ENGAGING JAYDEN

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GAGE


After a last minute flight to Sin City I couldn’t help but notice the tourists as I drove The Strip. They stood out like a sore thumb. Scurrying over from one immaculate monument to the next, it fouled their clandestine of trying to blend in. From inside the car I couldn’t depict their shouts of laughter from all the other John Doe’s, but there was no missing their joyous expressions. They were brighter than a beacon. They stood in their pre-organized positions and flashed their seemingly pearly whites as they posed for the camera. They were, at this moment, what I used to be.

Satisfied.

Fulfilled.

Happy.

I envied that.

Funny, really...

I had achieved every goal I’d set for myself, and somewhere along the way I let fame get the best of me. My fast-paced lifestyle had finally reached its toll.

They said it would.

But had I listened to them?

It was no longer the exciting highlight it once had been.

And yet here I was.

In Vegas.

I only came because a couple buddies of mine blew up my phone until I agreed to tag along.

“How long are you in Vegas for?” The driver asked.

“Just the weekend.” I replied.

“Been here before?”

“Too many times to count.” And that was the sore truth of the matter. If one wanted to party...You went to Vegas.

After all, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?’

In truth...

That wasn’t always the case.

I entered the hotel and dropped my bag at my feet when I approached the front desk.

“I’ll be right with you.” The receptionist typed away on her computer without looking up. Her long auburn ponytail dangled to the side as she tilted her head. A minute later, she stopped typing. “How may I,” she then looked up and flashed me a smile that I recognized all too well, “help you?

I smiled but made sure it wasn’t a killer one because her eyes were gleaming at me. And frankly, I didn’t want to encourage her. It wasn’t going to go anywhere between us. So why make her think otherwise. Her long lashes (too thick to be real) batted a few times. She had a bright white straight smile and I‘ll admit she was attractive. Probably why they put her at the counter in the first place. By the looks of it she was a few years younger than me; pry twenty and worked out on a frequent basis.

“Checking in.”

“Name?” She blushed.

I was about to tell her when someone else beat me to it. “That son-of-a-bitch is Gage Buchannan.”

I dropped my gaze to the counter with a chuckle and I turned around, “Harden.”

“You made it.”

“Did you think I wouldn’t?” I could smell the whiskey on him already. We exchanged the brotherly half hug— half hand shake combo. “I’d never hear the end of that shit if I didn’t.”

“Thought the dozen calls from the guys would work.”

“Dozen?” I laughed. “I got twenty-two phone calls and thirty-eight texts.”

Harden threw his head back and laughed. “For real?”

“I wouldn’t make that shit up.” I turned back to the receptionist and finished checking in.

“How many key cards would you like?”

I didn’t like the way she asked me. Her eyes raked over me. Well— since the counter reached my upper stomach it was only from my chest up. I know I hadn’t imagined it. The amused chuckle and firm slap on my shoulder indicated that Harden hadn’t missed it either.

Great.

For the next half hour all I was going to hear was how the receptionist tried hooking up with me and how hot Harden thought she looked.

He always did like a girl in a uniform.

He’d hooked up with more flight attendants than I had. Which I guess wasn’t all that surprising considering that I did most of my flying on the family private jet. And there was no way I’d ever lay a hand on my dad’s flight attendants. The phrase ‘Don’t shit where you eat’ was something I held highly.

I didn’t break my gaze from the receptionist when I said, “Fuck you, Harden.” My comment only made him laugh harder. I answered, “One.”

Her smile faltered and it made me wonder how many turned her down. Given her slight shock, I’m thinking not many.

I got my card and Harden didn’t miss a beat. “You seriously got the Skyline Terrace again?”

“I always stay in a kick-ass room...You know that.” And I did. I grew up in a wealthy family. What could I say?

I enjoyed the lavish lifestyle.

Yes there were other hotels that had more extravagant suites but since the fight was here in the hotel it made it easier to get to.

He tapped my arm with the back of his hand. “Come on...The guy’s are waiting for us outside. We’re going to TOPGOLF.”

“I’ll meet you there.” I replied. If I went up stairs instead of going straight out the door with them, I could avoid him flipping me shit about the brunette behind the counter.

Harden frowned at me. “Come on. Miss bright eyes can have it brought up for you.”

Here it start’s.

“I can do that.” She said mischievously.

“No thanks.” I had done that once before and the girl went through all my shit, leaving her panties and her cell number inside.

He walked backwards and pointed at me. “Well, hurry up.”

“Sure thing, mom.” I grinned.

I didn’t bother looking at the receptionist as she giggled at our child-like banter.

I went to my suite and tossed my bag on the couch. The sound at the door caused me to shake my head. It wasn’t just a knock. There were at least four fists banging against my door. I walked over and pulled it open. “You guys are a bunch of teenagers.” I said as the four of them shoved their way into my suite.

“I was just trying to make it awkward, you know...In case you brought that receptionist up with you.” Harden flashed me his cocky grin.

“Last I checked she was working.” Not that I had any plans to sleep with her.

Dillan, another fighter of the EIC and my best friend, just had to mention, “Hasn’t stopped them from cutting out of work early before.”

He had a point.

I exchanged the typical brotherly love. “No wife?”

“Nah,” he scoffed. “She agreed that I needed a boy’s weekend. I think I’ve been annoying her.”

I laughed. I couldn’t relate because I didn’t do relationships. I just sat back and watched everyone else go through their ups and downs. Even lent an ear without giving advice. Because let’s face it...It wouldn’t have been good anyway.

“Let’s do a few shots before we head down.” Jalen was already heading for the bar.

“Good idea.” Lucas jogged to the living room and from the corner of my eye I saw something orange flying right at me. I caught it, but barely. I placed my finger on the threads as if the nurf was a real football and threw it back.

“He found it in the parking lot.” Harden laughed.

For the next twenty minutes we hit shots and threw the Nurf at each other. Harden was full blown theatric’s on the bright-eyed receptionist. He had Jalen and Lucas rolling. Dillan shook his head and though he did find the humor in it, he didn’t comment and I was grateful for it. He wasn’t much different than I was; until he met Emma.

Lucas recalled a similar story that happened to him in college and I knew I was now in the clear from being needled about a girl I had no interest in. And just as relief hit me the damn doorbell rang.

The guy’s busted up with their hoot’s and laughter.

Even Dillan found humor in it.

“Your booty call has arrived.” Jalen held up his last shot with a toast.

I wanted to deny it but he wasn’t wrong. “I didn’t ask for a booty call.”

“You may not have asked— But you got one all the same.” Harden replied.

“Let’s go.” I threw back a shot.

“Seriously?” Harden tossed his thumb over his shoulder filled with confusion. “You’d rather go play virtual golf instead of staying here with that fine piece of ass?”

“Yeah.” I ignored the questionable leers. They weren’t misplaced. In the past I’d get my fill of her and send her on her way so I could join up with my buddies. Now— To be straight forward, I don’t know what I want. All I did know was that I didn’t want her.

And I wasn’t about to explain this to the guy’s.

I headed for the door leaving them in their confusion. “You guy’s coming?”

Dillan and Jalen jogged after me wrestling along the way and Harden took his time along with Lucas. I opened the door. What I saw didn’t come as a surprise.

The receptionist had unbuttoned her shirt and held up a bottle of wine. Her smile fell when she saw that there were four guys standing behind me. All but Dillan and I eyed her like a candy.

I brushed past her and headed straight for the elevator.

“She looks really pissed.” Harden said under his breath.

I shrugged. I didn’t fucking care.

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