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Authors: Myrna Mackenzie

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BOOK: Saving Cinderella!
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His mouth was set in a hard line. This was obviously something he felt strongly about.

She wondered if that was why he was a loner. Because relationships placed too many restrictions on him? But of course Wyatt’s personal life was none of her business, was it?

 

Wyatt followed up the hotel tour with trips to a few of the local sights. An amusement park, a quick drive past a museum.

“There are also helicopter tours. The city is something else, all lit up and seen from above. The colors against the dark sky are intense.”

“I never knew Las Vegas had this much to offer,” she said.

Her enthusiasm made him want to show her more…which was a definite sign that he should end the tour.

“One more thing this evening,” he said, and then wished he hadn’t said it. It made it sound as if there would be other nights, which wasn’t wise. He was here tonight only because he’d been concerned for Alex’s safety.

At least he hoped that was true. This had to be a one-night show. He didn’t fraternize with many people, and certainly not with his employees. People could get hurt. Then there would be regrets attached to his home and his business.

“So…are we going to a mystery destination?” Alex asked, her voice breaking the silence at last.

“We’re almost there. The sun is at just the right angle at this time of day.”

She chuckled. “Is this like one of those movies where the sun shines through a break in the rocks, bounces off some
thing, and magically opens the entrance to a secret cave? We certainly seem to be out in the middle of nowhere.”

“Not exactly nowhere,” Wyatt said, wishing Alex’s little chuckle wasn’t so low and sexy. “We’ll only be an hour outside of the city. I promise this will be special, Alex.”

Within minutes he heard her gasp as the sun hit the stark ancient red rocks that stretched out before them. The stone was gold and crimson and deep orange where the sun’s rays caressed the rock, and shadowy black where the rays couldn’t reach. “It’s—that’s
so
beautiful. What’s it called?”

“It’s the Valley of Fire, the oldest state park in Nevada and my favorite day-trip.”

“It’s wonderful. A good place to recommend to people who want to get away. Is that why you brought me here?”

Her question caught him off guard. He didn’t have a clue why he had brought her here. Originally he’d told himself that he was trying to show her as many sights as he could, but now he suspected that he’d been hoping for that gasp at the first sight of his favorite retreat. Which had nothing to do with work.

That made it personal and unacceptable. She was his employee, in his care. What was more, she’d been so hurt by men that she’d given them up, and
he
certainly had nothing to offer her. Still, they were here, so he drove to some of the more scenic areas along the road.

“Look, people are getting married,” she said, gesturing to a woman in a white wedding dress, her groom slipping a ring on her finger.

Alex’s comment almost made Wyatt smile. “People are always getting married everywhere in Las Vegas, and in every way imaginable,” he reminded her. “But, yes, this is a well-known wedding destination.”

“Do you have many weddings at McKendrick’s? I saw a
picture of the hotel on the Internet last night. Before it was yours it was a sad little place. No one would have gotten married there.”

“They do now. It just needed some tweaking.”

She laughed.

“What?”


Tweaking
is far too tame a word for what you’ve done with the hotel. It’s unique and beautiful.”

Okay, how could he not smile at that? “Are you sure you’re not a bit biased?”

“I’m
totally
biased in some ways,” she conceded, “but not in every way. I try never to let my personal feelings overshadow my common sense.”

It was, Wyatt thought, something that should have made him feel better. Instead it intrigued him. He wanted to know her better. That could be dangerous. Already he was doing things with her that he never did with any woman.

Like smiling, teasing, wanting to get closer than was wise.

And when they returned to the hotel, and he took her hand to help her out of the car, he had an aching desire to raise her hand, place his mouth on her palm, kiss her fingertips and pull her into his arms.

Instead he merely held her hand a second too long, and she looked as if he’d burned her.

That was a warning. He could hurt Alex. He didn’t want to hurt her. He wanted to kiss her.

“Good night, Alexandra.” He forced himself to walk away.

But somewhere in the night he woke remembering her smile, her scent, her soft skin…which was totally unacceptable. Alex Lowell wasn’t for him. She was an employee, an emotional woman, and he had ripped that kind of thing from his life years ago. He needed and wanted no one.

Still, the thought of Alex’s soft voice seduced him. He stepped out onto the balcony of the penthouse, hoping for distraction in the night scene below. Clamping his hands on the railing, he stared into the darkness for a very long time.

Working with Alexandra Lowell was going to be a challenge.

CHAPTER SEVEN

A
LEX’S
mind was a torrent of activity. She tried not to remember Wyatt’s rare smile last night, how it had felt to be alone with him as the sun’s rays hit the red rocks, what his touch had been like.

Grr.
He’d merely been helping her from the car. It had simply been two hands touching…and this was the second time she’d had this reaction. What was wrong with her?

Nothing. Ignore those absurd longings. That’s guaranteed heartbreak. Don’t throw common sense away. You know what’s happened before when you’ve got involved with men you were trying to help, so back away from Wyatt. Don’t think of him as a man. Concentrate only on what Wyatt wants for McKendrick’s.

“Easy,” she muttered. “Tweaking, positive change, winning a National Travel Award and total hotel domination.”

A passing guest gave her a strange look. “What did you say?” the woman asked.

Alex blinked. She was losing it. She’d really said those words out loud, hadn’t she? She could only hope that she hadn’t also mumbled any of that stuff about Wyatt. If she had, Randy would be raising his bets, gambling that she
would
fall in love with Wyatt.

“I said that anyone who wants a tour should sign up on this sheet,” Alex improvised, pulling some McKendrick’s stationery from the desk. “Hotel Tour,” she scribbled at the top.

“Oh, I didn’t know they gave tours,” the woman said. “I haven’t seen half of what’s here. Who’s leading the tour? Are you?”

Uh-oh. Alex hadn’t thought that far ahead. She just hadn’t wanted the woman to think that Wyatt had hired a strange woman who talked to herself, so she’d simply blurted out that announcement. If she’d had time, she would have found someone better informed than she was to handle the task. As it was…

“Yes. I hope you’ll consider coming along. This hotel has some amazing nooks and crannies,” she said, even as she cringed at what she was saying. McKendrick’s private spaces that weren’t on the hotel map were a testament to the hotel’s very private owner, but Alex hadn’t yet located everything.

Time to pick Randy’s brain. If she was promising a tour, then she was darn well going to do it right.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” the woman said, scribbling down her name. “You should put up a sign.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” Alex said, and she set about making a temporary sign.

Within the next hour five more people signed up. Another couple was just putting their names down when Alex felt Wyatt’s presence behind her. She didn’t even question how she knew it was him. There was a change in the atmosphere, as if the air was supercharged. She turned around to find him examining her in that slightly distant, arch, bemused way he had.

Immediately her nerve-endings started to hum. It was a warning. Dangerous man ahead.

Wyatt looked at the sign, and when the couple moved away, he leaned in and put his name on the signup sheet.

“You don’t need a tour,” she said.

“No, but I’m interested in seeing what this one is like.”

“I’m going to keep it simple. At least this first time. Later, I’ll explore every inch of McKendrick’s I’ve missed.”

“Simple and safe can be good, but from what little I’ve seen, that doesn’t appear to be your style. And you’d miss the private solarium.” He grabbed a map and a pen and circled an unmarked place on the map. “It’s a bit difficult to find, but worth the trip. And you wouldn’t want to pass up the private dining rooms that are perfect for the man who wants a place to propose to the woman of his dreams.” His voice had dropped low. “Would you?” he asked.

She slowly shook her head. “No, but I might need some help finding those.”

“That won’t be a problem.”

“I don’t understand.”

He looked confused. “I
do
know my way around my own hotel.”

“No. I meant that I don’t understand why you went to so much bother about the romantic dining rooms. You don’t believe in happily ever after.”

“Not for me, no. But my customers find such touches appealing, and I try to give them what they want.”

Alex hoped Wyatt never tried to give
her
what she wanted, because right now she wanted him to move closer.

As if he had read her mind, he did just that. “I’ll meet you here at five,” he said.

“I’ll count on that.”

He raised one eyebrow.

“I
really
might need some serious help. I don’t even want to explain to you how this whole tour idea came about.”

“Then I won’t ask. But I
will
be there.”

Alex felt like a moth trying to stay away from the seductive flame and knowing that she was losing the battle. She was going to be spending more time with Wyatt when only minutes ago she had determined to keep her distance.

And yet five o’clock suddenly seemed too far away. She was starting to show definite signs of “Wyatt fascination.”

Randy would tell her that he’d told her so if she gave in. He might even actually win some money in the betting pool.

No, he won’t
, Alex thought. She might be fascinated by Wyatt, but that was as far as this woman was going to go. She’d walked into heartbreak before, but there had been justification then. This time there was absolutely none. It would be like taking a knife and intentionally stabbing herself. She just couldn’t do it.

Just to make sure she remembered that, Alex grabbed a calendar from her drawer. Belinda had called to confirm that two months would be enough maternity leave. And with three days already gone, that left only fifty-seven.

Alex crossed a day off and wrote “57” on today’s date.

There—she was back in charge of herself. But when the clock struck five, butterflies began an intense dance in her stomach. She turned to see Wyatt walking toward her.

I am totally betting against myself
, she thought.

 

Wyatt was enjoying himself more than was wise. Alex had made a full confession about how the tour idea had been born. And now she was being completely charming with the guests.

“This is the Blue Ballroom,” she said with a sweep of one arm. “It’s named, I assume, for obvious reasons.” She looked at Wyatt, a “hmm” expression in her eyes. “Maybe you could hire someone to choose a more imaginative name. Or have a contest to rename the room, with tickets to a local show as a prize.”

“Oh, that would be fun! I have some great romantic ideas. Something to do with hearts or beating hearts or blues in the night,” a woman said, followed by several other people agreeing.

And suddenly, McKendrick’s was running a “Rename the Blue Ballroom” contest.

“I love your enthusiasm,” Alex said, “and since this is a ballroom, well…if anyone feels like dancing, we’ll stop here for a song or two. Pete, can you hit the music and the lights, please?” she called out to the custodian. Suddenly the crystalline chandeliers descended from the ceiling, their lights set to a perfect glow. Alex reached for Wyatt’s hand as a low, sultry tune began to stream from the speakers. “I’m sorry, but we have to be the ones to start,” she whispered.

He nodded. “Not a problem.” Although, in fact, it was.

Touching Alex was like juggling flaming swords. Sooner or later a man was bound to set the curtains on fire and start something he couldn’t stop. That wasn’t allowed, but…what could he do? She had clearly gotten into this tour without thinking, and now she was improvising and treading water. Only someone with no heart at all would desert her now. He, it seemed, still had a heart…or something that vaguely resembled one. It had withered because he chose not to use it. With good reason, he reminded himself. Still, he would dance with her.

“How did this happen? The speakers and the music?” he asked, trying to keep his mind on the situation and off the woman.

She looked down at their joined hands as if she hadn’t realized that she had taken his hand and was regretting the intimate connection. “I threw myself on Pete’s mercy. I had to do something to give the tour a little oomph,” she said. “Even if this whole event was…accidental, the guests signed up for a tour, and they deserve something special.”

“I agree. So we’ll dance, Alexandra.” As he placed his hand at her waist, he was instantly aware of the warmth of her body, the subtle jasmine scent of her hair, those pretty blue eyes gazing up at him as he twirled her around the floor.

“I didn’t actually plan this part beforehand. Us dancing together, I mean,” she confessed. “I should have asked first, before roping you into this dance.”

“Don’t apologize. That’s an order. Besides, I consider myself lucky. This may be my last chance to dance in the Blue Ballroom before it becomes the Beating Heart Ballroom,” he said, surprising himself once again by teasing her. What was it about Alex that made him do such unwise things?

She chuckled. “I never thought about that. What if all the names submitted are hideous?”

“Then we’ll have another contest.”

“You’re being very nice about being dragged into this,” she said, but he shook his head.

“I believe I’m the one who dragged
you
into this job.”

“I could have said no,” she whispered as the music became slower. And without thinking, without a trace of common sense, he pulled her closer and tried not to think about how soft she felt against the hard planes of his chest.

She
could
have said no and left him in the lurch. But she had said yes, he thought, and now she was in his arms, and he was in danger of doing something stupid…like pulling her even closer against his body, right in front of the tour group.

But the music ended. Alex smiled and thanked him.

“There’s nothing to thank me for. We danced. I enjoyed it.” End of story. At least his mind wanted it to be the end. His nerve-endings, however, were still remembering Alex in his arms.

“Could we have another longer dance some evening?” someone asked.

“Why not weekly?” Alex suggested, and a new McKendrick’s tradition was born.

The rest of the tour followed the same pattern, with Alex thinking of some new idea, such as having movies running constantly in the theater, complete with popcorn. But when they came to the solarium, she asked Wyatt to explain the history of the room.

“It was simple,” he said to his audience. “When I first came here I missed green. So I tried to create a green haven.”

“You succeeded,” Alex said. “Tropical plants, comfortable chairs, private nooks and the sound of bubbling water. I could find a happy escape here.”

“I hope you
will
come here when you need some downtime,” Wyatt said, looking directly into Alex’s eyes.

“Thank you,” she mouthed silently, and he wasn’t sure if she was thanking him for talking to the group or for suggesting a private escape for her. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that for a moment he’d felt intimately connected to her. That wasn’t safe for either of them.

By the time the tour ended, Alex was on a first-name basis with every person, and they had all promised to recommend the tour to others, to show up to her dances, to watch her movies and start submitting names for the ballroom. Within less than a week Alex had charmed his customers and promised to tip McKendrick’s operating procedures upside down.

And, Wyatt mused as he insisted on walking her to her room, she had threatened the even keel he liked to maintain on his emotions. “You won them over easily,” he told her as they made it to her door.

“Well, I have a lot of practice shepherding people around, and I enjoyed doing this. Helping people can be pretty rewarding most of the time.”

“But not always?” There was that fleeting shadow in her eyes again.

“Nothing works one hundred percent of the time,” she said. “Sometimes I get a little overzealous or overly involved and that can have a downside.”

He wondered if she’d been “overly involved” with any of those jerks who had made her swear off men. But of course she had. Even from the short time he’d known her, Wyatt could see that Alex was the type to jump in and help total strangers. How much more would she give to those she cared about? And how deeply would she have been hurt when those men she’d cared for disappointed her?

That, he realized, was hitting too close to home.
He’d
disappointed women. He didn’t want Alex to be one of them.

“That won’t happen here, though,” she told him. “I won’t get…overzealous. I’m just trying to help the hotel.”

She would have heard the stories about him and women. He knew about the bets. He ignored them.

“I’m glad you’re here helping,” he said, wanting to reassure her, to tell her that he wouldn’t disappoint her.

“I’m glad, too. McKendrick’s is so special.”

At that husky comment about the place that he had poured himself into, Wyatt couldn’t seem to stop the rush of sensation sluicing through him. “Thank you.” He reached down, took her chin in his hand and lowered his head to taste her lips.

She was soft…warm…yielding. And when she angled her head and placed her hand on his chest, all reason fled. He pulled her to him, deepening the kiss. His senses were spinning.

She looped her arms around his neck. Her fingertips slid into his hair.

That small move nearly undid him completely, even as he realized that they were standing in the damned hallway!

As if he’d said something—
had
he whispered something against her lips?—Alex turned statue-still. She pushed back lightly against his chest with both palms. Immediately she stepped away.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I—”

Instantly, regret and anger at himself assaulted him. He reached out and took both her hands in his. “Shh, Alex. Don’t apologize when I’m the one at fault. You’ve told me that you’re on a break from men, so this was all on me. I should never have touched you.”

“It
wasn’t
just you,” she insisted. “Although…yes, I do have a bad history with men. And I don’t want to repeat that bad history. I’m absolutely
not
doing that anymore.”

“You shouldn’t.”

“I won’t.”

“Good.” He tipped her chin up with one finger. “If I ever step out of line, I want you to tell me. Don’t let the fact that I’m your boss stop you. I’ve had enough vindictive people in my life to ever want to be one, so you’re safe. All right? You’ll tell me?”

BOOK: Saving Cinderella!
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