Wilder With You
(Wilder Adventures, #3)
Publication date: February 15th 2022
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
Who knew pretending could be so hot?
It started as a joke. After all, I’d never pretend to date a woman just to get my mom and sister off my back.
I would, however, pretend to date her to get her ex-husband off hers.
Now the two of us, the wilderness warrior and the wedding planner, are stuck sharing a very small tent. I had no idea how fast things would heat up in here, or how hard it would be to keep my hands—among other things—to myself.
I also didn’t guess how quickly the news of our “relationship” would spread to my big, nosy family.
We can’t “break up” yet, because she’s planning my brother’s wedding and I’m his best man. Through venue visits, DIY disasters, and Vegas trips, we’re thrown together, and the chemistry’s off-the-charts. But the kicker is, I feel like she gets me.
Maybe that’s what scares me the most. I’m still reeling from the loss of my wife, and she’s still hurting from her ex’s betrayal. There’s no way this can ever be real.
But what if I’m starting to hope it is?
I’m about to holler out that all the camping trip attendees need to gather ’round when I notice Jessa looks absolutely fucking miserable.
Yup, I’m looking at her again.
She’s a few people away from me in the circle. Her head’s ducked and her body language screams that she wants to disappear. Which I don’t understand, because when we left the staging area, she was bummed that her friend was bailing, but still seemed basically game. I admired her spirit—a lot of people cancel when their friends bail out. But since then something has obviously killed her moxie.
I want to know what.
And for fuck’s sake, I don’t want to want that.
Even all hunched up, Jessa’s prettiness and presence unsettle me, and I’m hit with a strong memory of that night at the Love for Books literacy fundraiser when I looked up and saw her. She was standing across the room, smiling and talking, eyes bright, lips red, slim body just curvy enough under her long black gown to make my own body come to life.
It was uncomfortable, like the feeling when pins and needles come back into a numb limb.
I didn’t want it, or the tug I felt, the sharp desire to walk across the room and steal her attention away from whoever she was talking to.
I looked away from her and refused to look at her again.
And when she said hi to me at the food table a half hour later, I was a dick to her.
I’m thinking about all that—Jessa smiling, talking, waking me up with her aliveness, and then how she froze when I blew her off at the food table—when I hear a voice say, “Hey, Jessa.”
I raise my head to see the couple that we had to stop for. He’s a white guy dressed in what Portland hipsters think people wear in the woods, and she looks like she just came from the gym, but that’s not what makes my blood freeze.
I know him.
How do I know him? I haven’t put it together yet.
“Hi, Reuben,” Jessa says, her voice small and tight.
Jessa knows him, too.
“I don’t think you two ever officially met,” Reuben says. “This is my girlfriend, Corinna.” He turns to the woman beside him. She’s pretty in that way that a lot of guys go for: blond, blue-eyed, busty, and polished. She’s just a little too plastic for my tastes.
Jessa, standing on Reuben’s other side, is a hell of a lot more beautiful. Not that anyone asked me.
I’m not the most emotionally savvy dude on the planet—after all, I spend a lot of my free time alone with a knife—but even I can tell that something seriously ugly is going on here. The two women haven’t stepped forward, not even a millimeter, to greet each other. Or even looked at each other, really. Jessa looks like she’d like the earth to swallow her. And I get the strong feeling I’m about to find out why.
Reuben turns to Corinna. “Jessa’s my ex-wife.”
That’s why Jessa’s mood flatlined. Because when Reuben and Corinna got on the bus, Jessa realized she was about to have to spend three days with her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. And if Amanda’s intel is sound, Reuben cheated on Jessa…
I don’t think you two ever officially met.
Oh, fuck. Could that guy be any more of a dick?
My hands ball into fists, and it takes everything I have not to bury one of them in his smug, asshole face.
“Nice to meet you.” Jessa’s voice is even smaller and tighter. And I’m not gonna lie, it hurts my chest to hear it. I know divorce isn’t the same as death, not by a long shot, but that woman is hurting, and I’m way too familiar with that feeling.
Reuben rocks back on one foot, his arms crossing. Now I remember him from one of our parties. He wore a jacket with elbow patches and black-rimmed glasses. No joke.
A smug look settles on his face. “Jessa. Are you here by yourself?”
Afterwards, I’d wish I’d just punched him, because it would have been smarter than what I do next. Propelled by a force stronger than good sense and a lot faster-acting, I take a step to the side.
“She’s with me.”
And I drop an arm around Jessa Olsen’s slim, warm shoulders.
Then I look up to discover my sister and brother staring at me like I’ve grown another head—
Which honestly, would have probably surprised all of us—me included—less.
USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes contemporary romance with heat, heart, and humor. A former journalist, Serena has always believed that everyone has an amazing story to tell if you listen carefully, and you can often find her scribbling in her tiny garret office, mainlining chocolate and bringing to life the tales in her head.
Serena’s books have earned many honors, including an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Apple Books Best Book of the Month, and Amazon Best Book of the Year for Romance.
When not writing, Serena loves to spend time with her college-sweetheart husband and two hilarious kiddos—all of whom are incredibly tolerant not just of Serena’s imaginary friends but also of how often she changes her hobbies and how passionately she embraces the new ones. These days, it’s stand-up paddle boarding, board-gaming, meditation, and long walks with good friends.