Now that “Gimme Shelter” is turned in, it’s time to get back to PROJECT: RUNAWAY BRIDE, the second book in my “Project: Passion” miniseries with Harlequin Desire.  I was so excited about jumping into this story right after I finished PROJECT: RUNAWAY HEIRESS, but now that a couple of months & a completely different project have passed between, I’m sort of scratching my head & wondering exactly what I had planned for Juliet’s story to begin with. :luvsmenot

But I do have the short synopsis I wrote up when I was first plotting the story, so I dug it out.  Maybe it will help jog my memory…

***

Handbag designer Juliet Zaccaro has always prided herself on being a well put-together person. Clothes pressed and perfectly matched, every hair in place. So how is it that her life has fallen into complete and total chaos?

She is engaged to be married, and until a couple of months ago, she thought her fiancé was Mr. Right; that she was on the track to happily ever after. Then her fiancé started complaining about her partnership with her sisters that keeps her in New York while he continues to work and reside in another state. Worse, he’s started putting his hands on her; getting angry and out of control, and once leaving bruises.

On top of that, she hasn’t been able to get thoughts of Reid McCormack out of her head. From the moment she met the handsome, self-assured private investigator when her sister, Lily, went missing, she’s been edgy, plagued with guilt, and nearly obsessed. Reid is the last person she should ever be attracted to, yet he’s the one man she finds it impossible to resist.

Now here she is on her wedding day, the gown her sister designed for her gorgeous, pressed, and absolutely perfect. Every hair is in place as she prepares to walk down the aisle. And in her hand, an over-the-counter pregnancy test glaring positive. She’s pregnant, and the baby definitely isn’t her fiancé’s.

Knowing she can’t go through with marrying a man she now realizes she doesn’t truly love, Juliet does the only other thing she can think of–she runs away.

When Reid McCormack receives yet another distress call from the Zaccaro sisters, all he can do is curse. They’ve been the bane of his existence since middle sister, Lily, walked into his office wanting help in investigating the theft of her designs by another clothing label. A job that should have been quite simple, but turned extremely complicated when Lily’s sister, Juliet, contacted him soon after about looking for Lily, who had suddenly gone missing without a word.

The case had “conflict of interest” written all over it. But what made matters worse was his instant and undeniable attraction to Juliet Zaccaro. Conflict of interest times a million, with a splash of temporary insanity thrown into the mix.

He should have known better. He should have dropped both Zaccaros as clients the minute he sensed a problem. Instead, Reid had found himself wanting to do whatever he could to help the trio of sisters…Juliet especially. Whatever he could do to keep her near, spend just a little more time with her.

Then the day came when Juliet dropped by his office visibly upset, yet unwilling to talk about what had pushed her to near tears. And Reid noticed bruises on her arms. Through gritted teeth and the urge to murder whoever had dared touch her violently enough to leave a mark, he’d coaxed the truth from her—that she’d gotten into an argument with her fiancé and he’d been the one to grab her in anger.

She’d convinced him not to track the man down and give him a taste of his own medicine, but Reid had insisted on taking her home. There, Juliet poured them each a glass of wine by way of a thank-you, and Reid had continued to comfort her. A comfort that had quickly led to something else. Something stronger, more passionate, and—at least to his mind—unforgettable.

For a short time, they’d carried on a heated, clandestine affair. One that he’d thought—hoped, maybe?—might lead to more. But before Reid knew what hit him, Juliet informed him that she intended to go through with her marriage to the dirtbag who had knocked her around, and that their time together was over. She hadn’t been to Reid’s office since, and refused to return his calls.

So he’d washed his hands of her. Put her and whatever feelings he might have been forming for her far behind him. It was just as well; getting physically and emotionally involved with a client was an even bigger mistake than agreeing to work with two sisters at cross purposes to begin with.

But now one of the Zaccaro sisters was on the line again, begging for Reid’s help. And he might have turned her down, except…except that Juliet had disappeared. Gone missing from her own wedding moments before she was supposed to walk down the aisle. His personal relief at that news didn’t change the fact that good sense told him to walk away, ignore her sister’s pleas and the concern that tugged at his gut. But damned if he could make himself do it.

So against his better judgment, Reid agrees to take the case, to find the woman who led him on, then dumped him for a better offer.

It doesn’t take much to follow Juliet’s footsteps to her family’s lake house. But when he informs her that he’s there to take her back to the city, she refuses to go. As much as it annoys him, Reid knows he can’t return without her, and so he has no choice but to make himself at home—despite Juliet’s protests that he isn’t welcome.

Juliet doesn’t know which is worse—being a runaway bride and knowing how upset her family, fiancé, and fiancé’s family must be with her…or having the father of her child, whom she’s been avoiding for weeks, show up on her doorstep and refuse to leave. All Juliet wants is some time alone to think, to decide what she’s going to do about the wrench that’s been tossed into the middle of her neat and tidy plans for the future.

Should she have gone through with the wedding, passing Reid’s baby off as Paul’s? But then, her relationship with Paul had begun to fragment the closer they’d gotten to their wedding day, making her wonder if she should say “I do” at all long before the stick had turned blue.

Or should she have gone to Reid directly, telling him about the baby and letting him be part of the decision-making process? Did she even want him in her life?

Maybe it would be better to go off by herself for a while—somewhere other than the lake house, obviously, where no one would bother her. She could come back in a few months, let the pregnancy be a surprise to everyone, and refuse to name the father, setting down the path of single motherhood instead.

But Reid was here now, crowding her, pressing her for answers, urging her to let him take her back to New York so her family would know she was okay. And though she’d decided to keep her pregnancy a secret for a while longer, it was kind of hard to hide excessive morning sickness.

When Juliet’s sudden illness prompts her to reluctantly admit she’s pregnant with his baby, Reid is shell-shocked. Even as a man who’s trained himself to expect the unexpected, he never saw that one coming.

At first, he’s delighted at the thought of impending fatherhood. But close on the heels of that emotion is suspicion—is it really his child, or could it be her now ex-fiancé’s? Followed by anger that she’d very nearly married another man while carrying his baby.

Years ago, another woman had gotten pregnant with his child, but he’d let her walk away, respecting her wishes that he not be in the child’s life. It was a decision he’d regretted every day of his life since. Damned if he would let the same thing happen again.

Until he knew for sure, Reid intended to stick to Juliet like velcro reinforced by super glue. And if the baby was his, he would find a way to keep both of them with him…forever.

***

Ooh, that’s good. I like it. :like  What do you guys think?

I’m still not entirely sure what I had in mind, especially that ever-important opening scene, but this should be enough to get the juices flowing again.  Next week, I’ll let you know if I’ve made any progress. :starwars