Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas is my debut novel, currently in the final stages of editing as it goes through some peer reviews.  The next step is queries and, ultimately, publication!

Summary

Viva Las Vegas is a chick lit novel set in, you guessed it, Las Vegas.  We find Mina Varga, a young woman, just weeks away from her marriage.  She’s frazzled – she’s just starting to kick off her career as a teacher and planning a huge wedding is a burden.  The last thing she needs is a trip to Las Vegas the weekend before her wedding to find her estranged husband and ask for a divorce.

Yes, that’s right. Mina is already married.  Flashback five years and we find that Mina was dragged to Las Vegas by her roommates where she had a fun and innocent fling with a bellhop by day and Elvis Impersonator by night.  It didn’t occur to her, until five years later, that their decision to elope while in Last Vegas might have an impact on life outside Sin City.

Stressed and battling a strong case of cold feet, Mina is horrified to discover that her fling all those years ago still gets her toes tingling.

This novel shows Mina in present day as she tries to sort out her elopement and five years previous, when she finds herself seduced by her own Las Vegas guru.  The reader sees Mina as two very different people in these roles and, though this is a book about love, it’s also a book about self-realization and understanding the links we have to our dreams and out past.

 

Excerpt

Mina Varga wondered, yet again, why anyone in their right mind ever had a wedding.

“Lilacs or hyacinths?” Mina’s mother asked, holding up a frilly, lace covered album full of flower arrangements. She masterfully balanced the overstuffed book while displaying ribbon swatches from the bridesmaid dresses for comparison.

Mina squinted at the hand-pressed paper, trying to understand if they were different pictures. All this wedding planning was making her go cross-eyed. Just two months ago she couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle with her gorgeous, sweet, adoring, and rich fiancé. Now she was dreading it.

That’s not fair, she scolded herself. It had nothing to do with her fiancé or the wedding.  Her shaky hands and mild hyperventilation were completely due to her own stupidity. She never meant to keep it a secret from him.  It just never came up. She should have told him months ago.

Focus, Mina, she told herself and peered closely at the images. You have to go through the bees to get the honey. She looked up from the examples and scanned the expansive, immaculate living room of the house she and Alexander now shared, looking for an escape from her mother’s prodding. The house Alexander had inherited from his late father provided no help, the professionally decorated setting only adding to her apprehension. She was living a life of privilege she never thought possible.

Her morning mantra as of late came to her suddenly. Stay positive, Mina.  If having a wedding was what it took to be with Alexander Winston Price forever, then she was glad she hand-tied those stupid little bows at the top of each and every one of the 500 invitations. It also meant she was going to have to spill the beans on her past.

It’s going to be fine. It was one weekend.

Her gaze returned to the task at hand. Seeing the impatience in her mother’s eyes, she blurted the truth. “I’m sorry, are those different flowers?”

She gave a start as her mother snapped the album closed and hopped up off the couch. Mina had clearly missed the mark on “positive.”

“Oh, no, Mom, it was just a question! Don’t be mad.”

Caroline pursed her perfectly gloss-lined lips in disapproval. Her mother’s face was an older echo of her own, heart-shaped with a short, thin nose.  Her mother had the half-moon lines around her mouth that told of a life of excessive worry. “You need to make these decisions, Mina. You. I can only help so much.”

Mina nodded with a sigh. She ran her hands through her long, brown hair, currently in fine waves all around her head. Mina had gone through the effort to primp her hair to her mother’s approval today since Mina knew her attitude wouldn’t do the trick.  Caroline’s hair of tight pincurl rings, their shared natural look, bounced dramatically with her mother’s irritated tapping foot.

“I just don’t know anything about flowers. Why can’t the professionals figure it out?” Mina hated the whiny tone she heard in her voice.

Caroline sat back on the white microfiber couch and leaned over, wrapping a pair of slender arms around her daughter. “Baby, you’re the most laidback bride they’ve ever seen. It throws them off. It throws me off.”

She leaned into her mother, breathing in the familiar but biting smell of her faux designer perfume. Her mother didn’t live a life of extravagance, but she loved to pretend.  That was probably why she was so into the wedding planning. Her engagement to Alexander had been both her and Caroline’s dream come true.

Mina gave a grunt of understanding, not wanting to admit the truth to her mother’s words.  For the majority of her life, Mina and Caroline had disagreed on everything.  It was only in the past few years that she finally gave in and realized her mother knew Mina better than Mina knew herself.  Still, old habits of denial were hard to break.

In that unexpected moment of tenderness, Mina felt the overwhelming urge to blurt out the truth then and there.  She knew it wouldn’t help, but what she wouldn’t give for a little motherly advice…

Caroline unwrapped herself from around her daughter and reopened the album she had slammed shut. “But it’s not always about the easy way out, hm?”

The easy way out.  Without even realizing her, her mother had given her a nugget of advice.  It didn’t matter how much Mina dreaded telling Alexander about what happened five years ago.  She just had to do it.  If she approached it sensibly, he would understand.

Caroline was back on track, intently flipping through the album. “Now, let me ask, have you thought about purple calla lilies?”

Mina held back a groan. But, of course, there were still these damn flowers.

“Caroline! You’re still here?” Alexander’s voice called from the kitchen doorway.

Mina slumped with relief. She looked up to find her fiancé leaning casually on the cherry wood door frame, toned arms crossed over his chest, his face holding a glimmer of a smile.  She would have been happy to be interrupted by anyone, but seeing his trim form, dark blonde hair immaculate as usual, was an extra delicious bonus.

Mina jumped at his cue, glancing at the mother-of-pearl clock on the white living room wall. “Wow, he’s right, it’s getting late.”

Caroline nodded and closed the album, placing it back on the glass coffee table. “Yes, it’s time I make my way back to Fresno.” She looked over at Mina, a frown pulling at her lips. “Take some time to look at this, dear, and let me know what you decide.  They need to know in the next day or so.”

“I’ll sort it out, don’t worry,” she said, grabbing her mother’s oversized purse off the back of the couch.

Mina gave Alexander’s hand a thank-you squeeze as she walked past him into the kitchen, her mother in tow. They each gave Caroline a hug good-bye and Mina waited until her mother had walked down the steps of the wooden patio and across the corner of the large manicured lawn to her Suburban before giving one final wave. Within a few minutes Caroline had disappeared down the long driveway and Mina was able to relax.

“I love my mother but–“ she turned to find herself alone in the large kitchen. Her fiancé had disappeared.

“Hey–Alexander?” she called, puzzled. Her question was greeted only by the hum of the stainless steel fridge.

Mina made a bee-line for the back office, padding lightly down the wood floorboards of the hallway.  Sure enough, as she approached she could hear Alexander’s voice faintly through the thick wood of the oak door. He was on the phone. She edged the door open.

The door swung wide to slowly reveal the expanse of the office. The ivy colored curtains were open, allowing spring sunshine to warm the green-toned room through wide windows. Light spilled across the brown leather couch, wide mahogany desk, and then, finally, her fiancé, Mr. Alexander Winston Price. When she first heard him introduce himself with his middle name, she thought it sounded pretentious. Now it sent a tingle right down to her toes.

Alexander held a finger to his lips as she met his powder blue eyes. She nodded as she slipped into the room and closed the door behind her with a click. She flopped down on the couch, relishing the feeling of the supple leather against her legs as she tucked her calves under her tan skirt. As she waited for his call to end she took the opportunity to admire him.

Here’s one thing I don’t have to worry about when it comes to the wedding, Mina thought with a smirk. Alexander would not need to be prepped for the occasion. He was currently wearing khakis and a navy polo but he had a body made for a suit–lean and average height. His dirty blonde hair fell in a perfect wave across his forehead and his blue eyes were steady and alert. His skin was incredible, pale and soft and always perfectly smooth.

“That’s right. Yes, we need to make sure–“ the tense gruff on his voice jarred her from her peaceful thoughts. “I understand your concern, Jeremy, but there’s a thing called a learning curve.” He rolled his eyes in Mina’s direction as he waited for a response.

She tilted her head as she pondered his pacing form.  He seemed stressed. Maybe now isn’t the best time to tell him.

Mina chewed at the inside of her lip, knowing full well it was just an excuse. His conversations usually involved him being stern. It was just his line of work.  It was funny-she never would have pictured herself with this kind of man. She was more of a free spirit and he… well, his clean cut look was a perfect frame for his 24/7 business attitude. Maybe that was why she got such a kick out of making him smile; it was like cracking an especially solid nut. She liked being on the short list of people who saw Alexander open up.

“Let’s do this,” he continued. “Take today and tomorrow to watch Jake’s movements. I want you to write down everything he is doing incorrectly or seems to be struggling with. Bring it back to me after that, and we will discuss training opportunities.” Alexander’s voice rose as he fought to finish his sentence, “Or, or, Jeremy, replacement. But we need to give him a chance first, okay? Do that, and I’ll follow up on Tuesday. Thanks for reviewing with me, talk to you soon.”

He tapped the screen of his iPhone and sighed, directing his attention to Mina. “Sorry to disappear.”

“That’s okay, I found you.” She ran her hands over the leather of the couch, motioning for him to join her. “Price, I think I would marry you just for this couch,” Mina said, drawing his attention away from his phone call.  She could lighten the mood, and then she could tell him.

She giggled at his one-eyebrow raised expression as he sauntered to her. “I’m lucky you met me before the sales man at Furniture City.” He lifted her legs so he could take a place next to her, allowing her to set her calves down on his lap as she leaned against the arm of the couch.

“That’s a good point,” she mused. “Maybe I should go ‘round there and ask him for a date. Just to make sure I haven’t made the wrong decision.”

He laid his head back on the sofa and closed his eyes. “How about I just take you out on a date tonight?”

She propped herself on her elbows to better see his form, trim and relaxed under her legs. “That sounds wonderful. I could use some fun after my mother’s interrogations today.” And you’ll probably be easier to talk to after I’ve had a drink or two.

Alexander squeezed her bare shin, the motion quick and familiar. “How was the wedding planning?” he asked.

“Want to hear what we decided?”

Alexander shrugged. “If you want to tell me.”

“I don’t, really. Flowers suck.” She sat up and swiveled her legs around so she could snuggle into his side, breathing in the musky scent of his cologne. His body was firm and warm against her side. “Can you believe it’s less than two weeks away? And I thought all the planning would be done.”

“You’ll figure it all out.” He gave her a soft kiss on the top of her head.

Mina sighed, her fingers absentmindedly picking fuzz off his pressed khakis. “I’m not very good at it, you know. Some girls had their wedding planned at the age of eight, but I never even thought about it until you asked me to marry you.”

Not a real wedding anyway.

Mina hesitated. Was now the time? She raised her head to look at him, but he had resumed his closed-eyed relaxation. She decided to test the waters on another front. “Don’t you think you could just take a look at the centerpiece stuff? I’d like to make sure you like what I, well, what my mom and I, decided on.”

“Mina,” he opened his eyes, vibrant blue and steady. He adjusted himself so he could give her another kiss, right on the tip of her nose. “You’re beautiful and you’ll pick beautiful things. I’m not worried.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “I love your hair like this. How did I get so lucky to be with you, hm?”

Her heart fluttered at his touch. At least she knew he trusted her.

Hopefully tonight wouldn’t change that.

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