The King of the Friend Zone by Sheralyn Pratt
Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem.
The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . .he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.
Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.
The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.
When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.
They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.
Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?
While everyone around Hunter ate and drank, Hunter swirled the liquid in his glass and watched his friends and family interact with Jon.
The man was suave when he wanted to be; Hunter would give him that. He wore the right suits, said the right words, and charmed the right people.
What a hero.
He was also several inches shorter than Hunter, which meant Esme fit neatly against his shoulder as they stood and spoke with all their guests. Esme looked so content as she reclined against Jon, and Hunter wasn’t the only one who had noticed. The last person who had commented on Jon and Esme within Hunter’s earshot had called them “two peas in a pod” as if there were awards to be won in the category.
Well, there weren’t.
In that moment, Hunter was very glad he hadn’t been drinking that night, because otherwise he might have gone so far as announcing that fact to everyone. There are no awards for being two peas in a pod, everyone. Oh, and by the way, you should meet this guy when he isn’t trying to impress you. He’s a bit of a prick.
But, of course, no one wanted to hear that. No one wanted to hear anything from Hunter tonight except for a glowing toast endorsing the golden couple.
He still hadn’t written anything, although he had googled a generic speech and printed it out. It was in his pocket now, but he hadn’t practiced it and reading the prepackaged speech was pretty much out of the question now, thanks to his dyslexia. Reading on the best of days usually didn’t go that well for Hunter, but when he was seething mad?
Yeah, that wasn’t happening.
So he sat and swirled and watched and tried to imagine what in the world he could say that wouldn’t earn him more frowns than his jeans had already earned him.
Then it hit him: Why try? Why not be honest?
There wasn’t a face at this party that he hadn’t known for the better part of twenty years—well, except Jon. His smug mug was as new as it was unwelcome in Hunter’s book. But everyone knew Hunter and they’d know if he vomited some fake, glowing speech their direction.
So why should he?
Why not be honest?
The idea grew on Hunter as the night went on and the praise for Jon became more and more abundant. The clincher was when Jon’s best man stood up and gave a speech that proved he’d probably met Esme all of once, and everyone in attendance nodded and beamed as the guy praised Esme in the most generic of terms.
According to whatever the best man’s name was, Esme was kind and compassionate and a joy to all those who met her.
Seriously? The guy had clearly never been within earshot of Esme when an ice cream truck passed in July playing Christmas music. That would redefine the guy’s definition of “joy to all those around her.” Yet everyone ooohed and ahhhhed and clapped until the guy sat and Jon gave his bestie an appreciative slap on the back with a look that said, Well done.
Then everyone in the future wedding party looked at Hunter expectantly. It was his turn.
In that moment, Hunter had a choice to make. He could either repeat the same lame puffery the best man had, or he could give the speech that had been building up in him like a sneeze all night.
Be nice now and freak out later, or let it all hang out? That was the question. And one quick glance at Jon’s arrogant face gave Hunter his answer.
* She’s a wanderer (geographically)
* She can write a novel, but doesn’t have the attention span for one page in a journal
* She vehemently disagrees with Stephen King’s stance that authors should not watch TV
* She is pretty much incapable of sleeping before midnight
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