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Luck of the Draw
A Shamrock Falls Novel
By Kelley Vitollo, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Kelley Vitollo
All rights reserved.
Rowan McKinley felt like she was in a really bad movie. She sat at the bar of a hotel in Vegas, practically crying into her drink because she was lonely — because one of her three brothers who rarely made it home to Shamrock Falls to see her was also currently in Sin City, but he was too busy to make time for his little sister.
Ridiculous? Yes. She knew that. Rowan was here because she'd finally achieved her dream of opening her own bed and breakfast, yet she couldn't stop dwelling on the fact that she was alone. That her parents had passed away and her brothers still didn't have time for her. That she was jealous of her two best friends in the world, Sidney and Kade, who had finally admitted a few months ago that they were in love after years of separation. Rowan was so happy for them. But she wanted that too.
"Is this seat taken?" An ultra-smooth, masculine voice spoke from behind her.
Rowan turned around, and her breath caught in her throat at the bright blue eyes that gazed at her. The guy had black hair about two inches long and a shadow on his face that said he hadn't shaved today, but it only added to his charm. He grinned at her, a half grin with a dimple underneath it.
Trouble with a capital T. And she wasn't in the mood for trouble.
"Cat got your tongue?" he asked, his grin disappearing.
Rowan laughed; she couldn't help it. What a cheesy line. "Please don't tell me that actually works on women."
She could have sworn she saw a twitch of his smile return.
"What? I'm crushed. You think that's a line?" Mr. Smooth sat down. "I must not be doing something right."
"Do you need me to write you a list?" If he were going to make himself comfortable with her, he'd have to deal with her mood.
To her surprise he let out a loud laugh. It was a contagious kind of chuckle that made her turn away so she didn't join him. She didn't feel like laughing.
He leaned closer to her. "Do you realize you just did what no other woman has been able to do before?"
Rowan cocked her head, trying to figure out what he meant. "Which is?"
"Shut me down. Ignore my advances. Take your choice."
This made Rowan look at him again and roll her eyes. Of all the conceited things in the world he could say. Las Vegas men were too much for her. "You have issues."
"But you're smiling. You weren't smiling before. You should be glad I broke my rule tonight."
She didn't know what rule he was talking about, but she realized he was right. As much as she didn't want to, she was smiling. And it felt good.
"I am not doing that!" Rowan leaned back on her barstool and crossed her arms. What kind of man asked a woman to try and tie a cherry stem with her tongue? Something like that couldn't lead to anywhere good.
"Chicken?" He mocked her same pose, leaning back, arms crossed, the only difference being the smirk on his lips. The man grinned more than anyone she'd ever met. Probably because he hadn't once been serious about anything in the couple hours they'd been talking.
"I'm not chicken. Or twelve. You're not going to get me that way." She reached over, grabbed her Shirley Temple off the bar, and took a drink. It wasn't until she set it back down that she realized she'd bragged about not being a child while clearly drinking a child's drink.
Luckily, Wilder (what kind of name was that?) didn't call her on it. "I think you are. You're scared, you big chicken." His eyebrows rose as he also took a drink.
"What would I have to be scared of?"
"That you can't do it. That you'll look silly trying ... or that it'll be sexy ... "
Rowan chose to ignore the sexy comment. She didn't want to get into a flirting match with this man — especially because she had a feeling he did it often.
"What did you say you do again?" she asked.
He cocked one of his eyebrows, telling her he knew what she was up to. "I told you, I'm a gambling man. So you just opened your own bed and breakfast, right? And you're in Las Vegas for a hospitality trade show?"
"Yes, I already told you that. Smooth move on the subject change, though."
"You're good." He winked. "And I'm pretty sure you're the one who changed the subject first."
"I don't get why you want me to do it so badly. And like I told you before, I'm not falling for any games. If you're looking for a woman to take up to your room, you're looking in the wrong place."
"Hey!" Wilder held his hands in the air. She highly doubted he was as innocent as he wanted her to think he was. "I'm being very good. I've sat here with you for three hours and I haven't hit on you once."
Rowan raised an eyebrow. "What about the sexy comment?" She couldn't believe it, but she was actually fighting back a smile. This guy drove her crazy, but he had this infectious sort of energy that she hadn't realized she'd been craving until now.
"Okay, so I've hit on you a few times, but all in good fun. I'll have you know, I've turned over a new leaf. That rule I told you about? It states no women. I'd tell you why, but it's classified information."
They both laughed. With it, some of the tension eased out of her.
The fact was, she could tie a cherry stem with her tongue — very well. She'd used the skill to tease men before, but this was different. This guy had ladies man written all over him and the last thing she needed was to get involved with someone like that — even if she never had to see him again. And even though he was way too gorgeous. "I want to see you tie a cherry stem with your tongue!" Ha. Take that.
Wilder plucked the cherry right from her glass and Rowan gasped. She didn't know why it shocked her so much.
"I thought you'd never ask." He winked. "See? I'm not a chicken."
Laughter climbed up her throat. She'd never heard an adult man call someone chicken so much in her life. And then, she didn't know why she did it, but she grabbed his arm. "Wait. Don't you dare! I bet I can tie mine faster than you can tie yours." Her challenge didn't even seem to surprise Wilder, but she'd show him when she beat him. Who cared if she played right into his hand? Rowan never would have thought it, but she was actually enjoying the game.
The waitress approached and Rowan turned to her. "Can we have a bowl of cherries?"
"A bowl?" The blond woman looked a bit shocked.
The waitress shook her head, but a grin peeked through, and sure enough, she came back a few seconds later with a bowl of cherries. Now Rowan just had to hope she could still do it. She hadn't tried in years.
"On the count of three?" Wilder asked. He tried to pop the stem in his mouth, but she stopped him with a hand on his leg. Warmth shot up her arm at the simple touch, making Rowan jerk back. Definitely not the kind of reaction she needed to have right now.
"Um ... wait. Count to three, then pop the stem in your mouth, and we tie."
"One," Wilder said.
"Two," she continued.
He smiled. A gorgeous kind of smile that made her believe he really did get exactly what he wanted with women.
"Three," he finished. She tossed the stem in her mouth and tied, feeling lighter than she had in a long time.
Rowan's stomach hurt from laughing so hard. But she had an undefeated record and that's all she cared about.
Another hour passed and with it, weariness seeped in. Rowan yawned. She couldn't believe she'd sat here with this guy the whole night and forgotten about everything else, even her brother. Still, it was time to go home tomorrow. Time to get back to her life and forget about a flirtatious ladies man she met in Vegas.
"It's been fun, but I'm exhausted. It was very nice meeting you, Wilder." Rowan stood and held out her hand. A little pang of regret hit her. She'd had fun tonight and didn't want it to end.
Wilder's hand was large and warm when he grabbed hers, and he shook strongly before standing as well.
"I'm going to head up too. We'll share an elevator."
"I'm going to my room and you to yours," she reiterated. To him, herself, or both of them, she didn't know. The confusion didn't sit very comfortably with her.
"That's quite a few comments you've made. You pretend it's me, but I think you're the conceited one," he teased.
She shook her head, that same lightness filling her up. She couldn't believe she'd started off the night with so much hurt.
They walked to the elevator, both hands going for the number twenty-two. Oh my God, she thought. Then, Why oh my God? Being on the same floor as him doesn't mean anything.
"Are you really on the twenty-second floor?" She'd sprung for a nice room. She deserved it, her first time in Las Vegas and all.
They rode up together, Rowan's heart beating like crazy the entire time. She actually jumped when the elevator dinged.
"After you," Wilder told her and she stepped out. His voice ran over her, through her, making her body do all sorts of happy, fluttery things that she didn't want to think about. God, was she attracted to this man.
They both stood there. And didn't move. Why wasn't she moving?
"It was nice meeting you." She smiled.
"You already said that." He wore a cocky smirk.
She didn't know who moved first, her or him, but suddenly their lips were smashed together. It wasn't a gentle kiss, but urgent, hungry, needy. She kept saying over and over in her head to stop, but her lips kept moving. Her hands kept feeling. It was amazing how she could feel a kiss all over. How it made her toes curl and pleasure run the length of her. Maybe even do a little dance step in between laps, too.
Wilder was backing up with his arms around her, kissing and pulling her down the hall.
She kept following. God, this man could kiss. His stubble rubbed against her face, creating a delicious friction. What am I doing? she wondered. This wasn't her.
But I don't want to stop.
She heard a door click. How in the hell had he opened the door without pulling away from her? That should have told her something right there. But still, she kept going.
Wilder didn't break the kiss and neither did Rowan. It was stupid, so very stupid, but she deserved a night of stupidity. A night of carefree fun that was just for her.
She was in bed with a man. A very naked man.
What was it with guys, anyway? Give a man an orgasm and he was down for the count. Did it really take that much out of them? In all the books she read or movies she saw there was always a round two or three. Obviously they called it fiction for a reason.
This is a good thing, she reminded herself. Rowan leapt from the bed and snatched her panties off a lampshade.
A freaking lampshade!
Tiptoeing around the room, she found her bra draped across the TV.
The fact that the man with whom she'd had the wildest sex of her limited experience (even if it was only once!) was passed out definitely sat in the "thank God" column. She couldn't imagine trying to talk to him after the things they'd done. Her cheeks warmed with the simple thought. Pulling her jeans from under the bed, Rowan jerked them on.
The worst part was, she couldn't even blame it on drinking.
She moved to the other side of the room. She needed her shirt. Where the hell was her shirt?
"Shoot!" Rowan's hand smacked over her mouth as the toe she just stubbed started to throb. Her eyes swept the bed where Wilder lay naked as the day he was born; he didn't even have the decency to cover up.
But he wasn't awake. Thank God he wasn't awake.
Rowan spotted red under the table. Her shirt!
She grabbed it, pulled it on. Still couldn't believe she'd slept with a guy she didn't know. That she'd let blue eyes and a sweet talkin' man weasel his way into her bed.
Okay ... maybe she was the one who ended up in his bed, but that was beside the point.
A condom wrapper crinkled under her foot as she padded to the door, making her wince. Yes, she'd really done this. Without even taking the time to find her shoes, Rowan snuck out of the hotel room, thanking God she'd never have to see Wilder again.
* * *
"Hey, Ace. You gonna win big tonight?" The bleach-blond woman attached herself to Breck Wilder's side. He'd never seen her before in his life, yet she gripped his hand as though they'd been surgically fastened together.
He bit back a groan. This wasn't anything new.
"Name's not Ace." Jesus, what was it with people who assumed that just because he played cards, he went by Ace? Or Deuce, Maverick, he'd heard them all before. Breck tried to pull free, but the chick wasn't letting go for anything. Before a big game, he didn't want any distractions. All that mattered was keeping his head on cards, his poker face intact, and he definitely steered clear of women for at least a week beforehand. Which obviously was hard to do, especially considering most of the time he didn't want to.
Scratch that. It used to be he didn't want to. Now — well, he couldn't stop thinking about a certain fiery redhead.
Regardless, even if he were game for whatever this woman had in mind, he wouldn't be doing it before he played. This was a pretty small tournament and should only last a few hours, but he took every game he participated in seriously. Sponsorship depended on it. Not that he played for them.
All that mattered was poker, the cards he was dealt and how he played them. It was the one thing he always had. No matter what he lost, no one could take his game away from him. And it made him feel alive, so if it took Breck concentrating on cards and cards only, that's what he would do, no matter how beautiful a woman was.
Except for a month ago ...
He pushed Rowan from his mind. She's walked out on him, so he damn sure wasn't going to dwell on her. Not that Breck dwelled on women anymore. Hell, he hadn't had anything to do with women for a couple months before her and now a month since. And things were going a whole lot better for him. If you didn't count Taylor, a woman he'd spent a bit of time with, and the fact that she stole his cat, Ace.
Okay, so Breck might not go by Ace, but he did use the name for his cat. It fit her, though.
Bright lights flashed around him, the scent of alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, and perspiration clung to the air, and he loved it. It represented something that was his.
"Are you busy after the tournament?" the woman asked — her eyes lit with the gleam that told him exactly what she had planned for their evening. Breck waited for it, that spike of his pulse or the stirring of desire. The woman was gorgeous and she wanted to have a good time with him. But it didn't come.
"No thanks. I'm always pretty tired after a tournament," he lied. He was usually primed and ready to go after he played — after he won.
The woman pouted and he gave her the smile he knew women loved. "I need to go. I have to get ready to play." She rolled her eyes at him and left.
It was better this way. One-night stands used to give him what he needed, but now they just left him cold and lonely, which made no sense. Couldn't help how he felt, though. The only other option was a relationship and he definitely didn't do those. Been there, done that, crashed and burned big time.
Breck pushed those thoughts aside. Everything else was forgotten except the one thing that had always been good to him. Poker.
Adrenaline pumped through Breck. They'd been playing for hours, but he didn't feel any of it. He simply eyed the other player, saw his brow twitch. This wasn't the first time it happened and every time it did, the guy had been bluffing.
In the bag, Breck thought. He paused, making the other man squirm before he laid it all on the table.
And took everything home, too.
It was in these moments that nothing else mattered. He was on top of the world — could do anything, and he damn sure enjoyed that.
Game over, all he wanted was to hit the sack, so he snuck out before his post-game interview. He'd hear it from his agent later, but right now he didn't care.
Stupidly, he'd made a stop in the bar for one beer before he went up to his room and now it was a struggle to get through the crowd. When he finally got the elevator to his floor, the second the doors opened and he stepped into the hall, he saw her. Not his redhead, Rowan. Hell, he wished it were her, though he didn't know why. Maybe because she didn't take his shit. She dished it right back, but in a fun, not psycho way — unlike the woman in front of him.
"Taylor. What are you doing here?"
"Who were you talking to before the game, Breck?" His ex crossed her arms.
"It's none of your business. Where's Ace?"
"Is she why you broke up with me?"
He sighed. "I don't even know that woman. Now tell me where my cat is." Taylor gave him a wicked smile.
Jesus. Why did this shit always happen to him? First Bailey — pain slammed into his chest. Even after all these years he couldn't handle thinking of when he lost her — which was exactly why he didn't let himself get close to another woman. Emotionally, at least.
And now this. He knew damn well Taylor didn't really care about him. She liked to win and she didn't like the fact that he'd been the one to tell her good-bye. It had been months since he dated her and yet when Ace came up missing, he knew exactly who it had been.
Excerpted from Luck of the Draw by Kelley Vitollo, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2013 Kelley Vitollo. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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