Waking up in Vegas next to a naked showgirl named Fayre after a scorching night of passion puts a smile on Colton Denning’s face—until he discovers she’s his new wife. How could the stable, workaholic Colton have married such an unpredictable force of nature, a woman as likely to throw pottery as a kiss? But when it comes to tender love—and erotic war—Colton’s discovering that all is Fayre…
Originally published March 2005 within the 3 Brides For 3 Bad Boys trade paperback anthology and February 2008 mass market paperback for for Kensington Brava.
“This book is certainly going on my keeper shelf and will delight readers.” 4.5 Stars – The Romance Studio
“The combination of distinctive plots with steamy, sensual relationships and impressive heroes and heroines makes 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys impossible to put down.” – Romance Junkies
“Lucy Monroe never disappoints with stories of alpha males and the women who can’t help but love them.” 4 Stars ~ Cataromance
“You have a way of bringing the story to a great end and all is well. I really loved the romance that you put in the pages.” ~ Sharon Harbaugh, Munchkinbooks
Somebody had stuck a vice on Colton Denning’s temples and it was so tight, he thought his head might explode.
He never drank, but had that stopped him from finishing off an entire bottle of champagne by himself? No, it had not.
Now, he had to live with the consequences.
A head that wanted somebody to shoot it and put it out of its misery. A mouth that tasted like it had been stuffed with sawdust used to soak up a wrestler’s sweat. Okay, that image had been a little too graphic. His stomach roiled and his throat convulsed.
He forced one eyelid open. He was facedown on a bed. That was good. The last thing he remembered was watching the follies in the showroom at his Vegas hotel. At least he’d made it back to his room. Now, if he could just make it to the bathroom before he lost whatever was in his stomach…
With an unmanly groan he would never have let another person hear, he shoved one leg off the side of the bed. Then the other one. Using his arms to leverage himself, he pushed upward. If he couldn’t make it off of his knees, at least he could crawl to the bathroom.
Bleary eyes took in the details of his bed. The bedspread was hanging off the end of the mattress and the covers were a mess, really lumpy.
Make that extremely lumpy.
The shock of what he was seeing sent him staggering to his feet. He reeled backward then staggered forward again until his shins ran right into the side of the bed. He rubbed his hand over his eyes, but it didn’t erase what he saw.
A naked, very voluptuous woman was in his bed.
Long, chestnut hair covered her averted face, but he didn’t need to see her features to be absolutely certain he didn’t know her. Because the blankets did not cover her body. Perfectly formed breasts with wine rose tips peaked at him from amidst the white linen. Her arms were thrown above her head in sleepy abandon. The sheet and blanket that barely covered her belly were twisted around her shapely calves and did nothing to hide the feminine curls at the apex of her very toned thighs.
Aw, hell. With a body like that, she had to be a showgirl.
He didn’t date showgirls. He wasn’t big on dating period, but when he did date, he took out women who thought flamboyant was wearing a read sweater set instead of brown. Nothing like his mother, Moonbeam, the original flower child who’d never grown out of her tie-die t-shirts and bangle bracelets. And definitely nothing like this gorgeous creature in his bed.
Of course, she hadn’t been a date.
She’d been a one-night stand. Another never for him.
Even as his dick responded to the sight of her oh-so-perfect body, his stomach clenched at the idiocy of going to bed with a stranger. His initial reason for forcing his body from the bed made itself known again. He spun on his heel, which sent the vice on his temples into a pulsating mode, but he didn’t care. He had to get to the bathroom.
He made it, shutting the door with a jerky movement. Afterward, he brushed his teeth and drank several glasses of water from the tap, downing some aspirin with one of them.
He leaned against the counter, refusing to even glance in the mirror at the fool who’d taken an unknown woman to bed and risked his life for a night of sex he couldn’t even remember. He felt like he’d been run over by one of his excavation units, and what was he supposed to say to the woman lying in his bed? He didn’t even know her name.
No doubt, she’d really get a kick out of learning that fact. It suddenly occurred to him that he had no desire to stick around for an awkward morning after.
Had his bathroom ablutions woken the woman in his bed? He snuck a peak around the partially closed bathroom door.
She’d turned onto her side, exposing luscious, round cheeks he wished he could remember touching because sure as certain, he wasn’t going to be touching them again. Her soft, slow breathing indicated she was still asleep.
He quietly snuck back into the main room and started searching for the clothes he’d been wearing the night before. He found his slacks in a pile under some spangly white thing. Her costume. It didn’t look like it covered up much more than the sheet was doing this morning.
He tossed it aside and grabbed the pants, his knees about buckling with relief as several opened condom packets scattered to the floor. At least they’d practiced safe sex. Having no memory of the previous night after his third glass of champagne, he had to assume he owed the woman in his bed thanks for making sure they had used protection.
He grabbed the rest of his clothes off the floor and tossed them into his duffel bag with the others he’d packed yesterday. He’d planned to get an early start on his trip to Mexico this morning. He was supposed to meet his brothers on Luna Island in three days and he still had to confirm delivery of the exploratory mining equipment to Las Playas del Blanco and arrange its transport to the island.
He dragged on a pair of tan Dockers and a t-shirt. He would have to forego a shower. No way was he risking waking the woman up with the sound of running water.
He’d grabbed his shaving kit from the bathroom, slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and had his hand on the door handle when he stopped. Okay, so maybe it had been a one-night stand, but could he just leave her like that? Naked and in his bed. She deserved a note or something.
Considering the number of condoms they’d used, he had to figure she’d given him a heck of a night, even if he couldn’t remember it. He went back to the desk under the hotel window and pulled out a sheet of hotel stationary.
It took him several minutes to decide what to write, but finally he had it down and was on his way out the door.
He stopped at the front desk and paid the exorbitant fee Vegas hotels charged for keeping his room a night longer than his reservation. He didn’t want her being kicked out of bed by housekeeping later that afternoon.
It was the best he could do for her.
Fayre kicked the flat tire on her lime green Volkswagen Beetle.
She was going to kill him. When she caught up with that too damn sexy, good-for-nothing, lying, leave a woman sleeping in bed while he snuck out, creep, she was going to murder him. Slowly. And she was going to enjoy doing it.
But murder and mayhem had to wait while she changed the tire on her little car, the hot sun making her oversized t-shirt and crop pants feel like an Eskimo parka.
Oh, she was going to make him pay.
She really was.
Right after he explained how he could just walk out like that after all the things he’d said.
A crack of almost hysterical laughter echoed around her. Why even bother asking? Mr. Colton Denning had just been another frickin bad choice in men. The kind she excelled at.
When was she going to learn?
But, damn it, he’d seemed so sincere.
She didn’t trust men, never, not anymore. So, how had she let herself fall for his line? He’d seemed so sincere. He’d seemed different than the other creeps who saw her body and nothing else.
He hadn’t been and it had hurt more than she’d thought possible to hurt anymore. She should be inured to that kind of thing by now, the love her, leave her crap. So, how had he gotten under her skin and right into her heart?
She’d believed his line about love at first sight because she’d felt the same thing.
Only she hadn’t. Oh, what she’d felt had been real enough. Hence the pain in her heart that would not go away, but he hadn’t felt anything more than the twitching of his oversized dick in his custom tailored pants.
The sound of another car coming on the deserted highway sent her thoughts scattering. She spun around to look, shielding her eyes from the sun even though she was wearing her Donna Karan sunglasses. It was an old rattle-trap truck, too many colors to distinguish which had been the original. Pulling to a stop behind her car, the engine shuddered to a halt.
Fear coursed through her. She was a woman alone on a deserted road in Mexico and her Spanish was only marginally better than her grasp of nuclear physics. She read dictionaries for pleasure, but they were in English.
The sun glared off the windshield, blocking her from seeing the driver and her body went tense in preparation for flight or fight. But it wasn’t the driver’s door that opened first. The passenger door banged open and two small children tumbled out of the truck cab. They were followed by an obviously pregnant woman who had Fayre’s immediate empathy.
Finally, the driver’s door opened and a stocky Mexican man stepped out. He smiled at Fayre, said something to his wife which made her smile and something to his children which sent them rushing to the back of the truck. He walked over to his wife and took her arm, helping her walk with all the solicitude of gentle and obvious love.
Fayre’s eyes smarted with tears for no good reason she could think of.
The two came over to where she stood next to a half-jacked-up car and her spare tire. “I help you, señorita?”
On a normal day, she would have refused his help, saying she could do it herself. But this wasn’t a normal day and she offered the tire jack to him without a single argument and a heartfelt, “Thank you.”
He nodded, smiled again and finished jacking up her little car. It looked like he knew what he was doing, so she left him to it.
“You go to Puerto Vallarta?” the woman asked, naming a city popular with tourists further south on the coast.
Fayre forced her normally mobile mouth into a smile. “No. I’m going to Luna Island.”
“Is pretty place.”
Fayre wouldn’t know. All she did know was that was where the owner of Denning Mining Operations had gone and she was determined to track the snake down.
However, she smiled again and nodded.
The children ran up, offering Fayre a piece of fruit. She knew to refuse would offend the small family, so she accepted, but then pulled some cokes and other snacks from her food store in the small trunk of her car to share with them. The kids were ecstatic and watching them brought the first real grin to her face in days.
A half an hour later, she was again behind the wheel of her car and the Mexican family was on its way.
Now, that was a man. He stopped to help a woman in distress, took care of his pregnant wife and was tender with his children. He was not some slimy toad who talked a woman into his bed and then dumped her in the morning with a note on the hotel stationary no less. Frickin’ cheap and uninspired, that’s what Colton Denning was.
Seated at the small table in the back of the Las Playas del Blanco Taverna, Colton sipped at his coffee while he waited for his weekly supplies to be loaded onto his boat.
The coffee was bitter and lukewarm, but he hadn’t had so much as a beer since the disaster in Vegas.
The woman haunted his dreams and he had a sneaking suspicion that he was reliving the wild night in his sleeping fantasies. If that was the case, he was the biggest fool that had ever walked God’s green earth for leaving her behind without so much as a goodbye.
Even if his dreams were nothing related to what really happened, his conscience ate at him when he thought of her waking up to nothing but a note and an empty hotel room.
He should have stuck around, no matter how uncomfortable it would have been. Moonbeam would be appalled if she knew he’d treated a woman like that.
His mother might live wild in a lot of ways, but she’d raised him to respect the opposite sex and protect them when at all possible. He’d done very little of that with the woman he’d left behind.
If he could remember her name, he would have called her to apologize, or maybe sent her flowers in care of the follies. Something. If he could even remember her face, he would make plans to go back to Vegas and find her to tell her he was sorry in person. Hell, he might do it anyway.
He knew three things about her. She was a showgirl, she danced in the follies at his hotel and she was a natural brunette…or was that shade of chestnut considered a redhead? Anyway, he knew what color her hair was.
He knew what her ass looked like too and he’d give an awful lot to see it again, but her face remained a mystery. Even in his dreams.
And it bothered him.
He looked up as the doors to the taverna swung inward and a woman walked in. She was tall, easily five-ten, but that was about all he could really tell about her. She’d camouflaged her figure behind a baggy t-shirt that hung down to her thighs and loose fitting crop pants. A pair of designer sunglasses hid her eyes and a baseball cap covered her hair, which was scraped back into a ponytail away from a face that said the word in cranky.
She looked ready to do violence.
He wondered which of the poor fools in the taverna had pissed off the pale-faced Amazon.
Her head swiveled from side to side as she scanned the room, but before her gaze reached him, one of the men sitting at the bar got up and approached her. Garcia.
Every bar had to have a badass and at the Las Playas del Blanco Taverna, Garcia was it. He steered a clear path around Colton. Most of the men did, but Colton had seen the man in action and he didn’t have a good feeling about what was going to go down here.
Garcia said something coarse and suggestive to the woman in Spanish. The other men around him snickered.
It didn’t help that they were far enough into rural Mexico for a lot of old-world beliefs to still be a big part of the local culture. Like the idea that nice girls didn’t travel alone.
The woman looked at Garcia. “I don’t speak Spanish.”
Her husky voice affected Colton like no woman had in the six weeks since he’d left Las Vegas.
Garcia laid his hand on her arm, stepping closer to her. “No talk, que bueno, señorita. I not want to talk either.”
He was tall for a Mexican, but he still didn’t quite meet her eye to eye. Not that that seemed to bother the guy. He was intent on proving his reputation.
She tried to shake his hand off her arm, but his grip tightened and she winced.
Colton came to his feet without thought and the men around him scooted backward. He was used to such a reaction to his size. He usually found it amusing. Right now, nothing was funny, though. Not with the woman starting to look scared and the men in the bar taking on the appearance of a pack of jackals.
“I’m here looking for my husband.”
Colton’s teeth ground together. The idiot should have known better than to send his wife into a Mexican bar without him. Even during the day, it was a bad idea.
Garcia grabbed her other arm and pulled her closer to him. “Maybe you come to the wrong place. All you find here is me.”
The guy’s English was pretty good, but his manners were rotten.
“Let her go.”
Colton didn’t expect his words to have much impact. Most of the guys in Las Playas del Blanco were good men, but with a badass like Garcia, there was no point in attempting reason. Maybe a couple of hours ago, before he’d consumed enough whiskey to turn his eyes red, but not now.
From what Colton could tell, the guy had been drinking since morning. He’d sure as certain gotten more and more belligerent over the past hour Colton had been in the taverna.
Garcia didn’t turn. “You stay out of this, gringo.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
The woman’s head turned toward him when he spoke the second time. “You!” She’d been looking frightened, now she looked mad enough to take Garcia down to his toenails. “Let me go.”
She didn’t shout, but if Colton had been Garcia, he would have obeyed. The woman sounded deadly.
Garcia wasn’t that smart. “I no think so. You are a pretty soft woman.” He caressed her arms. “Maybe I like to feel some more of your softness.”
“I told you, I’m here to see my husband.” Then her knee came up at the same time as her arms came out in a classic windmill breaking his hold. She brought both hands down in a simultaneous slap on Garcia’s ears.
He crumpled to the floor, cussing in Spanish as much as his labored breath would let him. He didn’t even try to get up, but writhed in pain on the dirty floor. She must have gotten him a good one in the nuts.
Some of his friends moved as if to touch the woman and Colton gave them a look that dared them to do it.
They backed off.
She didn’t even notice. She wasn’t looking at Garcia any longer either. Her entire attention was fixed on Colton.
“You said you came to meet your husband.” For some reason he really hated saying those words. “Maybe I can help you find him. What’s his name?”
She might be the wife of one of his engineers. No one had said anything about having a wife join them, but she might have decided to surprise her husband.
She whipped her sunglasses off her face. Green eyes the color of perfectly cut emeralds glared at him as if he was lower than a snakes belly. “That’s not funny.”
“I wasn’t trying to be funny, ma’am. I’d like to help you find your husband.”
“What, don’t you think a Vegas marriage license is legal?”
This was getting weird. “I’m not sure—”
Her hand came up over her mouth and her throat convulsed. She gasped in air. “I need a bathroom.”
He didn’t think twice about the wisdom of his actions, but swung her up in his arms and headed out of the bar. The single toilet bathroom in the back would have made her nausea worse, not better. There was a stream that ran behind the taverna all the way to the beach. He carried her there, his long legs eating up the distance.
They made it to the stream in the nick of time.
He held her while she was sick, crooning stupid stuff about how she was going to be okay and that it would feel better in a little bit. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
Though he was silently cursing her moronic husband who hadn’t been in Las Playa del Blanco to meet her when she arrived. When she finished, he ripped open one of the pre-moistened wipes he’d kept in his pockets since coming to Mexico and washed her face.
“I know you want to rinse your mouth out, but the stream isn’t safe. I’ll take you to my boat. I’ve got bottled water and something to settle your stomach.” And he’d find out where the heck her absentee husband was.
She nodded, but didn’t attempt to speak. Her face was the color of the white beaches the town had been named for and her breathing was way too shallow for his liking.
He didn’t give her the option of walking, but picked her up again and headed toward the docks.
When they reached his boat, the supplies were loaded and one of the men from town was waiting for Colton to sign the approval slip and pay him.
He nodded toward the man to tell him to wait and carried her inside his cabin. He laid her down on the bed.
Her eyes flared with alarm.
“I’ll be back in a little bit and we can go about finding your husband. Just rest and get your breath back right now.”
Her eyes went all squinty, but then she seemed to deflate and turned her head away. “All right.”
He felt wrong about leaving her, but he had a man waiting for him. “Listen, what’s your husband’s name? Maybe he’s in town right now.”
She turned on her side away from him, like a wounded animal seeking to minimize its vulnerability. “Go away.”
Damn it, he could not leave her like this. He leaned over the bed and laid his big hand on her shoulder. Her bones felt fragile. “Tell me what’s wrong, honey.” He’d never called a woman by an endearment in his life, but it slipped out, feeling too natural considering she was a married woman. “Maybe I can help.”
Not that there was a whole lot he could do if she’d picked up a stomach bug from drinking tainted water. It would just have to run its course.
She curled up into a tighter ball and her shoulders shook as if she was crying.
He’d never felt so helpless in his entire life. He was the go-to guy, the responsible one. He fixed things for people and here was this woman lying on his bed, crying like her heart was broken and he didn’t know a damn thing to do to fix it.
“Please, just tell me your husband’s name. I’ll get him. I promise.” He’d drag the man to his boat by the scruff of his neck if that’s what it took.
She mumbled something into the pillow.
“What did you say?”
She lifted her head, tear-drenched eyes accusing him with such impact, he almost believed he was the sorry bastard responsible for her plight.
“M-my husband’s n-name is…” Her voice trailed off into a sob. Her entire body shook, the hurting in her eyes tearing at his own soul. “C-colton Denning.”
Then she turned on her side again, dismissing him with her body language as effectively as if she’d flipped him off.
How had she known his name and why was she so pissed at him? She was obviously not going to tell him her husband’s name right now.
“I’ll be right back.”
He was up on deck, handing a wad of pesos to the supplier when certain things began to register.
The woman lying in his bed had chestnut brown hair. He hadn’t noticed until she turned away from him and he got a good look at her ponytail. Even then, the rich reddish brown color hadn’t really sunk in until he’d looked back at her once more before walking out of the cabin.
Other things started filtering into his brain as well. Her calves were extremely well toned, like those of a dancer…or a showgirl. She’d spit out Colton Denning with a lot of contempt, but also as if answering his question, which implied something totally impossible.
That he was her husband.
Fayre lay on the bed and willed her stomach to settle and her tears to cease. She’d done all the crying over Colton Denning she was going to do. Wasn’t that what she’d promised herself? Hadn’t she come to make him face up to his responsibilities, not grieve the sorry bastard’s lack of a conscience?
But how could he act like he didn’t even know her?
Like they’d never even met. Like he’d never sweet talked her into believing it had been love at first sight for him. That he wanted to marry her more than he wanted anything else in life. Come on, girl. He walked out on you, turning your so-called marriage into a one-night stand.
Her stomach cramped and she willed herself to calm down.
“Are you trying to say you are my wife?”
She flipped onto her back in shock at the volume of the words that reverberated in the small room.
Pushing herself up into a sitting position, she was grateful her stomach didn’t start heaving again. “Are you trying to say you don’t remember?”
“Right. You’ve got amnesia.” She might look like a bimbo, but she wasn’t one.
She believed that fairytale like she believed Cinderella had been a historical figure. Not.
The bulging muscles of his big body went tense and sexy lips that had done incredible things to her body at one time thinned into a frown. He brushed his hand over his head, almost as if running his fingers through the non-existent black hair he’d had shaved close to his head.
Then his dark brown eyes bore into her with intense concentration. “Why don’t we start by you telling my why you’re claiming to be my wife.”