“Millennium Hotel, Mr. Ramsey.”
I’ve been totally lost in thought. Not about Apex-Con, though. For everyone else, this is the biggest tech conference of the year, but for me, it’s just another conference and another speech. These are all starting to blend together now, and they’re nowhere near as exciting as they were a decade ago.
No, I was spacing out about something deeper, an existential crisis. A decade after becoming “Tech’s Golden Boy” (Time Magazine’s words, not mine), I can’t help but wonder if this is all there is. I’ve got wealth, fame, and friends, but something’s missing.
It isn’t sex, if that’s what you’re thinking. When you’re as stupid rich as I am, you don’t hurt for female companionship. Women are attracted to money like… well, like women to money. And I’ve become an expert at sniffing out their intentions before things get too far.
Meet ‘em, bed ‘em, walk away. Only the exceptional even get a second date.
The driver’s words snap me back to the here and now. I exit the limo without waiting for him to come around and open my door. I consider that was a silly tradition anyway. I’ve always opened my own doors, and I didn’t change that just because I started making money.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Ramsey. Welcome to the Millennium. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you during your stay.”
It’s still strange when a hotel has someone specifically tasked with the job of waiting to greet me. My family stayed at nothing but crappy motels when I was growing up, and we were lucky if we got a working ice machine.
“Check me in…” I glance at his name tag. “Brian.” Peeling off a couple of hundred-dollar bills, I hand them to him as I nod toward the luggage the limo driver is removing from the trunk. “Then bring my card key to the LBD.”
Without waiting for a reply, I head into the hotel.
Entering a large Vegas casino in the middle of the afternoon is a unique sensation. In the space of ten steps, you go from scorching sun, oppressive dry heat and relative quiet into an air-conditioned blizzard, flashing colored lights and a cacophony of gaming-machine-generated noises loud enough to numb your brain.
I keep my sunglasses on as I stride with purpose across the casino floor. I need to get into the darkened bar before anyone recognizes me and wants to chat about their brilliant idea or ask me what it’s like to have so much money. My destination lies directly ahead, thin purple neon letters elegantly spelling out “Little Black Dress.”
The Millennium Hotel’s flagship nightclub is famous for its smoking hot servers dressed to match the name of the bar. That’s great, I mean, who doesn’t like a little eye candy? But I’m more interested in the stunning, elegant décor—specifically the subdued lighting that lets me disappear into the background when I’m there.
I continue past the rows and rows of slots and gaming tables and duck into the club. The exuberant hostess greets me and before I can tell her I’m looking for some friends, she says, “Your party is already here, Mr. Ramsey. Follow me.”
I would follow her anywhere; I can’t resist a tight ass in a tight dress.
“Look who’s here: Comrade Codestack.” Ryan’s voice carries across the room. He always greets me with some variation of the name of my first web property, Codestack. The joke got old years ago, but I don’t have the heart to tell him. I sold Codestack to a huge Russian software company for a cool eighty million and that one deal put me on the map. Money is so much easier to make when you start with money.
The hostess takes me to a big booth where Ryan is sitting with Grace and Miles. The four amigos. We all seem to be at every major tech conference, and none of us really enjoy them anymore. Consequently, we just hang out together, drinking and making a sport of talking shit about our other colleagues. Ryan and Miles are around my age, thirty, and Grace is a couple of years younger. She’s razor sharp and gorgeous, but she has a husband and two kids at home, so she’s always been off-limits.
“Hey, guys,” I say. “I see you started drinking without me.”
“Are you kidding?” Miles says. “We have to be drunk just to be around you and your groupies.”
He’s joking, too, or at least I think he is. All three of them are pretty wealthy, although their combined wealth doesn’t approach mine. And none of them are as high-profile as I am. They scoot down a bit so I can sit.
“No problem. It’ll be easy to catch up to you wimps.”
I look around for our server. I’m dying for a drink myself after breathing that dry desert air, but there’s no one in our area.
“Ready for your big speech?” Grace asks. “What’s the topic?”
“I haven’t decided on a topic yet,” I reply. “So no, I’m not ready.”
Ryan shakes a head topped with scruffy red hair. “Seriously? You’re giving the crucial closing speech at Apex-Con, the single biggest tech event of the year, and you haven’t even decided on a topic? You like living on the edge, my friend.”
“Keeps things interesting. Being comfortable and relaxed is highly overrated. Besides, I have four days left to write it.”
‘What can I get you?”
The voice alone gets my attention immediately. It’s sexy, with just a hint of a rasp. I turn to my left to see a striking woman, petite with pale skin and short, straight, black hair. She’s wearing a black dress (duh), short enough to show a lot of leg and hugging her hot little body. On second look, what first appear to be long sleeves attached to the dress turn out to be tattoo sleeves. The dress itself is actually sleeveless, and her breasts are pushing against the top. Her chest from her cleavage up, to just below her collarbone, is likewise filled with tattoos, and her legs have designs all up and down them. This woman has dozens of tattoos and I suddenly wish there was more light so I could see them clearly.
“Do you want to order something, or are you just going to stare?”
When I finally make it up to her face, she’s a little perturbed. “Sorry,” I say, “but not too sorry.” Big sexy eyes glare at me, and plump fire-engine red lips smirk to one side, distracting me even further.
“Do you have Balvicar Scotch, 15 Years?”
“Rocks?” she asks.
She cocks an eyebrow at my reply. As she walks away, I can’t help but notice the way her cute ass sways. Holy fuck, I want some of that. And I have a feeling that almost-rasp of a voice will be rattling around in my brain for the rest of my life.
“Earth to Maddox.” It’s Grace, and everyone laughs when I turn around to face them.
“Like what you see?” Ryan asks.
“Yeah, Miles and I have been ogling her. Grace, too.”
“I was not. I was admiring those tattoos.”
“Yeah, the tattoos are sexy. I’m going to get her number,” I say confidently.
“Five hundred bucks says you don’t,” Miles says.
I eye him suspiciously. “Do you know something I don’t?”
“No, I’m just going by the way she looked at you. You’re not getting any digits from that one.”
“You’re on,” I say, retrieving my money clip from my pants pocket and counting off five hundreds onto the table. Miles does the same, finishing just as she returns with my drink.
Setting the glass of golden liquid in front of me, she says, “You shouldn’t be drinking Balvicar. It’s swill, at least for expensive scotch. This is Ardnave, an Islay scotch aged 25 years in sherry casks—longer than I’ve been on the planet. It’s the shit. Trust me.”
I give her a confused look. I’m not accustomed to having cocktail waitresses “correct” my order for me.
“Don’t worry,” she says with that same cute little smirk. “I’m sure you can afford it.”
“Thanks for the tip… um…” I pause, waiting for her name.
I extend my hand. “I’m—”
She ignores my hand. “I know who you are. That’s why I knew you should be drinking better scotch.”
I hear Miles chuckle behind me as I withdraw my handshake.
“I’d love get your number, Tempest. I’m in Vegas all the time.”
“Yeah, well that’s not gonna happen. Enjoy the scotch, though. Let me know what you think, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to change your world.”
It’s that sexy fucking voice that’s changing my world, and the confident way she wields it.
“Now there’s a first,” says Grace as I’m again drooling over Tempest’s ass as she walks off.
Miles calmly reaches over and grabs the thousand bucks. “Maybe she’s a lesbian,” he says.
I shake my head. “No, definitely not.”
“Then you’re just losing your charms,” he says with a laugh.
“No, I think he’s losing his motivation,” Ryan offers. “He’s just had too much tail. After a while, it all starts to look and feel the same.”
“Oh my fucking god,” Grace says emphatically. We all turn in her direction. “I can’t believe you said that. Men get away with so much shit. If I said I was tired of getting too much cock, you dorks would never let me hear the end of it.”
There are a few seconds of stunned silence, then Miles says, “So you get a lot of cock?” and we all burst out laughing. Even Grace.
“Maddox, it’s obvious she’s just not into you,” she says. “She might be immune.”
“Nobody’s immune. She’ll come around.”
“Bet she doesn’t,” Grace says.
Miles chimes in. “Yeah, let’s make a wager. Put your money where your ego is.”
“Name your bet,” I say. “And your price.”
“We’ll each put up a grand,” Miles says, “You put up thirty, since you’re so much richer than us.”
“But you have to actually have sex with her to win,” Ryan says.
“Seriously?” I ask.
The two guys nod. Then Grace rolls her eyes and says, “What the hell. Yeah, I’m in—but only because it’s a sure thing and a great short-term investment.”
I look across the room, where Tempest is waiting on another table. The hot body, the tattoos, that sexy little dress…
“Done,” I tell them. “You guys are suckers. Time Magazine said it best: ‘Maddox Ramsey doesn’t lose. Ever.’”