outside world.

We go sledding and build snowmen, and he even takes me to cut down a Christmas tree for his cabin—something I've never done in my entire life. It's magical, like time is suspended.

I fall hard and fast for him, but when the snow stops and the roads have been cleared, we have no choice but to return to reality. I need to deal with the fallout from my failed wedding, and if I want the head wedding planner position my boss offers me, I have to convince Emmett and his family to allow more holiday weddings to be held on his farm.

Emmett is adamantly against it, and our relationship only complicates things. If I don't push this, I might lose my job, but if I do, I might lose the only man I've ever truly loved.

Will I finally get my Christmas wish and get everything I've ever wanted? Or will this go down as one of the worst holiday seasons on record?

+ Excerpt +

Chapter 1

Ireland

“I don’t have time for this.”

“It was your suggestion.” Irritation burned in my gut. My fiancé, James, preferred a flashy wedding venue that flaunted his wealth and status, but I really wanted to get married on a Christmas tree farm. Unfortunately, the one roadblock to that happening was a grumpy mountain of a man.

“Let’s go, then.” Emmett turned and stalked toward the exit of the barn, and I followed at a more leisurely pace. I’d worn knee-high boots, but they were designer and not meant for walking through dirt. With the mood he was in, I was more than a little worried he’d lead me through wetlands.

When he flashed an irritated look over his shoulder, I smiled serenely, hoping to disrupt his dark mood with positivity.

We walked for a few minutes in the direction of one of the many fields sporting trees in various stages of growth. I breathed in the crisp fall air, imagining what it would be like to work here, where your office was fields and not four walls. Maybe that was why Emmett wasn’t keen on me holding my wedding here. “Why are you doing this?”

Emmett stopped abruptly and turned to face me. “You were hell-bent on having a wedding here. You got what you wanted. I don’t think we need to rehash the whys and how we got here.”

“Gia was hell-bent on holding the wedding here. Not me.” Although that statement wasn’t exactly the truth.

“So, you don’t want to get married here?” Emmett asked gruffly, his arms spread wide. “In between the rows of Christmas trees with twinkling lights strung between the poles.”

Everything inside me softened. “I’d love to. That’s not what I meant.”

Something passed between us then. It was full of hope and anticipation, and it caused my heart to flutter. I am engaged to someone else.

“Let’s get this over with.” Emmett stalked into a row of trees, and I followed.

“I wanted to know why you’d agree to host my wedding if you don’t want me here?”

He glanced over his shoulder at me. “I never said I didn’t want you here.”

I touched his elbow with the intention of stopping his forward momentum because we’d reached a small clearing between the rows. “Thank you for agreeing to this. I know this is your home, and it wasn’t an easy decision for you.”

His jaw tightened. “You have no idea.”

I wanted to ask if he’d been engaged or married before, but it wouldn’t have been appropriate. It was just my intuition working in overdrive. I was a romantic at heart. I wanted to assign feelings to a man who probably didn’t experience any range of emotions other than irritation.

His gaze dropped to where my hand held his arm. I felt the warmth of his body through the flannel shirt and the ripple of his muscles as he flexed.

I wanted to step into his body and feel the heat all over.

I am engaged to James.

I let go of his arm and stepped back. I sucked in a breath of fresh air to clear the crazy thoughts in my head.

“Are you sure you’re ready to get married?” Emmett asked.

“We love each other.”

He tilted his head to the side. “Is that the only criteria?”

I frowned, trying to think of the reasons I’d agreed to his proposal. He was solid, and he came from a good family. He worked at his father’s law firm, and he came from money. He represented safety and security. But more than that, he seemed to adore me. I hoped it was me he was interested in and not the idea of me, or the fact that I come from a good family, went to the right schools, and had a trust fund.

“Are you going to quit your job after you get married and pop out some kids?”

A little taken aback by the venom in his tone, I said, “I like my job. I don’t have to work, but I enjoy making others happy.”

Emmett nodded, seemingly respecting my answer.

“I’ve never had to struggle with things like money. I always had my trust fund to fall back on. But my parents were divorced many times. There was a lot of upheaval in my life. Nothing felt safe or secure at home. I’m not telling you this so that you’ll feel sorry for me. Just because someone’s life looks good on the outside, doesn’t mean that it is.”

Emmett sighed. “You’re right. I’m sorry for judging you without knowing anything about you or your life.”

“I love your farm, and I’m so grateful you’re willing to share it with me. I know it’s a hardship for you and your family to hold events here.”

He held up his hand. “This is just a onetime thing.”

“I know what the contract says. But you know Gia’s hoping this is just the beginning.”

“This wedding will be a disruption, and I’m not looking forward to it.”

I watched him closely, the way his eyes were guarded, his muscles bunched tight. “You don’t like change.”

He looked from the trees to me. “That’s probably it. I feel unsettled.”

“We’ll make this as easy as possible for you. I have a team of people helping me.”

“I hope you’re right, and this is nothing more than a small interruption.”

I didn’t push any further because I didn’t think Emmett would appreciate it. I needed to prove to him that the wedding wouldn’t interrupt his business too much. Looking around, I asked, “Is this one of the options for the ceremony?”

The clearing was in the middle of several fields. I couldn’t see the main barn or farmhouse from where we stood.

“None of these trees will be cut this year, so it’s the perfect spot for the ceremony. It’s private and closed off from the rest of the farm.”

“I like that.” I wandered the space, noting how many chairs would fit and the best spot for an arbor. “I would think the arbor would go here, the guests here. Would I emerge from the row of trees?” I asked more to myself than him.

“That’s a little too much like A Field of Dreams, don’t you think?” Emmett quipped.

“Wow. I didn’t know you made jokes.” I didn’t wait for his response. “But you’re right, that would be odd. We could move it here, and then I’d enter from this small pathway. We can use a runner for the aisle and rustic chairs for the guests. Maybe purple flowers.” I hadn’t decided on any colors or other details, but now that I was here, surrounded by greenery, I loved the mix of purple, white, and green.

Emmett stood in front of the larger trees. “You could put the arbor here.”

I could see the wedding pictures now, me in a white dress in front of the evergreens. It would be gorgeous. I didn’t want to think too hard about why I couldn’t picture James next to me. “I wonder if Harrison could do something different for the arbor.”

“I can make you one.”

“That’s not necessary. Gia commissions Harrison for those.” I didn’t want to intrude on Emmett’s life any more than necessary.

“I have an idea for something I’ve been thinking about for a while.”

I tipped my head to the side. “You’ve been thinking about creating a wedding arbor?”

“It came to me that first time you met with us.” He pulled out his phone, scrolled through some pictures, and showed me a photograph of an image he’d sketched.

The branches were intertwined with evergreens wrapped around them. I wondered if he’d drawn it with me in mind. “This is gorgeous. It’s different than what we’ve done before.”

“I think this matches the vision you’re going for.”

It was perfect, and I couldn’t believe he’d read my mind so easily. “Are you sure you don’t mind making this? This is supposed to be a painless process for you.”

“Nothing about this is painless.” Before I could respond to his comment, he continued. “We have another barn that we built for family picnics and events. That might be your best bet for the reception. It’s a short walk from here.”

“I’d love to see it.” My heart rate picked up. I couldn’t remember him showing us a second barn on our original tour, and I was excited to see it.

We walked in silence, our boots scuffing the debris on the ground. I could imagine what it would be like to live here. I’d take walks between the rows of trees in the early morning or evening.

There were poles with lights strung between them, and I wondered if they were lit year-round or if they were only used when the farm was in season.

This barn was a natural wood plank. There was a large, covered porch on the side, which I assumed they used for outdoor events.

“We could move the picnic tables out. I’m sure you have tables you’d prefer to use. Unless your wedding is a barbecue.”

“Definitely not.” I winced, unable to imagine James’s family attending a wedding at a farm. But this was what I wanted, not what Jason’s family preferred.

He opened the door to the inside and waited for me to precede him. He flipped on the lights, and I was pleased the interior was spacious and clean. Tables lined the back wall, and chairs were stacked next to them.

I wandered around the space already imagining the tables, a dance floor, and endless flowers and greenery. Maybe white centerpieces with some kind of ornaments.

“Are you imagining what it would look like in your head?” Emmett asked, and I was surprised he was interested.

I gesture with my hands. “I was thinking centerpieces, maybe a configuration of white and silver ornaments, various sized candles or one tall one in the middle, purple and white flowers, and tons of greenery.” I breathed in deeply, smelling the cedar. “So much that you can smell the needles. It will smell like Christmas.” I looked up. “Maybe twinkling lights on the ceiling. It’s funny because I couldn’t picture it until I was standing here in this space.”

“We don’t usually let anyone outside of family inside the barn.”

“Thank you for inviting me into your space.” I was genuinely surprised he’d done so. He was so guarded and protective when it came to his family.

He nodded toward the room. “Do you think it will work for you?”

“It’s perfect. I’m imagining a winter wonderland. All tasteful, of course.” It would be simple yet elegant. For the first time, my chest filled with hope that maybe my marriage would be different than my parents’. That I’d be with James forever. But I had this lingering feeling that I was forgetting something important.

As a wedding planner, I could easily see the empty room as it would be decorated on the day of the wedding. It was more difficult to imagine me walking down the aisle to James. Every time I thought about it, there was nothing waiting for me at the end. Now, all I could see was the beautiful arbor that Emmett drew.

“I have one more space I’d like to show you. Maybe you could use it for pictures, or for a private moment with your fiancé.”

“I’d love to see it,” I said, wondering why his comment about a private moment with my fiancé rubbed me the wrong way. “Do you have a lot of family events here?”

“Picnics and family meals. There’s a kitchen, and it’s fully heated and air-conditioned.”

I shook my head. “Those are the questions I should have been asking, not getting lost in imagining the décor.”

“It must be hard to be the wedding planner and the bride.”

I chuckled. “Well, it’s the first time I’ve attempted it. My parents haven’t set the best example. Both have been married numerous times, so taking this step is huge for me.”

“What makes you so sure he’s the one?” Emmett asked, his gaze steady on mine as we walked down the dirt path into the woods.

I thought about it for a few seconds before answering. Our relationship had been a whirlwind. After the first few days, he’d said he knew I was the one for him. “He loves me.”

He paused at the top of a hillside. “Do you love him?”

“Of course,” I said. Love was what I’d been searching for my entire life. To me, it meant safety and security. I wanted a home, a place to call my own. I’d never put my kids through what I experienced—the constant upheaval, the stress, and uncertainty.

My brother, Finn, and I were close because we were all each other had when my parents were going through the endless cycles of dating, marrying, and then inevitably divorcing.

“Have you ever been in love?”

“I was. Once.” Then he nodded down the hill. “This is what I wanted to show you.”

Here, the trees were part of the forest and widely spaced. As we walked down the slope, there was a waterfall where flat rocks were placed into the side of the hill, water falling peacefully over them. “This is gorgeous.”

When the ground evened out slightly, there was a spot where someone had made chairs out of logs and placed them in a circle around a fire pit.

“Did you make all of this?” I asked him, genuinely impressed.

“Me and my brother, Knox. He does landscaping work. One of his clients wanted something similar, so he made it here first and then took pictures for them.”

“Do the visitors know about this spot?” I asked him.

Emmett scowled. “This is strictly for friends and family.”

I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of rotting leaves. “It’s so peaceful. If I lived here, I’d hang out here, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the water.” When I finally opened my eyes, I was surprised to find Emmett watching me.

He cleared his throat. “If you want to take pictures here, you can.”

I couldn’t see this space appealing to James. He was all about opulence and elegance. This was too rustic for him. But I loved it. “Maybe I could take some shots with me in my dress.”

I ran my fingers over the log benches, imagining little kids sitting here with their parents cooking s’mores.

“Wouldn’t you mess up your dress sitting on the logs?”

“Yeah, I guess.” I hadn’t even picked one out yet. But seeing this, I imagined something soft and flowing, with purple and white flowers woven into my hair. It wasn’t the wedding that James was imagining, but it was the one I wanted.

My heart ached as I looked at Emmett. Was I making the same mistake my parents had? Was I jumping into this wedding with James too quickly? Was it the right decision? I took a deep breath, my chest constricting.

“Getting married is a big commitment. Just be sure it’s the right thing before you go through with it.”

“Are you speaking from experience?” I asked, my intuition telling me there was a story here.

His face screwed up. “I don’t believe in it.”

I laughed. “My brother didn’t either. Our parents got married and divorced so many times that he didn’t want to put anyone through that himself. When he met Aria, he tried to keep it casual, but it didn’t work. He fell hard for her. Now he’s all in. It makes me think I could have something like that, too.”

Finn and I were different, though. Watching my parents only made me want to find love for myself. I was worried I would look for it in the wrong places or think I had something when I didn’t. Was I doomed to be like my parents, always searching for that elusive someone and never finding it? Or were they too quick to walk away?

I just needed to commit to James, and everything would fall into place. I wouldn’t be like my parents.

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