I gaze out over the Vegas skyline from my hotel room. The bright lights obscure the stars and I wonder what people find so mesmerizing about this city. What the hell am I doing here? Oh yeah, trying to relax and let off some steam. My iPad pings from the desk with an alert and I move to retrieve it.
“Hey girl, let me see your dress.” Rachel’s face appears when I open the iChat screen. I smile and shake my head at my best friend. She was supposed to come with me on this trip, but she ended up having to work, leaving me here by myself. Yeah, I could have not come, but she would have never let me live it down.
“I don’t know about this, Rach. This dress is so not me.” I slide my hand down the pale beige mini cami dress. The spaghetti straps and V-neck show not only my cleavage but also the tattoo along my rib cage on my right side. The back is completely open and I want to put on more clothes. I want to stay here in the hotel room and forget this plan.
“Let me see,” she demands. I prop the tablet on the desk and step back so she can see the full effect. I turn, showing her the back. I have my light golden-brown hair down and loosely curled. “I love it. I wish I coulda been there to see you in person. Put on some berry or wine lipstick and you’ll be perfect.”
“Ugh, really, Rach. I think I should just come home. This was a bad idea.” If I could just convince her, then I can forget this farce.
“No, this was supposed to be a weekend for you to relax and get out of your head. Now go.”
I sign off, then put on the lipstick she suggested. I grab my clutch and check for my ID, credit card, and room key. The urge to slip my gun in it is so great, but I’d get in trouble for being armed in a casino since I’m not here in an official capacity. I check myself in the full-length mirror one more time. The beige, four-inch platform chunky heeled shoes will make me appear a bit taller, but nothing makes my small five-foot-one frame big. Even the slinky dress accentuates how small I am.
Okay, better go before I chicken out. The plan is to go down to the country nightclub in my hotel. This whole weekend was planned out by Rachel, not me. I don’t do dressing up unless I have to, and I definitely don’t do clubbing. For two years I’ve been assigned to a special FBI team as their profiler. After several tough cases lately, Rachel thought it was time we had a girls’ weekend, and she picked Vegas. I’m all for hanging out by a pool with her, but not this. Rachel is in her last couple of years at Columbia University Medical Center. We attended Vanderbilt together until she transferred to New York for a more specialized training in pediatric cardiology. Both of us have demanding jobs and she thought this would be the best way to let off some steam. Unfortunately, her leave had been canceled at the last minute due to some issues with another intern. Rachel had made me promise I would still take this trip and do everything we had planned. I blame it on the wine we had been drinking at the time we were video chatting. With me living in DC and her in New York, we don’t get to see each other often.I stand at the shiny elevator door and wait for it to reach my floor. I pull my top lip between my teeth, nervous about this. What am I going to do? What if I can’t find a place to sit? What if some guy wants to talk to me? My stomach flips in worry and I want to turn around and go back to my room. The doors open and I decide right then I need to do this. I need to get out of my head. I’ve been in the head of murderers for months now. Remembering all the years of etiquette classes my momma put me through, I stand up straighter and board the elevator.
The doors open on the busy main floor of the casino and I exit and follow the signs to the nightclub. Men ogle and stare as I walk through the crowds, making me feel like a hired hooker. The bouncer looks me up and down when I reach the entrance, and again I feel way too exposed. I manage a small smile and continue on as if I know where I’m headed instead of being a fish out of water like I am. I keep my head held high and my gait perfect for the heels. Again, all the years of debutant training kicking in. Country music is blaring and people are out on the dance floor two-stepping and line dancing. Several guys watch me as I make a beeline for the long bar. I find an empty stool next to a large man; his scent reminds me of someone. I slide up onto the stool and wait for the bartender to come over.
“What can I get you, darlin’?”
“Gentleman Jack, neat, water back.”
The man seated next to me tenses when I speak, and out of the corner of my eye, I see him tip his head my way. I wish there was a mirror in front of me so I can check him out without turning my head. The bartender places down the two glasses, and I lift the first glass to my lips and shoot it to get my nerves under control. After the burn and warmth spreads throughout my system, I grab the water glass and take a small sip. I signal the bartender for another and the guy next to me does the same.
“I got hers too,” the man next to me says, his deep voice is clear and strong. I can make out the Jersey accent and something about it is familiar. I finally turn to him and my eyes bug out. Sitting right next to me is the man who’s invaded my dreams and fantasies for the last two years.
“What are you doing here?” I ask him dumbfounded that he would be here too. He lives in DC.
“Fancy meeting you here, beautiful.” He smiles as he takes in my outfit and the exposed skin. His gaze is like a caress, and it causes goose bumps to erupt across my arms. He is sporting scruff along his chin, no longer clean-shaven like the last few times I’ve seen him. His full lips beg to be kissed.
His nickname for me causes my stomach to flip again, but this time for another reason. I grab the glass of whiskey and shoot all of it again, needing the liquid courage to finally scratch that itch Rachel says I need to take care of.
I stretch like a cat. My body is all relaxed and muscles I haven’t used in a while are sore, but in a good way. I smile as flashes of last night burst behind my lids. Man, can he kiss. No more itch. As I run my hands through my hair, the knots catch on something. I pull my hands in front of me and gasp when I see the stunning rose gold wedding ring. The round diamond sits on a twisted vine of smaller diamonds. The ring is beautiful and petite but large enough no one will mistake what it is. I sit up in shock as the bathroom door opens and steam billows out into the room. And there stands the man himself with water sliding down his body, his muscular chest more defined than I’d imagined. The light dusting of chest hair holds some of the droplets and I want to lick them from his body. I watch his eyes flare.
“Hello, my beautiful wife. Shall we continue with where we left off a couple hours ago, or do you want me to order room service and feed you?” His words stop the desire like a bucket of cold water thrown over me.
“Ezekiel Caine, what the hell did we do?” I demand.
“I told ya, you’re mine, and you agreed. So, I just made it official.” He smiles as he stalks toward me.
“Oh my God. This can’t be happening.” I fall back on the bed with my arm over my eyes trying to block out the image of the man that is now tied to me. I feel his weight over mine and all thoughts escape me as he pulls my arm away and kisses me senseless again.
4 Months later
“O’Malley! My office, now!”
My head shoots up at my team leader’s voice. He sounds upset and I can’t think of what could have angered him. I stand and smooth out my black slacks, then button my black jacket. The only spot of color I have on is the rose-colored shell under my jacket. I walk on my low-heeled boots across the room and into his office.
“Close the door.”
Crap, this can’t be good. Jon is usually an open-door kind of person.
“What’s up, Jon?” I try for calm, cool, and collected.
“Jamie, is there something you need to tell me?”
I wrack my brain trying to come up with what could possibly be bothering him.
“Um, no. I can’t think of anything.”
“You know just because you’re already employed with us doesn’t mean the bureau isn’t going to run random background checks on you.” His fingers steeple in front of his mouth and I instantly bite the inside of my lip. His eyes focus on the small tell, and now he knows he’s got me.
“I can explain.”
“Go for it.”
“I didn’t want the team to know about my father, so I didn’t say anything. The division chief knows who he is. I didn’t get the job because of him.” I blurt out the only thing I’ve held back.
“That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve known your father is Republican Senator O’Malley since I asked you to be on this team. I’m also aware of who your grandfather is.”
“Then I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.” I don’t like people to know who my father is, or his politics. He’s been in the Senate since I was a teenager. I’ve always lived under that microscope. As his only child, I’ve always been judged as the senator’s kid and not as myself. Even though I’ve paved my own way in life. Won my own scholarships to college. Earned a doctoral degree in psychology at my young age. I did it on my own. All of it. Not him, and not his politics.
“What about your husband?” He deadpans, his head tipping slightly to the side.
My heart stops. Shit. Zeke and I still haven’t finalized our divorce. He won’t send me the papers and I won’t initiate them because I don’t want my father’s press secretary to find out.
I take a deep breath and try to calm myself while I figure out how to spin this. Yes, I should have told them, but it’s not completely punishable; other members of the team are married.
“My husband and I are separated,” I answer honestly.
“You’ve only been married for four months. How can you be separated already?”
Do I admit it was a drunken mistake? I pull my lips between my teeth and try not to cringe. I drop my eyes to my fidgeting hands in my lap.
“We rushed it.”
“In Vegas?” He questions in a matter-of-fact voice.
“I’m sorry to do this but it’s coming from over my head. If you had told me, I would have been able to help you.” My eyes flash up at him. Is he firing me for getting married? “You’re being reassigned off the team. They want you to report to the New York field office in two weeks