Dream Lover Chapter 1-5

Ryan Uncategorized

©Ryan Michele, Wicked Words Publishing 2020

Dream Lover (Propositions and Proposals #1)

I am so excited about Dream Lover. It’s a new, fun contemporary romance set in Vegas! Does what happen in Vegas really stay in Vegas? Read chapter one now.

(subject to change ©Ryan Michele 2020)

 

 

Prologue

Quinn

Past

THE PERFECT MAN: AN UNKNOWN CREATURE FOUND ONLY IN BOOKS AND MOVIES OR A HIGHSCHOOLER’S IMAGINATION

“You’re laughing. You swore you weren’t going to laugh at me.” I narrowed my eyes on Carrie, and she held her palms up in mock surrender.

“I’m sorry.” Her thin lips curved into a mischievous smirk that told me no, she was anything except sorry, but she was doing her best to shut it down and failing miserably. “What were you saying?”

I folded my arms over my chest and looked out the window of my second-floor bedroom, staring at the pool out back, debating diving in. The cool water would feel good right about now. It was one thing I loved about this house—an underwater escape even for a few moments.

“I’m not telling you.” I moved to the side wall and flipped my ceiling fan on. The dry air made me feel like I couldn’t breathe at times. It didn’t matter that I had lived in Arizona half of my life. The heat was something I never adjusted to, and it was worse with summer drawing near. Not to mention the pressure of Carrie’s amused gaze shooting lasers at me.

“Oh, come on now. That’s not fair. I gave you my list of must haves.” My best friend since before I could remember tugged on my arm and pinched my side as she sat at my desk. It was true, she had listed her dream man who also sounded a lot like her latest celebrity crush. Someone unattainable. Someone so far out of reach it made me wonder if she was being truthful. I was very serious about my dream man.

“Stop it, you goof,” I said, pulling away from her and moving to sit on my bed in the middle of the room.

“I’ll leave you alone when you finish that list. What did you say? Dark hair and blue eyes that make your heart skip a beat…” She trailed off and tapped her pencil against her notebook, waiting for me expectantly.

I rolled my eyes but gave in, knowing she wouldn’t give up. I wanted this over with. “He needs to be tall and sexy. But more importantly he has to make me laugh and be kind. He should have a good job. One that makes him happy. A nice reliable car and his own place. I want a guy who doesn’t have to try to be something he’s not. I want a man who can be my best friend.”

“You trying to replace me?” Her dark brows knitted together, then she got that sneaky grin again telling me she was going to hit me with it. And boy did she ever. “You know Conner will be home this weekend.”

“Okay … and I care because?”

Truthfully, I did care. A whole lot, actually, but I couldn’t tell her that. Conner was her older brother and my older brother’s best friend. Growing up it was always the four of us until Drew and Conner got too cool to ‘play’ or hang out with us and got into girls. Then it was a firm, ‘No-go to the baby sister and her friend.’

When it first happened it hit me hard, but as time went on, I understood.

Her left shoulder lifted. “No reason. Just thought you might want to pack a dress when you spend the night. You know my dad will insist that we do a family dinner, and it will be fancy.” Her father loved to spend money on good food. Regularly. Conner being home was just an excuse, which I didn’t mind.

I’d gone to dinner with her family a million times. I didn’t know why she was being so weird about it now. It wasn’t like Conner would care what I wore or even notice I was there at all. He wouldn’t even acknowledge I existed, but to say hi and move on.

“College boy. Hey, is he bringing any of his buddies home this time?” I wiggled my brows and rubbed my hands together.

Carrie shook her head, her face falling a touch. “Doubtful. I heard him griping about Jameson being too flirty toward us. Can you believe that?” Jameson was a friend of Conner’s who came home with him a while back. Jameson did flirt and, truth be told, I kind of liked it. An older hot guy winking and telling us we were beautiful—who wouldn’t like that?

“Well, you are his baby sister. He’s just doing that whole macho protective big brother thing.”

“I guess… But you aren’t his sister. He shouldn’t care if a guy like Jameson flirts with you.”

“He doesn’t. You’re just lumping me into the equation.” I didn’t believe that Conner even knew I existed anymore. He was a junior at Arizona State, was in a fraternity, and had other things and people on his mind. I was the furthest down on that list. I’d accepted that a long time ago.

“Whatever. Do you think we’ll ever find a guy who meets our wants?”

I thought about my bestie’s question, but I didn’t have an answer for her. I hoped one day I’d find my Mr. Right, but there was no such thing as perfect.

 

 

 

Chapter One

Quinn

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE IS NOT KNOWING EVERYTHING… IT’S HAVING THE PHONE NUMBER OF SOMEONE WHO DOES.

I glanced at the text message from my brother for the third time dreading each word my eyes scanned across. The last thing I wanted to do tonight was meet up with Drew and Rebecca. I loved my brother dearly, though, so for him I was willing to go just to make him happy. It wasn’t every day your brother got married. Unfortunately for me, my future sister-in-law was a bridezilla from hell. Yay me, not.

Drew- Be at Fat Olives at seven. It’s about the wedding. Don’t be late.

Ugh. I sighed and grabbed my keys along with my purse that had my phone inside. It was already half past six. I delayed as long as possible without being late.

I had big plans for my Friday night that consisted of Netflix—hello, Oliver, from the Green Arrow—and chilling with my new bottle of wine until the entire bottle was consumed. At least there would be wine at the restaurant. That was the only perk of the evening, and I was going to need it to deal with Rebecca.

I was surprised to even be included in the wedding, considering Rebecca handpicked the full bridal party including the groomsmen, ushers, flower girl and ring bearer.

Only one of Drew’s friends made the cut and were in the bridal party.

One. Which was surprising because my brother had a ton of buddies, being a very likable man and all. Rebecca gave some lame excuse about everyone needing to be evenly matched in height for the photos. She legit said that Conner, my brother’s lifelong best friend since he was like nine, was too tall and would throw everything off. Who did that shit?

The disappointment in my brother for allowing this decision was what bothered me the most. Him not sticking up for friendships he’d had for years was a complete let down in my eyes.

Drew demanded that his fiancée make me a bridesmaid; it was the one request he wasn’t backing down from. Sadly, though, I wished he had fought for Conner instead of me; it was, after all, his wedding too.

I arrived at the restaurant with a few minutes to spare, finding a parking space on the street in front of the door. Sitting in my car, I contemplated going in or leaving, but I knew Drew was counting on me to suck it up and show. After all, being the only family in the wedding party, I had to show my support for him.

Sifting my fingers through my dark hair, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a fist knocked on my driver’s side window. I looked over and saw it was my brother with an impatient look on his face.

He stepped back, and I exited the car then shut the door. “What?” I huffed, irritated at his look, pushing the leather strap of my purse up on my shoulder.

“Everyone’s waiting for you.”

“Seriously? I still have like five minutes.”

My brother put an arm over my shoulder and ushered me to the door. “Just don’t. You know Rebecca has been on edge and only wants everything to be perfect.”

Perfect? Good luck with that. Nothing was perfect in this world. She had a rude awakening coming soon. When something crashed, she wouldn’t be able to handle it. “Whatever. What’s so important that I just had to be here anyhow?”

“You’ll see.” He squeezed my shoulder, and I tried to hide my scowl as we entered the dining room. The Fat Olive had been a staple in this town for years and had the best Italian food imaginable. The décor wasn’t something to write home about and needed some serious updating.

Plastic grapes and vines hung from the ceiling that collected far too much dust. Let us not forget the huge fake tree in the middle of the room that had monkeys hanging from it. Yes, it needed some serious TLC, but the owners had it this way for thirty plus years and showed zero chance of anything changing.

Rebecca flashed a fake smile at me for my brother’s sake and to keep appearances with the guests all around. It was no secret to me, though, that she didn’t like me. It started early on in their relationship when I called Rebecca out on her shit. She, of course, didn’t like me from that moment on. Frankly, I wasn’t fazed. The feeling for her was mutual. She did not deserve my brother. He was too good for her. I knew, and so did she.

“So glad you could join us.” Her sickly-sweet tone was enough to make my teeth ache.

On a small nod, I slid into my seat, biting my tongue to keep from releasing all the smart assed remarks hanging on the tip. She-bitch from hell…

My seat was next to her lame best friend, Carley, who couldn’t remove the stick from her ass with a chainsaw. Another fake smile was sent my way that I ignored.

My brother sat next to me, which I greatly appreciated. I had no clue what attracted my brother to Rebecca. She wasn’t like any of the other women he dated over the years. I supposed if I didn’t know her rotten insides, her outward appearance was what most would call pretty.

Blonde curly hair that bounced around her heart-shaped face. Big doe eyes that resembled the center of a cinnamon bun, but not the sweetness, and bow-shaped lips. Not a blemish on her porcelain skin, but it was when she opened her mouth all her beauty faded away, leaving nothing but a bitter shrew.

“I ordered you a salad with no dressing. I figured you’d be watching your figure until the wedding.”

My fists clenched under the table as I felt my body start to heat. There was nothing wrong with my weight. My curves were exactly how I wanted them, and Rebecca simply loved to take a jab at me any way she could. Just another way she was a bitch. Kill her with kindness, I reminded myself. “Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Becky.” Her cheeks went firetruck red, and inside I smiled. Bingo. Target hit. There was nothing Rebecca hated more than being called Becky. It was a jab I only used when she pissed me off even more than she normally did, and she had pissed me off a lot in the two years they had been together.

Jaw tight and teeth grinding, my future sister-in-law struggled to hold her composure as she spoke through her teeth. “We’ve discussed this. It’s Rebecca. Just Rebecca. Not Becky. Not Becks. Not Becca. Ra-beck-ka.” She sounded the syllables out, nostrils flared, eyes narrowed on me. The look bounced off me like Jell-O. Her glare didn’t affect me one bit. She was all bark and no bite.

“Oops,” I commented as the server moved in and poured me a glass of wine. I took a hearty sip, trying not to think terrible thoughts like it’d be a real shame if Rebecca choked on a crouton. Her eyes stared at me as I drank, probably racking up my calorie intake with each sip. It only made me want to drink more, but driving was coming up sooner rather than later, at least I hoped. Getting out of here was top priority.

The food was served, and a small salad was placed in front of me. I smiled up at the waiter. “Can you please take this back? I’d like a lasagna with extra cheese and house bread please.” The waiter nodded at me and left.

Eyes bore into me, and I knew they were Becky’s. A small smile played on my lips. It didn’t take long before my food arrived, and low conversations were held around the table. Me, not knowing anyone, ate instead. The lasagna made better conversation than the people in this room. Not to mention it tasted incredible.

My brother stood, tapping his silverware against his glass and garnering everyone’s attention. Rebecca stood next to him, loving being center of attention if the smile had anything to say about it. It wasn’t my brother who spoke, though. It was Becky. “Now that we have your attention. The reason we asked you all here this evening is Andrew and I have an announcement. Instead of boring traditional bachelor and bachelorette parties, we have decided that the entire wedding party is coming to a week of couples challenges in Las Vegas!” Rebecca squealed, and her friends smiled back at her. I, however, would rather have a rusty nail to gouge my eyeballs out with.

The keyword giving me trouble was ‘couple’. I wasn’t part of a couple. I was single. Numero uno. One, and it appeared that one needed a significant other to attend. Maybe this would be my out. No man, no trip. If only I were that lucky. “If anyone”—her eyes zoned in on me, and I knew luck was not on my side—“doesn’t have a partner or significant other, you’ll need to find someone. Everyone in the wedding party has to participate.” Only after her final words did she turn away from me.

I should tell her to fuck off, but I couldn’t because of Drew. The things I did for him.

Considering the other members of the bridal party were grabbing each other’s hands and making those stupid googly eyes at each other, they were all coupled up and probably knew everything about one another.

Panic bubbled in my throat and tightened in my chest. The challenges were for lovers. For people in a committed relationship who loved each other. What the hell was I going to do? Who the hell could I bring? I had no one. Not even a fuck buddy who could pretend to be my boyfriend. No way in hell I’d tell Rebecca there was no one, or ask my brother if he had any single friends who could stand in for me. I still had some pride.

I needed a plan, fast. So when Rebecca asked, “Will that be a problem for you?” I lied and shot back with one of her fake smiles she had given me so many times.

“Not at all. It sounds like a great time. I’m looking forward to it.”

What in the hell was my brother thinking?

I was not looking forward to anything but getting the hell out of there and calling my bestie. Carrie would know what to do. At least I was hoping she would because I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do to solve this problem.

The moment I was alone in the privacy of my car, I dialed her.

“What’s up, girlfriend?”

“Dude, I am in a complete freak out panic mode here.”

“Why?”

I let out a sigh and stared at the itinerary sticking out of my purse. One Becky handed me on my way out detailing everything. “My bonehead brother and bridezilla strike again.”

“What did they do now?”

I rubbed my temple feeling a tension headache forming. “So get this. Instead of, you know, a party bus with strippers or something basic for a bachelorette party, they have decided we are going to Vegas for a week. A week … doing challenges! And what are we supposed to bring on this trip, you might ask. My boyfriend, partner, or significant other. I don’t have one of those, and Becky the bitch says I have to have one for the trip.” I sighed heavily. “Maybe you could come pose as my secret lesbian lover. We know everything about each other and would nail every challenge. Not to mention we could have a blast together. It is Vegas, after all.”

Carrie giggled. What there was to giggle about, I had no clue. “First of all, no. No one would believe we were a couple. We’re together all the time. They would have seen us by now. Secondly, I have a plan. I’ve never let you down in the past, so do you trust me when I say I got you covered?”

Did I trust her? What the hell kind of question was that? “Duh. I trust you, but that doesn’t stop the madness of the week I have to endure of this crap show. And what kind of plan are you talking about?”

“Stop stressing over what you can’t control, and have a little faith in me. All I need to know is your room number, the hotel, and what day you arrive. That’s it. I have the perfect guy in mind. He’ll meet you there. It’s going to work out. I promise. Trust me. I’ve got you.” The call disconnected. I stared at the black screen like Carrie’s voice would come back and tell me to stop freaking out. Because I was nervous. This was a terrible idea. Whoever this was wouldn’t know me, and Rebecca would know right off the bat I didn’t have anyone. Though, what choice did I have? Go crawling to my brother and beg him to let me off the hook. No, that wasn’t an option. Nor was asking him for help because he’d tell Rebecca. Screw that one.

I secured my seatbelt and muttered to myself, “Promises, promises.” This was going to work out somehow. Some way. How? No clue, but I’d pull it off. One week. Seven days wasn’t the end of the world. Prepping the guy beforehand with facts about me would help too. It was important to my brother. Therefore, I’d make it work. He would hopefully only get married once.

I pulled out of the parking lot and drove straight home to start packing, considering they only gave us two days to get our affairs together. This included getting time off from work. I didn’t have time to obsess over who this so-called perfect guy Carrie had was. If he was so perfect for me, why hadn’t I ever met him? As my best friend, it was her duty to introduce me to him immediately, not wait until there was a dilemma to throw him at me. I was going to have to revisit that conversation with her later and find out what else she was holding back from me.

I spent the rest of my night drinking my wine and questioning if it was too late to be an only child. I’d never felt more desperate in my life. Was I really going to depend on a total stranger to pull this week off? What if the guy didn’t show? Would I be wandering the streets and casinos trying to find a stranger to hire to be my man for a week? I downed another glass of wine and packed extra underwear. What if the guy was hot? Carrie wouldn’t set me up with a total bum of a guy. She had good taste in men. This could be fun in the end. It might’ve been the wine doing the talking, but I was trying to get excited about the possibility that I could hit it off with this guy.

Have a little a faith,” Carrie’s words repeated in my head. Faith was all I had. I stuffed my suitcase full and left it open knowing I’d need to throw things inside tomorrow. I was really going to go through with this harebrained plan.

All I could hope for was he wasn’t a dick.

Chapter 2

Quinn

I MAY NOT HAVE LOST ALL MY MARBLES YET, BUT THERE’S A SMALL HOLE IN THE BAG SOMEWHERE

 

I was running behind. My phone needed charged, and last night I had fallen asleep without plugging it in, leaving me without an alarm clock to blare several times to get my sleepy ass up.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. There wasn’t even any time to grab coffee or something to eat on the way. The airport was too far away. Hence why I set my alarm early to have time for caffeine. Now, I was screwed.

I stumbled into the bathroom feeling a bit dazed and confused, relieving my bladder and brushing my teeth. Not at the same time, but probably should’ve in this time crunch.

The cab taking me to the airport was waiting in my driveway, blowing on the horn and waking up the entire freaking neighborhood. This was not a great start to my day.

I felt disoriented and looked a mess. My only saving grace was my luggage was packed two days ago because if I didn’t show proof it was done Becky was planning to pack it for me. That wasn’t an option. Crawling back into bed and pulling my pillow over my head to forget the world existed was what I needed. Sleep evaded me last night. Too nervous about who Carrie was sending to be my fake boyfriend for the week. Tossing and turning all night, the dark circles under my eyes were doing me no favors.

I should have called my brother and told him my cab was a no-show. That I got picked up by the local aliens and beamed to Mars. Something. Anything, but no, like a good, diligent sister, I dragged my bag to the cab and got in, completely ignoring the man’s scowl. He’d get over it.

The cab dropped me at the airport, and my nerves were wild, my skin prickling. Yes, I was officially panicking. Why didn’t I make up an excuse? A good one like, Sorry, my boss won’t allow me the time off.

This had to be one of the dumbest things I had ever agreed to. I could claim to be sick, but the truth was I was a shit liar. My brother could always get me to crack under pressure. He’d smell the lie coming miles away; even through the damn phone, he would know.

I dragged my luggage along, clutching my boarding pass. This was a disaster waiting to implode. Not only did I not want to spend a week in Vegas with bridezilla and her posse, I had to contend with this mystery man.

Restless and in need of more sleep, I was in no mood for mishaps … or, at least, anymore. Carrie had refused to tell me who my surprise date for the week would be, even after asking her repeatedly. I doubted it was anyone I knew, but with her one could never tell.

After checking in, there was a small bit of time to kill. Luckily, I decided to change my flight to one later than the rest of the wedding party.

It worked for two reasons. One—I didn’t want them to see me alone and think I couldn’t get a date. I knew it was pathetic, but I didn’t want to deal with Rebecca any more than I already needed to. She didn’t need more ammunition to fire at me. The woman got in little jabs with me whenever she was able to do so. Two—I wouldn’t have to ride with any of them. God forbid I had to sit next to one of them whining the entire way.

The line for coffee was only four deep, and I was thrilled to see they had one banana bread muffin left. At this point my stomach would be happy with anything.

There I had a bit of hope my luck was changing. It was as if the heavens were shining down on this one muffin. I could hear a harp playing it looked so damn delicious. I was salivating at the mouth. The one thing I needed to make this day not a complete loss was within reach. Things needed to turn around.

Sometimes I was an emotional eater, grabbing whatever was in reaching distance to soothe the soul. This was an emotional time and, in that moment, I needed that muffin to pair with my coffee. The universe understood me and the cosmic need I had to devour this single pastry.

Only there was a problem in the form of a little old lady with tight cut curled hair and glasses. She was reaching for my glorious carbs. My stomach tightened.

My mother taught me to respect my elders, and I had every day of my life. At least up until this point because it was the last muffin in the entire place. My stomach was growling in protest. Fight or flight was kicking in as my body reacted.

I had a split-second choice to make—suffer in hunger pains for the flight because once I had a craving for something nothing else would suffice. Or I could be a jerk and grab the muffin before she got to it.

It played out in slow motion as I watched her hand tremble as it moved toward my muffin, and before I could internalize further, I did something I never thought I would do. Something my mother would be pissed about. Stepping to the side of the woman, I went for that damn muffin. I was going to be stuck spending a week with Rebecca, doing God only knew what and having to put on a smile with someone I disliked because my brother loved her. I deserved the damn muffin.

So, I claimed it.

My fingers curled around the plastic wrapping as it crinkled under my touch. Elation hit me, but instead of celebrating, a cry tore from my lips because the little old lady who looked like a sweet grandma type was anything but. She wielded a bronzed colored cane that must have cement in it or something.

Thwack.

I felt a sharp sting smack my arm as the cane made contact with me. Glancing down, a red welt appeared on my skin.

She actually smacked me with her damn cane. Twice. What the hell?

“Put down my muffin,” she hissed at me, and continued to hem and haw about young folk today not having respect for their elders. She was right, but at this point I didn’t care. She hit me over a muffin. There was no sympathy for her whatsoever.

Her glasses slid down her nose as she gawked at me, flapping her jaws and growing winded. While she shamed me in the middle of the airport, I was hangry. There was this point when a person was hungry to the point of angry. Hence hangry. It really wasn’t a made-up word. No, hangry was a state of being, a truly desperate time when a person should not be held accountable for their emotions or actions.

I didn’t let go and slid my arm back with the muffin in hand.

The sweet smile didn’t do anything for her because she scowled at me. “Sorry. I have low blood sugar.” This was actually true because my hand was shaking. Every time that happened, I needed food.

“I hope you choke on it,” she growled, walking off.

Was I wrong? Possibly, but this was a truly desperate time, therefore I was not going to feel the shame in my most desperate measures.

The cashier gave me a look but didn’t say anything as she rang up my purchase. Karma was already against me today; may as well make it count.

I was going to enjoy every banana baked goodness morsel as if it were the last thing I’d ever put in my mouth. The welt would bruise, and the damn thing had better be worth the trouble.

In the end, though, it didn’t matter. The muffin didn’t taste anywhere as good as it had looked in the case. It was dry and tasted like cardboard. I suppose that was what I got for fighting an old lady for it in the first place.

Karma. She was not my friend. It was racking up something fierce today.

After that the day continued its downward spiral. On the plane, I practically fell on top of the chubby bald guy in the outside seat as I tried to get to my window seat. Instead of him getting up and letting me through like a gentleman, he remained in place. Did he apologize for the inconvenience or uncomfortableness? Nope, he glared at me, but considering it was his foot I tripped on since he didn’t move, I didn’t care he was pissed. He wasn’t good company either, complaining to the stewardess about not having peanuts on the plane. I felt bad for the lady and then remembered the old lady and looked up to the ceiling.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I get it.

There was a kid maybe four-years-old in the row behind us who kept kicking the back of bald man’s seat. I had the pleasure of listening to him gripe for most of the flight about parents not taking care of their kids and how he would ban children from flying.

I thought nothing else could go wrong, but sure enough in the ‘it can only happen to Quinn soap opera’ that is my life, all the coffee I drank hit me, and I had to go to the bathroom. There was no holding it. I’d tried.

Sliding past grumpy and getting into the stall, I was hovered over the toilet seat relieving myself when the door flew open. My eyes flew up. On the other side of said door was this freakishly tall man with bulging tattooed biceps. His gaze slid over me, taking me in, and I thought for sure I was going to die of mortification on the spot. My cheeks were flaming, and his husky voice drawled out a gritty, “Sorry.” The man then winked at me.

“Shut the damn door!” I shrieked, which garnered the attention of the flight attendant. Who ended up having to stand at the restroom on guard for me because the damn door was somehow broken. All I wanted to do was turn around and go home. Forget this ever happened. I knew this trip was the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. Each moment proved my theory right.

Suck it up, Quinn. You’re in Vegas.

By the time I made it to the hotel, I knew I must’ve looked crazy. After missing the first bus to the hotel from the airport and almost not getting on the second because it was too full, I was drained.

People were staring at me as I trekked through the opulent lobby taking in the big chandeliers and the fountain on display, rolling my bag behind me. The lobby was bustling with gamblers and travelers. All I wanted was to make it to my room unscathed and take a hot shower to wash away the day. Once that happened, I could start fresh and forget about everything. I had to be here, and I was going to make the best of it.

The clerk behind the desk looked at me then my ID. Back to me again. “Are you sure your name is Quinn Landis? You look … different.” Her nose scrunched up at my haggard travel-worn appearance. Surely in her line of work, she’d seen people tired from traveling hundreds of miles. While I was no beauty queen, I didn’t think I looked that bad. Did I? Maybe the makeup free, hair in a bun on top of my head wasn’t the best choice for a day on a plane. I was going for the I’m-in-a-hurry-but-I’m-not-a-hobo-look.

I squared my shoulders and smoothed my hand over my dark hair, trying to tame the loose hairs that fell. “Yes,” I hissed. “I’m just not wearing makeup. Thank you so very much.” I was starting to sweat. If this day was any indication of how the rest of the trip was going to go, I was royally fucked. That was when I heard his voice before I saw him, my bad day going into the shitter.

“Quinn?” I turned my head in the direction of one of the smoothest voices I had ever known. One I’d recognize anywhere.

Conner Davenport.

Sweet baby Jesus in the manger he was hot. Hotter than hot. I hadn’t seen him in years, and man did he grow up. Dark wavy hair that was simply meant for running one’s fingers through. The bluest eyes I had ever gazed into reminding me of the sky above. Perfect smile, straight teeth, and those kissable lips I’d had many dreams about over the years.

More importantly, though, what was he doing here? He wasn’t in the bridal party. Did something happen and Conner was standing in for someone else?

“Conner?” I cleared my throat and looked around for a hidden camera somewhere. It would be my luck for someone to jump out and yell SIKE!  This had to be some kind of joke. The cosmos didn’t hate me this much. At least I hoped not.

“Looks like I caught you just in time, buttercup. It’s you and me. This week, you’re all mine.” His voice melted over me like butter on a hot roll. Then there was that perfect smile paired with the most gorgeous set of sky blue eyes. Eyes that were gazing at me like I was the sun. I trembled at the very thought of being his for a week. What was I supposed to say to that? This was Conner, Carrie’s brother, and my brother’s best friend.

What would my brother say?

Rebecca would hate the very idea of it, and that was enough to have me considering that maybe this could work. Maybe Lady Luck was taking pity on me and stacking the odds in my favor for once.

Or playing a terrible trick that would have all the cards falling into dust.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

Quinn

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION… OH WHO AM I KIDDING, FOLLOW ME; I KNOW A SHORT CUT.

 

Conner stared at me like he was waiting for me to do or say something. Except, I stood frozen in place, my breaths caught in my throat.

I hadn’t yet decided if I wanted to choke Carrie to death or kiss her face for sending her older brother to my rescue. There were so many ways this could go.

It could be a dream come true or my worst nightmare.

How many scenarios had I imagined myself with Conner over the years? Too many to count, but this was something I hadn’t thought about when Carrie asked me if I trusted her. Never in a million years would I have guessed she would send him to be my date. And better yet, how did she get him to agree so easily and on such short notice at that? I had so many questions for my bestie the next time we spoke. Which would be soon.

Have a little faith,” I heard her voice in my head. I was going to kill her, I decided.

“Ma’am, your signature,” the hotel desk clerk prompted, but I was lost, staring at Conner.

Conner grinned even bigger and slid up to the counter next to me. “Allow me.” He plucked the pen from the holder and signed for the room. The clerk placed the room cards in his hand, and Conner passed them off to me.

Conner then proceeded to grab my bags. Finally, after the rough day I had endured, I felt calm, like maybe things would be okay. I had known Conner Davenport most of my life. If there was a man I could depend on outside of my father or my brother, it was him. At least it always had been. Somehow the worry seemed to melt away, and the day seemed a bit brighter. All the terrible mishaps leading to him somehow faded away. That was Conner. He had that effect on the people around him or, at least, on me.

The pair of us strolled to the elevator. The door closed with only the two of us on board, and I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Fifty Shades of Grey when Christian slams Ana against the wall and makes love to her mouth. I felt my pulse pick up. That kiss was something to write home about. Hell, to plaster on billboards. That was a kiss of all kisses.

Conner smirked at me as though he knew exactly what I was thinking about. I looked away, a blush staining my cheeks. I wished I knew what was going through that handsome head of his. One thing I never learned was mind reading.

The elevator stopped, the doors slid open, and he trailed behind me with our bags. I swore I could feel the heat of his eyes on my ass but blew it off. There was no way in hell he’d be doing that. This was Conner, and well, I was me.

We walked down the hall, and I turned right.

Conner coughed. “Your other right.”

Looking back at the sign, he was right. I was going the wrong damn way. Turning, we found room seven-seventy-seven. After opening the door, my jaw hit the floor and my heart squeezed.

A single king-sized bed sat in the center of the room. Yes, single.

Heat crept up my spine and spread up my neck. How was I going to share a room, let alone a bed, with the man I had crushed on for years? Conner shuffled past me, putting our bags by the foot of the bed as I surveyed the room.

No couch, just two large chairs with a small table in the center. To the right was an armoire. The television was next to it mounted to the wall.

Under the television was a small fridge and when I opened it, I stopped dead. It was filled to the brim with drinks and snacks. On top of the fridge was the same.

“Wouldn’t touch that unless you want to pay ten bucks for a bottle of water.” I pulled my hand back instinctively.

“Ten bucks?”

He nodded and moved to the large window, opening the curtain to allow the sun to enter the space. “Yep. Snacks are harsh too.”

Damn.

My gaze drifted back to the one bed covered in a red and gold comforter. It was large enough for the two of us, but still… It was awkward. Rebecca did reserve the rooms, Quinn.

His gaze came to me, and his jaw ticked. “What? Is something wrong?”

Wrong? Well… “Not exactly… It’s just there’s one bed and no couch.” Not that I needed to point that information out. He could see clearly for himself.

“And?”

“Well… I … um… You see…” I struggled for words.

Chuckling lightly, he found my uneasiness amusing. Tongue darting out to wet his lips, the man had no idea the things that image did to me. Improper thoughts of all the things he could do with said tongue raced through my mind.

Conner shrugged, completely unbothered by the situation we were presented with. “Don’t sweat it. We slept together in tents growing up. Won’t be any different than back then. Be like old times.”

Yeah, like old times, except we were both adults now, and it was only the two of us. Carrie and Drew wouldn’t be sharing our room or sleeping in the bed next to us. This was nowhere near the same as when we camped in our backyards as kids.

For one—neither of us smelled like bug spray. Two—he looked nothing like he did at say, twelve. Three—we were going to be sleeping in the same bed for the next week. Four—I didn’t know what my four was because I was suddenly distracted by him lifting his shirt over his head. Lord help me.

“Why don’t you order us a pizza or something. I’m going to grab a quick shower if you don’t mind.”

Oh hell, he was shirtless and in impeccable shape. The six-pack abs and the V that dipped down to his happy trail was making me all warm and fuzzy in places I didn’t need to be tingling at the moment. And boy was I ever tingling in all the right places but at the wrong time. All I could manage to do was nod. I was afraid if I opened my mouth, drool was going to drip down my flipping chin. I blinked and pulled myself together. I could handle this, couldn’t I? “What do you want on the pizza?”

“I’m not picky. Get whatever you like.” He disappeared into the bathroom, and I collapsed on the bed and sighed, hearing the water go on and thinking about him naked and wet inside the shower. A groan escaped me as I rolled over.

Reaching into the drawer of the nightstand, I pulled out some takeout menus. I wasn’t going to order from room service, at least not for pizza. Flipping through the stack, one caught my eye, and I pulled it out. Conner said to order what I wanted, so I went with my favorite on half, sausage and black olives and, if I recalled correctly, he was picky when we were kids and only liked pepperoni and banana peppers.

I called and placed the order just as my stomach growled. I threw in a couple of waters considering they were only three bucks at the pizza place as opposed to this damn room.

Rolling on my back, I stared at the popcorn ceiling thinking about what this week would bring. What kind of challenges could Rebecca come up with? That part made me a bit nervous. There was no telling what she’d do. Knowing her she crafted each one with torturing me in mind.

Minutes later the bathroom door opened, and Conner stepped out holding the corners of a towel at his hip, dangerously close to flashing me his package.

The man was trying to kill me. First there was him taking his shirt off, and now he was standing in front of me basically naked as the day he was born, looking too damn tempting. I guessed in his defense he thought nothing of it. Me, on the other hand, I was thinking all too much about it. I averted my eyes as he shifted, bending down to unzip his luggage and grab some clothes. I noted he wore boxer briefs. While this information wasn’t special, it was something new I learned about him.

“Food should be here in about fifteen minutes,” I told him, attempting to deter my dirty thoughts of ripping that damn towel from his grasp and licking the droplets of water from his chest as they rolled down his skin.

“Cool.” I watched him retreat to the bathroom and flipped the TV on, pressing the up button to find something to watch.

He returned wearing these gray sweatpants that dear God in Heaven showed the outline of his cock. Him in those sweats should have been illegal. Surely if he posted that picture on Facebook, they’d ban him because Conner was seriously packing. And I knew for a fact he was not that big when we were growing up. I’d seen him in the bathroom once, surprising the hell out of him, but all he did was smile. My loving brother decided to blab to my mother, and I got in trouble for it, but it was totally worth it.

The bed dipped under his weight, and I prayed he hadn’t noticed me staring at his package. Arms crossed behind his head, he stretched out and crossed his ankles, looking comfortable as hell. “What are we watching?”

“You pick. I can’t find anything.”

“You’re not supposed to. It’s Vegas. They want you out on the town and in the casinos. Not sitting up in the room watching movies,” he said as I handed him the remote control. His thick fingers slid over my palm, and sparks flew across my skin. Face flushed and not wanting him to see, I scooted closer to the edge of the bed.

“I don’t bite, Q.”

“You sure about that? I remember you being a biter when you and Drew would wrestle, pretending to be on Monday Night Raw. You’d always bite him to win if I recall.”

“You didn’t let me finish.” He flicked through the channels, appearing to have as much luck as me. “I was saying, I don’t bite hard unless you ask me too.” My belly fluttered just as a knock sounded at our door.

I was saved by the pizza delivery man from having to respond to his remark. Was Conner flirting with me? Surely, I was reading more into this than what there was. He was just being Conner, and I’d always liked him.

I popped up to get the door, but he beat me to it. He was like a black panther full of grace and power as he moved. It almost detoured me from our current scenario.

“I’m paying, Conner!” I called out as he walked down the narrow hall.

“No,” was his response as I scurried from the bed and grabbed my wallet.

“Conner,” I argued as he opened the door, handed the man some bills, then shut the door.  “I can’t believe you just did that.”

“Believe it,” he muttered, walking past me and into the room.

“You could’ve at least let me pay for the tip.”

“Yeah. No to that too. A man pays; end of story.”

My stomach growled, needing food. “Whatever,” I grumbled. I sat cross legged on the bed and reached for the pizza box, grabbing a slice with a ton of black olives.

Some action movie played on the flat screen television, supplying background noise of explosions and gunfire.

“You remembered.” Conner motioned to the pizza, his eyes glued to me. A rush of the past swept through me. The times in his parents’ basement playing video games and being stupid, Conner, Drew, Carrie and me. All the while our parents were upstairs doing whatever they did. We didn’t pay much attention to them.

The laughter and teasing lasted through the night, even when we got into our sleeping bags for bed. We stayed up all hours no matter how many times our parents yelled at us to go to bed.

“Well, we’ve had pizza together so many times, it’s kind of one of those things that just sticks with you, ya know?”

“Yeah, I know.” He paused and grabbed a slice and took a bite, then replied, “So Drew’s really going through with this whole wedding thing?”

I shrugged. “You’re his best friend. You’d know better than I would.”

“Rebecca has done her best to keep me out of the loop. If you didn’t notice, my invitation to this shindig must’ve gotten lost.” There was a bit of disdain in his voice. Rebecca obviously didn’t have his stamp of approval. But, then again, neither did I.

“I can’t believe that bitch cut you out of the wedding, Conner. It’s not right. Drew should grow some damn balls and say something. If she’s like this now, just imagine how it will be if they have kids.”

He smirked. “You’re not a fan either then?”

My head shook as did my pizza, and my stomach growled once again. “I don’t know what he sees in her.”

“Love will make you do crazy things.”

“I guess so.” A moan escaped my lips as I bit into my slice of pizza. Holy hell, it was so damn good.

Conner’s brows shot up as his eyes penetrated me. “Orgasmic, huh?”

My face grew hot as I swallowed. “You could say that.” What he didn’t know was watching him eat his pizza shirtless was orgasmic to me. Almost better than sex, at least what I could remember of it. It had been over two years since this body had seen any action. I had dated off and on casually, but never anything overly serious that got anywhere.

“What about you? You settling down anytime soon? Any special woman in your life?” Quinn, you’re a moron. Why the hell did you ask that?

“Not yet, but I’m hoping the right woman will come along and change my ways.” Carrie told me over the years what his ‘ways’ were. He’d had more than enough women warming his bed, but he was smart and attractive. What woman wouldn’t fall head over heels just from his smile?

“Whoever she is, she’ll be lucky to have you.” And I’ll hate her. Not to be a jealous bitch or anything, but I knew whoever he ended up with wouldn’t deserve him. The thought of him settling for someone like Rebecca sent my teeth on edge.

“I’m surprised you’re still single. A catch like you.” He let out an exaggerated whistle, making me laugh. He was so far from the truth.

“I’ve dated, but none of those dates went anywhere. So I decided to hold out for Mr. Right. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he exists.” What I left out was my Mr. Right has never seen me as anything more than his little sister’s best friend. No matter the time apart, he’d always been my one. It was just some stupid silly childhood dream. We were grown now, and I really needed to move on.

“He’s out there, Quinn. Have a little faith.” He used Carrie’s words on me, making my lip tip.

“Maybe.” We finished up eating, and I sat the pizza box on the dresser. “Do you need in the bathroom before I get ready for bed? We’re supposed to meet early for breakfast.”

I was sure going to bed this early in Vegas was a sin—it was Sin City—but I loved my sleep. I was worn down from my day of travel.

“Go wild. I’m all set.” He kicked back with the remote, and I gathered my toiletries and pajamas, thanking God I picked the cami and short shorts. No way was I going to parade in front of him in a skimpy towel. Though, to be honest, I was tempted to see what type of reaction I could yield from him. My body wasn’t rail thin. There were curves that I loved, and I wondered what Conner thought of them.

The shower was half the size of the luxurious bathroom. They may not want you to stay in your room in Vegas, but they went all out for showers. It had three different showerheads. Turning it up full blast and stepping in, the warm spray glided over my skin. Head down, my hair fell all around me from the water. On my back side another spray was positioned perfectly.

Minutes. Hours. Days. Who knew how long I spent under the never-ending hot water spray. What I did know was when I stepped out, my body felt relaxed.

After drying my hair, moisturizing my face, and brushing my teeth, the exhaustion of the day had set into my bones.

Conner laid on the bed under the covers, the television going with Matt Damon in Borne Identity. I loved that movie.

I climbed into bed, resting my head on the pillow next to Conner.

“You smell so much better,” Conner teased and, without a thought, I lifted my hand and smacked him playfully on his.

“Shut it.”

Conner started laughing. It was deeper than I remembered. “Some things never change.”

He was right. Some things didn’t change, and for that I was grateful. Him being here felt good. Conner always made me feel safe. I always chocked that up to him being an older brother, but I was starting to wonder if that was simply a Conner thing.

Laying on my back, I stared at the television for a long while, my eyes starting to droop as the thoughts of earlier drifted through my head. The old lady stuck out like a sore thumb.  Guilt churned through my insides.

“Earlier I took a muffin from an old lady.”

I could feel Conner’s eyes on me, but I didn’t open mine as the fatigue started to claim me. “Yeah. I did. I woke up late because I didn’t charge my phone. Then I was a bitch to this little old lady who hit me several times with her cane, but I deserved every thwack. It was selfish and stupid. If I knew who the old lady was, I’d buy her a basket of muffins from the baker down the road from me and send them to her. They would be much better than the cardboard one I ate. But that’s what happens when you’re an ass—you get paid back tenfold.”

How my mouth kept rambling I didn’t know, but I was so tired it wouldn’t stop. “I’m not making excuses for myself. This wedding has set me on edge. It’s so close, and I thought Drew would pull his head out of his ass by now, but no. He still wants to go through with this. He’s going to be miserable with Becky. She’s going to dictate his life every step of the way. He’ll probably be forbidden to even talk to my parents or myself. And if they have kids, I doubt very highly their Aunty Quinn will be allowed anywhere near them except for maybe the shower when Becky would get a gift.”

I felt the bed shift but didn’t move.

“Everything is so jacked up. Becky won’t let my parents sit at the head table, but hers are. Then with the pictures, did you know she has three ushers. Two to seat guests and one to walk me up the aisle because I’m the only one in the wedding party who isn’t coupled up with a groomsman. How shitty is that?”

A yawn escaped. “And for the pictures this usher is to be by my side, so they don’t look wrong or awkward. Then at the head of the table the usher is by me as well, so the table doesn’t look uneven. I mean, why even take the time to have me in them if I’m such a burden? Why not just save all of us the headache of including me?”

A warm hand came to my arm, rubbing up and down. Slowly I felt myself fade into sleep, but not before I felt a strong leg brushing against mine.

Chapter 4

Conner

A GOOD MOOD IS LIKE A BALLOON, ONE PRICK IS ALL IT TAKES TO RUIN IT

 

Immediately upon waking, a smile curved across my face then quickly faded. My hands moved over my crotch where I was sporting a massive erection like I was fifteen again.

To my left, Quinn was stretched out like a purring kitty cat, sleeping so peacefully I almost hated to wake her.

Every bone in my body ached to reach out and touch her. Caress each inch of her exposed flesh.

Quinn was a natural beauty, never needing a drop of makeup. She’d always been that way; the full package, and she never saw it.

Not only were her features striking with full kissable lips shaped in a perfect cupid’s bow, with the bottom lip being plump and tempting. Her nose tipped just a bit at the end giving her a button nose effect. Adorable.

It was her eyes, though, that had always struck me. Even closed, I could see them clear as day in my mind. Those pale green olive eyes with amber around the edges were mesmerizing and always pulled me to her.

Her dark hair fell like a soft sheet across the pillow. It had always been long except for the one time in fourth grade when she thought cutting it short was the way to go. She never did it again. Her brother and I may have teased her relentlessly. I wasn’t sorry for it, not one bit. I loved getting a rise out of Quinn; even back then she was cute when she was pissed off.

Now she was temptation personified. The curves of her body as she laid on her side gave me a great view of her hips and just a hint of her breasts. The full globes had grown, and I ached to touch them. Touch her. Tease her, like she’d been doing to me for years.

I’d always been attracted to Quinn. That was never the problem. The timing always had been. First, she was too young and Drew’s baby sister. Those were two strikes right off the bat. Then there was always something or someone standing between us as we grew. College, boyfriends, girlfriends, work. You name it, it had been there.

But maybe this week could be different. We had this time together to see what could happen between us. I knew how I felt, how I’d always felt, but would she feel the same? I wanted to find out. Needed to find out.

While I didn’t want to wake her, I knew if we were late to this group breakfast shindig, Rebecca would throw a shit fit. It baffled my mind to see what the hell Drew saw in the woman other than some great tits.

Her attitude the past year left a lot to be desired in the personality department. Her core was rotten. No amount of great tits could account for that.

But Drew was one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I wanted to support his decision even if I didn’t agree with him. That was what best friends did. We’d always had each other’s backs through everything in life. Therefore, I’d be by his side for this too.

When my sister called telling me Quinn was in a bind, I couldn’t say no. A week in Las Vegas pretending to be her man. Hell yeah. No way I was passing this opportunity up. It was a once in a lifetime, and it was time. There had always been this undeniable connection between us. An unspoken one, but the chemistry had always been under the surface ready to combust. At least it always had been on my end. All these years later and that hadn’t changed one bit.

I didn’t need another shower, but I needed some serious tension release. My cock was so hard it was painful. Easing out of bed, I was careful not to disturb Quinn. She didn’t even stir. I’d forgotten this. How she was dead to the world when she slept. It made me conjure up all the ways I could wake her. My fingers itched to trail her curves and get a handful of that fine ass.

Fuck. Shower. Now.

Under the spray of the warm water, her curves kept running through my head. The dips and swells of her breasts peeking out from the top of that barely there tank. I fisted my cock roughly as thoughts of Quinn on her knees swept over me. Her sweet lips parting to wrap around the head of my eager cock. Her eyes looking up at me with mischief as she swallowed me down that sexy mouth of hers.

Stroke by stroke images of Quinn flashed. I wanted her. I wanted Quinn badly.

My imagination painted pretty fantasies where Quinn was the star, giving in to my every desire.

I stroked and pumped my length harder, thinking of how good she’d feel. How tight her pussy would be around me, squeezing every drop from me. It didn’t take much for me to work up to my release as it ran down the drain.

I thought it’d make me feel better, but it only made me crave her more. This might kill me.

After putting some clothes on and taking one last lingering look at Quinn, it was time to wake her. How I really wanted to wasn’t in the cards just yet, but touching her was.

I brushed her hair from her neck, trailing my finger along her clavicle and watching small goose bumps rise from her skin. “Wake up, sleepyhead.”

Smacking at my touch, she growled out in a feral tone, “Leave me alone.” Quinn sure was a grouch first thing in the morning. Some things never changed. All it did was make me smile.

“Time for breakfast, unless you want to go like this. Not that I’d mind.” I twirled her silky hair around my finger and gave it a soft yank. The swells of her breasts peeked out from under the pale pink tank top she had slept in. They bounced with her movement as she wriggled away from me, snuggling deeper into the covers. It only made my damn cock hard again.

“Better get a move on, buttercup.” I continued to poke and tease, but also give her caresses as well. What I really wanted was to crawl under those covers with her and bury my tongue between her thighs for breakfast until she screamed, and then make her scream again.

“Have you always been this annoying?” she grumbled and rolled out of bed, killing any thoughts of us acting out the fantasy I was currently daydreaming of experiencing.

“No more than usual.” I stared at her sweet ass as she strutted toward the bathroom, nearly hypnotizing me with the sway of her hips. Damn, she had a fine ass that just begged for me to grab, pinch, and slap it.

The thing was, she didn’t even realize she was all that. It made her even more so, at least in my eyes.

**

The hotel restaurant was brimming with people as we were led into a private room where breakfast was set up buffet style. Drew was in a discussion with one of the groomsmen which was unfortunate because it was Rebecca who came up to us first.

“Conner, I didn’t know you’d be coming?” she said with that fake ass voice. Her eyes gave her away, though. She hated my being there which in turn brought me pleasure.

“Yep.”

Drew came up to us, a worried look on his face. He held out his hand to me. “Conner? You’re here with my sister?” Yeah, he was in shock.

I swung my arm around Quinn’s shoulder. “Yes. Isn’t she beautiful?”

Rebecca scoffed and grabbed Drew’s arm, officially cutting off our conversation. “Okay, let me introduce you really quick.” Rebecca did this by pointing to people and telling me their names, not actually introducing me to any of them. Quinn was stiff at my side. At the small of her back, I rubbed my thumb up and down and felt her take a sharp intake of breath.

“Okay, eat,” Rebecca decreed, and I was relieved. If I could get through this week without telling Rebecca off, it would be a miracle.

Quinn and I grabbed our plates and got in line with one of the other couples. Carley, as Rebecca introduced as her as a co-worker, and her boyfriend Joe were bickering in front of us about the menu not being vegan or some shit.

I loaded my plate with bacon, eggs, pancakes, and sausage. Quinn had cereal with fruit and yogurt on the side along with some toast. I didn’t know why she didn’t grab herself some bacon. I put extra on my plate because I knew once we sat down, she’d swipe mine. She used to drive me crazy when she’d pull that crap at breakfast during her sleepovers with Carrie. Now it was a fond memory. Who would’ve thought bacon swiping would become a fond memory? Not me, that was for sure.

I took my seat next to Bruce, who was Laura’s husband. Laura was Rebecca’s cousin. Good ol’ Bruce reeked of liquor and appeared haggard. He must’ve tied one last night. The only thing in front of him was a cup of black coffee. With the looks his wife was giving him from across the room, I was willing to bet Bruce was in the doghouse already.

The moment Quinn sat next to me Rebecca didn’t waste another moment in spilling her joy *cough* around. I dug into my food.

“Good morning, everyone. I’m so thrilled you’re all here with us to share in this joyous occasion. And give yourselves a hand that you were all punctual.” She quietly clapped her hands together in applause. Such a bitch.

I heard Quinn clear her throat beside me, making me smile into my eggs just as she reached over and snatched a piece of my bacon. Damn, I missed that.

“I love all of you and can’t wait to put your love to the test along with our own. Each day this week we will have time together as a group, then you will be assigned your challenge for the day. At the end of the week we have a final challenge, and the couple who wins gets a gift from us.” Glancing at the other couples, she smirked. “I look forward to participating in each of your weddings, well except for Quinn naturally, and well Bruce and Laura are already hitched.” Rebecca’s gaze centered in on me and Quinn as I felt Quinn’s body stiffen. “It was so kind of you to step in and take one for the team, Conner. I know Quinn’s Andrew’s little sister, and you felt obligated to be her date this week. Such a gentleman.”

I felt Quinn go rigid as a statue next to me. Hurt and anger radiated off her in waves. You could feel it in the air of the room. I draped my arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close to my chest. Quinn came with ease, her mind otherwise occupied. “No thanks needed. I believe you’re mistaken, though. I am not a volunteer. I’m completely smitten with my girl here.” I leaned into Quinn, kissing her temple and smelling her hair. It smelled tropical, like coconuts and mangoes.

“I’m sorry, man,” Andrew started trying to apologize for his bitch of a woman, but I cut him off. I wasn’t going to allow anyone to make Quinn feel like shit for being single. There was nothing wrong with not having a man. For me, I was damn glad she wasn’t with anyone. So fuck Rebecca.

My hand went up. “No need to apologize, Drew. Your woman had no idea we were together. I asked Quinn to keep it hush hush, not wanting to overshadow your excitement with our news.” I lied through my teeth with a smile and loved every second of it. “You know me, and how I’ve always cared about your sister. I wasn’t about to let Quinn bring anyone to Vegas who wasn’t me. Now let the games begin because my girl and I are going to hands down win.”

Rebecca narrowed her eyes on us like she was trying to piece together whether or not I was telling the truth, but before she could poke and prod, Daniel, another member of the wedding party, said, “Right on. Let the shenanigans begin, but Paula and I got this in the bag. Don’t we, sweetheart?”

“Yeah we do.” The redhead squeezed his bicep, smiling cattily up at him. Shit, were all of Rebecca’s friends raging bitches?

I looked at Quinn and rolled my eyes to the heavens. No way anyone was beating us. This competition was all ours.

“Thanks for that,” she whispered, looking at the floor.

“Hey…” I tilted her chin up, meeting her gaze. “She’s a bitch. Don’t let her get to you. She’s nothing. We’re going to have fun this week. That I promise.”

“Okay.” Momentarily she appeared unsure of herself, and I wrapped my arms around her and kissed the top of her head. It only took a second before Quinn’s arms came around me, and she melted into my body. That felt good. I liked the feel of her giving herself to me too much.

“Oh, make sure you look your best for today’s challenge. Dress to impress,” Rebeca announced snottily. I shook my head and saw Drew staring at his shoes, hands in his pockets. For a guy who was supposedly marrying the love of his life he didn’t appear very happy. Loved Drew, but he knew my feelings about Rebecca; we’d talked many times about it. There was nothing more I could do for him. He’d have to figure this life out on his own. Quinn was my priority.

Leaning into her ear, I whispered, “Want to get out of here for a bit?”

She pulled back a touch, giving me those green eyes. “Why, what are you up to?”

“Let’s do some damage with this.” I pulled out my credit card, holding it up between my two fingers. “You need a new dress for today, and I need something to wear because I didn’t bring anything fancy.”

“Conner, you’re not paying for my dress.”

My arms gave her a squeeze. “I’m afraid you don’t get a say in the matter. Didn’t you pay attention? It’s gentleman’s choice.”

A smile played at her lips. “You just made that up.”

“Maybe … maybe not. You gonna go talk to Rebecca and find out?”

“You’re impossible.” She might have said those words, but the grin gave her away.

“Humor me, Quinn.”

“Fine.”

Lacing my fingers with hers, I led her to the exit and found us a cab. We both needed a break, and who better to spend it with but each other. A bonus was getting to watch her model the dresses I picked out.

 

Chapter 5

Conner

I PREFER STRIP POKER. EITHER WAY YOU’RE A WINNER

 

At seven pm, our group was escorted to a private game room above the casino floor. Red carpet, champagne, and appetizers greeted us along with specialized wait staff.

Everyone was dressed to the nines, but no one appeared more beautiful than Quinn. Dressed in a red satin gown with a heart shaped strapless top, it wrapped around and accented her curves, then flared at the bottom giving the illusion she was a mermaid; she was a vision to behold. Her silky dark hair fanned across her shoulders in loose waves hitting mid back. She was utterly breathtaking.

Even Rebecca smiled when she saw her and, lucky for us, she kept her mouth shut, not ruining the moment. Maybe Drew gave her a volume before bringing her down. We could only be that lucky.

We had a few drinks and finger foods, mingling while we waited for our dinner table. Quinn and I stayed side by side, holding hands and being close most of the time. For me, I liked her exactly where she was. When she took off into the room, I missed her instantly and kept my pulse on her as she moved.

I chatted with Joe, Carley’s live-in boyfriend, who was an outdoorsman like myself. By day I was a website developer, but in my free time I loved getting out and hiking in Buffalo Park, exploring Mother Nature.

“Next time you get a group together for Walnut Canyon hit me up,” Joe said as Carley sidled up to him, but instead of eyes for him, they were on me. The woman was warm as honey with me, and no way in hell was I interested. There was only one woman in this room I cared about. Only one woman I wanted.

“Sure thing.”

“Honey, that’s a bit advanced for you,” Carley said with a laugh sliding herself into Rebecca bitch face territory in a flash. No man wanted to be talked down to, especially in front of people he just met.

“I can handle it.” He flexed his spaghetti noodle thin arms on a grin, obviously thinking Carley was cute. To each their own.

I ignored the entire exchange between them. It was one fire I did not want to be a part of.

My eyes never left Quinn. She lit up the entire room with her smile. My heart squeezed tight in my chest as I watched her make her rounds, putting forth her best effort to be kind to her future sister-in-law, although Rebecca didn’t deserve it. The way she treated Quinn pissed me off. Someone needed to put her in her place.

But Quinn was trying, and only when her brother wrapped her up tight did I see how she was holding her body because it relaxed into Drew. She was on edge, and I hated that for her. She shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around these people.

“Excuse me,” Rebecca called out, getting all our attention. “Tonight is our first couples challenge!” She clapped her hands together, a wide smile on her snake face. “The stakes are high in this game of poker. Instead of strip poker, we’re playing kissing poker. Your lip-locking skills will be put to the test as well as communication and your card skills. With every round lost the stakes get higher, and each kiss must be more passionate and sexier than the last.”

Well, this was going to be interesting.

“Time to eat. Everyone, grab your seat. Then the games will begin!”

I moved to Quinn and grabbed her hand, lacing our fingers together and leading her to the table. Pulling out her chair, her round ass sat in it making my dick stir again.

Dinner was served, and my hard-on didn’t recede. Seared salmon, steamed veggies, bread, and a salad were all placed in front of us by waiters dressed in black suits.

I sat to the left of Drew with Quinn on the other side of me.

Conversation flowed well with Drew, with Quinn butting in and adding pieces to the different stories we discussed. Quinn was having a good time judging by the amount of times she laughed out loud. Only thing missing was Carrie. Then it’d been like old times.

Rebecca didn’t find anything funny and even commented, “That was in the past. Let’s leave it there.”

We ignored her, even Drew, as we continued. “I’ll never forget Carrie’s face when you jerks put frogs in our sleeping bags.”

Drew’s face perked up at the memory. “Carrie squealed so loud I thought she’d peed her pants.” He chuckled and took a hearty sip of his drink while Rebecca scowled.


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