Authors: Barbara Witek
Bet On Love
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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BET ON LOVE
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Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Witek
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
This book is dedicated to my wonderful family-Dave, Zach, Tyler and Lauren. You always believe in me and let me live this dream no matter what. I couldn’t write from my heart if it weren’t for all of you. I love you!!!
To my agent, Christine Witthohn, for encouraging and understanding my need for this little detour. I couldn’t ask for a better business partner or friend. I promise, the other projects are coming! Kari Lee Townsend, you are amazing and I couldn’t have done this without you! You are my biggest cheerleader and I’m so glad we share a brain. To my fantastic peeps at Mysteries and Margaritas (Anita, Cassy, Kari, Liz) thank you for talking me off the ledge and lifting me up when I’ve been down. No one understands this business more than all of you and your support means more to me than you could ever know.
Now on to my family. To my mother, Dorothy Mahoney, for making me who I am today. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model growing up. I love you. For my in-laws: the Cases and Pfeiffer’s – Surprise! There’s an author in the family!! I’m so glad I get to share this with all of you. Your positive energy and excitement keep me going.
Hold on tight…the ride is just beginning!
The bright lights of Vegas called, and I answered. Actually, an old college roommate called and invited me to her wedding. Her timing could not have been better.
Three weeks ago, my now ex-boyfriend, Grant, admitted to having a gambling problem and promised to go to our local Malibu gamblers anonymous. One week later, I caught him placing wagers with cash he’d withdrawn using my credit and debit cards. He lost most of those bets and now owes a lot of people money.
After a three year relationship and six month engagement, I kicked his sorry butt out of my cozy beach house. I’d work too hard on my career as a sports agent for him to ruin me professionally and financially. Thank God for my secret bank account no one knew about and my two-hundred thousand dollar trust fund from my grandfather. Of course, I can’t touch the trust fund until I have children. I don’t ever see that happening since I’ve had enough of men with no goals in life other than to screw up everyone else’s. I am never getting married. I have Grant to thank for that.
And thank him I did. I confiscated his yearly ticket to Las Vegas, feeling vindicated for all of my humiliation and stress. The jerk owed me at least that much, considering I’d paid for it. I planned to stay in his suite at the Venetian, attend my friend’s wedding and enjoy a much needed break in the land of showgirls and slot machines.
“Shelby Greene?” a soft voice crooned over my shoulder. Shifting my weight in the over-stuffed chair, I closed my laptop and looked up into a pair of dark brown eyes.
“Your suite is ready. I am Mario. I take your bags.”
I stood about two feet taller than Mario, and my heart went out to him while he waddled like a duck, arms full of my luggage, through the decadent lobby as the ceiling slowly transitioned from day toward night. Thank God he didn’t have far to go before reaching the brass luggage cart. Loading everything with a grunt, he motioned for me to step inside the elevator.
“Very good article they did in Sports Illustrated, Miss Greene,” Mario said with a slight Italian accent.
“Thanks,” I replied, feeling myself flush. I’d gotten some high profile clients thanks to that piece. The photo spread didn’t hurt, either, but I still wasn’t used to seeing my picture on every corner newsstand as if I were some sort of celebrity.
In a matter of minutes we’d ridden the elevator all the way to the top. The Penthouse Suite, nothing but the best for a schemer like Grant. Well, the past was the past and this weekend was going to be the start of my extremely brilliant future. I could be successful without a man in my life, and my clients were becoming my family. What more could a girl possibly need?
Stepping through the gilded double doors, the suite was amazing. Views as far as the eye could see of clay-colored mountains and purple sky. The walkout terrace boasted a tiled, cast-iron bistro table with chairs and two lushly pillowed chaise lounges. I stepped outside to inhale the warm, dry, summer air and say a little prayer for some guidance on how to handle this next adventure called my life.
“If you need anything, Miss Greene, be sure to phone the front desk and ask for me,” Mario said at the edge of the glass French doors. “My little brother, Luis, he is in town for my son’s birthday. I know he would love to meet you. Luis is a good boy, lots of talent. He could go far with someone like you in his corner.”
“Oh, but I’m not here on business, Mario,” I said, leaving him to close the terrace doors. “This is strictly a vacation.” I poured a straight glass of whiskey from the wet bar and took a long drink. “A much needed stress reliever.”
“I see, I see. But you think about it, eh?” Mario shot me a million dollar smile as he backed out the door. “I’m on all night.”
“I bet you are.” I smiled back, slipping a gracious tip into his palm and couldn’t help but chuckle once he disappeared into the hall.
After finishing my drink, I unpacked and went into the luxurious marbled bathroom to draw water in the Jacuzzi tub. The monstrous garden tub jutted out from the room, surrounded on three sides by tinted windows. The view of the city lights was breathtaking, and I couldn’t wait to sink into some serious bubbles with my favorite bottle of wine I’d ordered from room service.
I was just about to step into the tub when I heard a woman’s voice, “Grant, baby, are you here already?”
Tying the robe securely around my waist, I rushed from the bathroom, my heart racing. The other woman and I collided as I rounded the corner, the potent smell of her perfume burning my nose. She seemed just as shocked to see me, if her bugged-out eyes were any indication.
“Who are you, and where is Grant?” Her surprise turned to suspicion, and she tried to look past me as if I were hiding the big loser.
“I could say the same to you. How did you get in here?” I placed my hands firmly on my hips, waiting for the response that never came. “I suggest you take your bags and find yourself another room, better yet at another hotel.”
“Excuse me?” The voluptuous blond bimbo squeaked as I corralled her toward her things.
“Grant isn’t here. This is
suite. If you want to waste your time on a jerk like him, that’s your business. But I’ll be damned if you’ll do it on my dime.” I grabbed her elbow to steer her toward the door.
“Wait a minute. You can’t do this.” The woman gripped a marble pillar for dear life.
“Oh, I can, and I am.” I tugged, and her stilettos clickety-clicked across the marble floor as she fought to keep her balance.
“But Grant told me to meet him here this weekend. He said he had something important to tell me.”
“I bet he did.” Anger soured my stomach and if she didn’t get out, I was going to hurl all over her peach colored Liz Claiborne pant suit which looked tacky against her fake-baked tan. I clenched my teeth, biting back a slew of horrible words. They were words intended to blast Grant’s ears only. This was not her fault, no matter how bad I wanted it to be.
“Just who are you, anyway? I’m calling Grant!” Her snippy tone broke through my thoughts, pushing me over the edge.
I opened the double doors to the suite and tossed her luggage piece-by-piece into the hall, pausing at the small case holding her white, fluffy, foo-foo dog. That one I gently looped over the crook of her elbow, impressing myself with my calm demeanor as she fumbled inside her gaudy purse for her cell phone.
“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you, but it’s not.” I ushered her through the door to join her bags in the hallway. She spun around as she produced her jewel-covered phone. I held up my left hand to display the large diamond, no doubt bought with my own money, and her jaw dropped. “By the way, my name is Shelby. I’m Grant’s fiancé.” I slammed the door and locked it. She didn’t need to know about the “ex” part.
My fingers shook as I pushed “00” for the front desk. I’d like to have thought this woman’s appearance had been new, and that Grant had sent her just to annoy me. But it wasn’t. Grant made reservations for the same time every year since we’d been together, which meant he’d either been seeing Blondie all this time, or it was a different girl each year. I couldn’t even stomach the thought at this point.
“This is Miss Greene, in the Penthouse,” I said when the clerk picked up the phone. “I just sent some blonde woman, and her dog, back to the lobby. No, I don’t know her. I don’t care what she said,” I interjected when the clerk attempted to speak. “I want privacy during my stay. No one is allowed up here, do you understand? I am utterly and completely alone.”
And that was exactly the way I wanted to stay.
The next day, feeling fantastic in my little red dress, I stood within the large group of single ladies eager to catch the bridal bouquet. Actually, they were the eager ones. I’d tried to get out of it, but my mad-dash toward the restroom hadn’t been quick enough as the bride dragged me front and center. After last night’s fiasco, I was less than enthused. But for Lisa’s sake, I would give it my best effort. Right now I was content to let the others push me toward the back.
I hadn’t noticed at the actual wedding chapel, but here in the banquet room at Cesar’s Palace, there had to be at least one-hundred people. Being born and raised in Reno, Lisa must have contacted every family member and friend in her address book. My favorite techno-geek even went so far as to create an internet social page and posted a final countdown to the big day. I even thought I saw someone setting up for a video feed. To know Lisa was definitely to love her.
A loud cheer resounded from the group of single men as the winner held up Lisa’s black and white lace garter. All I could see was the guy’s broad shoulders. His wavy brown hair skimmed the back of his shirt collar as he stripped off his jacket. Yeah, well, Grant had a great body too, and where had that gotten me?
I cringed and took a couple more steps back. Nope. I’m not interested in catching the bouquet and being on the receiving end of that garter. No way. Let me do my duty, have a few drinks and be on my way. The women started counting down from ten. In the spirit of things and feeling secure in my back row position, I joined them. Dozens of pairs of hands stretched high, and the sea of cocktail dresses parted as the magenta-tipped roses careened through the air, slapping my forehead and landing upright in my hands.
People rolled their eyes as if we’d planned it.
Only, we didn’t plan it, and I didn’t want it. The women around me cheered while some looked disappointed. Closing my gaping mouth, I started to hand the flowers to the flat-chested, mousy-haired girl swimming in pale pink taffeta. Hey, I’d gladly make the sacrifice.
Once again Lisa appeared out of nowhere, latched onto my bare arm and pulled me to the center of the room. The DJ played some hideous song while the men kept “Mr. Garter” sequestered in a tight circle. Someone whipped a chair under me and Lisa stood behind, keeping her hands on my shoulders. Gee, could she tell I wanted to bolt?