“Oh please. I’m at home in pajamas while you’re out in an LA bar.”

“Elle, there’s not a woman in California that can hold a candle to you. You could walk into this place in a potato sack, and you’d break every single one of these assholes’ hearts.”

I brought my knees to my chest and smiled, feeling better about the distance. “How’s it going with Nicole?”

“Pretty good so far. I think this game could be great for her. We’ve got meetings all day tomorrow with the designers and marketing team for it.”

The game he was referring to was a video game, one where you picked a tennis player and competed in various tournaments. Unlike the other existing games, there was also a reality component where you could make life and financial decisions for your player and then deal with the positive and negative consequences as that player. I hadn’t yet decided if the idea sounded stupid or brilliant. MGM Entertainment, who was creating the game, wanted the rights to Nicole’s name and image—plus wanted her to invest in exchange for putting her on the cover. Ten million dollars was the number that had been thrown out. She’d pay ten million for a sixteen percent stake in the game and her image on the cover and all promotional material.

It was new territory for Easton, and the pressure was on to give her intelligent advice that wouldn’t come back and blow up in his face. The game could release in as quickly as eighteen months, and depending on its success or failure, Easton would be judged. He had to make the right decision, and I willed him to see the correct path for her to take.

“Go back to them,” I urged. “I just wanted to check in with you. Do you want me to wait and chat with this guy when you get home?”

“It’s all through the online messages?”

“Yeah, on the site.”

“Then, no. Keep going. I can read through them later.” His voice dropped. “Are you flirting with him?”

“No. Not yet. But I’m worried it’s going to head in that direction.”

“Just do as much as you feel comfortable with. I’ll read through it tomorrow. I trust you.”

Did he need to trust me if he was going to read through the transcript of our conversation? I clamped down my irritation and reminded myself of how I’d feel if I were in his shoes. “Okay. Good luck.”

“Thanks, baby. I love you.”

I ended the call and felt the phone buzz with another new message from Kurt.

I’ve got to run. Hit me up if you have any questions. Also, if you guys need a guinea pig to practice on. Your husband is a very lucky man, and I think you’ll enjoy this lifestyle, if you do it the right way.

My fears had been unfounded, and I felt a little disappointed that Kurt hadn’t pushed the envelope with flirtation. His abrupt departure only increased my interest in him as a potential candidate. I replied back with a quick final question.

What’s the right way?

He responded almost immediately.

With full honesty between the two of you. Don’t ever do anything sexually—or let him do anything sexually—that you aren’t comfortable with. And stop if it stops being fun.

From beside me, Wayland let out a snore. I glanced at him and composed back my best attempt at a casual yet door-opening end.

We may take you up on that guinea pig offer. Enjoy your friends—chat soon.

Xoxo Rachel

As soon as I sent the message, I regretted the x’s and o’s. Was I twelve? Smitten? A pathetic horny housewife? I kicked my feet free of the blanket and turned up the volume on the television, watching as a solemn narrator recounted a brutal crime scene and the forensic clues that had been left behind.

Gathering up my blanket, I heaved out of the recliner and moved to the couch. Lying beside Wayland, I put one arm around the big dog and laid my head on his shoulder. He wasn’t Easton, but in a pinch, he worked pretty well.

I tried to focus on the show, but had lost some critical elements of the crime during my messaging. I changed the channel to a QVC tutorial on eye shadow and thought through everything Kurt had shared. He was divorced. Came to Miami frequently on business. Had been a member of the site for a year. Got into the lifestyle with his ex-wife. Preferred to be the third with married couples. Less drama, he said, assuming the husband wasn’t an asshole.

All in all, he seemed really nice. Safe. I tucked my feet under Wayland and stared at the screen until I fell asleep.

17

The next morning, my period had retreated to a barely present and entirely manageable second-thought. Checking my phone, I saw a late-night text from Easton along with a new message from Kurt.

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