And I meant it. To me, this kind of chemistry—instant and electric—matters so much more.

But I still find it kind of hard to believe she’s as gorgeous as she is, and as interesting as she is. Clearly, something has to go wrong, like it did with Sandy.

I tense momentarily, picturing my ex.

Seeing her face.

Feeling the gut punch of her news that she was leaving on a jet plane.

But I don’t want Sandy to infect this night.

I hoist those thoughts right out of my mind.

We stop at a light, and I put a hand on Olivia’s arm then run my palm down her skin. “I hope I’m not being too forward by touching your arm.”

She gazes at me. “You can definitely touch my arm. In fact, I hope I’m not being too forward by saying it gave me the shivers.”

“Good shivers?” I ask as a cab screams by.

“Definitely the good kind.”

“I can work with good shivers.”

The light changes and we cross. “Good shivers are another item on the checklist,” she says.

I mime checking it off.

She flashes a smile that ignites me, and I wonder why I took so long to say yes to Evie. But then the last time I felt this way was Sandy and—

Nope. Not going to do it. Not going to let her ruin the best night in ages.

No. Years.

Just focus on tonight.

When we arrive at the warehouse, the gamemaster opens the door and lets us inside, his tone that of a clandestine fellow from decades ago. “Hello, my secret agents. Welcome to the 1940s. We have your escape room ready for you.”

The gamemaster ushers us down to a basement room, tells us our fellow agents were wrongly taken into police custody, and if we can find the clues and crack the case, we can set them free.

The clock is ticking.

I turn to Olivia. “Do you agree it would be completely embarrassing if we don’t find our way out of here? After we both talked about our skill with puzzles?”

“Failure is not an option,” she says, her tone intense.

Quickly and methodically, we survey the room. There are wigs, trench coats, mustaches, and maps of the world that look like they belong in an old-time professor’s office. A framed portrait hangs behind a large oak desk with a green lamp.

The portrait features a stern-looking man. “His left eye is wonky,” I say, pointing to the picture and the way the eye seems askew.

She peers more closely. “It sure is.”

She spins around, counting quietly. “And there are nine mirrors in this room.”

I catalogue the reflective surfaces—mirrors hanging on walls, one standing on a desk, another next to a globe.

“Mirrors and a wonky eye,” I say, tapping my skull.

We spend the next thirty minutes with a laser focus, gathering clues, solving riddles, and cracking codes. We’re nearly there. I can feel it. We stand at the desk, poring over one of the last clues, tossing ideas back and forth.

“This is so cool,” she says. “If we’re good at this, can we make it a thing?”

I laugh, loving that she’s already decided we’re having another date. “We can definitely make it a thing. We’ll tackle all the escape rooms in New York City. How many do you think there are?”

“Thousands,” she says softly, tilting her face toward me.

I hold her gaze, not wanting to look anywhere else but into her sparkling blue eyes.

“Olivia,” I say, stepping closer to her, a rush of warmth skating over my skin, “are you telling me one hour into this date that you’re having such a good time you want to go on a second date?” I don’t know why I’m being so forward, yet I know exactly why I’m being so forward. Because she’s fascinating. She’s interesting. I’ve never felt this kind of instant, quick, sharp, spicy, tangible connection with somebody. Rather than run away from it, I don’t want to let it go.

A lock of her hair is out of place, so I brush it off her shoulder. Her breath seems to hitch. “Yes. I do want to go on another date.”

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m vaguely aware of a ticking clock. But I want this more. I run the back of my fingers across her cheek. “Is kissing on your checklist?”

She gasps softly. “I would say kissing you is on my checklist, but you have to be a really good kisser to stay on my checklist.”

I move my hand to her face, sliding my thumb along her jawline. “It’s on mine too.”

“Let’s check it off.” Her eyes flutter shut.

I lean closer to her and brush my lips over hers. I feel a whisper of breath that seems to ghost across her lips, and then the slightest gasp.

She trembles. I’m not even holding her or touching her, I’m just kissing her lightly, softly. And she’s shuddering.

Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance