Tarnished Saints Series – Book 4
A small town lawyer ends up married to a Vegas blackjack dealer and he can’t remember how it happened.
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Excerpt from Seducing Zeb:
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas . . . unless you wake up married to the girl.
James Zebedee Taylor, or Zeb as everyone called him, woke with the vibrating buzz of his cell phone next to his ear. He ran a weary hand over his face, feeling the cold metal of a ring on his left hand that wasn’t there last night.
His eyes popped open as he focused on the ring, realizing it was a wedding band. The phone buzzed again and a sick feeling lodged in the pit of his stomach as he turned his head quickly to see a woman lying next to him. Her long ebony hair was fanned out around her as she lay on her stomach with her left hand resting propped up on the pillow.
“Damn,” he said aloud, seeing a matching wedding band shining on her finger. He jumped out of bed, realizing he was naked. Had one of his one-night-stands gotten out of control somehow? What the hell had happened?
He quickly scooped up the phone, clicking it on, all the while his eyes staying focused on the woman in his bed that he could barely remember from last night. “Hello?” he said quietly into the phone in order not to wake the girl until he could figure out what was going on.
“Mornin’ brother,” came his twin brother’s voice over the phone. “Sleep well?”
“James, I can’t really talk right now.” Zeb turned his back to the woman and stared at the wall of the hotel room as he spoke in a low voice to his twin. James Alphaeus Taylor looked exactly like Zeb, but was much more reserved, never having done half the crazy things Zeb did in his life, like putting himself through law school by stripping on the weekends. They may share the same looks and the same first name, but that was the extent of it. Their personalities were quite the opposite. Zeb was a wild bachelor who loved partying with as many women as possible, and James was more of a homebody. That is, James was a polite, respectable and somewhat shy cowboy who barely spoke to a woman unless she came up and talked to him first.
“I was calling for two reasons,” continued James not caring that Zeb wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries so early in the morning. “First, since it was our birthday yesterday and I didn’t arrive in Vegas til this morning, I thought we could celebrate with a brew and a rack of ribs later and maybe try our luck in the casinos.”
Thirty-four years of carefree living had never ended so badly for Zeb as it obviously had last night. “I already celebrated last night with some of the ladies while I was waiting for you to haul your sorry ass over here from Texas,” he told his brother.
“I’m sure you did,” said James. “Sorry, but the closing on my ranch took longer than I’d anticipated and things got complicated since Denise showed up insisting half my belongings were hers. I knew she’d be trouble since the day we split up.”
“Well, you’re just lucky you never married the girl or you’d have more to worry about than just a few missing pots and pans.” He looked down at the ring on his hand, still not believing he was really married. Not after he’d been so careful to stay single for the last thirty-four years of his life. And the worst part was, he couldn’t remember doing it at all. Now, all his troubles would begin.
“If I’d married Denise in the first place instead of just living with her for the last three years like you suggested, she probably would have never left me,” James reminded him. “Anyway it sounds like you had a good time last night even without me there. Knowing you, you got drunk and started stripping again just to impress the ladies. So, tell me. Did you get lucky?” he asked with a chuckle on the other end of the phone.
The woman on the bed moaned slightly in her sleep and Zeb turned back to look at her. Full, lush lips, high cheekbones and a long, straight nose were all he could see, as her eyes were closed and hidden beneath her long hair. She flipped over suddenly on the bed, and when she did the sheer slip that covered her body shifted, exposing half a naked breast.
“Lucky?” he repeated his brother’s words, fingering the ring with his thumb as he spoke. “Apparently so. Maybe a little luckier than I’d hoped for.”
“Good for you, you silver-tongued bastard. You seem to have all the luck with women. I must have missed out on that gene. Oh, that reminds me. Did you impersonate me, and go on that date I set up with Ebony the blackjack dealer from the Diamond Dust Casino? After all, she’s the hottest girl I’ve ever met and I’ve been trying to bed her the last two times I’ve been to Vegas. I’m pretty serious about her. I didn’t want to risk the chance she’d find someone else when I didn’t show, so I figured we’d pull the ol’ switcheroo like we always used to do growing up.”
“Oh, I don’t think you have to worry about standing her up on any more dates, James.”
“Why? What did she say? You know, she told me last time I was in Vegas that she wants to marry and settle down. She also said she wouldn’t go to bed with a guy unless she was married to him. And she said I’m the kind of guy she’s been looking for her entire life. And get this – she asked me to marry her. So I told her I’d marry her next time I came to town. I’m not sure if she believed me, but I was serious about it. I even picked up a couple of smokin’ rings for the ceremony. Won’t she be surprised?”
“Oh, she’ll be more surprised than you think.” Zeb’s head pounded and he couldn’t believe what his brother was telling him. He reached up and felt an egg-sized lump on his head and vaguely remembered someone hitting him last night. “James, you can’t be serious. What are you trying to say? That you planned on marrying a girl you just met? What the hell is the matter with you?”
“Ok – true, I don’t know her well, but since she seemed so hell-bent on marrying me for some reason, I figured I’d do something crazy and impetuous. After all, you’re always saying I’m boring and predictable so I thought I’d do something shocking. You know – that I’d act more like you.”
“That’s nothing like me,” snapped Zeb. “You know I like to bed the ladies, not tie a ball and chain around my ankle. I don’t even like to say the M word. My plan was always to be a bachelor my entire life.”
“And you probably will be, brother.”
“Don’t count on that,” Zeb mumbled under his breath, glancing back to the girl on the bed.
“Zeb, I’m tired of being a bachelor and I want to settle down. And since Ebony wants to get married so badly, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity.”
“Not as perfect as you think.”
“Come on, Zeb, lighten up. After all, I told you I’m moving back home to Sweet Water. I decided Texas is too far away from all my brothers. And with Denise gone, there’s no reason for me to stay. So I thought I’d surprise Ebony by selling the ranch and bringing her back home to Michigan. I only wish I’d moved back home while Ma and Pa were still alive. But that’s part of the reason I sold the ranch too . . . I want the lake house and lot on Thunder Lake that was promised to me in Pa’s will. You know what I’m talking about – the will where we have to be married to get our inheritance.”
“I know exactly what you’re talking about,” growled Zeb. “The inheritance that I don’t give a rat’s ass about since I’ve got more money than all my brothers put together.”
“Well, I care about it, so I hope you didn’t ruin my chances for my inheritance by doing something stupid and chasing away Ebony.”
“Well, yes and no,” he said, touching the bump on his head gingerly, feeling the leftover sting.
“What are you talking about, Zeb? So you did pose as me or not?”
“Oh, yeah. I pretended to be you all right. Even though I don’t know why I agreed to the lame idea in the first place.”
“Zeb, calm down. We changed places in high school all the time when I needed you to pass my calculus exam or talk to a cheerleader and get a date for me. We’re good at this game. So, do you think she believed you were me?”
Zeb held up his hand, inspecting the ring on his finger again and just shook his head. “I guarantee she thought I was you.”
“Hey, Zeb, sorry if I put you on the spot, bro, when I called you last night and asked you to do this for me. I know it was late and all, and I really appreciate you helping me out. But this is a chance for me to change my life. A chance to find true happiness with a beautiful woman. And even if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just stay married for a year so I can keep my inheritance the way Pa set up the will. After that, we’ll just both go our own ways.”
“Oh yeah, that sounds just like true love, you idiot. You know you’re just rebounding from splitting up with Denise. Besides, your plan may need a little revising,” Zeb grumbled.
“Well, I just hope you two didn’t get too comfortable. After all, I know the ability you have to seduce a woman. Even someone like Ebony, whose legs are crossed so tight that it would take a crowbar to pry them apart. And I wouldn’t want you stealing her away from me now that I’ve managed to land a woman sexier than any you’ve ever had.”
“Dammit, James, you are so naïve. I’m sure Ebony’s not even her real name. She’s a Vegas girl. She’s a player. And if a girl wants to marry you before she’s even checked out your goods, then she’s obviously not in it for the long run. I’m sure she only wants to marry you because you’ve got something she wants. And once she’s got her hands on it, she’ll dump you just like Denise did. For God’s sake, how could you let yourself be fooled by the likes of her?”
“Maybe you’re right, Zeb but I don’t really care. I’m not getting any younger and I want to settle down and raise a family. I’ve got a good feeling about this one, so I want to give her a chance. And Ebony’s a real looker, you have to admit.”
“Oh, she’s a looker all right, but just don’t put too much stock in that good feeling.” He glanced over to her sprawled out on the bed. She’d kicked off the covers and her slip rode up the back of her legs and a perfectly rounded derriere sporting a thong called to him from the bed and his groin tightened. “James, you never were a good judge of women, so just admit it.”
“Well this time will be different. You’ll see. But you know I still value your opinion about women, Zeb. So tell me. What do you think I should do? If you really think she’s no good, then do you think I should just have you dump her for me before it’s too late? Or tell her I found someone else?”
“You never could make a decision either,” Zeb told him. “Sorry James but I’m not going to be able to do what you’re suggesting. And I don’t believe she’s the one for you, so just try to put her out of your head.”
“Hey, I’m not going to be able to make something up and lie to her myself if that’s what you’re thinking. You know I’ve never been good at lying to a woman, but you’re great at it. You are the one who wrote the book on that one. After all, you’re a lawyer. Lying is your profession.”
“Well, hell. I wish you would have told me all these wonderful plans yesterday. It’s not going to be so easy to do what you’re suggesting now.”
Zeb heard the bedcovers rustle and looked over his shoulder to see the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen in his life sitting up and rubbing her eyes. Her long hair covered her face and with one hand she brushed it back behind her ear.
“I gotta go,” said Zeb. “I’ll catch you later.”
“Wait – I’m –”
Zeb clicked off the phone while James was still talking, and turned to look at his new bride. Her eyes opened wide as they settled below his waist and he realized just the sight of her sexy body had gotten him fully aroused. He grabbed the cowboy hat on the bedside table he’d worn to impersonate his rancher brother and held it in front of him to hide his strong desire for her.
“James?” she said with a laugh. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant.
“You’re playing shy again, like when I first met you, aren’t you?”
“Well, after last night, not only me but everyone in the nightclub knows you’re not the shy little cowboy you pretend to be.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you can’t act coy one minute and be pulling off your clothes, grinding your hips against the stripper pole with the dancers the next minute and think for one moment I’m going to buy the reserved act any more.” Then she smiled her sexy smile with those lush lips and drank him in with her bedroom eyes. “Although, I have to say the whole role-reversal thing kind of excited me.”
“So I stripped again, did I?”
“Don’t you remember?”