To Have and To Hold
By Michaela Bray
Date: October 30, 2020
Ch. 55

Casey sighed as she looked up to the stars. She had chosen the poorly lit balcony specifically because the flickering gas lamps shrouded her troubled features effortlessly. She sighed a little as she took off her sandals one by one and reveled in the feel of the cold stone floor on her weary soles.

Megan had left her to her own devices as soon as she had her made up and ready for the night. She had never been to Las Vegas before and the thought of venturing out in Sin City made her a little anxious, so she opted to stay in the hotel and enjoy the various offerings of entertainment it had to offer. She had wandered into the casino earlier and after barely thirty minutes of card games and slot machines, she had just about enough experience of gambling to last her a lifetime.

She had seen enough of the female population of the casino to know that she was strangely out of place. Amidst the glittering social butterflies that flitted from table to table, she was a quiet wallflower that would have done better in the comforts of her hotel room. The long-legged blondes with their dazzling smiles and oozing sexy confidence only added to her misery and made her wonder if all men were like Dave and preferred these outgoing, fun young women to quiet, driven ones like her. From what she gathered about Pam, she was probably ten times funnier, sexier and, probably more adventurous than Casey. Even though she was quite certain she would get over this betrayal in time, the realization still stung.

She just wasn’t enough.

That much had to be true. She just didn’t have it in her to hold the affections of a man even for just six months or from the looks of it, much less. With his high-stakes moneymaking schemes, Dave was forever exposed to glamorous women who probably looked like walking Barbie dolls and dedicated their lives solely to the pursuit of living on the high end and snagging a husband with enough means to support the lifestyle they were accustomed to. Casey, on the other hand, lived on her own means and was dedicated mostly to her work, her family, and the relative peace of a quiet life. Perhaps the only similarity she had with all those other women was that she was blonde.

Oh, maybe she should have done something else. More than half the women she came across tonight had at least undergone a nose lift and probably considered the gym a place of worship. If she had at least concentrated a little more on her looks instead of upholding that goddamn belief that character and intellect were the only things needed to keep a man from straying, she would not be alone in this balcony in the middle of Las Vegas. Instead of this classy, silver piece, she should have worn one of those really tight, fluorescent dresses that clung to her body like a second skin and covered just enough of her private parts to make her seem dressed.

The sound of the door rushing open scattered her desolate thoughts and her shocked eyes turned towards the silhouette of a tall man with broad shoulders in an expensive looking suit. Her frayed senses were on high alert especially when he seemed to be moving towards her instead of going away. Subconsciously, she began to back away until she felt the hard marble press against her back. Still, the shadow kept moving towards her until she saw his hands.

And the two glasses of sparkling champagne in them.

She breathed a quiet sigh of relief but remained alert. She knew she was not the type to attract the attentions of a man and make him bring her a drink. Not especially in a sea of beauties of every color flooding the entire floor. Megan had even hinted at her a few hours before that some hotel owners generally hired models to pose as guests in their casinos for aesthetic purposes.

“Like houseplants or art pieces or a Rolex,” her cousin had snorted derisively, “some women are meant to be nothing but beautiful pieces of decoration to grace a room or a man’s arm.”

She tried to keep her composure as he drew steadily closer, her green eyes wary. He was quite easily at least six feet tall with shoulders that would make Atlas weep with envy. If she made a run for it, she had no doubt those long legs of his would easily catch up with her in a few strides.

“Hello, Cassandra,” he finally spoke, his voice a smooth baritone.

She schooled her face into a mask of confusion instead of blatant fear and alarm. Her brow furrowed into what she hoped was a polite frown. “Do I know you?” she asked quietly.

“No,” he replied. She was certain she heard a bit of a smile in his voice. “Although I have wanted to introduce myself to you many times over. Champagne?”

She accepted the glass and kept her eyes on his face. His features were as implacable as granite and seemingly sculptured from a block of marble. Rugged masculinity was stamped on every inch of his face and his whole figure. If she had seen him before, she was quite certain she would never forget it. He had that certain look about him that would forever sear his image into the mind and heart of a woman.

“Walk with me,” he invited, his voice taking on a low, teasing quality. “You’ll find it worth your time, I promise.”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry but my mother told me not to talk to strangers.”

He threw his head back and laughed, the sound sending ripples of awareness down her back. There was something about his laughter that made her body come alive and crave to do things that would elicit that rich sound from him again.

“You’re too old for that adage, I hope. The first time I met you, you were still in high school.”

Her eyes widened. Oh my God, he’s a pedophile.

“I’ve been waiting for you to grow up for a long time, Cassandra,” he smiled. “Walk with me.”

Against her better judgment, Casey found herself looping her arm around his, her legs falling into an easy pace with his as he led her away from the balcony.

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