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Ace of Hearts (Vegas Underground #3)
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“I hit the jackpot with this sexy page turner.” ~USA Today Bestselling Author Vanessa Vale
THE SWEET LITTLE SONGBIRD’S IN MY CAGE NOW.
Note: This steamy stand-alone romance is the third in USA Today bestselling author Renee Rose’s Vegas Underground series. No cheating, no cliffhangers.
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You know your career’s reached a new low when you’re booked for eight weeks in Vegas.
I stare at the giant neon marquee with my name in lights as the limo pulls up to the Bellissimo Casino and Hotel. I don’t care if the Bellissimo is the swankiest, hippest place in Sin City, it’s still Vegas. The shithole performers go to for low stress, easy money. Usually after they’re burned out.
So why the hell am I here twenty months after the release of an album and less than fourteen hours after the last performance of a grueling tour?
Because Hugh, my asshole manager, sold me out.
And now my parents, Hugh and I are in a world of trouble only I can fix.
Anton, my bodyguard, gets out first, then offers a hand to help me. I ignore it, because, yeah—I’m twenty-three, so fully capable of getting out of a car on my own, and not prissy enough to want help, although I appreciate the gesture. I climb out and shake down the skirt of my strappy, babydoll dress, which I paired with a beat up pair of brick red Doc Martens, and pop my earbuds out, the RadioHead album still playing.
A forty-something woman in a blue dress and heels clips out of the door, making a beeline for Hugh. Behind her, a huge, broad-shouldered man stands just outside the gold-trimmed door watching.
That’s not unusual. I’m the pop star, after all, but it’s the way he watches that sends rockets of warning shooting through my veins. His unimpressed, quiet observation and fine Italian suit give him away.
He’s Tony Brando, the man who now owns me.
I recognize him. He showed up to my concert in Vancouver, and again in Denver.
He’s the reason we’re here, despite the fact that I’m three hours from a total collapse, about to lose my voice and in desperate need of some alone time.
Of course, even if the mob wasn’t after me for close to a million dollars, Hugh probably would still have me booked until the next century. My well-being never factored into his or my parents’ plans for my career.
I told Hugh two years ago I needed a break. Time to find my muse again and make the music that catapulted me into stardom in the first place. I wanted to hole up in a studio to record my next album, which would fix the cash flow problem my parents were in after some bad investments last year.
But Hugh had a sure-fire scheme.
An idiotic, dangerous plan that my parents and I blindly trusted him to execute.
“Welcome, Ms. Heart. I’m Angela Torrino, Director of Events. The Bellissimo is so thrilled to have you, as you can see.” She gestures to the hundred-foot neon sign out on the strip with my name in lights.
I shake her hand and try to force a smile. Try not to glance at the pinstriped suit lurking behind her.
Hugh trots around and takes over, as always. “Thanks for making the arrangements, Ms. Torrino.” He pumps her hand. “Now, if you can get us access to the stage, we’ll start loading in so Pepper can rehearse before her performance tonight.”
Right. Rehearse—now. Because lord knows it’s a sacrilege to actually have one day of rest after traveling before I perform. Or even an hour.
I follow Hugh and Ms. Torrino toward the hotel/casino doors, Anton right behind me and slightly to my left.
Ms. Torrino stops to introduce Hugh to the large man in the doorway. Brando ignores her and steps forward. His movements are graceful for a man at least six and a half feet tall. His gaze is clearly on my face, and not in the wow-I’m-meeting-the-famous-young-rock star-Pepper-Heart way. No, it’s more a big bad wolf surveying his prey.
His gaze skims over my mouth, then lower, to my braless breasts and on down my bare legs. Then back up again at a more leisurely pace, finally resting on my eyes.
I’m pretty sure he likes what he sees, but he doesn’t leer. The smirk on his mouth is more one of satisfaction, like I’m a fine wine that’s just been delivered to him and he’s savoring my bouquet.
My stomach knots.
“Ms. Heart, this is Antonio Brando, one of the directors of operations here at the Bellissimo,” Ms. Torrino chirps from behind him. I’d like to say his big scary visage makes him ugly, but it would be a lie. Even with the light lines of scars marring his rugged jaw, forehead, and left cheek, he’s beautiful. Like some sort of Roman demi-god sent to Earth to rip apart men and conquer women until the lowly humans have all been tamed.
He doesn’t offer his hand. I don’t either. In fact, I give him my best fuck you stare—the one I usually reserve for Hugh.
“I’m looking forward to your show tonight.” His baritone moves through me, vibrating right between my thighs.