Las Vegas, Nevada
As I walked into the luxurious Bellagio Hotel and Casino, tired and rumpled from my flight, I saw two signs directing guests to the conferences going on that weekend. There was the one I was there to attend, The International Law Students Association Conference, and then there was another one, The Adult Entertainment Expo. My eyes moved back and forth between the signs and my brow furrowed. Well, that was… interesting. I guess that's Vegas for you, I thought. Law students, p**n stars, aliens from distant planets, it hadn't taken me long to realize–just walking through the airport actually–that when it came to the City of Sin, shock value was practically non-existent.
If I didn't figure that out from the pantless man the cops were chasing through the airport upon my arrival, then I definitely got it from the g-stringed Elvis impersonator who flew by me on roller skates as I got out of my shuttle in front of the hotel. "You're not in Kansas anymore, honey." The driver had laughed as my head swiveled to watch the rolling, half-dressed Elvis glide away.
As I walked further into the lobby, my mouth fell open and my eyes immediately moved upwards. The ceiling was filled with the most stunning glass blossoms–hundreds of them in every color imaginable. I moved in a circle, my head bent back, unable to look away from the gorgeous, overhead art. How in the world had that been installed? Finally, after a minute of drinking it in, I looked down and moved toward the front desk.
I was so completely awestruck by the stone pillars and gallery of fresh flowers and floating hot air balloons behind the check-in, that I almost didn't hear the woman desk-clerk call out to me. I wheeled my small suitcase up to the counter and smiled brightly at her. "Grace Hamilton. I have a reservation," I said.
The desk clerk smiled back. "Okay, let me just look you up… okay, here we go. You're here for the law student conference starting tomorrow?"
"Yes." I nodded.
"What school do you go to?" she asked as she took my credit card and swiped it quickly.
"Georgetown," I said, as I took my credit card back.
"Great school! Well have a good time. You're on the twenty-sixth floor, checked in until Monday. Check out time is noon. Here's a folder for those checking in for the law student conference. There's a schedule in there, a name tag, and any information you might need for this weekend." She handed everything to me and smiled again as she gestured to the next person in line.
"Thanks," I said, grabbing my suitcase handle and turning to walk toward the elevators. As I rounded the corner, I ran smack dab into a hard, male chest. "Oh, gosh! I'm so sorry!" I exclaimed, looking up.
"No, I'm sorry–" he started to say at the same time. Our eyes met and we both fell silent, me blinking at him as he steadied me with both hands on my arms.
He was about my age with sandy colored hair that was just a little too long and curling up at the ends, and one of those handsome faces that manages to be both manly and boyish at the same time. Simultaneously rugged and pretty. His hazel eyes were fringed with thick, dark lashes, his nose straight and his full lips curved into a half-smile.
I glanced down quickly to take in his frame, lean but muscled, clad in dark jeans and a conservative, button-down, white shirt, sleeves rolled up.
He stared at me for a couple beats and something in his expression seemed to soften as my eyes moved back to his and his smile grew bigger, revealing a small dimple to the left of his bottom lip. He looked down at me and then bent to pick up the key card I had dropped when we collided.
As I watched him scoop up my card, the strangest feeling washed over me, almost like déjà vu, like we had met before. I furrowed my brow at the odd sensation, wondering if he was a law student that I had seen in passing at school. Here for the same conference?
As he stood straight and turned his shoulders toward me so that we were both facing each other completely, he held the key card out to me, and I saw that he had a conference nametag on. "Oh, you are here for the conference," I exclaimed. "I thought I might–" And that's when I read it, "Carson Stinger, Straight Male Performer, Adult Entertainment Expo."
I stared at the words for a couple beats, digesting them, and then my eyes moved back up to his. He was smirking now and his eyes no longer held that softness I had seen just a minute before.
I cleared my throat and stood taller. "Well, then, I'm sorry again for the… uh, not watching where I was…" I cleared my throat, beginning again, "Well, have a good time… er, a nice time, um, enjoy," I gestured toward his name tag, "the show. Or rather, not the show, but the… well, enjoy the weekend."
What the hell was wrong with me? I was never flustered like this! I was going into law because I was good at finding the right words under pressure. And here a good-looking p**n star rattled me so much, I could barely form a coherent sentence?
And that's when he burst out laughing, deepening that tiny dimple by his mouth. "I will, Buttercup. And you enjoy your weekend too. Let me guess, law student conference?"
I started to walk around him, but stopped when I heard the clearly condescending nickname and the amusement in his voice. "Yes, actually. Is there something wrong with that?"
"No, not at all. Looks like we're both here to learn how to be the best at getting people off."
My brows snapped down. "Well that's… that's a disgusting way to put it."
He moved closer to me until I was forced to step back. "Why? Getting people off is such a rush, Buttercup. Don't be ashamed of doing it well."
I coughed and narrowed my eyes. Eww. This man was not going to turn me into a flustered idiot for one second longer. I glanced back to his nametag and tapped it with my pointer finger. "I do a lot of things well, Carson, none of which I'm ashamed of," I said, leaning into him so that he knew I wasn't going to be intimidated by his blatant sexual innuendos.
He stared at me for a beat, that amused glint still in his eyes and then grinned, slow and sexy as his eyes dipped to my cleavage. "I bet." He took that full bottom lip between his teeth and looked back up at me.
I gawked at him for a second because I felt my ni**les get hard under my white blouse and I did not appreciate that. Not one bit. I was going to have a talk with my body later and lay down the law. There was absolutely no getting turned on by p**n stars purposefully trying to shock and intimidate for no apparent reason. The fact that any small part of him turned me on pissed me the hell off. I saw his eyes travel downward again, this time to my puckered ni**les showing easily through the thin material of my blouse, and his smirk got bigger. I flushed in humiliation.
I made a frustrated, angry sound in my throat and marched away from Carson Stinger, Straight Male Performer.
I went up to my room and took a quick shower, calming down from my lobby run-in. When I felt level-headed again, I got out and changed into my brand new black bikini and white, crochet cover-up, before heading out to the pool. My conference didn't officially start until the next morning and so I planned on spending several hours lying in the sun, reading and relaxing. The life of a law student didn't leave a lot of room for R&R and so I was going to take advantage of it while I could.
It took me about twenty minutes to simply walk through the pool area and decide where I wanted to sit. There were five pool courtyards, luxurious cabanas, umbrellas over plush seating, and rows of lounges–all with the same Mediterranean design. It was breathtaking and I tried my best not to walk through with my mouth hanging open at all the opulence. I'd never in my life seen anything like it.
My dad was a police officer and a single parent, who raised me and my two sisters on his own after he and my mom divorced. We never wanted for anything, but we certainly didn't have the money to vacation. In fact, until I left for college, I had never been out of Dayton, Ohio, where I grew up.
After getting a drink at the bar, I finally parked myself on a lounger with some shade and started lathering my pale skin up with sunscreen. It was June and it was in the nineties, and I had been holed up in libraries and classrooms for months–I would definitely burn if I wasn't careful.
I sat back and pulled out my book and had just read a couple pages when my phone rang. "Abby" came up on my screen. I hit answer.
"If you saw where I was right now, you'd be so jealous," I said, grinning.
She laughed. "Well, hello. If you saw where I was, you so wouldn't be jealous. I won't make you guess–couch, an itchy, calamine-spotted vision of loveliness." Poor Abby had gotten poison ivy while hiking with her boyfriend, Brian. It was bad.
She went on, "Now you, let me see, I smell coconut and I hear the gentle lapping of chlorinated water–poolside with a drink in hand?"
I laughed. "Bingo."
"But wait, what is that? What is that I see? A textbook in your hands instead of a steamy romance? The horror. Please tell me I'm wrong."
I looked down at the large textbook in my lap, Concepts & Insights Series: Administrative Law. "Oh stop, you know that I have to study this weekend if I'm going to ace this summer course. Anyway, this place, Abs, it's outrageous. Truly. We have to come back here and stay for longer than a weekend. And make sure it's a non-working weekend, okay?"
"Hmmm. The reality of getting you away for a weekend that doesn’t involve work? I’m skeptical. But a girl can dream. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? The debauchery sky's the limit–I’m in."
I laughed again. "Right. Speaking of which, there's another conference at this hotel. You'll never guess what it's for."
"What? Do tell."
I looked around quickly to make sure no one was listening in on my call and then mentally shook my head at myself. This was Vegas, no one was going to blink when I said the word 'porn.' Still, I whispered out, "A p**n convention."
Abby let out a loud guffaw. "Oh my God, Grace, you've gotta get me some autographs. Please!"
"What?! Whose autograph do you want exactly?"
"No one in particular! I just want to be able to say a p**n star wrote a note to me!"
I giggled. "Actually, I ran into one in the hotel lobby. Literally. He was a total asshat."
"Why? What'd he say to you?"
"Ugh. Just made some disgusting sexual innuendos and then gave me a look that made me want to shower."
Abby laughed again. "Was he a greasy-looking Ron Jeremy type?"
I paused. "Actually, no, he was a douchebag, for sure, but, well," I lowered my voice to a whisper, "he was hot. I actually didn't know p**n stars were hot. I guess I figured if you were doing a job like that… I don't even know what I thought. But he is not what I pictured a p**n star to look like."
"Why, Grace, I do believe you're blushing."
"Oh shut up, you can't even see me."
"I know you girl, you're blushing. Now get off this phone and go find you some hot p**n star. I bet he could teach you some new tricks up in your hotel room tonight."
I groaned. "Oh God, gross, Abby. I wouldn't touch a p**n star with a borrowed body. Especially one with as few brain cells as him."
"You're no fun."
"When it comes to p**n stars, no, I'm not." I laughed. "Seriously, you doing okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Brian's coming over in a little bit and we're gonna see how sexy we can get using nothing except our privates and our feet–the only places I'm not covered."
I laughed out loud. "Oh God, did I need that visual? Okay, have fun. I'll see you Sunday, okay?"
I heard the grin in her voice as she said, "Okay, babe, talk tomorrow."
"Bye, Abs," I said, still smiling, and hung up the phone.
I spent a couple hours at the pool, finishing my studying and taking notes so that I could review them on the plane home. Even though I was doing schoolwork, just sitting out in this gorgeous location felt luxurious and decadent. I never did things like this. I had been pushing myself like crazy for the last five years and I barely had time to breathe, much less sit by a pool for an afternoon. First, I had had my head in a book for four years through college, pushing myself to graduate magna cum laude and get a scholarship to one of the top law schools on my list. Once that was accomplished and I started at Georgetown, I began pushing myself yet again–only this time it was because my goal was to graduate in two years, take and pass the bar on my first try, and be recruited into a top law firm in Washington, D.C. It was The Plan. I’d always had a plan, and I never strayed from it. Never.
As I lounged, my mind went to Carson Stinger, Straight Male Performer, several times. It still irked me that he had frazzled me so much. And in only about two minutes! What was that about anyway? No one frazzled me. I was un-frazzle-able. I was frazzle-less. I prided myself on being cool, calm and collected. And suddenly, a p**n star who looked at me lasciviously had me stuttering and stammering and running for safety? It was beyond irritating. And the fact that he had turned me on was completely maddening. Seriously, Grace, is that how desperate you are? That a good-looking p**n star whispers a few sexual, completely disrespectful sentences to you and your panties are wet? God! I lay back on my lounge chair, frowning and squinting up into the blue Nevada sky. I put my sunglasses on and closed my eyes.
After a little bit, I got up and started to gather my things. My shoulders had a definite pink tinge and I needed to get inside and start thinking about dinner plans. I decided that a cocktail before heading up to my room sounded really good. I had only had the one drink when I arrived at the pool and I was hot and thirsty. A drink at the inside bar sounded like just the thing, and so I pulled on the sundress I had put in my bag and I made my way to the hotel bar. As I walked through the casino for the third time that day, I still couldn't help looking around in wonder at all the different game tables and machines, lights and numbers flashing everywhere. The combined sounds of laughter, multiple, overlapping machine dings, clicking, and shuffling, overwhelmed me. It was like being in another world.