Loving the Odds (What Happens in Vegas)

BOOK: Loving the Odds (What Happens in Vegas)
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He’s a risk she’s willing to take…

Risk analyst Bailey Reuben might be in Las Vegas, but the
last
thing on her mind is sin. She’s there to find her jerk of an ex and get her grandfather’s watch back. Instead, she finds a smoking hot stranger. A stranger with a crazy plan to help her retrieve her family heirloom
and
get revenge. It’s a bad idea—she calculates risks for a living, after all—but she can’t say no.

Bad boy PR guru Lance Fulton is all about helping the gorgeous, quirky Bailey. She’s in desperate need of some fun, and pretending to be her new boyfriend is the perfect way to help her see how sexy she is, get the watch,
and
show her ex what he’s missing. But the more they get to know each other—and the hotter their attraction burns—the higher the probability one of them will end up with a broken heart…

Table of Contents

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Stefanie London. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Lovestruck is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Alycia Tornetta

Cover design by Heather Howland

Cover art from Shutterstock

ISBN 978-1-63375-583-3

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition March 2016

To Alex, Kathleen and Lauren, for friendships that survive changes in time zone and hemisphere.

Chapter One

Bailey Rueben had suspected Vegas would be a walk on the wild side. But staring at the well-muscled chest of a half-naked cowboy had made her reconsider. It was more of a run than a walk. A sprint, even.

The cowboy winked and her cheeks filled with scorching heat. Okay, maybe it was more like rollerblading downhill with no helmet and no inherent sense of balance.

Sucking in a breath, she turned on her heel and tried to remain calm. Cowboys, while appealing, were not part of her mission. Unlike everyone else here, she’d come to the Masquerade hotel
without
the intention of having fun. She had a jerk to find, an heirloom to recover, and a return flight to catch.

Bailey checked her watch: four forty-three and thirty seconds. If her calculations were correct, she would need to be at the airport about an hour before her flight back to San Francisco. The trip there would take twenty minutes in a cab. That meant she had three and a half hours to locate her grease ball of an ex and demand that he relinquish her grandfather’s watch.

It could be tight, considering the hotel appeared to be in a cowboy-induced chaos. Apparently a convention was in full swing—a romance convention, no less. How ironic that she would be hunting for the guy who’d destroyed her view on relationships while surrounded by a bunch of people who believed in multiple orgasms and happily ever afters.

I need to forgo the real thing and stick to book boyfriends. At least I won’t catch them sexting their co-workers.

She smoothed her hands down the front of her gray pencil skirt and hefted her oversized handbag higher on her shoulder. A mutual friend—who also happened to work at the bank where Bailey and her ex were employed—let it slip that Julian the Jerk would be here for the weekend. Bailey had assumed he was attending a professional event of some sort. An industry thing. She’d been shocked, however, to learn it was nothing to do with his job and instead was some kind of huge party with hundreds of women.

In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been that surprising. Julian loved women, as he’d told her upon walking out of their home. Loved them too much to be stuck with one who wasn’t comfortable having sex with the lights on.

“Ugh,” she muttered, her lip curling. “
Jerk.

“Are you here for the convention, too?”

A voice interrupted Bailey’s internal hate-parade and she turned to see a woman in a fitted teal dress, her pretty blue eyes framed by long curling lashes. Bailey touched her thick-rimmed glasses self-consciously.

“I’m not, but I am looking for someone who’s attending,” she said. “Julian Farnsworth?”

She stopped short of saying “the third” out of habit. A small part of her reveled in the tiny rebellion, knowing her wretched ex liked to be called by his full title.

“I don’t know the name.” The girl smiled apologetically. “But I’m heading there now if you want to walk with me. The main convention area is on the second level.”

Bailey accepted the offer. As they rode up the gaudy, reflective gold escalator she drank in the sights of the hotel. It didn’t showcase the masquerade theme so much as it screamed it at full volume. Solid strips of color—in purple, green, and red—were molded to look like ribbons fluttering against the ceiling. Glimmering baubles in gold and silver decorated the corners of the reception area, and a large venetian-style mask hung over the turnstile entrance.

“It’s so wonderful, isn’t it?” said Bailey’s newfound friend. “So glamorous and opulent. You could fall in love here.”

Bailey resisted the urge to tell this woman that although the sentiment was sweet—in a sickly marshmallow fluff kind of way—love was nothing but a risk-based decision. When it came down to it, choosing a mate was an equation. A balancing of facts and figures.

And the sad truth was that relationships were kind of like
The Hunger Games
. The odds weren’t
really
in your favor.

“So is this Julian a friend of yours?” the other woman asked. “Is he a writer?”

“No, he works in banking. I don’t know why he’s at a romance convention.”

They arrived at the top of the stairs and were greeted by a large open area filled with people. Some hunky-looking guys were posing for pictures with groups of women, their camera-ready smiles brighter than the flashing lights on the slot machines she’d spied downstairs.

Posters showed off book covers with everything from bare-chested men to ladies in regency finery to young lovers clinching. Hearts and flowers and sexiness were splashed across everything. Bailey swallowed against the uncomfortable churn in her stomach.

The dark gray skirt and plain black blouse—which she’d chosen for their smartness and the fact that they wouldn’t show coffee stains—suddenly felt drab. Boring.

Frigid
.

The word made her chest clench. It was one of the crueler parting shots Julian the Jerk had made, only to be topped by him telling her he’d have more fun fucking a blow-up doll than her.

“Do you see him?” the woman in the teal dress asked, looking around as though she might be able to help, despite the fact she had no idea what he looked like.

“No…” Bailey scanned the room, tamping down the pain and humiliation rearing up within her.

Think about why you’re here. You have to get the watch back. That’s all that matters.

As if conjured by her renewed focus, she spotted Julian across the room. It wasn’t hard to miss him. There weren’t many men around and he was the only one in a three-piece suit. Scratch that, he was the only one fully clothed. His dark hair was slicked back with so much gel it appeared wet and his capped teeth shone as he smiled.

That was when she noticed the woman on his arm. The curvy brunette had hair to her waist in gleaming waves, her impressive bust propped up by a corset-style top in red and black lace. Full lips were painted a shiny crimson and as she held up a hand to wave, Bailey saw her nails were painted to match. She looked so glamorous, so at ease.

So goddamn sexy.

“There.” Bailey pointed toward Julian and the woman next to her squealed.

“I know her. That’s Selena Lockhart.
The
Selena Lockhart.” The woman clapped her hands together. “Her Forever With You series is ah-
maze-
ing. She writes the hottest sex scenes you’ll ever read. I swear, they’ll melt the rubber right off your vibrator.”

Bailey coughed but it came out like more of a choking sound. “Right. I’ll uhh…look for those books. Excuse me, I have to go.”

She pushed through the crowd to get closer to Julian and the sex-writing goddess on his arm. They were surrounded by people. Cameras flashed and Serena turned, smiling coyly to the left and then the right. Julian put his arm around her and his shirtsleeve pulled up, revealing the gold face of Bailey’s grandfather’s vintage Rolex. He was wearing
her
watch while he pawed at another woman in a room full of people.

Bastard!

She wanted to confront him. After all, the worst thing he could do was refuse to give the watch back and then she’d be in exactly the same position she was in now. At best, he’d take it off and hand it over. There was only gain to be had. It was a low-risk move with the probability of high reward.

But…what if he…?

Her stomach pitched and her feet rooted to the ground, refusing to carry her any closer. Heart hammering in her chest, she battled with herself.

Just do it, Bailey. Do. It. Put one foot in front of the other and confront that jerk.

But the second Julian brought his lips down to the gorgeous woman next to him, Bailey turned and fled.


Lance Fulton watched his boss pick the croutons out of her salad, her eyes narrowing at them as if they were cockroaches rather than small pieces of bread. Apparently “going Paleo” meant all carbs were off-limits, but he refrained from pointing out that cavemen probably didn’t drink straight martinis with their lunch.

He couldn’t say many positive things about Janet Griswold, but she
did
have a stare that could cause a grown man to wither. And right now he was thankful that the offensive carbs had shifted the brunt of her distaste away from him. For once.

“Are you even listening to what I’m saying?” she snapped, the gaudy stack of bejeweled bracelets clinking on her arm as she raised a forkful of salad to her mouth.

He took a sip of his now lukewarm coffee. “You were telling me, again, how much we need Braxton St. John on our client list.”

Like he didn’t know that already. Braxton St. John wasn’t only a best-selling erotic romance author; he was also one of the wildest and most out of control people in the public eye. Drinking. Gambling. Partying with girls young enough to be his daughter…then marrying them.

In other words, the
perfect
client.

Lance worked as a senior marketing and image consultant for a San Francisco company called Take Two. They specialized in turning people whom the public loved to hate into beloved pillars of society. They’d had clients ranging from substance-abusing heiresses, washed-up former child stars, big-mouthed fashion designers, and greedy corporate bigwigs.

Braxton St. John was a big fish. His latest book was currently being made into a movie and he’d been spotted leaving the star’s hotel room at two in the morning. She was twenty-three and less than half his age. Now the girl’s mother was raising hell and the media was having a field day. If they could convince the author to change his ways, it could mean big bucks and big business.

After all, if they could fix
his
reputation, they could fix anyone.

“I’ve decided to give Mark the go-ahead to secure him as a client.”

“What?” Lance slammed his mug down so hard the people at the next table peered at him curiously. “You’ve been telling me to hold off for months and now you’re giving the lead to
Mark
?”

Janet smiled coolly and gave a small shrug with one shoulder. “I think he’ll give Take Two the best chance of securing St. John.”

“You think he can do a better job than I can?” His blood boiled beneath the fine wool of his tailored suit. “That’s bullshit and you know it. I’ll have the ink dried on St. John’s contract before Mark even figures out how to tie his shoelaces. Watch me.”

“See.” She pointed a bony finger at him, the sharp tip of her red nail looking like the bloodied claw of a carnivorous bird. “That’s
exactly
why I don’t trust you to get the job done. You’re impulsive, risky. I need someone who’s more reliable, who thinks about things before he acts.”

“Let’s be honest, Janet. That’s not the real reason you don’t want me to go after St. John.”

Her lips flattened into a line so thin they almost disappeared. “I want what’s best for the company, Lance. I’m
sure
you understand that.”

Okay, so he
was
the kind of guy who liked to jump in with two feet. He had strong instincts and he trusted them. The world was full of people who thought and deliberated, but not too many who took action. Some of his best moves had come from making snap decisions and following his gut. And Janet might claim to dislike that about him, but he knew that wasn’t the whole truth.

Ever since Lance had made the wretched mistake of sleeping with Janet’s daughter a year ago—which, to be fair, he had not realized at the time since the smoking hot blonde had
zero
resemblance to her mother—his boss had done everything in her power to shut down his career. The only thing she couldn’t do was fire him since his mentor was the CEO of the company. But she was damn well trying her best to push him out the door in any other way she could. He’d thought that with time she’d let it go, but twelve months hadn’t lessened her resolve.

Now, a partner position was coming up at Take Two and he wanted it. Badly. Which meant he needed Janet’s support.

“I do understand and I also want the best for the company. Which is why you’re making a
huge
mistake putting Mark in charge of this.” Lance folded his hands in his lap and drew a calming breath. “His closure rate isn’t as good as mine and he flubbed the twitter chat with Zach whatshisname. He’s not the right guy.”

“Mark is reliable. He’s engaged.”

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

Janet sighed as if he were a complete imbecile. “Marriage denotes a seriousness and commitment that being a staunch bachelor doesn’t. He’s not out looking for his next conquest and he doesn’t treat people like they’re disposable.”

Lance bit back a retort. The truth was, Mark was a yes man and was well versed in the language of kissing ass. To his detriment, Lance was not. But he refused to lie down and let Janet trample all over his hard work.

“Mark doesn’t arrive until tomorrow. I’ll prove to you that I’m the right guy to reel St. John in.” He pushed up from his chair and threw a few bills onto the table.

“You’re welcome to try,” Janet said, continuing to pick at her salad. “Emphasis on the try.”

He raked a hand through his hair as he walked out of the Mascarade Café. The Romance Lovers Convention was in full swing. Panels and workshops had ended for the day and people milled about, taking selfies and lugging piles of books and swag.

Two women in regency gowns waved coyly at Lance as he walked passed, tittering behind their gloved hands. Normally, he’d be right in the thick of it. Making small talk, schmoozing with prospective clients, getting the inside scoop from people in the know. But he needed to regroup.

The convention would continue all weekend and he only had one goal. Braxton St. John.

This wasn’t just about proving Janet wrong; it was about proving
everyone
wrong. Everyone who’d said that he would amount to nothing, that he would forever be a burden on society, that he would never grow up. A promotion to partner would complete his transformation from troubled kid—one that his own parents couldn’t even handle—to successful adult.

Lance joined the line for the elevators and tapped at his smart phone while he waited. There wasn’t too much in his inbox. Confirmation of an invite he’d secured for a popstar who needed to shake a paparazzi meltdown that had gone viral. And publicity shots from another client—an actor who was great in person but who had been the victim of some clever word twisting, attending a charity event for sick children.

BOOK: Loving the Odds (What Happens in Vegas)
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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