Authors: Kimberly Lang
Evie knew she was flirting way out of her comfort zone—and probably flirting with disaster at the same time—but she couldn’t seem to dredge up a care.
This was a whole new world, and it was scary and thrilling. If she had an ounce of sense she’d go back to her suite at the Bellagio and forget she’d ever laid eyes—or hands—on this man.
Embarrassed, she could only smile gratefully and hope the darkness would hide the blush on her cheeks.
“Would you like to go somewhere else? Someplace a bit quieter?”
“That sounds good to me.”
Nick stood and offered her his hand. “Then let’s go.”
She hesitated for a millisecond, wondering out of habit what the gossip columns would make of her and Nick, but then she remembered where she was.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
No one here knew or even gave a damn who she was, what she did, or who she did it with.
Then Nick smiled at her, and her knees wobbled.
Viva Las Vegas!
Some of you may be thinking something sounds vaguely familiar about this book…and you’d be right.
When I finished writing my second book, THE MILLIONAIRE’S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS, there was one character who just wouldn’t let me go: Evie. Evie was such a strong character, and I loved her so much, I actually missed her once the book was done. I chalked that up to author over-investment, and went on to other books and other characters. But I never forgot about her. Once THE MILLIONAIRE’S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS hit the shelves, I started getting e-mails and feedback from readers, and soon it became clear I wasn’t the only one who’d fallen in love with her and wanted to see her safely settled with her own Happily-Ever-After.
But what to do with a character like Evie? She’s rich and beautiful, and she comes from a great family, and I’d just written an entire book setting her up to do well in her life. She seemed to have a pretty clear path ahead. What could she possibly need?
I realised I’d created an irrepressible character and then done my level best to repress her in every way possible. What would happen when Evie couldn’t take it any more and everything she’d been holding back exploded to the surface? I also needed to find her a hero who’d challenge her, shake her up, and appreciate who she was at her core. Nick Rocco fitted the bill nicely—a Mr Totally Wrong who turns out to be Mr Completely Perfect.
Giving Evie her hero and her Happily-Ever-After has been a joy for me, and I thank everyone who let me know how much they wanted her to have her own story. I hope you’re pleased with the result.
All the best
hid romance novels behind her textbooks in junior high, and even a Master’s programme in English couldn’t break her obsession with dashing heroes and happily ever after. A ballet dancer turned English teacher, Kimberly married an electrical engineer and turned her life into an ongoing episode of
When Dilbert Met Frasier.
She and her Darling Geek live in beautiful North Alabama, with their one Amazing Child—who, unfortunately, shows an aptitude for sports.
Visit Kimberly at www.booksbykimberly.com for the latest news—and don’t forget to say hi while you’re there!
Recent titles by the same author:
BOARDROOM RIVALS, BEDROOM FIREWORKS!
THE MILLIONAIRE’S MISBEHAVING MISTRESS
THE SECRET MISTRESS ARRANGEMENT
To Shelley Visconte, MA, LPC, LMFT and soon-to-be PhD—I’m so proud of you, and terribly impressed by that alphabet soup behind your name, but the letters that make me the proudest are the ones you’ve had all along: BFF.
HAT WAS AN ACTUAL
mirrored disco ball spinning over a lighted dance floor. Hundreds of sweaty bodies crowded the dance floor, moving to a techno dance mix, and the bass line thumped like a heartbeat. This club—The Zoo—had strobe lights, LED-lit jungle vines hanging from the ceiling and zebra-striped furniture. This place took tacky to a whole new level.
And Evie Harrison loved it. In fact, she loved everything about Las Vegas: the neon lights, the over-the-top, let-it-all-hang-out attitude, the sheer unapologetic gaudiness of the entire city.
Las Vegas wasn’t Dallas, that was for sure, and
made Evie love Vegas all the more.
“Wanna dance, gorgeous?”
Evie’s eyes watered at the alcohol exhaled in her face as the offer was made. “No, but thanks. I’m waiting on someone.”
Thankfully, her would-be dance partner was still in the “happy drunk” stage, and he only shrugged as he moved one table over, presumably with the same question.
The truth was, she
like to dance. But hitting the dance floor alone wasn’t an option. Not that she cared who saw her or what they thought—the joy of anonymity was part
of what brought her to Vegas in the first place—but a woman dancing alone would bring every drunk guy in the bar immediately into her personal space, and she couldn’t guarantee they’d all be as easily rebuffed as the last one.
A cocktail waitress with tiger ears on her head and whiskers painted across her cheeks picked up the empty glass off the table. “Can I get you something?” she shouted over the music.
“A vodka tonic,” Evie replied, as her tiny silver purse began to dance across the table from the vibration of the cell phone inside. She pulled out the phone and looked at the number displayed on the screen.
There was no way in hell she was answering that. The phone quit vibrating as the call went to voice mail, and Evie noted it wasn’t the first time her brother had called tonight. A quick scroll through the missed-call log showed this was the fourth time in the last two hours Will had called. She was busted.
She’d left Will a message at his office telling him she was leaving town. He wasn’t supposed to get it until Monday morning. The workaholic butthead must’ve checked his messages already.
She would not feel guilty. She was twenty-five years old—even if Will still thought she was a wayward teenager—and she didn’t need her brother’s permission to leave town for the weekend.
Her drink arrived at the same time as a text from Sabine.
Going to casino
Bellagio with Toby. Don’t wait up.
The last sentence was unnecessary; she’d recognized the look in Bennie’s eyes when she’d left thirty minutes ago and known their girls’ night out was officially over.
She was a little disappointed, but at least Bennie had dropped everything to come to Vegas with her last night when she asked.
And honestly, being alone in Vegas sure beat being in Dallas at the moment. Being
beat being at home right now.
So she lost her patience and said a few things at that brunch she shouldn’t have. Evie frowned into her drink. If that witch from the
gossip column hadn’t been standing right there minding everyone
business, no one would have ever known. But
the whole embarrassing thing got prime treatment on page three yesterday morning.
She’d apologized to the Dallas Beautification Committee’s president
doubled the amount of the company’s donation to make up for implying that new benches in the city’s parks weren’t equally as important as curing cancer or feeding the hungry.
No one reported
in the paper. No, they were too busy getting as much ink as possible out of her big mouth. Again. Then Will had jumped on her case about it, and she’d gotten a nice long talking-to from Uncle Marcus—
—about not embarrassing the family—
—but neither of
was sitting through endless brunches and endless speeches just to be the smiling face that presented a check on behalf of HarCorp International.
Why had she even bothered going to college? A trained monkey could do her job. Hell, a
-trained monkey might manage not to make the paper while doing so.
So what if Will was all bent out of shape that she was AWOL? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d wanted to strangle her, and it probably wouldn’t be the last time, either.
Her phone vibrated again. This time it was Gwen’s number. Did Will honestly think she’d answer a call from his wife’s phone when she wasn’t taking calls from him? How dumb did he think she was?
She made a face at the phone before she tucked it back into her purse. With Bennie off with her new friend, Evie reassessed her options for the rest of the evening. She could be good and
go back to the hotel, but that defeated the entire purpose of running away from home in the first place. She just needed a time-out from her life, the chance to have some fun without worrying everything she did would end up in the papers.
That ad campaign for Las Vegas claimed What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas. That sounded fantastic.
It was time to go find something to do.
Whoever designed this club should be shot. It
possible to take a theme too far. And if they were aiming for a zoo theme, why on earth were jungle vines hanging from the ceiling?
Nick Rocco mentally tallied up how much it would cost to completely gut and refurbish the interior of The Zoo and added it to the total cost.
If he bought The Zoo—and that was still an if—he’d have to close it completely during renovations. But it was in a prime location, and a big, splashy, grand reopening might give the club a boost and added publicity. Any loss from the closure
be recouped if he handled the reopening properly.
Even with the added cost and delay, adding The Zoo to his collection of properties made good business sense. He’d also readily admit it gave him no small sense of satisfaction to purchase a place where he’d once mopped floors and tended bar. Even if it hadn’t been called The Zoo back then.
Nick made a practice of visiting any potential purchases during business hours before making firm offers to get a true feel for their potential. And any potential problems. That’s why he was here on a Friday night, trying to blend in with the clientele.
The dance floor heaved with bodies, most of the low sofas and chairs were occupied, and the waitresses and bartenders were moving at a fast clip. It wasn’t packed, but it wasn’t dead, either. If The Zoo could pull in this much business as is, a makeover and a fresh launch could turn it into a gold mine.
Kevin O’Brian, who handled much of the day-to-day business and promotions at all of Nick’s clubs, returned from his reconnaissance mission and joined him at the bar.
“Well?” Nick shouted over the thumping bass line.
“Other than the occasional drunk-and-disorderly, the cops aren’t required to come by very often. I asked around, and no one seems to be picking up tricks or selling anything this place isn’t licensed for.” Kevin had the kind of friendly, good-ol’-boy personality that made gathering that kind of behind-the-scenes information easy. People opened up to Kevin without any effort on his part, but Nick himself didn’t have the patience—or Kevin’s unassuming frat-boy looks—at his disposal. The ability to play good cop/bad cop was one of the secret weapons in their business arsenal. Kevin was a valuable asset to Nick’s business—as well as his oldest friend. “You’ll need to fire that DJ, though.”
That got his attention; Kevin rarely weighed in on staffing issues. “Why? You think he’s—”
“No. His taste in music sucks.” Kevin grinned and motioned for the bartender to bring him another beer. The blonde delivered it with a smile and winked at Kevin as she pocketed the tip. “Keep her, though. I like her.”
“You’re assuming I’m going to make the deal.”
“You know you are. I’d bet this beer you’ve already figured how much it’s going to cost you to expand the dance floor and pull down those god-awful vines.”
Nick shrugged, acknowledging nothing, but Kevin knew him too well. They’d grown up together in one of the toughest parts of Las Vegas, yet unlike so many other of their childhood friends, they’d managed to get out of the circular grind of poverty and drugs. Luck
been involved—he’d helped fund his first major club purchase with poker winnings—but it was their common desire to escape that past that bonded them together in the hard work
of the climb out of the Vegas projects to UNLV and finally to the top of the food chain.
“So, we’re done now?” In the old days, Kevin would just be gearing up, but Lottie had put a stop to his partying ways.
“Go home to your wife. I’m going to stay a little longer and see how the crowd changes after the shows let out.”
to have some fun, you know. It wouldn’t kill you. You know what they say about ‘All work and no play…’”
“Keeps us in the black?” Nick challenged.
“I know the books as well as you do. You don’t need another club to stay in the black. You’re just buying this one because you
“And that, my friend,
“You’re twisted. Look around—there’s a lot of pretty girls here tonight…” Kevin raised his eyebrows suggestively. “I’m sure any of them would love to help you rediscover the meaning of fun.”
Nick hadn’t picked up a woman in a bar in years. Hooking up with a party girl out for a good time was just asking for trouble he didn’t need. “Go home.”
“Gone.” And he was.
Nightclubs weren’t Nick’s idea of a place to have a good time—possibly because he’d spent too many years working in them, ensuring everyone else did. He scanned the crowd, making plans and evaluating.
Two men seemed to be having words over a small redheaded woman’s attentions. From the posturing, Nick knew exactly what was coming, and he left his spot at the bar rail.
He didn’t quite make it in time. The blond-haired one pushed the other one back, causing him to stumble backward into the crowd and crash into a woman behind him. Nick reached for the woman as she fell, catching her before she hit the table.
She slammed into him, her weight landing in his arms as
her feet nearly went out from under her. Something cold sloshed down his chest as he tightened his grip and turned her away from the combatants. A second later, a burly bouncer pushed past and put himself between the men, effectively stopping the fight by virtue of size and scowl.
The scuffle ended before it really began, and the two men were escorted to the door by security with the redhead trailing behind a moment later. The speed and ease with which the bouncers handled the problem impressed Nick, and he made a mental note to be sure to keep them on staff.
Looking down at the woman sprawled in his arms, he asked, “Are you okay?” as he helped her regain her balance.
The woman pushed dark auburn hair out of her face and tugged her dress back into place, calling his attention to the length of leg exposed by a tiny silver skirt and the gentle swell of her cleavage over a black top. His body seemed to remember the feel of those breasts pressed against his chest and his skin warmed a fraction.
“I think so,” she replied, before she lifted green eyes to his and smiled. “Thank you for the save.”
The smile lit up her face like the Vegas strip, drawing attention to her slightly exotic bone structure and causing something in him to stir.
“Oh, my God, you’re wearing my drink. I’m so sorry.” Her hands were on him, brushing at his chest and sending jolts through him as they did.
Damn. What was wrong with him?
“It shouldn’t stain, but I’ll pay your dry…” She trailed off as he grabbed her hands and held them away from his chest. “Um…your dry-cleaning bill.” She slid her hands out of his grasp and extended one to him. “I’m Evie.”
“Nick.” Her hand disappeared inside his larger one, but she squeezed gently.
Evie looked as if she should be gracing a stage: she was
tall and willowy, with that dark hair cascading over her shoulders, and she carried herself with grace and self-assurance. Kevin would say Evie looked “expensive”—and she did—but without that fake plastic look or the sense of entitlement that normally accompanied it. He knew all too well how to spot women like that and avoid them.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Nick. And you have excellent reflexes. I never even saw that guy coming.”
“It happens. Testosterone, alcohol and a pretty girl is a bad mix. A common one, but a bad one.”
what it was about.” Evie seemed to think for a minute, then she turned that electric smile back on him. “I feel like I should at least offer to buy you a drink or something.”
“That’s not necessary.”
“But—” Evie stopped and shook her head. “Oh, I’m
sorry. You’re probably here with somebody. I don’t want to start another fight, so I’ll just—” She stepped away and indicated she would leave.
Oddly enough, for someone who’d come strictly to case the joint, he was now uninterested in the club itself. Evie, on the other hand. “I’m not,” he heard himself say.
Evie caught her bottom lip in her teeth, and the sparkle came back to her eyes. “Then I can buy you that drink after all.”
“Isn’t that my line?” A couple abandoned a zebra-striped couch in favor of the dance floor, and Nick steered Evie in that direction.
“I believe the rescu
should buy the rescu
the drink.” She sat gracefully and sighed. “At least it’s a bit quieter over here. I can barely hear myself think out there.”
“That’s kind of the point. Most people don’t come here in search of stimulating conversation.”
Evie cut her eyes at him. “I guess not.”
A waitress appeared almost immediately to get their order. Evie ordered a vodka tonic, and though he didn’t normally
drink anything stronger than water when he was working, he asked for the same.