Not Quite Dating (Not Quite #1)
“This one’s for the ball,” Mike said, slurping down his tequila shot. “And this one’s for the chain.” He chased it with his beer. “Your turn.”
Jack sat back as Mike pushed Dean to another round. Dean, the bachelor of the weekend, was well beyond three sheets but kept drinking anyway.
“W-what time is it?” Dean asked.
“You’re not allowed to ask until Sunday,” Tom reminded him.
“It’s not Sunday?” Dean’s gaze followed a cocktail waitress wearing a skintight miniskirt.
Jack, Tom, and Mike busted out laughing. “Damn, Moore, we might need to stay in your fine establishment for an entire week to work the bachelor out of this groom.”
Jack Morrison’s friends always called him Moore: more money, more women, and more time to do whatever he wanted due to his family’s portfolio. His buddies at the table had known him since high school. If they ever wanted to stay at the Morrison Hotel and Casino on the Vegas strip for a week or a month or however long, for that matter, Jack would make it happen. They all held executive positions or owned their own businesses, making it nearly impossible for them to get together as it was. The weekend bachelor party would have to do.
Jack had insisted they drive instead of jet over the California desert. With Dean walking the plank—or aisle, as it were—they wouldn’t have this golden opportunity again. Dean was the first of the four of them to get married, making this their last trip together as single men. The last time one of them didn’t need to rush home to a wife or kids. The last time they could all get pissing drunk and not have to explain themselves to a woman. One last bash, complete with Vegas and a road trip…what could be better? Once Dean said “I do,” it was all going to change. Deep inside Jack knew this…was ready for it. Life was a series of chapters, and this one would end in style if he had any say in the matter.
“Oh man, is that Heather?” Tom nudged Jack’s arm and nodded toward the casino floor.
Jack followed Tom’s gaze as it landed on the back of a woman he knew all too well. She had her platinum blonde hair piled high on her head; her shoulders were bare except for the spaghetti straps of the slim-fitting dress that hugged every surgically enhanced curve of her body. Just when Jack thought he could turn away without her noticing him, she shifted a glance over her shoulder and offered a painted-on smile.
“Well, hell, how did she know we’d be here?” If there was one woman Jack never wished to see again, it was probably Heather. As she swayed her h*ps while walking in his direction, Jack knew he wasn’t going to get his wish.
“She probably heard through the grapevine it was Dean’s bachelor party. And you do own the hotel, so where else would the party be,” Tom reminded him.
“Jack, sweetheart, what a surprise finding you here.” Heather’s wispy tone was born of practice and not sincerity.
Unable to avoid her, Jack stood as she approached. She leaned in and kissed his cheek. He quickly stood back and motioned toward his friends. “You remember Tom, Mike, and Dean?”
“Of course.” She offered them the fakest of smiles, her eyes narrowing on Dean momentarily before moving back to Jack.
“What brings you to Vegas?” Jack asked, as if he didn’t know.
“You told me this was one of your nicer hotels. I thought it was past time for me to spend time in it.”
“My father owns the casinos, Heather, not me.” All Heather saw was money. Didn’t matter where it came from so long as she could access it.
She waved a hand in the air. “You’re splitting straws again, Jack.”
“Hairs. Splitting hairs.”
She placed her fingers on his arm and squeezed. “You know how I dislike being corrected,” she reminded him.
You know how I hated you always showing up where I didn’t want you. And that was when they were dating. Jack had broken up with her midsummer.
It was now November.
She leaned in and whispered in his ear. “Can we find a moment alone?”
He loosened his tie and tilted his Stetson back on his head. “We’re in the middle of a bachelor party, Heather.”
Dean tossed back another tequila and sucked on a lime.
“Won’t take but a minute, darling.”
It hurts to smile when you’re gritting your teeth. Jack forced his jaw to unclench at her syrupy endearments. He remembered the day he put a halt to their brief affair. They were attending a fundraiser at the club in Houston and Jack noticed a beautiful brunette across the room eyeing him. Heather had scolded him with her breathy voice. “Jack, dear, please try and keep your eyes on me when we’re together. I don’t care what you do or who you might play with once we’re married, but to be so obvious when we’re standing next to each other, it’s simply boorish, don’t you think, darling?”
Where Heather cooked up the idea she would ever be Mrs. Jack Morrison, he’d never know, but it was then Jack realized how superficial his arm candy was. In a way, he felt sorry for her.
“Well?” Heather pulled him into the present with her question.
Jack knew exactly how to get rid of her, for the last time.
He nodded toward Tom. “Out front in ten?”
Tom grinned. “We’ll walk this one around, sober him up a little.”
Mike helped Dean to his feet while Jack motioned Heather toward the door.
The two of them wiggled around the people hovering at the slot machines. Someone at a craps table yelled out and the crowd around him cheered. An older woman leaned back in her chair as Heather walked by and brushed against her. Heather scowled and muttered something ugly under her breath.
Heather tilted her jaw higher, said nothing, and walked away.
The older woman looked genuinely sorry but at a loss for words.
Embarrassed, Jack took Heather by her arm and led her outside under the bright lights of the valet parking lot. The valet noticed him and snapped to attention. Before the valet moved a foot, Jack waved him off.
“So what are you really doing here, Heather?”
She angled her head to the side and painted on a smile. “I don’t like where we’ve been lately, Jack. I miss you.”
Jack held his ground when she moved forward. “There isn’t a we any longer. I thought I made myself clear.”
“I’ve given you a break. Now I want the break to be over.” She slid her hand over his chest.
He stopped her by holding on to her wrist.
“I didn’t ask for a break. I said we were over. We don’t want the same things.” He didn’t want a trophy wife, and that was all Heather could offer.
The edges of her lips fell into a pout. “We know the same people, play in the same circles. We’re perfect for each other.”
“No, we’re not. I want someone to be with me for more than my wallet. We both know that woman isn’t you.” Jack noticed the diamond-studded bracelet hanging off her wrist. They had been dating during her last birthday and Jack had given it to her. He regretted the gift now.
Heather’s fake pout faded and a spark of anger flashed in her eyes. “Every woman with you is going to be there for the money, Jack. I just happened to be honest about it.”
Her words stung, probably because they held some truth. It was hard to look past his father’s billions and Jack’s own millions. Still, the blonde in front of him had just made it clear she didn’t care about him at all. Jack drew the line there.
He waved to the senior valet, who quickly ran over.
“Yes, Mr. Morrison?”
“Can you bring my car around?”
The valet glanced at Heather, then back at Jack. “A hotel car, sir?”
“No, my car. The one I arrived in.”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.”
Heather smiled up at him, probably assuming she’d won something.
“Is there somewhere I can have my driver take you?” Jack asked. “Or are you staying here?”
“I have a suite at the Bellagio. But I don’t mind a move.” Another sickening smile lifted her lips.
Jack’s friends made their way out of the casino through the heavy glass doors.
“The Bellagio is perfect for you. I suggest you enjoy your time there.”
Her facade fell and anger straightened her jaw. “You’ll regret this someday, Jack. You’re going to marry some woman thinking she loves you and in the end be brokenhearted because she wants your trust fund.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed his ride pull up. He walked to his twin cab, a well-past-its-prime pickup, dirty from the long drive, and opened the door.
“What is that?” she barked and stepped away as if the truck was a snake about to strike.
Finally, a real smile lifted Jack’s lips. The look of absolute horror on Heather’s face was worth her annoying presence. “It’s your ride to the Bellagio.”
“I’m not getting in that thing. What did you do, drive it from Texas?”
Actually, he’d had it shipped to California for his latest business venture, and that’s when he and the boys had decided to drive it to Vegas. “Something like that. C’mon, get in.”
“I will do no such thing.”
“Suit yourself.” Jack opened the door wide and waved his friends in. “C’mon, boys. We have a bachelor to send off.” Jack turned to the kid who had jockeyed the truck around. “What’s your name, buddy?”
“Russell, sir. I’m new here.” The kid was maybe twenty-four.
“You know your way around Vegas, right?”
“Lived here all my life.”
Jack patted him on the back while Mike helped Dean into the backseat. Tom loaded in behind them. “Well, Russell, my friends and I need a driver tonight. We have some serious drinking to do and could use someone sober with us. You game?”
“And I’m paying you.” Jack waved the head valet over. “It’s Carrington, right?” he asked the senior valet.
“Carrington, Russell is going to help us out for a few hours. I hope that’s OK.”
“Of course, Mr. Morrison. Whatever you want.”
Jack winked at the man and turned toward the truck. When he lifted his foot into the cab, Heather called out.
Jack spared her a glance. “I offered you my ride, darlin’. Maybe a Vegas cabbie would suit you better. Carrington, would you mind finding Miss Heather a ride?”
Carrington shifted his eyes from Heather to Jack a few times and then lifted his hand for one of the many cabs waiting in line to take guests to their next destination.
Heather lifted her arms over her shoulders. “Jack!” she yelled as he shut the door.
He tilted his hat as a good-bye while Russell shifted the truck in gear.
“Jack Morrison!” Jack could still hear her screaming as they pulled away.
“Ho boy, that is one ticked-off woman,” Tom said, looking over his shoulder. “I don’t know what you ever saw in her.”
“She was a mistake.” A huge one. Jack was thankful his heart never got involved.
“Jack Morrison. Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be related to Gaylord Morrison, the owner of the hotel, would you?” Russell asked as he pulled out onto the strip.
Dean, Mike, and Tom started laughing.
“Did I say something funny?”
Jack buckled his belt and sat back. “That would be my dad.”
“Overdue…overdue…oh great, a shut-off notice.” Jessica Mann placed the highlighted water bill on the top of her pile with a grunt. Looking around the tiny break room of the twenty-four-hour diner she worked in proved just as bleak a view as her future. She really did need to make some changes in her life, and soon.
Leanne, the other graveyard shift waitress who worked with her, poked her head through the door and said, “You’re up. A party of four just sat on twelve.”
Jessie glanced at her watch and saw that it was twenty minutes past two in the morning. The after-bar crowd would soon start strolling in for black coffee and a place to sober up before their trek back home. Like clockwork, Sunday mornings were the worst. The truly stupid actually thought they could grab a cup of joe and still manage to make it to work on time. After tucking her bills into her purse, Jessie stepped out of the break room, through the short hall separating the kitchens from the service counter, and proceeded to table twelve. With any luck, one of the four people in the party would be sober enough to remember to tip her before they left.
Hearty male laughter met her ears before she rounded the corner to greet her customers.
Two faces peeked over open menus while the other two caught her gaze as she approached.
“Whew, hey, darlin’. Are you our waitress tonight?” a dishwater blond sitting on the end of the booth asked. With his question, the other men at the table lowered their menus to look at her.
A quick assessment told Jessie that the yahoos at the table were definitely coming off a night of drinking. Maybe even a couple nights from the state of their five o’clock shadows.
Dishwater flashed his white teeth and a little-boy smile. The man to his left elbowed him in his side. “Pay no attention to Dean. He hasn’t been sober for three days.”
“You’re one to talk, Mikey.” These words came from a robust man wearing a baseball cap and at least two days of stubble on his chin.
“Jack is the only one remotely sober,” Mikey said.
Yep, definitely a party crowd.
The one they called Jack took his time lowering his menu before acknowledging Jessie. His dark brown hair, topped with a Stetson, tilted as he moved his head. The stubble on his chin held the perfect amount of sexy. The slow, steady soaking in of his stare settled on her from the most unusual gray eyes Jessie had ever seen. Those smoky eyes took their ever-lovin’ time as his gaze slid over her hair, her face. After looking his fill, he caught her eyes again and held them. As if calculated for effect, Jack allowed a slow and delicious smile, complete with dimples, to spread over his face. A smile meant only for her.
Smiles like that should come with a warning label. His staunch attention did a number on her belly and raised gooseflesh on her bare arms. She swallowed hard, and her skin tingled as if he’d caressed her.
Jessie blinked a few times, broke eye contact, and asked, “How about some coffee?”
“That would be great,” Jack replied with an accent that matched his cowboy hat.
Read not quite dating online freeRead Not Quite Dating (Not Quite #1) E-books free – Not Quite Dating (Not Quite #1) Catherine Bybee, read not quite dating online free.