When I told Jorie I’d been invited to a charity gala “by a man I’d met online” and needed her help, she was beyond excited. She is so brimming with happiness over her own newfound love she wants the same for me. Wants me to find my own personal happiness, get married, and have babies we can raise together. Any time there’s a whiff I might have a date or an interest in a man, she gets over-excited.
Which is why I still haven’t told her about Benjamin, which is obviously weighing heavily on my conscience. More so because Jorie is indeed pregnant. After letting her husband in on the secret, I was the one and only other person she shared the information with. She had told me there was no way she was going to wait until the end of her first trimester like many people do before letting her best friend in on the singularly most happy event of her life.
And yet, I still can’t bring myself to tell her about the mysterious man who I have had two mind-blowing, carnal experiences with. Part of me is afraid I am going to jinx it with him if I let anyone in on this. I simply can’t let myself give credence to something so powerful—that could potentially have the power to change me in a fundamental way. Until I can get a handle on exactly what this is, I have resolved to tread carefully and quietly.
I let Jorie put some finishing touches on my makeup while she chatters on about being pregnant. She has an appointment with her obstetrician next week for a formal pregnancy test, so she can get started on her prenatal care.
When she finishes my makeup, fluffs my hair once more, and pronounces me sufficiently beautiful, we leave the master suite to find Walsh waiting in the living room.
Offering his arm to me, he says in an over-exaggerated British accent, “Let me escort you downstairs, milady.”
Rolling my eyes, I laugh, but loop my arm through his all the same. Jorie links arms with me on the other side, and we make our way down the private elevator, through the lobby, and out the doors to the Vegas strip.
Walsh keeps walking, though, and heads straight toward a black limo parked in front.
I stop dead in my tracks as I stare at the limo driver who opens the door.
“What is this?” I ask.
“I’m giving you my limo for the evening,” Walsh says. “So get in the damn chariot.”
“But it’s only a few blocks down to The Presario,” I say, trying to protest his generosity.
Jorie steps in front of me, then gives me a hard hug. “Get in the damn limo. Walsh is feeling overly generous because he’s so happy to become a daddy.”
I pull away from Jorie and turn to Walsh, going on to my tiptoes to give him a kiss on his cheek. “You’re a prince. Thank you.”
“Don’t I know it,” he replies with a wink before helping me into the car.
It only takes a few moments to drive the two blocks down the strip to The Presario, one of the newer casinos, where the gala is being held. I see Benjamin waiting for me in front. He looks amazing in a tuxedo, his cane planted dead center and making him appear even more regal and sophisticated as he scans the block for me. I had told him I would be getting ready at The Royale, and he expects me to be on foot for the short walk.
His eyes sweep out to the limo, then back down the block before returning to the limo as the door opens and I alight. His eyes flare with surprise, then he’s moving toward me, the cane tapping on the sidewalk. It’s an incredibly warm June evening, yet he looks dashingly cool and collected.
“Elena,” he says in greeting as he offers me his arm. “That dress is stunning.”
I flush with pleasure from the compliment. “It’s Jorie’s,” I admit. “I can’t afford the type of attire needed to attend these things. Luckily, we’re the same size.”
“Somehow, I don’t think it would look as good on her,” he says, paying me another gentlemanly compliment.
Again, it feels nice to have his acknowledgment. Still, I’d much rather have his grunts and groans, which speak more than his words. I fear I might have misplaced my priorities, but it’s the truth.
Benjamin leads me into the casino, and we head toward the bank of elevators that will lead up to the event ballroom.
“So what is this event?” I ask.
“It’s a fundraiser for the children’s hospital,” he replies.
“Do you come to a lot of these?”
We reach the elevators and he stabs at the button with his finger. “Not lately. Don’t seem to have the patience for them anymore.”
“So why are you attending this one?”