But having Charly here beside me makes it feel easier somehow. She makes everything feel easy. Better.

We drive through Vegas and reach the hotel in good time. As we drive up, I notice the press is loitering outside.


“For fuck’s sake,” I sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Charly asks, leaning forward to look at what I’m looking at.

“Press is out front of the hotel.” I wonder if they’ve found out I’m staying here. Or it could be for a number of reasons. This is Vegas after all.

“We’ll go in through the underground garage,” Aiden says.

He drives around and pulls in the parking lot, taking a spot close to the elevators.

I climb out. Charly gets out behind me.

“I’ll bring your bags up,” Aiden says.

“Okay. See you up there.”

We walk toward the elevator, and I catch hold of Charly’s hand.

“Weekend’s not over yet,” I tell her. “Not until we get upstairs.”

She smiles warmly at me. I press the call button and wait.

The elevator’s empty. We get in, and I press the button for the penthouse. Then, I get my private access card and swipe it. The doors close, and the elevator starts to ascend.

I turn, taking her in my arms, and I press a soft kiss to her lips. “So, I’ve been thinking.”

“Sounds dangerous.”

“Funny. Look, I know we’ve talked about this before, and I know all your reasons for wanting to keep our relationship private, but I don’t want to anymore. I want the world to know that you’re mine. I’ve just had the best weekend of my life with you. I’ve had the best few months of my life with you. I want to take you out on dates. I want to kiss you in public. Yes, I initially asked for us to be a secret, but things have changed now. I didn’t know we would become more…this. I know I’m asking a lot. I’m asking you to give up your privacy to be with me. But…” I take a deep breath. “I love you, Charly. I’m in love with you.”

She’s staring at me with a mixture of emotions on her face. I can definitely pick out happiness in there, but there’s fear, too, and that worries the shit out of me.

“God, Vaughn. I…” She squeezes her eyes shut.

“Okay, I’m gonna be honest here, Pins. Not the response I was hoping for.”

She opens her eyes. “I’m sorry.” And she really looks it. “There’s just something you need to know. Something I need to tell you before we go any further. It’s important.”

“Okay.” My head starts to ring with warning bells. I step back from her just as the elevator reaches our floor. “We can talk inside.”

I turn to step out of the elevator, and Jack is standing there, waiting for me.

“Jesus, Jack! You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing here?”

His eyes flicker past me to Charly. “I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for hours.”

“My cell is dead.”

“I called your mom, but she said you’d already left.”

“Well, I’m here now. What’s the problem?”

His eyes go to Charly again, who’s still standing behind me. I don’t like the way he keeps looking at her.

Did the press find out about her and me? Do they know that her dad murdered her mom?

Would make sense with the way that Jack has a face like thunder.

“Let’s go inside and talk.” Jack jerks his head in the direction of my suite.

“How did you get in?” I ask, following him.

Charly is lagging behind me. I reach back and take hold of her hand, pulling her to my side. I give her a reassuring smile. She gives me a tight one in return.

“Alex let me in. He’s here, too.”

He looks at me holding Charly’s hand, and his expression tightens.

Guess the cat’s out of the bag. Oh well.

We step inside, and I shut the door behind us. Alex is sitting on the sofa. He stands when he sees us. I jerk my chin in greeting at him.

His smile is tight.

“Okay, so what’s the problem? I’m guessing you know Charly and I are together—”

“Vaughn.”

“I’m not just fucking her. I’m in love with her.”

“Jesus.” Jack rubs his face. “He doesn’t know, does he?” He’s looking at Charly.

I feel her tense beside me, and I hate that Jack is making her feel uncomfortable.

“Jack, let me stop you there.” I hold a hand up. “If you’re talking about Charly’s dad, then I already know everything.”

“Do you want to tell him, or should I?” He’s talking to Charly again.

“Tell me what?” I look down at Charly, and she’s paled. The expression on her face makes my stomach sink.

Then, her words in the elevator ring clear in my head.

“There’s just something you need to know. Something I need to tell you before we go any further. It’s important.”

Releasing her hand, I step back to face her. “Charly? What’s going on?” My voice betrays me and wobbles, giving away the fear and dread I’m feeling inside because I know for certain that, whatever this is, it’s not going to be good.

“I, um…” She runs a hand through her hair.

I see that it’s shaking. She glances over at Alex and Jack.

“Charly?” I say her name.

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