I stare up at the monstrous building made of chrome and glass, trying ignore my conscience sneering at me.

Okay, who am I kidding? I’m here because I want more of Walsh. Vince may have dinged my self-esteem when it comes to my sexual prowess, but he didn’t damage my overall ego. There’s enough of it left intact, coupled with the fact Walsh has awoken something within me that I simply want more of.

Squaring my shoulders, I march into The Royale and head straight for the concierge desk. I haven’t been in this casino before. Hell, I haven’t been in hardly any of them. Sure, I’d only grown up about forty-five minutes away, but gambling and all-you-can-eat buffets held no interest to me.

From Micah bragging about his best friend over the years, I knew Walsh orchestrated the purchase of the land, then pulled together financing with two other partners to build this casino. It’s one of the most popular on the strip, boasting five-star dining, old-world elegance, and superior customer service. Again, all this from Micah, but honestly… I’m so proud of Walsh, too. We may have lost touch over the years, but I’ll never forget all the ways in which he acted as a big brother to me.

Ick.

Okay… that’s gross. Thinking of Walsh like a brother.

I scrub my mind clean of that thought and demand myself never to do that again.

Rather, I’ll never forget all the ways in which Walsh provided me friendship and support in my formative years.

Yes… much better.

“Can I help you?” a man behind the concierge desk asks with a genuine and friendly smile. Not snooty as I would expect in a fancy hotel, and I guess that goes to the superior customer service The Royale strives for.

“Yes… hi,” I say as I nervously tuck my hair behind my ears on both sides. “I need to see Mr. Brooks. How do I go about getting access to his apartment?”

Micah told me some time ago that Walsh lives here.

The concierge never loses his friendly smile, but a single eyebrow arches high at my temerity.

“Oh, gosh,” I stammer. “That came out stalkerish. Mr. Brooks… I mean, Walsh… and I are longtime friends. He used to babysit me.”

“Your name?” the man asks as he pulls up something on his computer.

“Jorie Pearce.”

After a moment of scanning, he looks up at me. “Your name isn’t on the approved list.”

“Well, he’s not exactly expecting me.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Pearce,” he says with true regret in his voice. “But our policy is strict. No one gets up to the private penthouse without their name on the list.”

I lean on the desk with one elbow and lower my voice. “Just out of curiosity… are there any women on that list?”

The eyebrow shoots up again.

“No, wait,” I say hastily as I hold my palms toward him in a silent plea to not process my last request either mentally or on the computer. “That’s totally stalkerish, and I didn’t mean that.”

“Miss Pearce,” the concierge says, now with a hint of annoyance. “Perhaps you’d like to leave a message? I can get it up to Mr. Brooks today and he can call you.”

“No, I need to see him now,” I tell him firmly. “And I swear it’s not to cook a rabbit in a pot on his stove. Can you please just call up to his apartment?”

“That’s not our policy—”

“Look,” I snap as I lean across the desk slightly. “I’m a lifelong friend of Walsh’s. My brother is his best friend. We lost touch for a few years, but we ran into each other last night. I really need to talk to him about something that happened last night, and I’m not leaving this hotel until you call up to his apartment.”

The eyebrow doesn’t arch but it does draw inward to meet its match on the other side as he considers what I just said.

“I swear to you,” and here I pause to look at his name tag, “Bentley. Please just call him. He won’t be mad.”

With a sigh, he relents and picks up the phone receiver, punching in a five-digit number. After a pause, he says, “Mr. Brooks… I’m very sorry to disturb you, sir, but there’s a Miss Jorie Pearce here to see you. She says she’s a longtime friend.”

I watch as Bentley listens, but I can’t gauge what’s being said as his face remains blank. Finally, he says, “Very good, sir.”

I take this to mean I’ll be getting an escort to the penthouse suite, but Bentley replaces the receiver and says, “I’m sorry, Miss Pearce. But Mr. Walsh told me to tell you he’s busy and can’t receive you right now.”

My eyes narrow at Bentley. “I don’t believe you. Call back and let me talk to him.”

“I assure you, I just talked to him and that’s what he said.”

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