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Lynn Painter | Exclusive Excerpt: HAPPILY NEVER AFTER


Happily Never After
Lynn Painter

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March 2024
On Sale: March 12, 2024
Featuring: Sophie Steinbeck; Max
320 pages
ISBN: 0593638018
EAN: 9780593638019
Kindle: B0C7TPPBY8
Trade Paperback / e-Book
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Also by Lynn Painter:
Accidentally Amy, January 2025
Happily Never After, March 2024
Add to review list
Betting on You, December 2023
The Love Wager, March 2023

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HAPPILY NEVER AFTER Excerpt

 

Max

 

I KNOCKED ON the hotel room door and waited.

This was my least favorite part.

More often than not, the bride who desperately wanted out of her own wedding was an emotional mess afterward, shocked by the end of what she thought would be the beginning of the rest of their lives together.

And I was not the reassuring kind. Back pats and handkerchiefs were not my thing.

I just needed my money and to get the hell out of there.

On a side note, who the hell doesn’t have Venmo or PayPal?

I heard a noise just before the door flew open.

“The Objector!” A blonde in a Red Hot Chili Peppers T-shirt that went down to her knees grinned at me. “I’m Asha. We talked on the phone . . . ?”

Ah, yes. The bride’s best friend and my college roommate’s cousin. “So you’re Tom’s cousin.”

“Yes!” She grinned again, and I realized she was totally buzzed. “Come in!”

She held open the door, and I followed her inside what was obviously the bridal suite. Huge living room, bedroom to the left that appeared to have rose petals everywhere, and a silver bucket on the coffee table with a bottle of champagne inside.

Typical.

I shifted my gaze to the right and saw the bar, with an open bottle of tequila in the center and two shot glasses on the surface.

Less typical.

“You were amazing,” she squealed, shaking her head like she couldn’t believe it as she went right over to the bar and grabbed the bottle. “Tommy told me to trust him, but I had no idea that you’d be such a professional.”

I smiled and muttered a thanks, but I was never sure how to respond to that. It wasn’t like I was proud of my performance. I wasn’t an actor looking for good reviews, for fuck’s sake.

It was just something I occasionally did for money.

At that moment the balcony door flew open and the bride— Sophie—ran in, saying to Asha, “I need one more.”

At least it looked like the bride.

Walking down the aisle, she’d been stunning. Her dark hair had been tidily piled on top of her head, accentuating her light brown eyes and long, graceful neck. She’d looked like everything I imagined a bride would want to look like on her wedding day.

Her hair now, though, was everywhere. Technically a lot of it was in a messy bun, but long strands of curly hair hung all around her face like she’d just wrestled a bear. She was no longer wearing any makeup, which made her look like a teenager, and she’d switched out the wedding gown for a Chicago Bears jersey and leggings.

And . . . snow boots.

She stopped in her tracks when she saw me, and then a big smile slid across her face. “You. Are. My. Hero.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but she cut me off with an index finger. “Gimme one sec. I have to finish a project.”

I watched in disbelief as Asha tossed her a Hostess Twinkie, and then she disappeared back out onto the balcony.

“Do I want to know?” I asked, my eyes still on the sliding door. “Twinkies won’t hurt the Volvo’s paint, so it’s a victimless crime,” she said, turning to look at the bottles of liquor on the shelf behind the bar. “That’s all you need to know.”

I contemplated just exiting the hotel room at that moment, because (a) this was clearly none of my business, and (b) it was just past seven and I was starving.

But when I saw the bride pull her arm back and launch that snack cake off the balcony like a professional quarterback, I decided to stick around for another minute.

“Want a drink?” Asha asked, looking ready to pour herself a tequila shooter.

Before I could answer, the bride came back inside, saying as she closed the sliding door behind her, “We need to switch to something else.”

“What? Why?” Asha asked, pouting. She held up the bottle of tequila and said, “Jose is our friend.”

“Nope.” The bride shook her head, kicked off the boots, and said, “As much as I want to get ripped, I don’t want to end up with my head in a hotel toilet. Pretty sure that’s how you get dysentery.”

“Pretty sure that isn’t right,” I said under my breath. “Schnapps, maybe?” Asha asked.

“Objector’s choice,” Sophie said, her lips turning up into a little smile as she tilted her head and looked in my direction. “What should we drink?”

“Whiskey,” I said, wondering what her usual drink of choice was. Because when she was dressed as a bride, I would’ve pegged her as a cosmo drinker, perhaps someone who enjoyed a nice chardonnay. But this Twinkie-tossing, wild-eyed girl was a bit of a mystery. “Unless you’re dialing back to something lighter.”

“Not at all,” she said, pulling the elastic from her hair and shaking out the half bun. “But tequila punches too hard.”

“Have a shot with us, Objector,” Asha said—or, rather, squealed. “The pizza’s already on the way.”

“First of all, you have to stop calling me that.”

“Why?” Sophie asked, putting her hands on her hips and screwing her eyebrows together. “What’s your real name again?”

“Max,” I said. “Parks.”

Max,” she repeated, raising her eyes to the ceiling as if it held an opinion on my name. “I mean, that’s a fine name and all, but The Objector is next level.”

“It makes me sound like an off-brand superhero.”

She snorted a little laugh, and I noticed her freckles when she crinkled her nose. “Like a lawyer who got stuck in radioactive waste, right?”

“Exactly,” I agreed.

“Which whiskey, Objector?” Asha asked, gesturing toward the bar. “You’re drinking with us, right?”

“Thank you, but I can’t—”

“Of course he isn’t,” Sophie said, rolling her eyes and climbing onto one of the two barstools. “He is a man, and it’s their job to disappoint us. Eternally. Please pour me a shot, Ash.”

“Didn’t you just call me your hero?” I asked, sliding my hands into my pockets as she ignored me and reached for the shot glass. “Like two minutes ago?”

“Your actions were heroic and I’m very grateful,” she said, circling a perfectly manicured fingernail over the top of the tiny glass and turning her back to me. “But I said what I said. Asha, my love, will you pour my whiskey shooter, please?”

Something about the all-knowing way she said it and her ab- solute dismissal of me made me shrug out of my jacket, toss it on the sofa, and grab the stool beside her.

“Make that two, please.”

She turned her head toward me, her eyebrows raised. “You’re staying?”

“I can’t ruin the reputations of men everywhere by disappointing you, can I?” I asked, reaching for the shot that Asha slid in front of me. “What are we drinking to?”

Her lips slowly slid into a smile as she lifted her glass. “To last- minute reprieves.”

I raised my shot to her. “To last-minute reprieves.”

 

Excerpted from Happily Never After by Lynn Painter Copyright © 2024 by Lynn Painter. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER by Lynn Painter

Happily Never After

Their name? The objectors.
Their job? To break off weddings as hired.
Their dilemma? They might just be in love with each other.

When Sophie Steinbeck finds out just before her nuptials that her fiancé has cheated yet again, she desperately wants to call it off. But because her future father-in-law is her dad’s cutthroat boss, she doesn’t want to be the one to do it. Her savior comes in the form of a professional objector, whose purpose is to show up at weddings and proclaim the words no couple (usually) wants to hear at their ceremony: “I object!”

During anti-wedding festivities that night, Sophie learns more about Max the Objector’s job. It makes perfect sense to her: he saves people from wasting their lives, from hurting each other. He’s a modern-day hero. And Sophie wants in.

The two love cynics start working together, going from wedding to wedding, and Sophie’s having more fun than she’s had in ages. She looks forward to every nerve-racking ceremony saving the lovesick souls of the betrothed masses. As Sophie and Max spend more time together, however, they realize that their physical chemistry is off the charts, leading them to dabble in a little hookup session or two—but it’s totally fine, because they definitely do not have feelings for each other. Love doesn’t exist, after all.

And then everything changes. A groom-to-be hires Sophie to object, but his fiancée is the woman who broke Max’s heart. As Max wrestles with whether he can be a party to his ex’s getting hurt, Sophie grapples with the sudden realization that she may have fallen hard for her partner in crime.

 

Romance Comedy | Women's Fiction [Berkley, On Sale: March 12, 2024, Trade Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780593638019 / eISBN: 9780593638026]

Fun New Rom Com from Lynn Painter

Buy HAPPILY NEVER AFTERAmazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Walmart.com | Target.com | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Lynn Painter

Lynn Painter

Lynn Painter lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and pack of wild children. She’s a biweekly contributor to the Omaha World-Herald’s parenting section, even though she is the polar-opposite of a Pinterest mom. When she isn’t chasing kids, she can be found reading, writing, and shot-gunning Red Bulls.

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