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"Brown is a superstar...Full–throttle fun."—Wendy's Minding Spot
A marriage made in Vegas...
Hunky cowboy Ace Riley wasn't plan...
"Brown is a superstar...Full–throttle fun."—Wendy's Minding Spot
A marriage made in Vegas...
Hunky cowboy Ace Riley wasn't planning on settling down, but his family had other plans for him...The only way to save his hide, and his playboy lifestyle, is to discreetly marry his best friend, Jasmine King.
Can't possibily last...
Fiesty city–girl Jasmine as just helping out her friend—that is, until their first kiss stirs up a whole mess of trouble, and suddenly discretion is thrown to the wind.
One hot cowboy, one riled up woman...
And they'll be married for a year, like it or not!
Praise for Carolyn Brown's Spikes & Spurs series:
"An old–fashioned love story told well...A delight."—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
"Tender and passionate love scenes...endearing and quirky characters...an absolutely adorable story."—The Romance Studio
"Plenty of twists, turns, and how cowboys, and a story line that's got to be continued."—Long and Short Reviews
About the Author
Carolyn BrownCarolyn Brown is an award-winning author who has published 36 historical and western romance novels for the library market, many of them bestsellers in that market. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband now make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma.
Shhhh! It’s a secret!
That line had run around in Jasmine’s mind all day on a continuous loop. She imagined two little girls playing out on the grassy law...
Shhhh! It’s a secret!
That line had run around in Jasmine’s mind all day on a continuous loop. She imagined two little girls playing out on the grassy lawn with their Barbie dolls, and it was a secret where Barbie and Ken were going for supper. Then two middle school girls in her bedroom gossiping about boys, and it was a secret.
Oh, the secrets she and Pearl had shared through the years, and now she had one that she couldn’t share with anyone, not even Pearl.
“No one in Texas is ever going to know. Not even Pearl. I’ll go home and everything will be the same. I’ll wake up Monday morning, open the Chicken Fried Café, and business will go on as usual and by then I’ll forget all about this wedding. It’ll be a secret, alright, but between me and Ace, and no one else will ever know.” She talked to herself as she flopped her suitcase on the hotel bed and unzipped it. Her hands were shaking. A fine bead of moisture covered her upper lip, and second thoughts were about to smother her plumb to death.
She and Ace had taken different flights. He’d flown out of Dallas on Friday and gotten their rooms. She’d arrived late Saturday afternoon and caught a taxi to the hotel. It was down to the wire, swim or drown time, red light or green light. Her hands were clammy and sweat was pooling up around the band of her bra. Nervously, she looked at the clock. The hands whipped around so fast that it made her dizzy. Where had the time gone?
She took a quick shower, washed and dried her long, dark hair, and applied makeup. Then it was time to dress. Thank God the plane had been on time or she would have been rushed. She couldn’t have stood a dose of nervous and one of hurry-up at the same time.
The white satin dress fit tightly to the waist with a hem that stopped right above her knee. Filmy illusion was attached to a white Stetson hat in a big bow with the streamers hanging to her waist. It was sprinkled with pearls and edged with lace. The shoes were white satin with beadwork on the high heels. But Jasmine didn’t feel like a bride. She felt like an imposter.
A rapid rat-a-tat-tat on the door said the time was up. She opened the door to find Ace smiling from ear to ear and holding a black Stetson. He was damn sexy in his black Western-cut jacket, creased black Wranglers, and white shirt unbuttoned at the collar. His blond curls were almost tamed with a healthy dose of gel, but a few still escaped to float playfully on his forehead. But then it was common knowledge that Ace Riley was a player, so he would know exactly how to dress, how to swagger, how to use that Texas drawl, and how to smile to attract the women.
He braced an arm against the doorjamb and let his gray-blue eyes slowly scan her from high heels to Stetson. That didn’t surprise Jasmine either. Flirting came as natural to Ace as breathing. The first thing he did when he walked into the café was scope it out for new skirt tails; the second was turn on the charm.
“Whew! You clean up pretty damn good, Jazzy.” His sexy Texas drawl was deep, and his words came out slow. Most women melted when he walked through the door and swooned when he opened his mouth. He’d never affected Jasmine that way, not until that moment.
She’d seen him before in dress jeans and crisply ironed shirts but never as fancy as he was that day. Most of the time he came into the café in his scuffed work boots, faded jeans, and shirts with the sleeves cut out; the barbed wire tat around his arm was a constant reminder that he never intended to let a woman anywhere near his heart. A motel bed or her bed, yes, but never his heart or his bedroom.
“Those are two places I’m saving for the love of my life if I ever meet her,” he’d told Jasmine once while he was eating hamburgers in her kitchen.
Jasmine struck a pose for him. “Do I look like a blushing bride? You know you shouldn’t be seeing me before the wedding. It’s bad luck.”
He fanned his face with his black Stetson and whistled through his teeth. “Oh, darlin’, you look every bit the part, and don’t worry about bad luck. We’re in Vegas and no one knows what we’re up to. You know what they say: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! We ain’t got a thing to worry about. Shall we go get married?”
She looped her arm into his and pulled the door shut.
The elevator was right across from her room and opened immediately when he pushed the down button. “See, it’s an omen. Nothing bad is going to happen because I saw you in that cute little dress. Besides, the rules are different in Vegas.”
“Oh yeah?” She looked up at him.
“Sure they are. Didn’t you read the rule book in the drawer right beside the Gideon Bible? God, Jazzy, this ain’t your first time in Vegas, is it?”
“Hell, no! I’ve been here before and you are full of shit! There is no rule book in the drawer.” She giggled.
“Did you look? Tell me, did you look in the drawer since you’ve been here this time?”
“Yes, I did,” she lied.
“Well, shit! Someone stole your rule book. Well, on page five, paragraph six, it says that the groom can see the bride on the wedding day and that it will bring them good luck. Paragraph seven says that the only thing they have to be careful with is the blackjack tables. If the bride is wearing her wedding dress, they will lose their money there. So all we have to do is stay away from the blackjack tables. Besides, what bride and groom would spend their time gambling anyway? They’d be rufflin’ up the sheets with some hot-as-hell sex,” Ace said.
“You are full of bullshit, Ace,” she laughed.
The elevator doors slid open and he strutted out with her on his arm. Heads turned as they walked past the blackjack tables, the roulette wheels, and the slot machines. Jasmine saw one woman fan herself with the back of her hand, another licked her lips as if she could taste his kisses, and at least two wiggled as if they needed to make a dash to the bathroom and change their underpants.
Ace noticed men with hungry eyes ogling Jazzy as if they’d like to lay her down on satin sheets and peel that tight-fittin’ dress off her slow and easy. Truth was that he was thinking about how those full lips would taste; if that long hair would feel like silk as he tangled it up in his fingers; or how slick those legs would be wrapped around him in a Jacuzzi. He shook his head to knock out the vision and another kinky blond curl fell down on his forehead. He didn’t bother pushing it back. After the wedding he would settle his black Stetson on his head and that would keep the pesky curls away from his eyes.
At the curb, he raised his hand and a taxi pulled right up. “See, more good luck. Elevator right there waiting for us and now a taxi is Johnny-on-the-spot. I tell you this is our night, Miz Jazzy.”
“Okay, I believe you, Ace. Nothing can go wrong, and what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Shhh, it’s a secret.” She held one finger to her lips.
He opened the door and held the streamers from her hat while Jasmine crawled into the backseat and then he followed her.
“Yes, it is a secret. Our secret and we’ll leave it right here, so don’t worry, darlin’,” he whispered.
His warm breath started something boiling down deep in her stomach. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. She had dated four men in the past year and a half. One of them got past the second date. None of them got further than a good-night kiss.
“Cupid’s Wedding Chapel,” he told the driver.
“I’ll have you there in twenty minutes. Traffic is pretty bad this time of night,” he said.
“We need to be there at seven.” Ace checked his watch. They had fifteen minutes. Dammit! He’d forgotten to figure in traffic. He’d just figured on getting there right at the time, doing the deed, and getting back to the hotel where he would play the slots for a couple of hours and go to bed.
“Then we’ll take a short cut. Hang on to your hats.”
“What happens at the chapel?” Jazzy asked.
“I bought a package deal. Pictures. Bouquet for you. License in a cute little folder with a seal on the front and the ceremony. The lawyer said to bring him a valid marriage license, but I’m taking pictures so Cole can see it was a real wedding. I appreciate you getting all dressed up, Jazzy,” he said softly.
She punched his arm playfully. “What are friends for?”
He grinned. “God knows I don’t want you to back out, but I wouldn’t blame you, and we’d still be friends if you are about to change your mind.”
She shook her head emphatically. “Hell, no! That sumbitch Cole isn’t getting the farm. But I do have one question, Ace. How is it that he won’t be tellin’ the whole family anyway?”
Ace graced her with his brightest smile. “Ranch, darlin’. Not farm.”
“Okay, let’s put it this way: That sumbitch Cole ain’t gettin’ your Texas dirt whether you grow potatoes or Angus calves,” she said.
He chuckled. “I like the part about sumbitch Cole, and I’ll stick to Angus. And I’ll explain the Cole situation to you after the wedding. Don’t worry. He won’t tell a soul about the ranch if he doesn’t get it.”
The taxi pulled up in front of a sweet little white chapel and parked behind a long, white limo with a driver standing at attention beside it. Ace gave the driver a bill. Jasmine scooted out of the taxi. She hadn’t planned on moving so much in the tight-fitting dress when she bought it the previous spring. It was supposed to be worn to a personal shower for a friend, but they’d changed their minds, decided to have the shower at a honky tonk, and everyone wore jeans. It had hung in her closet until that morning when she went looking for something to wear to her wedding.
Ace tucked her arm into his again. “Love the hat thing,” he said.
“Spur of the moment. Pearl was going to use it for her wedding and Tess pitched a fit, so she told me to do something with it. It’s my something borrowed,” she said.
She hooked a finger under her skirt tail, raised it a notch, and showed him a blue garter.
“Bra and underpants.” She giggled.
“New? The dress?” Ace asked.
“Yes, it is. Never worn, so it’s still new,” she said.
“Then we’ve got it covered.” He slung an arm around her shoulder. It wasn’t the first time Ace had hugged her or even walked across the café floor with his arm around her, so why did steamy little hot tingles dance up and down her spine?
The door opened at the exact time they stepped through the archway onto the porch, and a smiling woman motioned them inside. “You’d be Ace and Jasmine. You are right on time. I’m Harriett and I’ll be acting as your wedding planner tonight. My, don’t you both look beautiful.”
Ace cleared his throat.
Harriett laughed. “Handsome, then. Does that work better for you, cowboy?”
“Yes, ma’am, it surely does.”
She picked up a nosegay of red roses with streaming satin ribbons that matched the roses perfectly. “Hold them at waist level and loop your arm though his. It makes for prettier pictures and gives me time to get to the front of the chapel before you start down the aisle so I can get good pictures of you.”
Jasmine nodded. Harriett didn’t look a thing like Marcella, her mother’s cousin and most sought-after wedding planner in Sherman, Texas, but the authority in her voice sure reminded Jasmine of Marcella.
The lady hurried across the small foyer to swing open double doors into a tiny chapel with twenty white folding chairs on each side of the short center aisle. The traditional wedding march started playing softly from speakers attached to the pulpit at the front the moment the doors opened.
Jasmine wondered if they were on a timer—kind of like a clock wired up to a bomb. If so, what detonated the bomb? The words “I do”?
The preacher motioned them forward. Harriet rushed down the aisle in front of them, turned around, and started snapping pictures. Cole wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if he contested the marriage with all the pictures the woman took between the back of the chapel and the pulpit.
Jasmine was amazed to see that the chapel was completely full of people but figured they must be waiting for the next wedding, the one with the bride and groom waiting in the white limo out front. She wondered if they were movie stars or celebrities who had snuck off from Hollywood for a quickie marriage, and if the people in the audience were paparazzi from every ragtag gossip paper in the whole country.
They barely made it to the front when the preacher intoned in a loud voice, “We are gathered here this day to unite”—he looked down at the marriage license on the pulpit—“Jasmine King and Ace Riley in holy matrimony... Hand your flowers to Harriett,” he whispered.
Jasmine looked around to find Harriett reaching for the flowers. She laid the bouquet on an empty chair and went back to taking pictures.
“They’ll send them to my computer via email. Be there when we get home. I wasn’t expecting so many, though,” Ace whispered.
The preacher went on, “Now, Ace, take her hands in yours and face each other.”
When they were facing each other the preacher smiled and a flash went off behind Jasmine. These people really took the business of quickie marriages seriously.
“In this time-honored tradition of a wedding ceremony, Jasmine and Ace have come before me to repeat their vows to each other and to exchange rings. If there is anyone who has a reason they shouldn’t be married, please step forward now and state your cause or forever hold your peace.”
He paused for a minute, wiped his sweaty face with a white handkerchief pulled from behind the oak pulpit, and used both hands to slick back his thick black hair. The smile never left his face, and Jasmine heard several clicks behind her. Surely, those crazy people didn’t think she and Ace were the celebrities. Granted, she’d been asked before if she was kin to Dr. Cuddy on House. Maybe she should stop the wedding and tell them that the real celebrities were hiding in the limo outside, and they were wasting their batteries on a cowboy and a café owner from Ringgold, Texas, population less than a hundred.
“No one to protest?” the preacher asked again.
Jasmine bit back a giggle. Her four best friends, Liz, Pearl, Austin, and Gemma, would be stampeding through the chapel like a herd of longhorn heifers if they had any inkling what was going on that minute. But they didn’t and wouldn’t ever. Maybe someday when they were all sharing a room in a nursing home she’d tell them about the year she was married to Ace Riley. The vision that popped into her head was five old ladies sitting around a domino table. Pearl was the one with lightly frosted, red kinky hair, shooting daggers at the old man winking at them; Austin and Gemma would have gray streaks in their dark hair, but Liz, gypsy that she was, wouldn’t have changed all that much.
“Yes, well, apparently no one wants to object, so we will continue,” the preacher said. His smile was plastered on as if he expected it to get him through the pearly gates of heaven that very night, and the cameras all over the chapel kept up a steady clicking noise.
Jasmine was giddy with nerves over repeating vows right there before a certified preacher, and even God, that she had absolutely no intentions of keeping. Why didn’t he tell those people behind her that they were photographing the wrong wedding and why was he smiling like he’d just won the lottery?
She wasn’t the only one with a case of jitters. Ace was rubbing her palm with his thumb because he couldn’t be still. She wished he’d stop because it was shooting so much sexual energy through her body that she could have jumped him right there in front of the pulpit before the vows were said. The white dress and veil didn’t make her a real bride, but evidently her hormones thought it did. Maybe all brides felt like that when they were about to say vows before a grinning preacher and in front of a bunch of crazy people with cameras.
“Okay, Jasmine, repeat after me,” the preacher intoned.
Jasmine repeated with a heavy dose of guilt.
The preacher turned to Ace. “Repeat after me.”
Ace repeated without a single bit of guilt.
Ace dug in his pocket and brought out a set of matching plain gold bands he’d picked up at the Walmart jewelry counter on his way to the airport. He handed them to the preacher who blessed them and told everyone in the chapel their meaning before he handed the smaller one to Ace.
“Repeat after me as you put this on her finger. With this ring...”
“With this ring...” Ace said.
Jasmine kept expecting lightning to zip down through the cathedral ceiling, shatter the crystal chandelier, and fry poor old Ace deader’n a roadkill skunk for vowing things he had no intention of doing.
The preacher handed her the larger gold band. “Jasmine, you repeat after me as you put this ring on Ace’s third finger.”
“With this ring...” She slipped the ring on his finger.
Her chest constricted like a two-hundred-pound sack of potatoes had been slammed against it. Maybe God and all the angels had long since given up on Las Vegas and let Lucifer have it.
“And now I pronounce you husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Ace Riley. Go forth and be happy! But first, Ace, you may kiss your bride.”
Jasmine looked up and he looked down into her aqua-colored eyes. She hadn’t planned on this part. The preacher would say they were husband and wife and that would be that. But from the look in Ace’s sexy eyes, he was going to seal the deal with a real kiss.
She shut her eyes and moistened her lips. Lights started flashing and wedding music began playing, this time louder than before and with lots more jazz. Lord, a kiss had never affected her like that before.
Holy shit! That wasn’t supposed to happen! Jasmine thought.
But when she opened her eyes, it wasn’t just the sparks of a kiss setting off music and stars. All the people in the church were holding cameras and talking all at once. Someone with a video camera and a microphone on a long stick shoved chairs to one side so they could get closer. Red dots danced in front of Jasmine’s eyes and she wondered if it was the result of flashes and bright lights or if Ace was really that damn good at kissing.
“Hells bells, Ace, does this come with the package too?” she asked.
“I have no idea what this is all about,” he said.
“Mr. and Mrs. Ace Riley from Ringgold, Texas, you are the winners! You are the five thousandth couple to get married in my chapel,” the preacher announced in a booming voice full of excitement. “We’ve been advertising for weeks and you’ve won the prize! Today is mine and Harriett’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, so it’s perfect.”
Cameras seemed to light up the whole state of Nevada and suddenly the preacher’s perpetual smile made sense. He wanted to look good for the cameras. He had his arm thrown around Harriet and they were posing for pictures.
He talked out the side of his mouth as the flashes kept going off from different directions. “This service will be credited back to your charge card. The prize includes a limo for the rest of the evening complete with champagne and the honeymoon suite at the Bellagio where dinner will be served in your room. Keep smiling. I’m a lucky man that you are both so photogenic. Your picture will look beautiful in my foyer and in the morning papers.”
A reporter shoved a microphone near Jasmine’s face. “Why did you come to Vegas to get married?”
She swallowed hard but nothing came to mind other than shhh, it’s a secret.
“It’s so romantic,” she said.
“And we only had the weekend so we wanted to plan a short honeymoon as well as a wedding,” Ace said.
“I hope to hell this never goes any further than a picture in the foyer,” she whispered to Ace.
Someone yelled from the back of the chapel, “How long have you known each other?”
Ace hugged Jasmine up to his side. “A long time. We were friends first and we fell in love.”
He tipped her hat back, kissed her again for the cameras, and whispered, “Play along. We get the honeymoon suite and a limo. And it’s just a local contest thing.”
A petite lady in a cute blue suit with a multitude of support cameras asked, “When are you going back to Texas?”
Ace ran a hand through his blond curly hair, then settled his Stetson on his head. “We have to fly home tomorrow. So if y’all will let us get on with our honeymoon, we’d be much obliged.”
Jasmine turned around when one of the reporters asked, “Isn’t she the doctor that plays on that television show House?”
Another one answered before she could assure them that she was not a movie star, “No, that’s not Cuddy, but she does look like her. Hey, Mrs. Riley, are you any kin to Cuddy on House?”
Jasmine shook her head. She couldn’t see a bit of resemblance. It must be the full mouth and the dark, shoulder-length hair. Nothing else looked a bit like the television actress.
“Well, she’s damn sure got an ass like Cuddy,” another one said.
Jasmine shot him her best drop-dead-go-to-hell-do-not-pass-go look.
“Okay, guys, make an aisle for the bride and groom so they can get on with their honeymoon. Thank you for accepting my invitation to be here for this momentous occasion tonight,” the preacher said.
They separated for the newlyweds but kept shooting picture after picture. So many lights went off when Ace scooped Jasmine up in his arms that she saw big red streaks behind her eyelids. The limo was waiting and the driver opened the door when he saw them coming.
“Who is that?” a lady in a long white dress asked the man in a tuxedo beside her as they were going into the chapel.
The groom answered, “Must be movie stars or something for that much publicity. I told you we were getting married at the right chapel.”
Ace put Jasmine inside the limo and then crawled in beside her. One reporter stuck his head in the door and held up a small recorder. “Have you ever been in a limo before?”
“Limo? Honey, this is a limo! I’ll be damned. I thought it was that Pallatio suite that preacher man was talkin’ about,” Jasmine said in her best Texas redneck drawl. “I’ll be damned, Ace. This is just the car. Wonder what that other place is?”
Ace guffawed. “I think it’s Bell-a-gio, darlin’, not Pal-la-tio. It’s a fancy hotel.”
“Well, how about that? Are you going with us?” she asked the reporter.
When he started to get inside the limo, the driver quickly shut the door.
“Damn, Jazzy, you are a hoot!”
“Hoot nothing. This is a holy mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, Ace! Now what? Does the paparazzi follow us all the way to the hotel? Or do they come right into the honeymoon suite and take pictures of us in our jammies? Dammit! All I brought was boxer shorts and a tank top. If I’d known I got to be a star I’d have bought a black lacy teddy,” Jasmine said.
“Now you know how the real Cuddy on that television show feels.” Ace laughed. But an instant picture of her in a black lace teddy on a big bed with gold satin sheets started an arousal and he had to think about something else in a hurry or be in misery all the way to the hotel.
Jasmine shot him a look that said funny was over.
“Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t do it. And I’ll protect the door of our honeymoon suite like a dragon protectin’ a princess. One thing for sure, darlin’—there ain’t no way that smart-ass lawyer can take my ranch away from me now. We’ve got pictures and I’ll buy whatever newspaper the article is in tomorrow morning about us winning the prize. Who would’ve thought we’d fall into a deal like this? Right now I’m telling the limo driver our first stop is our hotel to get all our things. We’ve got luxury waiting at the Bellagio. Champagne first?”
He removed a bottle from the ice and held it up.
She nodded. She damn sure needed something to calm her nerves.
He poured two flutes and handed her one. “To a happy marriage, Jazzy.”
She touched her glass to his. “And to a happier divorce.”
“I was literally laughing out loud at points in this book. ” - The Romance Studio
“Brown out did herself with this new cowboy romance. I lo...
“I was literally laughing out loud at points in this book. ” - The Romance Studio
“Brown out did herself with this new cowboy romance. I love this series and each one I read just seems to get better.
” - Sexy Women Read
“You'll read with a smile on your face, that's for sure! ” - The Book Binge
“Who doesn’t love a sexy cowboy story!” - Stitch Read Cook
“Brown never disappoint... A light fun cowboy romance that will make you want a cowboy of your own.” - Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
“Alive with humor... Another page turning joy of a book by an engaging author.” - Fresh Fiction
“A passionate story... A delightful read. ” - Mrs. Condit and Friends Read Books
“Brown has a way of capturing the heart and soul of all things cowboy... ” - Thoughts in Progress
“Sizzling hot and absolutely delectable...” - Romance Junkies
“A simple story about falling in love with the person you least expect. ” - The Book Girl
“A feel good novel with sexy cowboys and sassy southern women. ” - Let’s Get Romantical
“A very romantic tale of two friends with a few twists and turns... A+” - The Book Reading Gals
“The hunky males who occupy this corner of Texas and the women who have corralled their hearts combine plenty of sass and spice in this sweet Western romance” - The Reading Addict
“A passionate story of expectations and what happens when the only terrible secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves. This was a delightful read.” - Mrs. Condit Reads
“Entertaining and fun and just the perfect read as a light, contemporary romance.” - Smitten with Reading
“Delightfully fresh and unique... Brown’s writing style has a such a down home country feel that is so realistic you will feel like you are right in the heart of Texas.” - Book Reviews and More by Kathy
“Some cowboy books have passion, action, love and drama but what the author has done is added a lot of fun new little sayings and scenarios that really had me laughing out loud. ” - Romancing the Book
“If you like hot cowboys, good old-fashioned wisdom, family, close friends and some good sex scenes, you will love this book and Carolyn Brown’s work! ” - Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
“Classic characters, a dash of spice and a healthy addition of southern twang. It's a winner.” - Long and Short Reviews
“I love the way the characters in this story talk because it is so uniquely Texas and matches the books authenticity in a way that will make readers smile... the characters are fun, loyal, and the story had surprise turns within it. ” - A Snarky Space
“Lazy drawls and pointy-toed boots are at the heart of Brown’s Texas-set romance. The third book of the Spike & Spurs series will make readers laugh along with the large and colorful cast of characters. 4 Stars” - RT Book Reviews
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 6.56 oz
Page Count: 384 pages