Sin in a Stetson
For most women, going to a friend's bachelorette party in Vegas is the ultimate gals' weekend. Jessica Gainey is not most women. She's an introverted worrywart, and the Sunset Strip is not her idea of a good time. But it's rodeo weekend, and the town is crawling with seriously hot cowboys none more wickedly sexy than Aaron Weathers.
He's Texas. She's New York. Still, Jessica can't stop fantasizing about that ripped cowboy bod. So for one weekend, she throws caution to the wind to be a wild and daring version of herself before returning to a life where men can't be trusted and love is a four-letter word. Except that in Vegas, even the greatest odds can have unbelievableand thoroughly satisfyingpayouts!
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About the Author
Ali Olson is a longtime resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, where she has been teaching English at the high school and college level for the last seven years. Ali has found a passion for writing sexy romance novels, both contemporary and historical, and is enthusiastic about her newly discovered career. She loves reading, writing, and traveling with her husband and constant companion, Joe. She loves hearing from readers. Write to her at www.authoraliolson.com
Read an Excerpt
Jessica Gainey leaned against the window of the airplane, watching the ground as they slowly descended into Las Vegas. She'd been to the city before, but had never flown over it at night, when Vegas was a bright spot of lights and civilization surrounded on all sides by a sea of blackness. On every side, the desert hemmed in the oasis of streetlights and hotels.
Along the famous Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, she recognized some of the big casinos and icons like the Stratosphere and Luxor pyramid with its bright light shooting up into space and wondered at the changes in the constantly shifting city. There was a huge Ferris wheel lit up in bright colors. Since when did Vegas have a Ferris wheel?
As she continued to soak up the sight of the bright city, the plane touched down at McCarran Airport, which seemed to be right in the middle of it all. She settled back into her seat for the slow taxi to the terminal, closing her eyes and enjoying the last few moments before the insanity would begin.
The flight had been relatively quiet, since she'd purchased a coach ticket despite Cindy's willingness to pay the extra costs so she could sit in first class with the rest of the party. It had actually been a perfect time for her to get a little work done before the long weekend, which she was fairly sure would include out-of-control partying by the large group of former sorority sisters currently sitting together in the front of the plane. She was already exhausted at the idea and nothing had happened yet.
She pushed her worries away, turned on her phone's Wi-Fi, and quickly scanned her emails and texts. She knew there would be no messages from Russ, but she still hadn't broken the habit of looking for them. When they were together, he'd always write little love notes to her while she was flying, making her phone ping with joy when she turned it on after landing. It had been such a sweet gesture and she hadn't flown enough since then to adjust to its absence.
Those messages had caused the ending of their relationship, but she definitely didn't want to think about that. She'd spent enough time in the past few months reliving the moment when she opened his phone to see the exact wording of a recent text from Russ that she'd accidentally deleted, only to find messages to other women alongside hers.
Jessica breathed in deeply and tried to let go of those negative thoughts, but the memories of that day were still impossible to banish completely. The best she could do was ignore them and focus on more important things. The texts on her phone were all from her family now.
Her mom saying, "Your dad will be fine. Have fun!"
Her sister telling her, "Relax. I know you freak out. Don't freak out."
And finally one from her father. "Love you, Jess. Do something crazy for a change!"
As if that would happen.
She'd told herself to relax, make this a fun weekend, hundreds of times throughout the flight, but nothing would ever completely stop her anxiety. She always felt as though disaster would occur the minute she left the state.
This weekend was for Cindy, not her, and Cindy had done enough for her that she wasn't about to ruin this trip with all her negative thoughts. If Cindy hadn't taken her in and given her a place to stay, who knew where she would have lived the past three months? So here she was, in Las Vegas for her best friend's party, and she would try to enjoy it even if it killed her.
When the seat belt light turned off, Jessica grabbed her purse from beneath the seat, shoved herself into the crush of passengers waiting to get off and pulled down her carry-on bag. She could pretend to be a party girl for a few days and take a break from real life. She'd try, at least.
In the terminal, it was easy to find Cindy, since she was the only one surrounded by a small crowd of women in their midtwenties, all of whom were giggling like teenagers as they plastered Cindy with bachelorette paraphernalia, including a plastic tiara and a sash, all pink and covered in rhinestones.
Cindy smiled and struck a pose, the rhinestones catching the light. "How do I look?"
Jessica gave her a quick appraisal. "It's bachelorette-party chic, all right. You look like a woman who's going to be given a lot of free drinks."
Cindy looked ecstatic. "Perfect! Then let's get going!"
One woman in the party, a raven-haired beauty whose name Jessica couldn't for the life of her remember, piped up. "Before we hit baggage claim, I want to stop at the bathroom and fix my makeup. I'm sure I look awful."
As the other women assured their friend that she was beautiful and started to search out a bathroom, Jessica looked over the group . They all looked ready for a night on the town in their high heels and makeup and styled hair, still perfectly coiffed even after the long flight. She tugged at her long unruly hair, hoping it looked more or less acceptable. She thought of herself as decently pretty, but compared to them, she probably did look awful.
Jessica had known she would be an outsider as the only nonsorority sister there. She had hoped college was far enough in the past to make the difference less noticeable, but it was just as pronounced as it had ever been back then. She joined them, trying to make herself feel a part of this group.
The women trooped into the bathroom, but Cindy walked up to Jessica and wrapped an arm around her friend. "Thanks again for coming this weekend."
"It'll be fun."
Cindy snorted. "You're away from your family with a bunch of my sorority sisters in Las Vegas, where we'll be going to bars and clubs way past your bedtime. I think I know you well enough to say that this isn't your idea of fun. But thanks for coming anyway."
Jessica couldn't help smiling at that. Cindy knew her too well. "You make me sound like a grandma."
"Not a grandma, just a slightly agoraphobic, introverted worrywart."
"Because that's so much better?"
"Try to enjoy this weekend a little bit is all I'm saying."
Jessica looked at her friend, properly decorated for her weekend of debauchery, giving her begging eyes. Jessica did not want to be the reason Cindy wasn't happy on her big weekend. "I'll have fun, I promise. We're celebrating your wedding, after all. You only have two weeks left of the single life, so we better make the most of it."
"Thirteen days, seventeen hours and ten minutes, but who's counting?" Cindy said, grinning.
Jessica was happy her friend had found the love of her life. She really was. But that didn't stop her from feeling a twinge of jealousy. She wasn't anywhere close to that, and nothing made that stand out starker than her best friend's bliss.
The group reassembled and turned toward baggage claim, making their way through the maze of the airport. Jessica followed along, wheeling her small bag behind her, falling to the back of the crowd as they all chatted. For a few minutes, she tried to remember the names Cindy had thrown at her before they left.
"We have got the best weekend planned for you, Cindy. Just you wait!" gushed a gorgeous brunette. Alexis, probably. Jessica was pretty sure Cindy had mentioned an Alexis.
"It's going to be way better than that time we went to DC. There's no rain in Vegas," another woman said, and the rest agreed.
Jessica didn't know that woman's name, either, but she thought Cindy had told her something about her being in pageants. Miss New York and crazy titles like that. She was beautiful enough for it to be believable. In fact, they were all beautiful. What was the deal with that?
While she let her mind wander, the topic had drifted to their adventures in DC. Jessica didn't have any idea when that had happened. It must've been at some point during college, when she and Cindy drifted apart for a while. Cindy had done the sorority thing and the friends thing. Jessica had done the study and work-menial-jobs thing.
It struck Jessica that she and Cindy had led very different lives for quite a long time, and their circles of friends were incredibly different. Cindy was surrounded by laughing beautiful women who loved her. Jessica had Cindy, a few acquaintances and her family. Who on earth would be invited to her bachelorette party?
Not that she was anywhere close to getting married, and even if she was, she doubted she'd even have a party. Not her style. Still, the answer to that question was rather depressing. She tried to focus on anything else as she tagged along with the group.
People-watching was always something she enjoyed, inventing stories for the various individuals as they passed in and out of her life. It was a good way to quiet unpleasant thoughts. Jessica concentrated her attention on the groups of people arriving from around the country to spend a few days in this crazy city, wondering what their stories were.
As they walked through the airport, Jessica began to notice something odd. Not the people sitting at slot machinesthough those were unusual for any other airport, they only seemed fitting here. No, this was something she'd never expected to see in Sin City: there were cowboys. Like, a lot of them.
Had Vegas turned in its strip clubs and casinos for ranches and horses or something?
She sped up slightly so she could catch up to the brunettethe others called her Anna, not Alexis. "Do you know why it looks like we're on the film set of a spaghetti Western?"
"Oh yeah, there's supposed to be a rodeo in town. I saw it on the hotel websites. Apparently it's this big deal, like the World Series of Rodeos or something," Anna responded.
Jessica allowed herself to drift to the back of the group again. A rodeo in Vegas. What a strange concept.
As she walked, she continued to stare at the mob of cowboys. She just couldn't help herselfit was such an odd sight. Then her eyes landed on a muscled, sun-browned man with blond hair falling into his incredibly blue eyes. He was putting on his own cowboy hat as he left the gate of his just-arrived airplane only a few feet away from her. Jessica couldn't help staring at him, the epitome of strength and ruggedness.
He really did seem as if he should be in a Western film. He was more than just attractive; he was swoon-worthy, knight-in-shining-armor hot.
Then he looked right at her and their eyes locked. She'd been caught red-handed, practically drooling over him. She froze like a deer in headlights.
The glance lasted only a couple of seconds, but Jessica would have sworn it was far longer. The thrill of heat that rushed through her as the stranger met her eyes made her heart miss a beatand the heel of her shoe slip sideways.
Her attention rudely brought back to reality, she wobbled uncertainly for a moment, but managed to regain her balance instead of falling over completely. Her slightly twisted ankle sent a small jab of pain up her leg as she stepped down, angry at her inattention. She stepped on it more gingerly, glad her loose hair had fallen in front of her face and hidden the blush that came from realizing she'd been caught gawking at this stranger, and then nearly fallen over to top it all off.
"Are you okay?"
She looked up, praying it wasn't the handsome cowboy who had asked.
Of course, it was the handsome cowboy. And now he was even closer, practically touching her, with a smirk of amusement on his face. This couldn't get any worse. Adrenaline pumped through her, making her skin prickleor maybe that was just her reaction to the man standing in front of her, his eyes burning into hers.
Then his smile widened, as if she had made some sort of joke. Or been the butt of a joke. It was probably the latter, since nothing seemed amusing about this situation.
He raised his eyebrows. "So, you're okay?"
He'd been waiting for her to answer. And instead she had stared at him like an idiot. If the power to become invisible could be summoned through wishes, she would have disappeared.
She was still very much visible, though. Jessica looked down at her feet, hoping he thought she was examining her ankle, but mostly to keep herself from losing herself in his eyes again. "I'm fine," she squeaked, her voice an entire octave above normal.
Well, it was better than absolute silence, at any rate.
The rumble of his laughter rolled through her. "How about I give you a ride to your hotel? Save you the taxi fare."
Part of Jessicathe pit of her stomach and her tingling fingerswanted to take the sexy cowboy's offer, but most of her only wanted to get away as quickly as she could. She looked up and realized that Cindy and the rest of the women were far ahead. Apparently none of them had nearly fallen all over themselves over any attractive cowboys. "I'm with a group. In fact, I should go catch up to them."
Before she could move away, though, he pulled a pen and a thick book out of the pocket of his bag, took a torn piece of paper out of it that he was clearly using for a bookmark and started writing on it. "Well, if you find yourself with some free time this weekend, call me. We can have dinner."
She said the only coherent thing her brain could muster. "That was your bookmark."
He handed it to her, smiling. "Yep. Lost my place. Worth it if you call."
Jessica was having difficulty breathing. If she didn't get away from this man immediately, she might jump on him right there and make a scene for the entire airport. She shoved the paper into her pants pocket, mostly to keep herself from opening it to check that there was, in fact, a phone number written on it.
Without looking at him again, she turned to search for her glittery mob of women, purposely keeping her eyes averted. His eyes were still on her, thoughshe could feel them boring into her. Her group, far ahead, was still walking toward the exit. They hadn't seemed to notice her disappearance. A quickly mumbled "Thanks" was all she could manage, along with one last peek into his eyes, which were still focused on her.
Adjusting her grip on her suitcase handle, she rushed to catch up to Cindy and her friends, limping slightly. She did not turn to look at the stranger again, though a part of her wanted to get just one more glance before he disappeared from her life, if only to make sure he was as handsome as she thought. A picture of him would be nice. Maybe a kiss, too.
Jessica was shocked at the thoughts that were running through her head. It had been some time since she was with a manshe hadn't dated at all since Russand this was the first time she felt anything close to desire in three months. And it had knocked her flat. She could picture the cowboy's eyes looking back at her, his strong arms wrapping around her waist
She shook her head slightly, trying to get back under control. She would never see him again, so there was no point fantasizing about him. There was absolutely no way she would be meeting a stranger for dinner, even if he was incredibly handsome and had a voice that sent shivers snaking down her spine.
If her crazy attraction toward this stranger was any indication of how she would be feeling over the weekend, it was going to be worse than she thought. Drooling over strippers and then going back to a lonely hotel room didn't exactly sound appealing.
She finally managed to make it to the rest of the group. Cindy caught her eye and dropped back until she was walking beside Jessica.
"What happened? I was about to send out search parties. Did you get trapped in a sea of cowboys?" she asked, gesturing toward a nearby bunch of men, all of whom fit the description.
She wasn't that far off.
Jessica said, "I stepped wrong and twisted my ankle. I'm all right," she added quickly, seeing that Cindy was about to take on a mother-hen role, "but I did kind of have a little encounter with a hot guy."