The Nashville Bet by Shana Gray Series: Girls Weekend Away Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Publisher: Entangled Amara Publication Date: December 18, 2018
In the first warm, funny and romantic novel in the Girls Weekend Away series, four best friends embark on the ultimate girls’ getaway filled with hijinks and a sprinkling of romance. For any fan of Bridesmaids and Sex and the City and readers of Jo Watson, Lauren Layne, Joanna Bolouri and Cate Woods.
When the cop…
Tough-as-nails detective Bonni Connolly is on a girls’ getaway in Vegas with her friends, when Lady Luck shines on her. Seizing the chance to treat them all, Bonni splurges on a little luxury including a VIP booth in an exclusive club. That’s when she sees him.
Meets the gambler…
Professional poker player Quinn Bryant is in town for one of the largest tournaments of the year. Fortune smiles on him when he spots Bonni across the dance floor. But what starts as a holiday fling soon turns into something more, as Bonni learns to see the man behind the poker face.
The stakes have never been higher.
Even though Bonni’s trip has an end date and there is another tournament calling Quinn’s name, their strong connection surprises them both. And by the end of the weekend they start to wonder if what happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay there…
The plane began descending and Ava wriggled a little with excitement in her seat, earning a strange look from the college kid next to her. Most travelers preferred the aisle seat so that they could get out easily, but not Ava. She loved to see where she was going, all the new possibilities and adventures that were awaiting her. This particular trip was going to be off-the-charts fun! Nashville and CMA Fest had been on her bucket list for a while. There would be multiple stages, many different performers and all the country music she could ever want!
Flight attendants did another pass of the aisles and she handed over her soda can to be recycled. Had to do her bit to save planet Earth! The plane twitched in the sky with a bit of turbulence and Ava gripped her knees. She loved to fly because it took her places, but she preferred the skies to be calm. Otherwise, she got a little nervous and every noise the plane made was the sound of impending doom. She gazed out the window, taking deep breaths to calm herself, and thought of her friends, the sisters of her heart, her college buddies.
Everything had been rather last minute. Her boss, David, had booked a kick-ass suite for CMA Fest at Nissan Stadium, but a sudden family emergency meant he couldn’t go. He offered the suite to Ava and told her that he’d finagle extra tickets for her friends as a thank-you for her work on their latest project. Ava had been all over that and her friends had jumped at the chance to watch amazing country acts in luxurious—and air-conditioned—comfort. Ava loved all music, and Celia, Bonni and Fredi also loved country music so Ava had no doubt this trip was going to be a blast.
Celia and Bonni had taken over planning the itinerary. It made her friends happy to be in control of things so, since it didn’t matter as much to her, Ava was fine going along with the flow. Tonight they were killing two birds with one stone by going line dancing and meeting up with the guy with the extra tickets. He was a friend of a friend of David’s who apparently lived in the area. It was going to be a whirlwind trip, really. The CMA Fest ran until Saturday with three days of concerts in many different locations. Ava knew they wouldn’t be able to see all of them, but it sure was going to be fun!
Bonni had made noises about “Why can’t this guy just leave us the tickets at the hotel?” but Ava didn’t mind. She knew everything would work itself out. Besides, she had his contact info just in case something went awry.
The plane leveled out as it continued its descent. The sun was low in the sky and Ava saw shards of its golden light glinting off miniature-looking buildings through the window. Seeing Nashville on the horizon filled her with a powerful sense of “coming home.” Ava had happily grown up country in a small farming town out in the Midwest, but college, and her friends, had shown her a bigger world. There was so much to see, to explore. She still went home for holidays, though, but that time was spent catching up with her family and finding out the latest news, not going to the nearest honky-tonk and cutting loose. She was looking forward to reconnecting with her roots.
As a child, Ava had sat in her grandfather’s workshop while he puttered about doing some woodwork and old-school country music played through tinny speakers, accompanied by the sound of sandpaper against wood. She couldn’t hear Patsy Cline without thinking of him. Ava still preferred the big female country artists like Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, Miranda Lambert and Faith Hill. There was no denying, though, that country music was still dominated by the boys. Many of the so-called “bro-country” songs didn’t appeal to her at all.
The college kid leaned forward to push his backpack more securely underneath the seat in front of him. When he sat back, his legs spread wide, and Ava moved closer to the plane’s wall to avoid touching him. She was sure he didn’t mean to manspread, and they were almost on the ground so it wasn’t worth the awkward conversation to ask him to move back into his space. Still, this was just another sign that there were no more considerate gentlemen left.
Bonni and Celia had found their happily ever after on previous trips. That left just her and Fredi to find theirs. Ava had gradually become so disappointed in the male species over the years it had been hard not to just give up on finding her true love. But no. Those were quitter thoughts and she refused to let go of her dreams. Ava would never, ever let herself think otherwise. She knew the man of her dreams was out there. One day, somewhere, somehow, she would find him. Now, if that wasn’t a country song in the making, she didn’t know what was.
Country music was all about storytelling, and telling love stories was one of its favorite things to do. Whether it was swearing to always love someone, feeling a slow and steady rush or celebrating still going strong, there was a song for every feeling, every situation. Country music had such a strong romantic flare and Ava loved the heartbreaking tales. She was a sucker for them, even though she invariably cried. And Nashville! It was the heart and soul of country music.
Ava squinted and looked at the city below. Not long now until touchdown. She was meeting Fredi on the curb outside Baggage Claim, since it was the easiest point of connection without Fredi having to park. Her friend was driving up from Florida, saying she needed the time away from her job as a wedding-dress designer.
“Endless hours in the car is my peace,” she’d insisted.
Out of the four of them, she and Fredi were the most opposite. Ava chose to give people the benefit of the doubt and to see the good in them, while Fredi took a more cynical view of life. Ava sighed and sat back in the seat, letting the sun bathe across her face. The plane banked sharply, the light turning to shade, and she heard the wheels come down. Touchdown was easy, the taxi to the gate uneventful, and disembarking the plane was the typical shuffle down the aisle.
She pulled her phone out of her purse, went to the group chat with her friends and typed, Nashville, I am in you. Then she skirted a family who had stopped at the end of the jetway, trying to organize their screaming kids.
Ava’s long legs took her swiftly through the crowd that was dawdling along. She had on sneakers instead of her preferred heels so she could fly through the crowd easily, teamed with flattering skinny jeans and a butter-cream-yellow blouse. She flipped her hair over her shoulder, wishing she’d tied its thick auburn mass up into a bun. Her skin felt coated with sweat and grime and she was eager to shower to get the airplane cooties off her once they arrived at the hotel.
Ava was a bit of a clean freak. No, she wasn’t a germaphobe, but she did her best to avoid any while using public transportation. A flight attendant had told her once to always wipe down her seat and tray-table before departure and she had taken the advice to heart ever since. More than once she’d gotten sick after flying, and the last thing she wanted was to come down with airplane crud while on this trip.
In addition to her purse, all she had packed was a carry-on so, after weaving through the crowd, she waited patiently by a pillar near the doors to the kiss-and-fly pick-up. Her phone buzzed and she read the message. Fredi was just driving into Arrivals.
Ava rushed outside and watched for her. She looked over the heads of the people standing around her and smiled when a candy-apple-red Volkswagen Beetle zipped around the other cars and into the Arrivals area.
Ava raised her hand and stepped off the curb. Fredi screeched to a halt, the sound echoing off the walls. The back hatch popped up and Ava fired in her carry-on, slammed the hatch shut and climbed into the front seat.
“Ava! It’s so good to see you, girl,” Fredi greeted her while looking in the rear-view and side mirrors, waiting for a break before bursting back into the traffic, blaring the horn.
“Thanks so much for picking me up. It sure beats taking a taxi to the hotel.” Ava settled in the seat and put her huge satchel, which carried everything she could possibly need, between her knees on the floor.
“You know it’s no problem.” She put on the turn signal and instructed Ava, “Hang on to your hat! This place is a zoo, and I want to get out of here.”
Fredi pulled a Mario Andretti, quickly cutting out from between a couple of cars, around a pole that reminded you to watch for pedestrian traffic, and then they were shooting out the other end and away from the airport.
“One day, Fredi—one day—you’re going to get in a crash,” Ava told her as she pushed herself harder into the passenger seat, her feet braced on the floor. This reminded her exactly why she wasn’t a fan of driving with Fredi.
Fredi huffed. “I can’t stand traffic. People are stupid and don’t know how to drive.”
“But you should drive defensively, not aggressively.” Ava hung on to the door handle and gritted her teeth.
“I am driving defensively, and look, it worked! We’re free of airport hell.” Fredi leaned into the steering wheel, gripping with both hands. Her gaze was flashing between the mirrors and the road ahead. Ava wondered why she still held so tightly to the wheel, since they were through the traffic. Then again, Fredi had been just as intense a driver back in college as she appeared to be now, whether stuck bumper to bumper or racing down an interstate.
“No, you weren’t, you were being aggressive. Other people have places to be, too, you know. Like picking up dinner for their family or maybe taking a kid to ballet. We’re not in any hurry, so what does it hurt to be courteous to other drivers?” Ava said earnestly.
“Spare me the sunshiney BS, Ava. I’m the one bringing you to the hotel. Otherwise, you’d been stuck in a germ-filled Uber or a cab.” Fredi cast her a smug glance.
Ava said, “You’re right. Even your crazy driving is better than a taxi. Do you know what time Bonni and Celia are getting in?” Ava closed her eyes when Fredi whooshed around a slow driver. “Careful! You’re going to get a ticket.”
“Won’t! And they could be at the hotel by now, but I’ve got a feeling they’ll be a little bit later. Landon was in Europe somewhere in a meeting that ran late. He went back to Cali so he could watch Celia’s kids, much to her ex’s displeasure, and, can you believe that man? Still causing all that drama about custody and delaying the court case when, clearly, the kids are better off with Celia and Landon. Anyway, then Celia took the jet to get Bonni from Virginia before they flew here. Tough life, huh?” Fredi said, keeping her gaze fixed on the road ahead. “Flying around in the Bryant corporate jet.”
“Well, I don’t think they do it often.” Ava ran her finger along the crease of her jeans, wishing Fredi would be less critical. “But I bet it’s handy being in love with uber-wealthy guys.”
However, personally, Ava didn’t care if her future Mr. Right was a billionaire or a handyman. All she wanted was love, devotion and a future with a man who would treasure her and treat her like a princess. Someone she could pour all her love into. He had to be out there, somewhere, didn’t he?
“Ha, I bet so, too! But not even the luxury of a private jet would entice me to hitch my wagon to a man’s mule. What’s the point in love and marriage? Just a road to disaster,” Fredi replied cynically.
Ava drew in a soft breath and held it; she didn’t believe Fredi’s take on love for a minute. Ava was all about passion, togetherness, love at first sight, being swept off your feet. Fredi designed wedding dresses for a living but was the Romance Scrooge. It was irony in its purest form. Maybe one day Fredi would see the light and open herself up to the universe. Ava let the breath she was holding puff out between her lips and turned to Fredi. “He—the one—has to be out there somewhere, doesn’t he, Fredi? I mean, you see it every day.”
Fredi lifted a finger off the steering wheel, somehow making the small gesture imperious, and Ava paused.
“I have told you guys many times, I don’t believe in happily ever after. Love is just a word—”
“Until two people make it something special!” Ava interrupted her.
“No, I don’t believe that. I see these brides happy and miserable and stressed and everything under the sun. They’re all a hot mess from planning a wedding, and how many of their marriages stick?” Fredi shook her head, making her long curls bounce around her shoulders and down her back. “Not many, I’m afraid. So, nope, it ain’t for this chick.”
Ava fell silent. She thought so differently than Fredi. Love was everything. How could anyone go through life without love?
“Fredi, I want someone to take my wagon. I want a big love. I want to find the man of my dreams.” Ava stared out the window, feeling a surge of sentimentality, and thought about how wonderful it would be to find her soulmate.
“Do you think I don’t know that, hun? If I could make it happen for you, I would, but c’mon, there’s a billion people in the world. Even if soulmates were a real thing, the odds of you finding yours among that many people is completely unrealistic. But maybe it’s like when you purposely go shopping because you need that particular dress. You’ll never find it. But when you’re not looking, boom! there it is.” Ava turned to watch Fredi, thinking about her words.
“You don’t sound overly optimistic.” Ava couldn’t let herself feel low; it would ruin their weekend. “Listen, if—no, when—I find my tall, dark and handsome, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.”
“Oh, I know you will. So long as he makes you happy, I’ll be his biggest fan in the world,” Fredi said. Ava felt an inner warmth chasing away her blueness. This is why they had been friends for so long: Fredi’s unshakeable loyalty.
“I know it,” Ava replied. “And I also know that you’ll find your other half one day, too.”
Fredi rolled her eyes, but said congenially, “So what kind of guy are you looking for these days? The kind who looks mighty fine in a three-piece suit?”
Ava closed her eyes and let her dream love conjure up behind her eyelids. “He has dark hair, neatly trimmed, and he’s clean-shaven with bright blue eyes to contrast with his dark hair and eyebrows. He’s well dressed…” Ava hesitated, a bit surprised that the image had begun to fail her.
“Blue or white collar?” Fredi asked her.
“Oh, in the long run, it really doesn’t matter, but I think there’s nothing sexier than a man in a tux or a well-cut business suit.”
“Then why haven’t you found him yet? You work around those tight-ass types all day. You’d think one would catch your attention.”
Ava shook her head. “Nope. They’re all either married, players or gay.”
“Then where do you think you’re going to find your magical man? Maybe you oughta get out of Nowheresville, Iowa, and move to a bigger city to find him.”
“I’ve thought about that. Trust me. But my contract with Edbridge is for another year, minimum. If I leave before then, I owe back the signing bonus, their three per cent matching for the pension and the year-end bonus I’m entitled to. The financials just don’t add up. So I’m staying there for at least another year. Plus, I really like David, he’s a great boss, and if I stay longer, the bonus dollars will go up until—”
“Whoa, okay, I get it, calculator brain. You make my head swim, spouting off numbers like that. You got it all, you know? Beauty and brains. It’ll take a damn unicorn of a man to be worthy of you.”
Ava was stunned. After all these years, since their first meeting in a college class, it was the first time Fredi had ever expressed a sentiment like that. She was touched beyond words. “If you weren’t driving the car, I’d tackle hug you.”
Instead, she reached out and squeezed Fredi’s shoulder. Fredi wasn’t one for showing affection, but she turned and gave Ava a smile. “It’s true. Anyway, there’s probably a load of Nashville suits around, label guys, A&Rs…maybe you’ll find him this weekend.”
“Ha! Wouldn’t that be something? Our previous girls’ weekends were certainly lucky for our friends. But you know what? I think you’re right. As long as I’m looking, I’ll never find it so, as of now, I’m no longer looking!” Ava declared triumphantly. She had tried online dating, going to bars, blind dates—practically everything. Maybe it was time to try not trying. Or something like that.
“Oh my God! I don’t believe that for a second. You not looking for your dream man is like you trying not to breathe. Fat chance.” Fredi flicked on the turn signal and roared down the highway off ramp.
As Ava clutched the door handle again and tried to remember the prayers she had learned long, long ago in Sunday School, she acknowledged that Fredi had a point. When was she ever not looking for love? Her luck in the love department was so, so bad. But this trip would be just the thing to turn her luck around. She just knew it!
SHANA GRAY is a hybrid author of contemporary and erotic romances. You can find her works at multiple publishers in including Harlequin Blaze, Headline, Random House, and coming soon with Entangled. Working Girl is available in six languages. She’s also self published. Her stories range from longer full length novels, to scorching quickie novellas. Shana’s passion is to enjoy life! She lives in Ontario, but loves to travel and see the world, be with family, friends and meet new readers.
To celebrate the release of THE NASHVILLE BET by Shana Gray, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 12/22/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Pure Textuality PR will deliver the winning prize. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!