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The Relationtrip

The Relationtrip

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START HERE! This is a standalone vacation romance between friends!

Question: What do a reclusive author and an outgoing real estate agent have in common?

Answer: Nothing.


But fate brought them together on a vacation five years ago, and as Logan and Sloane prepare for their annual get-together, there are sparks flying between them.

Sloane:
When Logan Murphy, my accidental best friend, calls to say our annual mid-winter trip has to be "redone," he's already got the solution.

Belize. An adults-only resort, and we leave in two days.

I'm giddy with excitement, because I need this trip more than I can express. When I see Murph standing in the airport, my heart twitches to a beat it hasn't since my fiancé left me to tell our friends and family that he couldn't make it to the wedding.

So it's a short-lived twitch, because I'm never going to get into the dating boxing ring again—and least of all with my best friend.

Logan:
I've never told Sloane what I do for a living, and she doesn't know how I feel about her either. But I want her to know all of my secrets.

I want my best friend in my life more than once a year, and I've already started penning a happily-ever-after for the two of us.

This year, I tell myself, as my crush on the vibrant woman is at least two years old now.

If only I knew how to tell her...

This is a standalone, slow-burn travel romance that will make you smile, gasp, and cheer for Logan and Sloane as they figure out who they are...and who they want—at home or on vacation.

For fans of BEACH READ and THE PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry, THE LAYOVER by Lacie Waldon, or THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren.

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Sample Chapter 1 Now!

My mom once told me that to make a marriage work, one had to compromise. “You don’t get everything you want,” she’d said.

“Ooh, it has a pool,” she says now, as she sits at my bar, her plate of dinner long gone. I’ve washed all the dishes—pots and pans too—and a certain level of exhaustion invades my bones. 

“What are you going to do with a pool in Pittsburgh?” I hang up the dishtowel that hasn’t seen this much action in months and turn to face her.

She doesn’t so much as glance up from my laptop. The one I need to call my best friend and find out the situation with our trip. He’d texted during my last showing, and my mother ambushed me literally at my car as I’d said good-bye to my clients. If my SUV had been unlocked, she’d have been lurking in the passenger seat.

Talking on the drive here. Me cooking something last-minute. More talking. Her going on and on about how the house she’s shared with my father for the past twenty-five years is too big now. It feels so empty, she’d said an hour ago. Wistfully. 

Other times, she talks about Dad like he’s the devil himself. I don’t really blame her. I’d had no idea he wasn’t happy in his marriage of thirty-three years. I’ve said very little about Dad since Mom took me to lunch and told me the news.

Some of the things she’s said…

I can’t go there right now, so I paste a tight smile on my face. “Does it have a gym?” 

Mom’s been looking at condos and fifty-five-plus communities, which I suppose I can’t blame her for. I wouldn’t want to do yard work and home improvement or maintenance—things she’s literally never had to manage on her own.

“Hm.” Mom’s eyes glaze over, and I turn, open the fridge, slide my phone off the counter in seemingly one motion. I’m the oldest of three girls, and I’m very good friends with my mother. I don’t entertain her nightly—usually—but we talk every day. Most days. I’ve always liked our close relationship, until this major bump in her life.

I feel thrown back in time five years, and I could say all the things she said to me then. I don’t, because I know how harshly words can slice through a person’s defenses. Sometimes those are as see-through as plastic wrap. Though it seems strong and can keep things fresh for longer, it can stick to itself, get twisted, and it’s actually very, very easy to poke holes through when already stretched tight.

I know the plastic wrap Mom bears is the stretched-tight kind, so I mind my tongue. I have to get her out of here, and as guilty as that makes me feel, I do have other things to do tonight besides entertain her.

411, I send to Logan. The text flips to read, and the tension in my shoulders fades enough to make them finally go down. 

“Never mind,” Mom says. “It’s over by Tree Line.”

I turn back to her, Logan’s response to me nowhere to be found. “What’s over by Tree Lane?”

She doesn’t answer, and I’m not sure how much more I can take. “Mom—” I start, a loud, shrill trilling cutting me off.

Praise the heavens. 

“Oh.” She jumps away from the computer, both hands flying up as if someone has a weapon pointed at her and she needs to show them she doesn’t have one.

“That’s Murph,” I say, doing my best not to grab the computer and flee for my bedroom. “I do need to talk to him about our trip.” To my own ears, I sound super sympathetic. My smile feels a bit too wide, but Mom slides from the barstool.

“I should go anyway.” She sighs, as if leaving my house—which she’s used some choice adjectives for in the past—is the worst possible outcome for her evening.

“Okay,” I say. “It was so good to see you, Mom.” I leave the call ringing, because a 411-distress call means I need Murph to call me, specifically on the computer, and if I don’t answer, to call my cell only two minutes later. 

I’m hoping I can kiss-kiss Mom good-bye and be headed to my bedroom by the time he rings my cell. 

“Thanks for cooking,” Mom says as she pauses at the front door to get her jacket. “The chicken was surprisingly juicy.” Her compliments aren’t always compliments, but I keep the smile hitched in place. It rides my face as she turns to me, steps into my embrace, and then leaves.

The moment the door closes, I feel like I’ve crossed the finish line of a marathon. I’d be one of those runners who put everything forth and then stumbles mere steps from that finish line. Tonight, I made it, and I spin back to the kitchen as my phone rings.

I’d managed to escape to my room for ten minutes to change my clothes and ditch my heels before making a gourmet feast for dinner—wherein the chicken was juicy and delicious, I’ll have everyone know—so I’m able to jog back to the kitchen.

Jog is a generous term. Maybe a bouncy power walk. Whatever. I know when I swipe my phone from the countertop, it’s about to go to voicemail and I shouldn’t have attempted any sort of bouncing, power walking, or jogging.

“Murph,” I say in a pant.

“There you are,” he says, as if I’ve missed a meeting. “Let me guess. The Smithsonians demanded you show them yet another colonial, you haven’t eaten since that gross pumpkin seed bar you have synced to a ten a.m. alarm on your phone, and you’ve just now made it back to your car.”

I start grinning at the mention of my clients. Not so much that he heard me huffing and puffing. I tell myself it doesn’t matter. He’s my best friend, despite the fact that we only see each other once a year—on this upcoming mid-winter tropical retreat.

I laugh, Logan Murphy’s deeper chuckles mingling in with mine. My heartbeat thrums in the vein in my neck, and I feel…happy. So, so happy, whenever I talk to Logan. 

“First,” I say. “I’ll have you know I made dinner tonight. For my mother and I.” I raise my eyebrows and turn toward the master suite. When I’d bought the house, it didn’t have one. I worked with an interior designer, and now I have a fabulous master suite with a settee in my bay window, a walk-in closet any woman would die for, and more European glass than any single woman should ever own.

“Chicken or beef?” Murph asks, not even letting me get to my second point.

“Chicken.” My feet meet the luxurious carpet in my bedroom, and I further relax.

“I bet it was so dry,” he says.

“Totally,” I deadpan. “Secondly, my clients’ name is Smithson. Not Smithsonian.” I can’t erase the grin from my lips. Murph never gets names right. He gets close, but never dead-on. I grab my hamper of dirty clothes and continue when he doesn’t reply. “Third, I still have to prep the paperwork for that closing tomorrow, I haven’t started my laundry yet, and I have no idea where my passport is, so please tell me we don’t need it.”

He pulls in a breath. “You’re gonna need it, Sloane.”

I figured as much. “I’m starting my laundry. Start the story.” We’ve been traveling together every winter for the past five years. This is our sixth trip together, all of them stemming from that fateful day I showed up at the airport for my honeymoon…alone.

“You’re just now starting your laundry?”

“You said you’d keep it tropical.” I heave the basket into the laundry room, open the washing machine, and proceed to dump the entire contents of the hamper into the bowl. I don’t sort. Who has time to sort their laundry? Not me.

“I did,” he says.

“Then I only need swimming suits,” I say. “I’ve got those laid out already.”

“Of course you do.” He sounds perfectly amused, which makes me smile.

“I still need other things,” I say.

“No heels,” he says. “No blouses. No skirts.”

“Some of my cover-ups are skirts.”

“I’ll allow it.” Murph knows how much I work, and how hard I put myself together. This trip is all about the opposite of that. I can fall apart. I can do nothing. I can relax and rest and reset for another year.

“So tell me where we’re going. And what happened with the resort in the Keys?”

“It flooded,” he says. “I went down far too many rabbit holes today, until I finally landed on…Belize!”

“Bless you.” I drop the washing machine lid and start the cycle.

“It’s great,” he says, ignoring my tease. “Tropical rain forests with cenotes, the beach with all the snorkeling you love, and the resort is amazing. No cars. Only golf carts. Very quiet. Upscale.”

I frown as I leave my laundry room. “Upscale? How much more is this than that place in Florida?”

“I mean, it’s Belize,” he says. “Not the US. So it’s more. You said you could do more.”

“I can.” I re-enter my bedroom and head over to the side of the bed where I don’t sleep. If I didn’t work fifteen-hour days, I might have a little white dog. Or a cat. Nope. A dog for sure.

Murph’s barks in the background, and he makes me smile.

“It’s not that much more,” he says. “I called the airline and got our tickets switched. I booked the resort online. Apparently, Belize is pretty full in late January, thus the need for a more…less cheap place.”

“Is it adults-only?” It’s not that I don’t like children. I do. In fact, since my thirty-first birthday last spring, I’ve really felt this urge to get back into the boxing ring. The dating boxing ring. It’s like a match out there for me. But I should. Find someone to date, that is. Maybe someone to share my life with. Maybe we could have a couple of kids.

“Yes,” Murph says, and I snap back to reality. A scoff works its way free from my throat.

I am never getting married. I don’t want to do all the work it takes to find someone who can love me. It’s too hard, and I don’t think I have all the pieces of my heart back yet anyway.

Just when I think I do, my mom takes me to lunch and says my dad told her he’s never really loved her. In thirty-three years. 

How does someone live a lie for that long? 

In truth, I was simultaneously sad for my mom, furious at my father, and relieved I’m not living in a five-year-old marriage that would’ve ended in the same way. Leon Burgiss didn’t love me; that’s why he didn’t show up on our wedding day.

“It’s all set,” Murph says. “You like nice things, Sloany, and this is nice-nice.”

“Thank you,” I murmur as I take in my swimwear choices waiting on my bed. “Now, help me with the bathing suit options.”

“Put me on video.”

I tap to do that, and I aim the phone at the bed. “I’ve got the classic black one-piece, of course.”

“Of course,” Murph says, his smile in his voice. 

I don’t have the opportunity to wear a lot of swimming suits in Pittsburgh, so the fact that I have so many is kind of ridiculous. I reason that I only wear one pair of shoes at a time, but I own many pairs of those too. This is no different.

Plus, I was going to get a hot tub last year. I have the cement pad and everything. Then I realized how much more I needed to do—wiring for the plug, all the pH chemically stuff, and the fact that it snows in Pittsburgh for half the year, I swear.

“That bikini is hot,” he says.

“It’s not a bikini,” I say. I have a fair amount of curves, and I prefer a tankini and some bottoms to the stringed type of swimwear.

“It’s clearly two pieces,” he argues. “The top is pink, and the bottoms are black.”

“It’s a sports bra and a pair of panties.” The bra-top is cute, though. It has a subtle, cream-colored tropical leaf pattern running through the hot pink. The bottoms are almost shorts to contain my booty, with a thick waistband that makes me look sexy and feminine. 

But not hot. I love my body, one-hundred percent, how it is. I simply know how to make her feel and look good at the same time.

“Yeah.” He clears his throat and hums in that way Murph has. I can’t quite describe it, but he does it when he’s thinking about something, when he’s not sure what to say, and when he’s trying to irritate me. I half-expect him to burst out laughing any second now, but he doesn’t. 

“There are nine,” I say as I move the phone down the line without further comment from my best friend.

“Shocking.” I flip the phone around and see his brilliant smile. “I’d expect you to have double digits when it comes to your beach clothes.”

“Some of them are two pieces.”

“Yeah.” His thumb covers the camera, and then he disappears. A blip of disappointment cuts through me, but Murph hates doing video calls on his phone. He’s already a little self-conscious about the size of his nose, and the close-up and angle of a phone camera doesn’t help.

I don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s rugged, with a square jaw and the perfect amount of scruff no matter what time of day it is. He’s got eyes that sparkle like the Atlantic Ocean on a clear, gorgeous day, and just because I’m not dating and will never marry doesn’t mean I don’t know how devastatingly good-looking Murph is. 

“I have at least three cover-ups too,” I say as the call switches back to talking only. “Maybe four.” I focus on the settee, where no less than half a dozen cover-ups lay, waiting for me to deem some of them Chosen Ones and take them to Belize with me.

I sink onto the bed. “Belize, huh?”

“I’ve never been,” he says. “Dinner with your mom, huh?”

I try not to think about the hour’s worth of paperwork that still needs to be done before I can actually go to sleep. “I’m closing my eyes,” I whisper, a game Murph and I have played before. “Paint me a picture, Murph.”

He starts to talk about what’s happening in Superior, Wisconsin, where he lives. “The snowflakes fall down like angel kisses from heaven, lighting on the ship as it eases into the dock…”

Yes, I fall asleep to the deep, sexy, bass timbre of his voice, my head filled with dreams of my upcoming tropical vacation with my gorgeous-inside-and-out best friend.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "Prolific romance author Johnson...has produced an enjoyable slow-burn tale; A particularly appealing element of this book is its depiction of a patient, perceptive hero."— Kirkus Reviews



⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "Romance readers who know exactly what they like — cozy romances with beachy kisses and people learning to trust offers of happiness — will enjoy this execution of a classic formula. Logan and Sloane are likable leads."— Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

Based on 34 reviews
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s
shartzel78@comcast.net

Sloane Sanders was left at the altar, but went on her non-honeymoon alone. At the airport she ended up giving the second ticket to a fellow traveler, romance author Logan Murphy. They became best friends and every year go on a winter holiday together. When he develops feelings for her, he tries to find a way to tell her, and it scares her because men, including her father have all left, and if he does too, she loses her best friend. A touching story of love, trust and communication.

K
Kristen B.

Thoroughly enjoyed Elana Johnson’s new sweet romance. A bit different from her other books, Elana writes this text in first person which allows the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and emotions of her characters as they work through the joys and struggles in their relationship.

M
Marie

I was lucky to get an ARC copy of The Relationship so this is my own opinion and is totally honest. The story is about Sloane whose supposed to get married but is left at the alter but still decides to take her honeymoon and share it with a stranger she meets at the airport. Jump ahead five years Sloane and Logan still take a yearly holiday together only Logan knows has feelings for Sloane. The story is about how Sloane has to manage her relationship issues about being not good enough. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to anyone especially if you love a HEA

j
jackiejane

I really enjoyed this book & found it a little different from her usual stories. Just a fun & easy read!

K
Karen L.

4.5***** stars. Sloane is stood up at the altar 20 minutes before the wedding ceremony. She decides to go on a honeymoon for one since she saved up and paid for it. At the airport, she offers the second ticket up for grabs. Well, Logan takes advantage of the ticket. They become friends and plan a fabulous, platonic vacation for the two of them for the next five years. That is, this last one doesn’t feel all that platonic and now comes the awkward part. They both have feelings for each other but do they share or risk their best friend relationship. Now you have to read it! This has a different premise that most of her books that are western genre. As always, an enjoyable and entertaining read.I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book

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