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Authors: Cheryl Harper

Stuck On You

BOOK: Stuck On You
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Stuck On You

CHERYL HARPER

 

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

An Excerpt from
Can’t Help Falling in Love

An Excerpt from
“Love Me Tender”

About the Author

An Excerpt from
All or Nothing
by Dixie Lee Brown

Copyright

About the Publisher

 

Chapter One

T
HE CLUSTER OF
Chers at the corner table was making Laura Charles nervous. They were clearly hungry. Very, very hungry. Their predatory eyes were trained on the kitchen and their wigs rippled in some nonexistent breeze.

Laura leaned against the counter and shot a surreptitious look at the table in the mirror over the bar. She couldn’t look for too long. The Las Vegas Strip-worthy lights surrounding the mirrors would burn a hole into her brain with too much exposure. Everything about the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel was a nod to Elvis, and Viva Las Vegas, the lobby bar and restaurant, was no different. While the hotel lobby channeled Graceland’s Jungle Room with lush greenery and dark woods, Viva Las Vegas was more sequined showgirls and bright white lights. The tropical greenery here provided welcome shade from the bar’s overwhelming glow.

“Sal, can I get an update on the entrees for table twenty?” Laura leaned forward to add, “It looks like the Chers are fixing to turn back time on my rear if you don’t get me something quick.”

She tried to stealthily tug up the neckline of her uniform. Since Vegas was the theme, the wait staff dressed like they’d be forming a kickline at any minute. The short, skintight dresses could have been a lot worse. Everything Laura had was covered but she wished she had a quarter for every time she inched the sequined halter up or smoothed the bottom down. And the hot pink satin drew attention. More than the color or the cut, the three huge feathers attached right over her rear had taken some getting used to.

When there was no answer from the kitchen, Laura said, “Ha! Get it? Turn back time? Chers?”

Sal didn’t seem to appreciate her joke as he wiped a pristine white towel across his forehead and slid three plates through the pass. “Always the same, these folks. Don’t eat for three months before they come, so worried their gall-dang costumes won’t fit, and when they get here, they’re starved. And mean.”

Laura slid the plates on a small tray. “Thanks, Sal. Let’s just hope they’re good tippers.”

He muttered, “Don’t count on it.”

Sal was never a ray of sunshine. In the four months she’d worked here, she’d seen him smile twice. He and Marcy, the waitress who had taught Laura everything she knew about waiting tables, had done their best to prepare her for the bar’s Almost Famous competition. An April Fool’s Day tradition, the celebrity look-alike talent show had always been popular but this year the stakes were even higher. A travel show was going to tape the whole thing and somehow they’d roped in real Hollywood judges. She had less than a week to adjust to sliding a burger and fries in front of Elton John while Michael Jackson looked on. The best thing about waiting tables at Viva Las Vegas was that every day was a new challenge. It was also the worst thing.

As Laura approached the Cher table, she had no idea who’d ordered what. The Chers were nearly identical, although one had a rounder face and more . . . generous measurements. Laura thought she might also be a woman. The other two were harder to guess.

“All right. I’ve got a burger.” Laura held up the plate and waited for a reaction. When the tallest of the three finally huffed out a breath, she slid the plate in front of her.

The round Cher said, “And I had the pasta.”

Grateful for the help, Laura flashed her a smile and slid the remaining two plates on the table. She grabbed her tilting headdress and slid it back as she asked, “What else can I get you?”

None of them spoke, just flashed darkly mysterious eyes her direction in a clear dismissal. Laura picked up her tray and carefully schooled her face into pleasant vacancy. She’d made the mistake of rolling her eyes in the early days, completely forgetting the mirrors and lights of ten thousand suns lining the bar. That customer had only been calmed with a free dessert and a solemn, if completely insincere, apology.

She quickly and efficiently checked on all her tables and then darted back to the dressing area to dump her headdress and heels. They were part of the official uniform but nobody managed the plumed headdress for long. Laura was the only one who abandoned heels at the first opportunity, but ballet flats were more comfortable, entirely more her. Without the extra few inches from heels, the three feathers tacked on right over her butt would drag the ground. Being shorter than average meant lots of her clothes dragged the ground. That was a sacrifice she was willing to make even if she did occasionally sweep up old French fries. Her tips would be better in stilettos but her toes might secede from the union of her foot after a six-hour shift.

Laura made it back out in time to hear the rustle of whispers as every diner in the bar turned to watch KT Masters sweep in with Willodean Jackson, owner of the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel and Laura’s personal guardian angel, on one arm. She couldn’t blame the crowd. KT Masters should be talked about in hushed tones. At first glance, he seemed handsome but only in a slightly above-average kind of way. Instead of true movie star perfection, he had eyes that flashed both humor and intelligence and character lines that showed more smiles than brooding glances. Laura had the feeling it was the kind of face she’d never get bored with. He was tall, with broad shoulders, and brown hair cut in what was probably a very expensive style but it wasn’t trendy. The long sleeves of his button-down were rolled up to reveal truly top-notch forearms. Distressed denim covered long legs and he wore . . . running shoes. That wasn’t really what she expected, but overall he looked healthy. And fit. She liked the look. A lot. He might just be classically handsome, not the sexiest man alive, but his charm was apparent with just one glance, even at this distance. His star power competed with the lights of the bar.

Laura watched him pat Willodean’s hand and both preened under all the attention before Laura loaded up a tray for the table occupied by the strange combination of another Justin Bieber, David Copperfield, and two Marilyn Monroes. Glad to have an easier table, Laura laughed at one of the Marilyn’s jokes, made a quick delivery, and managed to slip out of the way of the Hollywood entourage just in time.

The big man in charge paid her no attention but Willodean winked once. She’d clearly dressed carefully for the occasion because it was a big deal for the hotel. This talent show had been going on almost since the hotel had opened and it had grown in popularity. But there had never been camera crews or real, live, actual Hollywood talent. Not that she hadn’t tried to get them here. Willodean was a natural hype woman, a product of the old school hustle. The rumors were that her first husband had been one of the Memphis Mafia and that’s where all the hotel’s memorabilia came from. Laura thought that was exactly the kind of story Willodean would invent and circulate.

Today, she wore a green suit with large pearl earrings. Green—the color of money, youth, and the emerald the size of a domino that winked from her ring finger on her left hand—was her signature color. Was the emerald real? Hard to say. It did match her eyes. Willodean also had improbably black hair piled in messy curls on her head. Someday, when Laura finally got comfortable with living in the staff apartment Willodean provided rent free, she’d ask about the emerald. Laura wanted to believe it was genuine. But she had never worked up the nerve to ask if anyone else heard the clink of jingling change when Willodean walked by. She made a mental note to ask Holly. Laura still got lucky some nights and met her little girl at the door instead of the raging fourteen-year-old.

Putting Willodean Jackson in the shade took some doing but KT Masters was currently pulling it off. As soon as he entered Viva Las Vegas, the brilliant lights over the bar seemed to dim and some imaginary spotlight lit his path. He waved and winked as he made his way to the stage like everyone in the bar was a close, personal friend.

Behind him in the shadows followed a small crew of four men and two women. Only KT Masters had the Hollywood shine. He’d been a child actor on one of the most popular television shows ever and it was clear he was comfortable with the spotlight. He’d brought the travel show he produced and hosted here to the hotel to shine some of that light on the Almost Famous competition.

In a graceful bound, he jumped up on the stage and did a slow spin. Laura glanced around at her tables but no one was eating right this second. Mouths were open but every eye was riveted to the star on the stage. The silence in the bar was broken only by muted clatter from the kitchen. Laura leaned an elbow on the bar and decided to wait to see what would happen next. She didn’t want to interrupt the show. The Chers had just now leaned back in their seats.

“Miss Willodean, I think this is going to work perfectly.” KT Masters motioned left and right. “Plenty of room to set up cameras. We’ll get hair and makeup a room down this hallway so the contestants are close. Maybe a third for a green room, a place where the acts can wait before they go on stage?”

Willodean tapped a finger on her bottom lip. “Well, we’ve got a small conference room at the end of the hallway. Maybe that would be better? More seats.”

KT clapped his hands and silverware clattered as more than one diner jolted in their chairs.

Laura pulled the stack of tickets from her tiny apron pocket and quietly made her way around her tables. More than once she had to lean forward to break a mesmerized stare to get the attention she needed. When she reached the Chers, she slid a ticket beside each while she cleared their plates. “Anything else I can get y’all?”

The lead Cher, the tallest, thinnest, most scantily dressed, pursed her lips, and said in a hushed tone, “Not unless you can get us his hotel room number, honey.”

Laura said, “Nope, sorry.” She gritted her teeth and muttered, “honey” as she walked off. There was no way KT Masters’s room number would be a secret for long. She expected a constant line of groupies in and out would be her first clue. Not that she’d seen a groupie or knew a thing about KT Masters other than he’d starred as the smart-aleck kid of a single dad baseball coach in
On Deck
. Well, that and the fact that he was handsome and oozed charm like condensation on a glass of iced tea. Groupies just seemed like a natural fit. Maybe he was happily married. Or gay.

Laura thought about that for a second then dismissed it. There was no way a gay man would head out into the world in that rumpled shirt, not with the ever-present threat of photo opportunities. She hoped she was right. She did not want KT Masters to be gay. Or married. Or the kind of guy who enjoyed his fans
that
way. She shook her head at herself. As if all she had to do was clear out those possibilities and KT Masters would sweep her off her feet. He was the kind of guy to inspire a few Prince Charming fantasies.

Willodean said, “I’ll just go talk with Tony, make sure we’ve got the rooms reserved that you’ll need down here on the first floor. Are all your hotel rooms okay?” While most of the diners seated around the room had resumed eating, it was clear that no one wanted to miss a single word.

Laura saw the rest of the crew nod but only one opinion mattered. As soon as KT smiled, Willodean’s shoulders relaxed.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a room, Miss Willodean. I may be sorry to check out next week. Seven days won’t be enough to explore the Rock’n’Rolla fully, I can already tell. Who did you use to decorate the place?” Laura had often wondered this herself but she was afraid she knew the answer.

BOOK: Stuck On You
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