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Authors: Colleen Collins

Sleepless in Las Vegas

BOOK: Sleepless in Las Vegas
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This investigation is getting
very
personal

P.I.-in-training Valerie LeRoy is dying to get into the field. So when a client asks her to spy on someone, the thrill of her own case is too tempting to refuse. Instead of a cheating fiancee, however, Val’s actually checking out P.I. Drake Morgan! Worse, she ends up working with the guy.

Their differing opinions on techniques—and the instant attraction—make the sparks fly. It’s almost impossible to focus on their arson investigation. As the hunt for the truth intensifies and their passion rivals the triple-digit temperature, she and Drake learn why Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps….

The scrape of bar-stool legs against the floor interrupted Drake’s thoughts

In the mirror behind the bar, he observed a young woman sitting next to him. Even in this dim lighting, her hair gleamed like metal. Dye job or a wig. She wore so much eye makeup he couldn’t tell the color of her eyes.

His gaze dropped to her top—what little there was of it. A flicker of heat leaped in his chest as he caught the outline of her breasts straining the red, white and blue material.

She looked like a Fourth of July celebration about to pop.

“Like my top?” she asked in a Southern drawl.

He picked up her signals more clearly than if she’d banged a gong in his ear. Just because he picked them up didn’t mean he had to respond. Nope. He’d mind his own business and ignore her.

“It goes with my skirt,” she continued as though it were a two-way conversation.

He knew better than to look, but it was like telling Bambi to stay out of the forest. The skirt was thigh high and red. Below it, shapely legs in fishnet stockings ended in a pair of black stiletto heels with some kind of symbol on the side.

“It’s a fleur de lis,” she explained, pointing at her shoe with a frosty-pink fingernail, “for my boys, the Saints.” She grinned so wide, he saw she had a slightly crooked front tooth, which almost gave her a sweet, naive quality.

Clunk.

He looked stupidly at his phone lying on the floor and wondered when he’d let go.

Dear Reader,

I had so much fun writing
Sleepless in Las Vegas,
which follows up on the story of Val LeRoy, the best friend of Cammie Copello, the heroine in
The Next Right Thing
(Harlequin Superromance, March 2013).

I relate to Val, who has her heart set on being a private investigator. Nearly ten years ago, I had that same goal, and like Val, I had only a general idea what P.I.‘s did when I started my internship. It’s one thing to watch Jessica Fletcher, the female sleuth in the old TV series
Murder, She Wrote,
or Nora Charles, the other half of the Nick and Nora private-eye team in
The Thin Man
film series. But it’s a
whole other reality
when you’re working a case undercover, trying to blend into your surroundings, hoping you don’t blow it! An experience Val and I share, by the way.

One reason I so enjoy writing for the Harlequin Superromance line is that the stories, like life, thrive on romance, family and love. The hero in this story, Las Vegas private investigator Drake Morgan, has given up on finding love, but Val hasn’t…for the most part, anyway. Although they share a passion for their profession, they seem to have nothing in common in their personal worlds. Their story is about two very different people, a case of opposites attracting, who struggle with giving and receiving, contentment and heartbreak. What they gradually learn is their hearts have more in common than they realize.

I love to hear from readers, so I invite you to drop by my website,
colleencollinsbooks.com
, and let me know how you liked Val and Drake’s story!

Happy reading,
Colleen Collins

SLEEPLESS IN LAS VEGAS

Colleen Collins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Collins has written several dozen novels and two nonfiction books. She has also written articles for various writing organizations, including the Private Eye Writers of America and Romance Writers of America, and for periodicals such as
USA TODAY
and
PI Magazine.
Similar to the P.I.-intern Val LeRoy in
Sleepless in Las Vegas,
Colleen began her P.I. career being mentored by a man who drove her crazy at times—and vice versa—but they’re still together over a decade later.

Books by Colleen Collins

HARLEQUIN SUPERROMANCE

 

1840—THE NEXT RIGHT THING

HARLEQUIN BLAZE

 

290—A SCENT OF SEDUCTION
333—WATCHING IT GO UP
354—SHOCK WAVES

Other titles by this author available in ebook format.

To Elle Kaufman, with love

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Epilogue

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

T
HE
PHONE
RANG
, giving Val LeRoy a start. If it rang more than once or twice a day at Diamond Investigations, maybe she’d get used to its high-pitched jangle.

She swallowed the last bite of her lunchtime tuna-with-chutney sandwich while checking the caller ID. No name, but a 219 area code. She had been trying to memorize different area codes—after all, a phone was a private investigator’s most powerful tool. She wasn’t a P.I. yet, but when the day came, she wanted to be a knowledge bank in stilettos.

This incoming call was from…Michigan? No, Indiana. As she reached for the receiver, she noticed a glob of papaya chutney on her fingers.

Another jangling ring.

She didn’t want to sticky up the phone with her gooey fingers, but Jayne Diamond, her boss, insisted Val always answer using the handset, never putting the phone on speaker, to maintain the confidentiality of conversations. Rules, rules, rules. That woman had more than a reform school. Val had to remind herself constantly that being mentored by one of the best investigators in Las Vegas was worth all the restrictions.

Keeping in mind the confidentiality of the call, she glanced through the picture window next to the agency’s front door, which offered a view of their business parking lot and the sidewalk beyond. Their office was a renovated corner bungalow on a street with other similar bungalows. Not a high-traffic area. Although they sometimes had walk-ins, nobody was headed toward the agency on foot, and the only car in the lot was Jayne’s shiny Mazda Miata.

She glanced at Jayne’s office door. Closed.

Val rapped the speaker button with her knuckle.

“Diamond Investigations,” she answered softly, plucking a tissue from the box on her desk.

“Uh, are you a private investigator?” The man’s voice was low, hesitant.

“Yes.” Technically an apprentice, but Jayne didn’t want her saying that to potential clients. So Val could answer yes to such a question, but the truth was she’d done little else other than screen calls these first few months of her internship.

“I…think my wife’s…having an affair.”

Have mercy, a brokenhearted tale was on its way. She wiped her fingers with the tissue. “I’m sorry to hear that. What’s your name, sir?”

“George. My wife’s name is…Sandy.” He cleared his throat. “She started acting different about four months ago…in April, around our anniversary…doing things like walking into the other room to answer her cell, losing weight, buying new clothes. I suppose I coulda justified some of that, but when she started working later and later…”

Val watched a bright orange angelfish dart around rocks in the aquarium against the far wall, guessing what was coming next—Sandy was traveling to Las Vegas for A, a business trip; B, to visit family; C, to see old friends….

“Anyhoo…” He blew out a puff of breath. “Sandy is flying to Las Vegas later next week—on Friday, August sixteen—for a reunion…some kind of hookup with her cheerleader buddies from high school…”

Or another kind of hookup.

“And…” His voice grew thin. “I was wondering if…”

A P.I. could follow Sandy while she’s in Sin City.

“You could follow her?”

“We offer such services,” she affirmed. Val couldn’t wait for the day when she could just say yes and take on a case. But for now, she only passed on callers’ information to Jayne, who would make the final decision.

“I know the hotel my wife will be at…she mentioned renting a Dodge Charger…”

Ever since meeting her best pal, Cammie, a real-life P.I., a year ago, and hearing her stories about sitting on stakeouts, digging through trash to find evidence, interviewing witnesses to crimes, Val wanted nothing more than to be a private eye, too. But first, she needed to earn a Nevada license, which required logging ten thousand hours of investigative experience. After that, the plan had been for Val to become a student Watson to Cammie’s Sherlock in their own kick-ass, all-girl Las Vegas agency.

Val had to make adjustments to the plan when Cammie found true love and moved to Denver, but she hadn’t given up.

Jayne’s door creaked open, followed by the tap-tap of her sensible heels across the hardwood floor.

Which stopped abruptly at Val’s desk.

“…I could describe what clothes she’ll be bringing, jewelry, too, although…” George sniffed loudly. “I guess she might not be wearing her wedding ring…”

Val looked up at her boss, a trim sixtysomething with cut-glass cheekbones and gray-blue eyes that always seemed to carry within them a withering understanding of the human condition.

Jayne shot one of those withering looks at the phone, back to Val.

Who shrugged apologetically. She could almost hear another “you can’t always do things your way” lecture.

“I had that ring made special for her…” George stifled a sob.

Jayne mouthed a silent “no” while plucking a ballpoint pen from the breast pocket of her linen blazer, the same bloodless color as her short, bobbed hair. The blazer used to fit her better before she started losing weight recently.

Jayne jotted something on a notepad on the desk and held it up for Val to read: no infidelity cases.

Val nodded, waiting for George to calm down.

“Unfortunately,” she said gently, “we’re currently not accepting infidelity cases.”

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, during which the hum of the aquarium pump filled the room, Val added, “Let me give you the number of another P.I. who might be able to help you.”

After looking up the information on her computer, she gave him the number and ended the call.

Then she rolled her gaze up to Jayne’s.

“You cannot always do things your way,” the older woman began, arching a pale eyebrow. “Although I admire your strength of will and creativity—” she glanced at Val’s purple-streaked black hair, which today she’d knotted into a loose chignon “—you have a habit of forgetting that investigations are not always about autonomy. Often you must work closely with people. Even if you disagree with them or believe you have a more advantageous idea, it would behoove you to treat others’ suggestions with respect.”

Sometimes she wondered why Jayne always made it sound as though Val were interacting unbehoovingly with some nameless third party and not Jayne herself. But then, her boss had a way of distancing herself, as though she was always observing the world rather than living in it.

“Yes, indeed,” Val agreed, “I knew better than to put that call on speaker. Although, if you don’t mind my adding a side note, nobody was in the room with me, so it wasn’t like I was broadcasting the poor man’s broken heart to strangers.”

BOOK: Sleepless in Las Vegas
7.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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