by Amber Leigh Williams
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Purchase at AMAZON
About the book:
What happened in Vegas…followed her home!
Olivia Lewis is not the marrying type. So when a wild weekend in Vegas leaves her with a surprise husband, she's happy to sign anything to erase her mistake—even if that mistake is handsome, charming and comes with an English accent. Fortunately, her groom has other plans.
Bestselling author Gerald Leighton knows he can make his new bride fall in love with him—he just needs time. In exchange for a quickie divorce, Olivia grudgingly gives him a few weeks to attempt to woo her. And whether Olivia likes it or not, Gerald plans on using every second to win her heart!
Okay, make that silk sheets, rose petals…and the most vicious hangover of her life.
Hissing, she pressed a hand over her eyes, the other on her head to stop the contents from sloshing around. Her mouth felt like sandpaper, and her stomach writhed. Obviously the obscene amount of liquor she’d consumed the night before was turning on her in sickly rebellion.
“Oh, holy moly,” she wheezed. “What the hell happened last night?” Peering around, she squinted against the desert sunlight streaming through the undraped floor-to-ceiling window that spanned the entire left wall of the bedroom. At the sight of several curiously unmentionable items scattered across the bed and floor, she became more than a little curious about the events of the previous evening. Especially when she saw the tattered remains of her red dress hooked on the wall sconce at the other end of the room.
Frowning, she lifted the covers and looked underneath. She was naked as sin. And she’d spent enough nights with men to know how she should feel the next day. With a groan, she laid back into the pillows and pulled the covers over her head.
So sometime during the night, she had snuck away from the bachelorette party for her friend Roxie Honeycutt and gotten frisky—very frisky—with an unknown man.
It wasn’t her first one-night stand. Nor did she think it would be her last. But considering she’d been the hostess of Roxie’s bachelorette party and it had been her idea to bring the bash to Vegas, Olivia felt shame rushing up to meet her.
She sighed, flopping her arms over her head. “Well done, Liv,” she muttered at the ceiling. It was painted with a mural complete with puffy white clouds and baby-faced cherubs.
How many inappropriate things had those cherubs seen last night?
Olivia pursed her lips, thinking back hard to what she could remember of the past twenty-four hours. She and her friends had flown into Vegas, then checked into their casino hotel room. They’d gone to a bar…no, a club. The venue had been packed elbow to elbow. Olivia’s other friend and invitee, Adrian Carlton, had kept ordering drinks for the three of them. Tequila shots. That would explain the gargantuan headache pounding away at the inside of Olivia’s head and the base of her neck.
Then…there’d been dancing on the parquet dance floor. And a man. Olivia braved the thumping, eyes watering as she thought hard to bring him into sharper focus. She got only an impression—tall. Tailored suit. A black necktie, which she’d had fun unknotting later here in the penthouse…with her teeth?
She grimaced and focused again on the man’s features. Blond hair, a bit tousled as the night wore on. There was a limo, one exclusively for Olivia and her mystery man. Some frisky business in the backseat as Vegas lights blurred together outside the tinted windows. Yes, she’d run her fingers through that gilded crown of his, raking her nails lightly over his scalp. He’d liked that. Big, skillful hands on her hips. Roaming over her back…getting lost in her hair. He’d spoken to her, sweet endearments. She wasn’t usually one for sweet endearments—just the answer of skin on skin and the satisfaction that came with it.
But he’d been different. Why, Olivia couldn’t say…. The accent. His sweet words had been accentuated with a devastating—British?—accent that had, quite literally, charmed the pants off her.
Olivia raised a hand to her hair as her scalp tingled in remembrance. She smiled a bit at the memory, then closed her eyes on another wave of fierce pounding. If she could summon enough energy to rise from the rumpled bed, she might be able to find her purse amidst the chaos of the room. There was aspirin in that little red handbag. She needed aspirin. ASAP.
Carefully, she sat up again and braced her hands in the thick bedding. She waited for the world to stop revolving and settle back on axis before taking a deep, bracing breath and pulling the covers back. Instant chills racked her skin, made worse by the fine sheen of sweat courtesy of the savage aftermath of tequila drinking.
She slung her legs over the side of the bed. Her toes sank into a thick, black rug. Shivering, she wrapped the white, silk top sheet around her, knotting it at her collarbone so that it stayed as she stood.
It took more effort than she would have liked to stay upright. She reached forward to catch the wall as she staggered in the general direction of what she hoped was a bathroom. The floor quaked beneath her and she could feel dregs of nausea rising up from the pit of her stomach. Yes, yes, that’d better be a bathroom.
Before Olivia could shoulder her way through the door, it opened quickly. She felt herself pitch over, tripping over the edge of the bedsheet. Cursing, she fell against the lean, chiseled chest of the man on the other side of the bathroom doorjamb.
She heard his surprised whoosh just before his arms snagged her under the shoulders and curled around her to keep her from falling at his feet. Her cheek pressed tight against his sternum. He was so warm. The deep timbre of a chuckle trebled beneath the ear pressed to his chest and words, rough around the edges, came floating from his mouth. “Ah, she wakes.”
When she tried to pull herself back, he held her fast to him for a moment longer to make sure she had her footing. With a murmured, “Easy there, love,” he released her and she stepped away, seeking his face.
He was smiling. The soft expression was tense around the edges, probably from what she could guess was a good deal of pounding happening on the inside of his head, too. She drew in a breath. His eyes were a brilliant shade of green. Dimples, or laugh lines, dug in around his mouth and the corners of his eyes. A man who smiled often and laughed well, Olivia surmised. His hair was blond and wet from a shower she assumed, judging by the steam behind him. He’d combed the hair back from his forehead, leaving his high brow bare.
A towel hung loosely around his waist. She blinked. She was staring. But the longer she stared, the more she could remember from last night, and the giddy spontaneity and blistering heat of all that had transpired made her forget for a moment how miserable she felt.
And, bless him, he didn’t seem to mind the staring. He was doing a good bit of his own. The smile on his lips deepened into a full-fledged grin, eyes softening further as he took her in. “Well. Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”
She found a smile curving at the corner of her mouth. He was British. His words were enunciated with the high-class sounds of English breeding and good humor. His voice was like fine-aged wine. Or whiskey.
Whiskey, she decided. It had a good, old-fashioned burn to it.
Keep it together. Lifting her hands to the sheet knotted just under her collarbone, she made sure it was in place before dragging a hand back through her long, curly, bedraggled tresses. “Erm…good morning?” Olivia said, unsure of herself. Usually, she knew how to navigate the awkward, morning-after interlude. But this stranger’s clean-cut, unexpected appeal threw her for a loop.
He beamed and held out a hand, skimming far and above the awkwardness of the situation with good-natured ease. “Gerald Leighton. It’s lovely to meet you…again.”
She stared at the hand. Ignoring the wariness inside her, she reached out and took it. Again, she felt warmth. She wanted him to fold his hand close around hers until the chills deserted her. It was much larger than her own. Built for creating, shaping. A sculptor’s hand. The fingers were long and narrow. Aside from the absence of well-worn calluses and wrinkles, they actually reminded her a bit of her grandfather’s, a life-long carpenter.
When she found nothing to say in return, he firmed his lips together. Scanning her face a bit more carefully this time, a frown touched his features. “Headache?”
“Uh, yeah,” she said, wrinkling her nose and squinting once more at the light. “I think tequila was the culprit.”
“I felt the same when I first woke,” he explained, voice lowered gently. “Not to worry. A glass of water, a couple painkillers and a hot shower set me halfway back to rights.” He stepped aside and lifted a hand to the marble counter of the bathroom. “Aspirin’s there with a bottle of water. There’s a robe, too, if you need it.”
She licked her lips as they both glanced back at the torn dress. “I think it’s my only option at this point.”
Gerald ran a hand through his hair and she thought she saw a wink of sheepishness flash in those kind, green eyes. For some reason, her heart stumbled over itself.
She blinked. Was the tequila still in her system?
“I apologize…for the dress,” Gerald added quickly. “I’ll be happy to reimburse you for it. Or I can have the concierge send out for another one.”
Olivia lifted a hand to stop him. “It’s all right. I brought other clothes with me. It shouldn’t be too much trouble. That is if we’re in the same casino my friends and I are staying at. Please tell me this is the Bellagio.”
“Yes,” he replied. “That’s what the hand towels say, at any rate.”
“Good,” she said with a sigh of relief. She gazed longingly at the shower. It was crooking its finger at her. Her feet were starting to feel like ice cubes and the chills were coming back with a vengeance.
“Take your time,” Gerald told her. “I’ll have something sent up to eat. It should be here when you’re done.”
“Thanks, Gerald.” Olivia ducked into the bathroom. The steam from his shower hugged her as he closed the door behind her. She locked the door, crossed her arms over her chest and faced the long, fogged mirror above the marble counter. Fearing what she might look like, Olivia went to the glass-walled shower stall instead and turned the knob all the way to Hot.
*Olivia meant to hurry, but she soon discovered that the shower had two jet showerheads. And the towels. Oh, the towels were so big and fluffy and, fresh off the heated rack, blessedly warm. She indulged a bit, sitting at the vanity as she took some aspirin and dried her hair with the available hair dryer. Her reflection still looked gray around the edges, but there was nothing she could do about that. She hadn’t yet found her purse and she didn’t carry much more than lipstick and concealer in it anyway.
Clearly, she hadn’t been prepared to meet some tall, ridiculously good-looking and charming Englishman who made her tummy flutter even after a night drinking round after round of Jose Cuervo.
While showering and then attempting to make herself somewhat presentable, more memories from the night before came flashing back to her. More drinks in the casino. More kissing Gerald in the elevator. God, she hoped the hotel didn’t have cameras in there. Then there was the penthouse. The penthouse sofa. The big, plush bed. Gerald. Clashing mouths, tangled limbs, and staggering streams of need and pleasure.
Suddenly she was no longer cold, but instead felt nothing but the heat from last night. Looking up at the mirror, she saw that her cheeks were flushed and she scrubbed her palms over them to chase it. The Brit packed a wallop. That was for damn sure. She took several careful breaths to beat back the memories and high color and wrapped the white, hotel robe around her.
Fastening it with the rope around the waist, Olivia exited the bathroom, regrettably leaving the enveloping steam behind for the bawdy, orange gleam of midmorning Vegas spilling into the bedroom through that long line of crystal-clear glass.
She, Roxie and Adrian had a flight to catch in a few hours. Bearing that in mind, Olivia grabbed the shredded remains of her strapless dress off the wall sconce, then bent to pick up her platform heels off the floor. She had to get down on her hands and knees to locate her purse under the bed…where she also found the pathetic remains of her underwear, deciding to leave them where they had fallen. Rest in peace, Victoria’s Secret.
Instead of wrestling her bra back on, she shoved it into her purse. A quick look at her cell phone told her it, too, had died sometime in the night. She hooked the sky-high heels over her fingers and wandered into the main room of the penthouse.
The smell of coffee, toast and sausage greeted her. Gerald hadn’t lied; room service was waiting for her on a covered rolling tray. A silver teapot sat next to a pot of coffee that smelled hot, fresh and strong. She desperately wanted a mug of that to push away the lingering fog of the hangover. After a few sips, she’d definitely feel closer to human.
There were covered trivets from which the breakfast smells were coming. Next to them there was a glass of orange juice and a tall Bloody Mary to top it all off. She practically whimpered at the sight.
Who was Gerald Leighton and where had he been hiding all her life?
Olivia was reaching for the coffee when the sliding glass door leading onto what appeared to be a balcony slid open and Gerald walked in. Her hand pulled back from the tray quickly as if he’d caught her stealing. While she was in the shower, he had dressed in pressed, black, tailored suit pants and a crisp, white, oxford shirt he had left unbuttoned at the collar, so the hollow of his collarbone peeked through and the tendons of his neck caught her eye. His feet were bare.
She fought the urge to lick her lips and gathered the guilty hand that had been reaching for the coffeepot back into the flaps of the robe. “Hello,” she greeted as his eyes found hers. Determined to get the upper hand on the conversation this time—and make up for her earlier bumbling—she pasted on a smile.
“Feeling better?” he asked, his smile answering hers.
“Loads better,” she admitted. “Thank you—for letting me use the shower. I don’t want to take up too much of your time—”
“No, please,” Gerald said, walking toward her in a handful of long, smooth strides. “Have a seat. Have something to eat. I didn’t know what you’d like so I ordered a bit of everything.”
“I can see that,” Olivia said, scanning the tray admiringly. “And thanks for that, too. But I really should be going.”
He stopped just shy of her and the tray, a disappointed frown touching his lips. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. My friends and I have a plane to catch in a couple of hours. I need to get back to our room and make sure they’re okay. Pack up.” Out of excuses, she made herself look away from those eyes. In addition to kind, they were wise. It was a disconcerting mix, at least for her. She gestured to the room at large. “Your penthouse is beautiful, by the way.”
Gerald looked around, reaching up to scratch his chin with his knuckles. “It is rather, isn’t it? I’m afraid it’s new to me, too. I was staying in one of the business suites.”
“Oh,” Olivia said. “So you’re in town on business.”
“Well, for the most part.” His gaze crawled back to her, that shade of timidity flashing across his face again before he hid it with a wry grin that creased the corners of his mouth and eyes and simultaneously disarmed her. “Until I met you, of course.”
She lowered her eyes, pressing her lips together to hide a sly smile. “I hope I was a good distraction at least.”
One of his brows arced knowingly. “Oh, quite. A worthy distraction.”
She did smile a bit to herself, then sighed, realizing she was lingering here with him. Something about him. A pull, a tug. A compelling stir that toggled her in all the right places, particularly the area of her heart. Her smile quickly turned into a frown and she tugged the lapels of the robe together, gathering them tight against her throat. “Well, Gerald Leighton.” She made herself meet his eyes again. “It was nice meeting you.”
His grin turned kind again. “I couldn’t be happier that we did, love.”
Love. Yes, she liked the sound of that a shade too much. Olivia gripped the handle of the door and had opened it only slightly when he said, “Wait a moment.”
She looked around, and her breath snagged. He was closer now. Jesus, what was this hold he had over her? She didn’t know how to handle it.
His eyes narrowed on her face. The lines of his mouth were tense now, his jaw squared as he searched her expression. He reached out and took the door but didn’t shut it. She was free to go if she wanted, but his gaze and the urgency she saw there hooked her and made her knees buckle. “I’m ashamed to have to ask you,” he said, “but can I have your name? It seems I’ve forgotten it after last night’s tequila-fueled debauchery.”
She pursed her lips. “Why would you want to know? I mean, let’s be honest. We’re clearly never going to see each other again….”
Gerald lifted his shoulders and shook his head. “Not likely.” He stilled and the urgency blinked into his eyes again, heightened. “But you never know, do you? Maybe…one day I’d like to find you. Or you’d perhaps like to get in touch with me. I don’t know….”
As Olivia searched his eyes and the moment between them stretched, the link between them humming, she weighed his request. Weighed him. Reaching out, she touched the arm he was using to hold the door open. His muscle tightened at her touch. She slid her fingers up to the back of his and squeezed them warmly as she memorized his face. She would be glad of it later, when she returned to her hometown in Alabama. She would remember him and her night with him in the Bellagio penthouse fondly. “Olivia,” she said finally. “My name is Olivia.”
“Olivia,” he said, smiling softly.
She nodded, then stepped back, pulled away and broke his spell. “I think we should leave it at that.”
His lids came down halfway over his eyes, hiding resignation, or disappointment perhaps. “Right. It’s enough. For now.”
As if there could be a later. She cleared her throat and backed away from him, through the door into the hallway. “So long, Gerald.”
About the Author
Amber Leigh Williams lives on the Gulf Coast. A southern girl at heart, she loves beach days, the smell of real books, relaxing at her family’s lakehouse, and spending time with her husband, Jacob, and their sweet, blue-eyed boy. When she’s not running after her young son and three, large dogs, she can usually be found reading a good romance or cooking up a new dish in her kitchen. She is represented by Joyce Holland of the D4EO Literary Agency.
Her latest book is the contemporary romance, Married One Night.
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