Read an Excerpt
Wife for the Weekend
A Sugar City Novel
By Ophelia London, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Mary A. Smith
All rights reserved.
To say the line was "out the door" wasn't correct, since the door in question led to the tarmac and was definitely not headed that way.
If Jules had taken that course at the Mystic Center on how to read lips, she'd at least know what was going on. The outlook was pretty grim, though, due to the combination of the late hour, the electrical storm lighting up the runway, and the intuitive loathing in her stomach that had nothing to do with the long line.
The last flight out of Las Vegas was going to be canceled.
Jules cinched her beaded carry-on over one shoulder when it looked like the line was about to move, all the while eyeing the first customer at the airline's counter. He did not look happy. But, hello? Were any of the other fifty would-be passengers in line overjoyed?
No one seemed as worked up and stressed out as the guy in the dark blue suit. He pounded a fist on the counter. Sheesh, even the back of his neck look tense.
What he needed was a good massage, full body, classic Swedish. Maybe she should slip him her business card and tell him to come see her when he came back to Vegas. Whoops. After giving her notice at the spa last week, she didn't have cards anymore.
Anyway, Jules didn't want to think about work or the potentially canceled flight or where she was supposed to be flying tonight.
Instead, she simply closed her eyes and breathed, allowing her brain to drift to another place ... full of golden retriever puppies and wind chimes and never-ending blank canvases waiting to be covered in thick brushstrokes.
Nothing could be done about the delay. Not even shouting and pounding fists could stop Mother Nature from being a meanie. At least Jules lived in Vegas and could turn around and go home. Surely they'd put her on the first Pennsylvania-bound flight in the morning.
Blue Suit said something gruff to the airline attendant, then gestured to the length of the line. No need to get agitated, sunshine. Take a breath and find your happy place. The guy ran a hand through his hair, picked up his slick leather carry-on, and stepped to the side.
A second later, Flight 3318: Canceled flashed in bold red across the screen.
In unison, the line groaned. The attendant got on the loudspeaker and said the airline was automatically rebooking the passengers individually online, and they would receive an email within the next hour about tomorrow's flights.
Another group groan, though Jules was just a tiny bit relieved.
Until guilt struck.
The canceled flight was only prolonging the inevitable. She'd eventually jet to Harrisburg, then grab a bus to Hershey. One side of her brain looked forward to returning to her summer stomping grounds, though it was coupled with sadness — Grams wouldn't be there this time. Not to mention Jules would have to deal with that semi-huge, ridiculous clause in Grams's will ...
The other side of her brain was surprised by how much she was dreading the trip.
If only she were the type of girl to drink away her problems. But ever since that night in ninth grade when she and her best friend, Kate, had sneaked shots from Kate's parents' liquor cabinet, Jules and alcohol never really got along.
Wedding parties were her thing, though. Despite how she wasn't a fan of the whole "till death do us part" crap, she loved them, all the color and flowers and sparkles and smiles. It wasn't like she was hung up on Vince or anything. They'd dated one summer when they'd been fifteen, and that was eight years ago.
It was her yearly summer trips to Hershey to visit Grams that had kept them so tight over the years. And she loved Vince — as a friend. His fiancée was even cool, and very suited to marry into the über-rich, finely pressed Elliott family.
Shouldn't she be excited to celebrate their marriage?
Marriage. Ugh. Whatever. Not only had her best friend just gotten divorced, but Jules's own parents split up right after she was born, and her mother had remarried three times before she died. For many reasons, Jules was far from gaga over the conventional institution.
At the conclusion of the airline agent's announcement, the people in line began drifting away. Jules was about to join when she was nearly run over.
"Ow." She gasped, moving to rub her shoulder where she'd been bashed. But somehow — midbash — the arm of the other person slid between her arm and the strap of her carry-on, tangling them together. As she tried to pull back, her purse strap joined the tangling party.
"Pardon me," her assailant said, now trying to disentangle himself from her by something close to a complicated swing dance move. "Sorry — wait, this way."
It was the guy in the blue suit, the one with the attitude. When he lifted his arm and tried to lead her under it, Jules glanced at his lowered head. Nice hair, dark and with curls, probably hints of auburn under natural sunlight. A way more conservative cut than she preferred, but not tragic.
He exhaled a low laugh, thankfully not as frustrated as he'd been at the counter. And what was that mouthwatering aftershave, for heaven's sake? He smelled how she imagined George Clooney would.
"Hold on," Jules said, when it seemed Clooney Blue Suit was making their predicament worse. "Let me just ..." She released her grip on her purse and carry-on, and they immediately dropped to the floor.
But she still wasn't free from Clooney Blue Suit, since his jacket button had snagged the bodice of her peasant top, twining them together — front to front.
"Don't move," he said.
Like she could or would. This was her favorite shirt and she wouldn't let a designer suit ruin it, even one that smelled like Cloonz. He moved a hand between their bodies, and when his finger expertly looped around the knotted fringe, it touched skin, causing her breath to catch. Was he trying to cop a feel on the sly or be a gentleman?
"Almost ... got it ..." he said.
Since Jules didn't reach five three, he was nearly a head taller, and she inconspicuously lifted her eyes to see a chin speckled with a twelve o'clock shadow. When she realized she'd been holding her breath, she was forced to take in a deep inhale, helplessly aware that the front of her low-cut shirt strained extra tight, and that the guy could probably see directly into cleavage.
Don't think about it, don't think about it, she inwardly chanted. It was an accident and most likely the guy isn't an airport creeper. Although it did seem to be taking an awfully long time for him to undo the snag.
"I have scissors in my —"
"There!" he said, then blew out a breath. As he stepped back, Jules almost swayed forward to follow him, a bit off balance. "I'm so sorry about that," he added, stooping to pick up her bags. "I was trying to figure out what to do about my flight, and wasn't looking where I was going."
"No harm done. Have a good night. Namaste." She reached out to take her purse from him. When she tried to pull it back, it wouldn't move because he was holding it in place.
Clooney Blue Suit was staring down at her. His eyes were blue, with the longest lashes she'd ever seen. When he blinked and a notch formed between his eyes, he totally reminded her of ... someone.
She almost said, "Vince?"
It couldn't be him, though. Her childhood ex was in Hershey preparing to get married. But the canceled flight they'd both been booked for was going to Harrisburg, right across the river from Hershey.
"Isn't that your name?"
Jules nodded, still in a blank haze, but about to come out of it any second ...
"Oh. Hi," she said, after inspecting him from a different angle.
No, it wasn't Vince, but definitely one of his brothers. Which one? He had three, and they looked alike — dark-haired and chiseled and skyscraper tall. This was even the case when they'd all been kids.
She quickly ran each Elliott brother through her head. Wasn't Danny, Vince's twin. He had a scar on his eyebrow. Wasn't the oldest, Luke. He was built more like an NFL quarterback than the other brothers. That left ...
Jules considered his lingering hand on her tangled shirt fringe and knew exactly which brother this was.
"Dexter." She took a full step back, away from those handsy hands. "Hey."
"Hey." He motioned to the gate. "You were on this flight, too?"
She nodded. "Sucks that it's canceled."
"I know." He ran a hand through his hair. It was really rather nice, despite the unadventurous cut. "You're going to the wedding?"
The question was surprising. Though she and Vince hadn't been a couple for ages, everyone in his family knew they were friends. Jules knew this because she knew how close the Elliotts were. They were in and out of each other's personal lives like the characters on Friends. Jules never understood that. The only happy family memories she had were with Grams.
Now that was gone.
It wasn't that big families intimidated her; she'd just rather stay free and do her own thing.
"Of course I'm going to the wedding," she replied. "Why wouldn't I?"
Dexter loosened the knot of his gray-and-black-striped tie. "Strange you'd come to your ex's wedding." He shrugged. "I think we even had a bet going about it at one point."
"Hmm." Jules knew about the betting, too. The Elliott siblings were always daring each other to do crazy stuff. Even Roxy, the only daughter in the family, was into it. Jules recalled when Roxy lost a bet and had to hitchhike home from a party in Philly.
Again, Jules didn't get that kind of family dynamics, but it worked for the Elliotts, and what did she know about non-dysfunctional families, anyway?
"Looks like we're stuck here for a while," Dexter said, glancing around the airport as the place emptied out.
"Not me. I live here."
He slid his hands in his pants pockets. "That's right."
His "that's right" wasn't because he actually knew her, but because of the Friends relationship. In fact, it had been years since she and Dexter had seen each other. Which was fine — they'd never meshed. He was all stiff and analytical, bored her to tears. Right after high school, he'd moved to Manhattan for college and to work in the family's tech business. Vince was always making fun of his brother's power suits and high-roller business lunches.
The persona fit Dexter. He was born wearing a dark suit. Reincarnated Alex P. Keaton in the flesh.
There were other things about him that Jules knew. Starting from when she'd met him that first summer, eighteen-year-old Dexter Elliott already had a reputation for being a major serial dater. If the rumors were true — which they were! — his womanizing behavior had grown over the years.
Any woman involved with a known player like Dexter deserved what she got.
Jules never asked for that kind of hassle. Her life was about freedom and beauty, living your dreams, following your passions, no matter where they led. Personally, her dreams revolved around oils and watercolors, and painting whatever she wanted, wherever she wanted. Of course her favorite place to paint was on Grams's back deck facing the lake. It had better light than any studio she'd ever used. Since art didn't pay the bills, massage therapy was her fallback.
But she was done with the safety of a fallback.
"Do you have a car here?" Dexter asked.
"I took the bus."
He sighed and raked a hand up the back of his head. "Damn. Then we're both stuck."
Instead of answering, he gestured to the window, at the light show rivaling Independence Day. "The weather caused wrecks up and down the freeway," he said. "No buses, and apparently the taxi queue is more than an hour wait. I was on the phone before the cancelation was announced and not even the car services I use can make it out here until close to midnight."
"That's not for two hours."
He nodded. "I made a reservation, though. The first car available."
"Seriously?" She bit the inside of her cheek and tugged the fringe on her shirt. "How will I get home?"
"I can drop you off, if you don't mind waiting. Not that you have much choice. You can always sleep in the terminal."
They both let out a weary laugh. "Not when I have a nice bed at home."
Dexter glanced over his shoulder. "There's a Mexican restaurant by gate three. Open late and good service. We can wait it out there."
Skeptically, Jules took in his hair, his blue eyes, the tailored suit. Okay, she could see how some women fell for it. His basic looks weren't unappealing at all — to those other women.
"Sure. Why not?"
Dexter turned in that direction, reaching for her carry-on. Yeah, he might be a big old player, but at least he had good manners. When he bent to pick it up, Jules got a healthy eyeful of his butt. The guy could certainly fill out a suit like Clooney — he had that going for him, too. Add the amazing Elliott good looks and no wonder he was a lady-killer.
Good thing Jules was big-time against his type, right down to the suit and Bluetooth earpiece.
"Thanks," she said as they headed through the terminal.
They must've made a ridiculous pair. Dexter in tailored Armani and polished shoes strolling beside Jules in her fringy peasant top, flowy vintage skirt that hit the floor, and lace-up sandals. People probably thought he was her social worker.
This made her want to laugh. She didn't give a flip what other people thought. That was one of the first lessons Grams had taught her, and it completely saved Jules from becoming an insecure preteen bound for neurosis and low self-esteem.
One thing Grams hadn't taught her was how not to lose her independence when she fell in love. Even though it was more than three years ago, the memory of how she'd lost her identity, herself, by becoming so unhealthily entwined in someone else's life still haunted her. A rock-solid reminder to never let that happen again.
Even if that meant never falling in love. No long-term relationships — period ... to be on the safe side.
She loved her life and what she'd become. And she'd never lose that again over a man.
They didn't speak as they walked. Dexter was reading his phone, tapping the screen, adjusting the earpiece. All business, all day. When did he have time to be that notorious ladies' man?
Sure, he was hot — in the traditional, GQ magazine way. But except for the tangled fringe, he hadn't given her so much as an appraising look. She was a female, however, and judging from past experiences, she wasn't at all on the uninteresting-to-men side.
As an amateur student of the human psyche, Jules was curious about when he'd turn on his legendary, supposedly-panty-dropping charm.
"Here okay?" he asked as they got to the restaurant, gesturing toward two stools at the end of the bar. He waited for her to sit first, which was a nice gesture, but certainly not enough to make her start tearing his clothes off.
"Are you with the canceled flight?" the bartender asked, sliding coasters in front of them.
"Yes." Dexter dropped his carry-on and put his phone in his pocket.
"First round's on me, then."
"Round of what?" Jules asked.
The bartender was filling a pitcher with something green and foamy. It smelled strongly of citrus and something sharp. "A special for passengers who really need it," he replied. "I call it the Vegas Sunrise. Takes the edge off, smooths the corners. I should start charging the airlines for it."
"Sounds perfect," Dexter said with a sigh. He probably did need a massage, and definitely needed a drink more than she did. But she'd sip to be polite.
The bartender filled two glasses and pushed them across the bar. "Tell me what you think. I'm Shoopy," he said, leaving to help another customer.
"Your name is Shoopy?" Dexter said under his breath, then winked at Jules.
"My neighbor had a hamster named Shoopy," she replied, her voice just as low. "It died a horrible death during a Vegas sunrise. I'm sure that's just a coincidence."
They laughed quietly, then Jules turned to her drink, sniffing it suspiciously. She couldn't detect any alcohol besides rum, but she'd seen the bartender add shots from miscellaneous bottles.
Excerpted from Wife for the Weekend by Ophelia London, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2016 Mary A. Smith. 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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