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It's the most irresistible gamble of all?
Bianca Wagner knows that love's just a fleeting fantasy on Vegas's dazzling and seductive strip. But hot new casino owner Tanner Long is quickly changing the jaded reporter's mind. Yet the high-flying bachelor isn't a man who plays for keeps?until one passionate rendezvous in London leaves Bianca with an unexpected gift.
Getting Bianca to say "I do" has become Tanner's life mission?especially now that ...
It's the most irresistible gamble of all
Bianca Wagner knows that love's just a fleeting fantasy on Vegas's dazzling and seductive strip. But hot new casino owner Tanner Long is quickly changing the jaded reporter's mind. Yet the high-flying bachelor isn't a man who plays for keeps until one passionate rendezvous in London leaves Bianca with an unexpected gift.
Getting Bianca to say "I do" has become Tanner's life mission especially now that he's going to be a father. But a misunderstanding has the potential to derail their relationship forever. What will it take for Tanner to convince Bianca that he's a changed man? That he's ready to wager everything for the chance to be a real family with the woman he loves .
Bianca Wagner felt exhausted, yet invigorated, when she got back to her two-story Spanish-style Las Vegas home on Tenaya Way after an early morning jog. She had just enough time to jump in the shower, grab a quick breakfast and head to work. It was a routine Bianca had perfected, along with spending long hours at home—often alone—and less time hanging out with friends. Admittedly, she would welcome the right male companion into the equation, but since that had been hard to come by of late, she chose to focus her attention elsewhere. Such as on maintaining her health at age thirty-three, both physically and mentally.
Bianca got dressed, put on her makeup and brushed her long blond hair with brown highlights. She grabbed a bagel and her travel coffee cup as she headed out the door and into her Subaru Legacy. She was an arts-andentertainment reporter with the Vegas Valley Happen- ings newspaper. She'd taken the assignment six months ago after previously being the crime-and-courts reporter. Though she missed covering criminality in Sin City, she loved reporting on the city's rich arts-andentertainment scene.
Suddenly Bianca's cell phone rang, interrupting her thoughts. She took a quick glance and saw that it was her sister, Madison. Smiling, Bianca turned on the speakerphone.
"Hey," Madison said cheerfully. "We just got back from a bike ride and I thought I'd give you a quick call."
Bianca considered the "we" in her sister's statement. That would be Madison and her husband of one year, Stuart. He had two lovely little twin daughters from a previous relationship, who often accompanied them on their bike rides.
Why can't I be so lucky to have a gorgeous guy who adores me with all his heart? Bianca asked herself.
"I appreciate the call," she told Madison. "But I'm on my way to work and the traffic is Well, you saw how it is when you and Stuart were here last year on your honeymoon."
"Oh, yes, I remember," Madison said. "Call me later?"
"I will. And give the girls a big kiss for me."
"Count on it," Madison promised.
Bianca disconnected. She focused on the road, but couldn't help but think that her younger sister seemed to have it all these days, which left Bianca to play catch-up.
Will I ever have everything Madison does? She could only hope. On the other hand, as a career-minded woman, would she ever truly be ready to take on the responsibilities of raising a family? Unlike Madison, maybe she simply wasn't cut out to be a mommy.
Turning onto South Las Vegas Boulevard toward downtown, Bianca thought about the latest big news to hit the city—the upcoming opening of the Aloha Seas Hotel and Casino on the Strip. From what she'd heard, it would be like visiting the tropical paradise of Maui, with gambling and other Vegas-style entertainments as added attractions. Having been to Hawaii a couple of times, she was looking forward to the resort's opening, both as a reporter and someone who couldn't get enough of the islands.
The Aloha Seas' principal owners were brothers, Tanner and Solomon Long. They were both handsome and seemed to alternate years being voted the most eligible bachelor in Las Vegas. From what Bianca had seen, they had beautiful women on their arms every other day as they enjoyed the perks of wealth, good looks and undeniable charm.
If that's how they prefer to get their kicks, that's their problem, she thought, while doubting either one saw it as a problem.
She had more worries than spending too much time thinking about spoiled, rich casino owners. For example, was she ever going to escape this traffic jam and get to work?
Tanner Long sat in the backseat of his limousine, talking on the phone to his brother, Solomon. As usual, they were at odds on how to do things, while trying to keep the peace as they took on their latest venture. This venture happened to be a very big one. There were only two days until the grand opening of Aloha Seas, the newest hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip. As the majority owners, they had pooled their resources and gotten the right investors to roll the dice, so to speak, on making this new casino a big success.
But seeing eye to eye on the details took patience on Tanner's part and seemingly more give than take, as he wanted this event to go without a hitch.
"You only have one grand opening, little brother," Tanner argued in his role as chief executive officer. "And that means we need to make a splash while the attention is squarely on us."
"I hear you," Solomon said sharply. "And I agree. But that doesn't mean we need to break the bank in the process. Cutting corners can be done without cutting the quality of the grand opening."
Tanner chuckled. It seemed as if they were just going around in circles. At thirty-six, he was a year older and maybe a few years wiser than his brother. Or so he tried to convince himself. But, then again, Solomon did have an MBA and was the chief operating officer. Tanner's degree was in hotel management with a minor in marketing. Rather than continue to bump heads, he gave in.
"All right, do whatever you think needs to be done—just don't screw this up."
"I won't," Solomon assured him. "I want this to work as much as you do, if not more."
"I know," Tanner conceded. Both had spent much of their lives trying to follow in the footsteps of their father, a very successful businessman. He and their mother would have been really proud to see just how much they had accomplished up to this point. I'm just glad they lived to see us receive our degrees and start building our legacy, Tanner thought.
Before he could cut the call short, the limousine suddenly shook violently and Tanner heard a loud thump as they came to a halt.
"What the hell " The words spewed from his mouth.
He heard something similar from his driver, Johan. "What's going on?" Solomon asked. "Looks like we've been in an accident," Tanner said irritably.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Tanner said. "Don't know if I can say the same about the limo, though. I'll call you back."
Tanner hung up. "What happened?" he asked Johan.
"The car ahead of me stopped suddenly. I slammed on the brakes, but couldn't slow down enough."
"Great! Just what I need," Tanner grumbled. He watched Johan open the driver's door and get out, then followed. Tanner stepped onto South Las Vegas Boulevard, jam-packed with vehicles that were now at a standstill, and made his way to the front of the limo. A cursory glance told him that the damage was relatively minor.
When he looked at the other vehicle, a red Subaru Legacy, it was clear that it had sustained the worst damage from the collision.
He watched as the Subaru's driver got out and approached him. "I'll handle this," he told Johan before turning his attention to the female driver. She was tall by female standards, though still about eight inches shorter than his six-foot-four frame. Her blond, brown streaked hair was long and wavy, and she had nice lips that were presently a crooked line, but that didn't stop him from finding her drop-dead gorgeous.
She gazed at her vehicle and then glared at him. "Look what you did to my car!"
"Actually, it was my driver," Tanner said humorlessly, glancing at Johan. "Technically speaking. Beyond that, you didn't exactly give him a choice with your sudden stop."
"I stopped because a car swerved into my lane," she snapped. "It would have hit me if hadn't slammed on the brakes. Maybe if your driver hadn't been riding my bumper for a couple of blocks, he would have had more time to react."
Johan furrowed his brow. "You're blaming me for this?"
She turned her brown eyes to him. "The damage speaks for itself."
Tanner got between them as if they were ready to come to blows. He looked ahead of her car and saw that traffic had begun to move again, including the careless driver who had apparently been responsible for this entire mess. He didn't doubt that she was telling the truth, knowing how crazy some of the drivers were in Vegas, but that didn't change their situation.
"Well, what's done is done," Tanner told the attractive woman.
"What about the damage to my car?" she asked tartly.
"Isn't that what your insurance is for?" Tanner asked.
"Yes, when it's my fault. Other than that, I'd rather not have to go through my insurance company, only to have my rates go up unfairly."
"I see." Tanner put a hand to his chin. Though there was no way of knowing who truly was at fault for the damage outside of the other driver, he decided to cut her some slack. But only because he was in a hurry and didn't want to drag this thing out any longer than necessary. Besides, a buddy of his owned an auto repair shop and owed him a favor. Now, with two cars that needed work, he would owe his friend a favor. "We'll take care of it, no problem. I can call for a tow to take your car to be repaired and give you a lift anywhere you like."
"Fine," she said with seeming reluctance, as though he planned to kidnap her in broad daylight.
"By the way, I'm Tanner Long and this is my driver, Johan."
Tanner took out his cell phone and met her eyes. This ought to be interesting, he thought. Maybe in more ways than one.
Bianca sat in the limousine, wondering if she would have been better off simply driving her car to the repair shop herself. But why should she? The rear end of her car was damaged, through no fault of her own, and Tanner Long was footing the bill to have it repaired.
She glanced at him as he sat next to her, checking her out. Pretending not to notice, she turned away. But the image of him was indelibly seared in her mind. After all, she'd seen him enough on television, the paper and online. In person, he was even more gorgeous, if that was even possible. Tall and trim, he was bald with chiseled features, gray-black eyes, a thin mustache and small chin beard. His business-casual attire was a perfect fit and suited him.
I'd love to ask him a few questions about himself and his business success, she thought, but I wouldn't want him to get any more conceited than he probably already is. Especially since she was vulnerable as his passenger and a car-accident victim, rather than being here in her professional capacity.
"Where are you from?" Tanner asked, as if strictly for conversation.
"Excuse me?" Bianca's eyes widened.
"It doesn't sound like you're from around here."
"What does my voice sound like to you?" She was curious, considering she believed she had no accent.
"It sounds sexy," Tanner said, a half grin playing on his lips. "Aside from that, I think I detected a slight Southern inflection there. Maybe from Texas, Georgia, or Alabama. Am I getting close?"
Too close, Bianca thought. "Actually, I'm from Houston," she confessed.
He smiled. "Houston's a great city. How long have you been in Vegas?"
"Awhile," she responded, deciding to turn the tables. "Where are you from?" She seemed to recall that she'd read he was from the East.
"New York," he said. "I loved it there, but my brother and I needed to chart our own territory, so we ended up here in Vegas."
"Good for you." Bianca paused thoughtfully. "And your brother is Solomon Long.?"
"Yeah, you know him?"
"Only of him—and you," she said tonelessly. "I read the papers."
"I see." Tanner sat back. "So are you a gambler?"
Bianca met his eyes. "Not really. I only like to bet on a sure thing."
He laughed. "Yeah. Me, too."
She colored under the weight of his stare, as though she were that "sure thing" in his mind. Or was she misreading him as a man who was used to getting who and what he wanted?
"Is that why you're opening up a casino?" she asked.
"Good question," Tanner said. "Actually, I do consider it a sure thing. People come from all over the world to Las Vegas to gamble, among other things. There's always room for one more place to spend and lose money."
"Aloha Seas," Bianca said.
"You've got it." He smiled. "If you'd like to come to the grand opening in two days, consider this an invitation."
"Thanks, but I'll be busy that day," she responded, knowing that another reporter had already been assigned to cover the event at the newspaper.
Tanner frowned. "Really? All day ?"
"Part of the day," she said truthfully.
"So spend the other part at the grand opening. It'll be fun, even for a nongambler."
Bianca didn't doubt that, even if she was sure he'd be far too busy as cohost to even notice her there. "I'll think about it."
"Fair enough," he said evenly.
"You can let me off here," Bianca instructed Johan.
He pulled up in front of the Owen-Knight Building.
Bianca looked at Tanner. "Thanks for the lift."
"Anytime," he said smoothly. "But hopefully next time it won't be because we ran into your car."
She smiled. "I agree. Speaking of."
"It may take a few days to get it repaired, but my man will take care of it. If you need a loaner or "
"I can wait. I'll take a cab until then." She certainly couldn't expect him to shepherd her around. Nor would she want him to. They exchanged contact information.
"Till we meet again," Tanner told her, as if it were written in stone.
Bianca wasn't so sure about that. Yes, she was definitely attracted to the man. Who wouldn't be? But that didn't mean she was eager to become another notch on his belt. That was, if he hadn't already lost count, she thought She watched as the limousine drove off. Her thoughts turned to the grand opening gala at Aloha Seas and the opportunity to see Tanner again in his element.
BET ON LOVE is an entertaining love story, set in Las Vegas. If you've ever been to this gambling mecca, you will love the atmosphere created in this novel, making you feel you're right in the center of the action and a passionate romance. Highly recommended, along with the author's wonderful romances, LOVE AT THE SEA BLUFFS LODGE and TO FIND THAT LOVE AGAIN.
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