Leaving Las Vegas by Aleah Barley:
"I'm so glad that what happened in Vegas didn't stay there. A sexy, fun, thrilling romp of a romance that had me alternating between a swoon and laughing out loud." --bestselling author, Robin Covington
When West Virginia wild child, Glory Allen enters a private poker game with her town's dreams at stake she loses it all. To make matters worse, she's trapped in a car with the sexy but infuriating man who won—and accused her of cheating. Now because of him, she's on the run from the mafia who put out a hit on the stuck-up casino magnate with the toe-curling good looks—and he isn't even her type. So why can't she cool the explosive chemistry between them?
She's out of control…and she's enough to drive Luke Tanner crazy. Yet she's the only one willing to put her neck on the line…for him—a complete stranger she professes to hate. Now he's in debt…to her. And it's a debt he's willing to work off any way she wants…on the hood of his sports car, in a waterfall—wherever she'll have him, he's willing to pay the price.
But the stakes are raised when they return to West Virginia—helping Luke escape has put Glory and her hometown in the sites of someone who wants him dead. This time Glory decides she's not going to end up empty-handed—it's time for the winner to take all and she won't stop 'til she wins his heart.
About the Author
Aleah Barley is a writer of high-octane, humorous, contemporary romance novels. A resident of the Motor City she walks to Eastern Market every Saturday and goes to Chicago more than she should. Her goals include world domination, five star reviews, and owning her own castle (this is Detroit! Make it two castles!) Barring that, she'd like some chocolate. Dark. With nuts.
Read an Excerpt
Leaving Las Vegas
By Aleah Barley, Rochelle French
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Aleah Barley
All rights reserved.
Somewhere off the strip in Las Vegas, Nevada
Glory Allen was keenly aware of the long pause that followed that statement. Ice collided with glass, creating a tinkling noise, the only sound in the cheap Las Vegas motel room. The neon lights from the Strip a half mile away streamed through the window, making the stacks of neatly piled hundred-dollar bills gleam blue and red. Not the neat ceramic chips used at the fancy casinos on the Strip, but real money. Cash. And surrounding the table sat serious poker players. Big men with square jaws and bulges under their arms.
Normally, Glory wouldn't give a rat's rump what anyone thought about her.
Normally, she wasn't playing poker for high stakes in a private game well off the Strip.
In Beaux, West Virginia, cheating at poker could get a girl's behind beat black and blue. Here in Las Vegas, she figured they'd just shoot her. Two to the head and a quick burial in the nearest patch of desert.
Under the table, she curled her free hand into a fist, fingernails digging into her palms. The pain helped her to concentrate, kept her expression still. She forced herself to keep looking straight ahead, staring into the eyes of the man who'd accused her.
Luke. That was his name. The man with the green eyes who'd almost made her forget what she was doing when he'd undone the top few buttons of his shirt halfway through the night, displaying a chest that was lean but still muscular. He wasn't her type. A little too clean-cut. But confident, with backbone to spare.
Confidence was drop-dead sexy in a man.
And yet it didn't matter how sexy Mr. Fancy Pants was, not when so much money sat on the table. Five-card draw. Jokers wild. Real, old-fashioned poker. And over two hundred thousand dollars, stacked at her elbow. But she needed more. She had to keep playing.
More importantly, he had to keep playing. Had to keep upping the ante until she'd won enough to get out and go home.
"You got proof?" she challenged him. When he shook his head, she said, "Losing is no excuse for bad manners."
He clenched his jaw tight. The face of his watch knocked against the table. His emerald eyes flashed, changing his expression from one of contempt to something a little more testy. Not good.
She felt about as safe as a red wriggler dangling in front of a hungry trout.
The other players leaned forward. The man on her left drummed his fingers against the table. Mr. Grant, a Los Angeles film producer who liked to adjust his tie when he thought he was about to win. His hand was at his throat now, undoing his crisp Windsor knot. His lips turned up in a thin, dangerous smile. "Let's keep the game rolling. If you're still in."
Luke's gaze swept around the table, confirming that the others wanted to continue the play. "I'm in." His gaze stopped on Glory. "What about you?" His green eyes narrowed. Thin lines radiated out from the corner of his eyes, the small imperfections making him somehow more real. Human.
"I'm not going to fold," she said. She couldn't leave now, not when she had a game to win. A bus to catch. A town to save.
A few hours before, Glory had shown up at the door with nothing but a secondhand password and fifty thousand dollars in her pocket. No one had blinked an eye. There'd been almost half a million dollars on the table, but it was still the sort of game that would accept a small-time player who'd finally lucked her way into some real money. She'd surprised them by proving a decent strategist, winning more than enough to keep her in the game.
And now Luke stared at her, most likely trying to figure out how she'd been cheating. Good luck. She'd just been using all of the techniques she'd perfected over the years to gain the advantage.
That wasn't cheating.
It was just playing smart.
And when it came to cards, she was the smartest player in Beaux. Which was why the townsfolk had pooled their money for her buy-in. Everyone had placed their trust in her to get the money to save their town. Even the mayor, Ashley. Her sister. The smart one — well, except for when it came to playing poker.
With the three Allen sisters, Ashley had the brains, Halleluiah had the sex appeal, and Glory had the ... uh, she was good at poker. That was about it.
Glory didn't depend on luck to win at poker. She didn't think much of those who did. Instead, she would watch patiently, observing the other players' tics and using them to her advantage.
Mr. Grant and his tie had been an easy tell to figure out. Bone — the oversized gangster wannabe — had been eating walnuts all night long, using a nutcracker when he was doing well and crushing nuts with his ham-sized fists when he had a bad hand. When Chester Grimes — a man with a shiny suit and hair thinning in back — lost big, he'd switched from hard lemonade to throwaway martinis. Earlier, the one other woman in the game, Tiffanette — the blond bimbo who acted more interested in her makeup than her cards — had spilled her drink down the front of her tight little tank top, displaying a pair of breasts that were not at all as God had made them.
Breast enlargement was tacky, but seeing how the men in the room responded to the bags of saline bouncing around untethered by fabric constraints, Glory was almost jealous.
Not jealous enough to get invasive surgery, but jealous enough to invest in a better bra.
And smart enough to know Tiffanette held a bad hand and was using her boobs to distract the rest of the table from her utter inability to bluff.
Who needed to cheat when the other players were that obvious?
A nod from Chester, and one of the cocktail waitresses brought a fresh round of drinks to the table. Ice clinked against the side of Luke's glass, watering down the two-decades-old Glenfiddich he'd brought with him. A tragic waste of good booze as far as Glory was concerned. She liked her whiskey the way she liked everything else in life. Unadulterated.
Not tonight. This was too important to mess up by getting smashed.
Glory was drinking beer straight from the bottle. Miller Lite. Just enough alcohol to make her bold without making her stupid.
It wasn't cheating, just playing smart.
Damn Luke and his damned accusation.
She took a long pull on her beer before picking up the cards she'd dealt herself a minute earlier. They were warm in her hands. Their faces crisp and familiar.
"I've been playing poker since I was six years old. Sitting on my grandmother's front porch." The old lady had taught all three sisters how to play poker, but Glory was the only one with the knack. The only one who understood that it was less about playing the cards she'd been dealt and more about playing the people sitting across from her. "This isn't luck, and it isn't cheating. What you're looking at here is pure skill."
The betting went around the table, the pot increasing faster than it had before. No one blinked an eye as it grew. And grew. And grew some more. The way things were going, this might be the last hand she needed to play before getting the amount of money that she'd come for.
Eight hundred and sixty thousand dollars to save her way of life.
The amount of money she shoved toward the center of the table made her heart flutter, even with the joker resting easily at the bottom of the deck.
Chester folded first. Then Tiffanette. Only four players left.
Mr. Grant raised $200,000 in one swoop, bringing the amount on the table to just over $500,000. Almost enough.
Luke wasn't looking at his hand. He was looking at her, his gaze boring into her skin like an old-fashioned electric drill. Instead of saying "all in," he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a heavy brass key chain. "My car."
No. He couldn't screw up her carefully laid plans. She needed cash. "There's no way some car is going to make up the difference."
"It's not just some car." Luke crossed his arms in front of his chest. Confident. The movement bringing attention to his pecs. And biceps. And triceps. "It's a first generation Aston Martin Vanquish, all the bells and whistles. It'll cover the difference."
"The James Bond car." Bone nodded his approval. "Too rich for my blood."
Glory considered her options. If she folded now, they'd send her packing, with or without her money. Even if they did let her take her winnings, the pot wouldn't be enough.
She needed $860,000. And all of that plus some change sat on the table. She found the cards that sat in the middle of the table. Fingered the joker she'd kept hidden at the bottom of the deck.
She had to stay in the game.
Now she would cheat.
* * *
Luke had known the woman was trouble the moment he'd walked through the door. He'd come into the game eager to take off the facade of Las Vegas casino magnate and be Just Luke, the poker player, instead of Luke Morrison, the Las Vegas billionaire developer. Instead, the gorgeous girl with the hillbilly accent and the too-tight T-shirt had ruined his night.
What kind of person stacked the deck at a poker game that included gangsters, magnates, and more than one gun?
His head throbbed. The woman's lips tipped up in a crooked smile, and then other parts of him were throbbing, too. He didn't want to like this girl. He hated most cheaters on sight, but he'd never seen anyone like Glory. She made it hard to hate.
He was used to Vegas girls. Showgirls who thought that they could trade their good looks and plastic surgery for a diamond ring. Women who would show up at a private game like this more interested in snaring a man than the pot. His mother had been a showgirl. He knew the type, all just hoping to get lucky. Even Tiffanette, a woman who claimed to make her own luck.
Years ago, when a headliner pulled her hamstring just before a show, Tiffanette had seized the opportunity and stepped into the starring role. Tiffanette was good at seizing opportunities. A few months earlier she'd tried to "seize" Luke at a charity dinner and convince him to promote her from showgirl to lounge act. The blonde had been more than a little upset when he turned her down.
Not his problem.
Glory was something else entirely.
Long black curls that had never seen a bottle of dye, golden skin that came from walking in the sun instead of from a spray bottle, the thin T-shirt that fit her slender body — skimming her muscular stomach and straining against two perfect perky all-American real breasts. Every part of her was genuine, from her scuffed canvas tennis shoes to the crooked teeth that could have been corrected by any decent orthodontist. She talked like a woman without two nickels to rub together, so where had she gotten the game's fifty thousand dollar buy-in?
It didn't matter. None of it mattered, not even the way his body reacted to hers. Damned fingers, itching to reach out and touch her. Damned imagination, wanting to rip off her T-shirt and devour every inch of her. He'd been so busy trying to control his physical reaction, he hadn't noticed when she'd started winning. Over and over again.
No one won that many hands without cheating.
He hated cheaters, and now one had invaded his poker game.
His poker game was important to him. It was the one night a week when he allowed himself to relax. The one night a week when he wasn't being followed by thousands of cameras and a million watching eyes. His latest development project — Cleopatra's Asp, a vintage lounge and casino he'd spent the last two years restoring — had given him a perpetual headache. The poker game was one place he could be himself without work or anything else taking over.
Except on the nights when his stepfather showed up. Chester wasn't a bad man, but he was a lush, a coward, and a bit of a bummer. Luke had bid against him to buy Cleopatra's Asp, and Chester hadn't exactly lost with dignity. Total whiner.
Bone let out a deliberate cough, stretched, and turned, letting the flap of his jacket fall open. Making it clear to Glory that he carried a gun.
Bone didn't like cheaters, either.
Watching Glory closely, Luke saw a new expression break through her practiced poker face. Desperation. Huh. She didn't want to stay in the game. She needed to stay in the game. She needed to win.
Damn. He clenched his jaw tight so he wouldn't swear out loud. There was no harm in taking a few dollars off some tourist foolish enough to wander into the wrong game, but this was plain stupid. And yet her desperation gnawed at him.
"You can still fold," he reminded her gently. "Take the rest of your money and walk out the door. Go home."
"All in." She ignored him, pushing the last of her money into the pot.
"You can't win," Luke said in a last-ditch effort to save her hide. Tiffanette, Chester, and Bone wouldn't be a threat, even though Bone carried a gun. Luke couldn't speak for Grant. He'd heard the man could get creative with cheaters.
She ignored him.
Grant put two cards down on the table, then pushed them toward the discard pile. "I'll take two." He rummaged around in his pocket for a moment, seemingly befuddled.
Oh, shit. Luke shot a look at Glory. The woman hadn't noticed Grant's move ... or Luke's warning. She needed to pay better attention.
Thud. Grant's hand moved with lightning speed to leave a knife jammed in the hardwood table, the handle still quivering. The blade was small, less than four inches, but it got the point across.
Luke flashed his glance back to Glory. Her face had gone white. Tension was clear in every aspect of her posture. The cool card player with the practiced poker face was gone, replaced by a frightened young woman.
But she kept playing. Brave or stupid? At this point, he couldn't tell. When she dealt, it was from the top of the deck, every move slow and exaggerated. Giving the audience a show now that they were paying attention. Then she turned to Luke. "What do you want?"
Her, naked. Luke forced himself to look down at his hand. The queen of hearts smiled up at him. His lucky card, the card he liked to keep in his hand no matter what. He also had the nine, ten, jack, and queen of spades. Instinct told him to keep the pair of queens, playing it safe and retaining his lucky card. Or he could go for the straight flush. Gamble big. He stared at the cards for a long moment, then at the woman who'd gotten him into this mess.
What had he been thinking? Forcing her to go all in by betting his car? He'd lost his virginity in that car, talking his high-school girlfriend out of her cheerleading uniform. It had taken him longer to remove her bra than do the deed. It had been hot, sticky, and awkward. Luckily, things had improved since then. As an adult, he had no trouble satisfying women, and in a real bed instead of a cramped car. Besides, these days most of his girlfriends didn't stick around long enough to get a ride in the Aston Martin.
He loved his car, but most of the time it was just easier to take his chauffeur-driven limo. Still, the Vanquish was one part of his life where he could be more than a boring businessman in an Armani suit.
Logic said he should keep the pair of queens. Instinct told him he should keep the pair. But even that hand might not be enough to save his car. Sure, Luke believed in logic. And instinct had helped make him into the man he was today. But there was something more powerful churning around in his mind. Something he'd learned about at his father's knee.
Logic was how you kept a fortune, but luck was how you made it, his father had always said.
A small fortune sat on the table. More money than most poker players could hope to win in a lifetime. And yet all Luke cared about was the small metal key to the Vanquish.
He put the queen of hearts down. Everyone watched him, trying to figure out his next move, but he watched Glory. Watched her fingers skim the top of the card deck before moving down. She peeled the card off the bottom of the deck and dealt it to him with one easy motion.
Wait. She'd just dealt from the bottom of the deck. What the hell was she doing? If Grant saw her — hell. Luke didn't know what the other man might do, and he had no intention of finding out.
Luckily, he'd been the only one looking in her direction when she cheated.
Excerpted from Leaving Las Vegas by Aleah Barley, Rochelle French. Copyright © 2013 Aleah Barley. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Plot is very original
Attention grabbing from the very first paragraph. Action packed thrill ride from beginning to end. Fast cars, bullets flying and two completely opposite people. This book brings it all. You will not be disappointed. This is the first book I've read by Aleah but it will not be the last. She keeps you turning the pages.
Heading to Las Vegas with fifty-thousand dollar from the townsfolk who believed that Gloria can help raise the money that was needed. Why? To save the last vacant property in the town. How? By play a game of poker. But things quickly turn and go wrong, when one of the other players, Tiffanette pulls a gun demands all the money… and has some henchmen come into the game room. Tiffanette is having a “tiff” but why? Luke one of the other player should have protection/a bodyguard but not with him… “I think the robbery was sham. Someone paid Tiffanette to kidnap me. She’s not working alone Whoever it was knew my company would have paid a fortune to get me back - and everything would have been kept quiet. As long as my company paid the ransom, cops wouldn’t have been involved.” “Meaning?” “After you left, Tiffanette shot Bones. I don’t think she meant to but that changed things from bad to as-bad-as-it-can-get for her” Why and who? Will Gloria get the money that she needs to save the last vacant property? This book with its alternating POVs as well written dialogue which I did find amusing… “This thing is more temperamental than Cara May during a hot flash.” It was a fast paced page turning. “You could have warned me it didn’t shoot real bullets” “I did. I said that it wasn’t that type of gun.” Well written and enjoyable treat to read. I received the book for an honest review one that I can honestly say that it was a solid 5 star book to read, thank you.
Action-packed adventure with the right amount of romance and a sexy get-away car! Enjoyed the character development of both Glory and Luke and how their perspectives of each other changed. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning with the far-fetched plot, but the story got better as it went along and I was pretty absorbed in the plot by the end and wished it was a bit longer. The interplay between Glory and Luke was fun and funny - Glory and her family are also hilarious. There was also an element of mystery/suspense, but it took a backseat to the romance plot. The ending left a good feeling - gotta love a HEA =)
This was the first book I’ve read from Aleah Barley but it definitely won’t be the last! I found Leaving Las Vegas to be a great read from start to finish. Luke and Glory will leave you smiling and sometimes even laughing out loud as they try to evade gun toting bad guys out for blood. On a wild and crazy ride to West Virginia these two prove that opposites really do attract. Hopefully there will be more books about the other sisters, maybe even the wild cousin that has a knack with explosives? ;o) I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Right from the start this one drew me in. It was just a fun ride. I love both of the characters, Glory from her small town and the big city guy Luke. The chemistry was so tangible between them. It was a non-stop adventure with a great romantic build up. This one just made you have to laugh out loud and smile. It was a very sweet and steamy read. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
What a fun and wild ride this book was! I enjoyed every page of action, romance, and witty banter between the characters. The characters were colorful, the adventure was exciting, and the chemistry between Glory and Luke was sizzling. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a fast-paced romantic suspense novel with lots of humor rolled in to it! Glory Allen is a hoot – speaks her mind, has a heart of gold, and isn’t afraid of what life throws at her. Luke Tanner is hot – wealthy, sexy, and a man who is used to being in charge. Luke knows what he wants, and he wants Glory, at least until he can get her home safe since they have found themselves on the run after a poker game in Las Vegas goes bad. Glory needs to win money at the poker game to help save her town. Luke needs his weekly poker games to help unwind from his real life role as a casino magnate. When someone targets Luke for kidnapping, Glory helps Luke escape. Luke is determined to figure out who is behind the kidnapping, and is also determined to return Glory to her small West Virginia town safe and unharmed. Even though their backgrounds are totally different and they don’t see eye to eye on things, Glory and Luke can’t deny the sizzling attraction that exists between them, but is that all there is between them, or will love have a chance to play its hand? I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.