I walk around my desk, using the cane to support enough of my weight to keep the pain away. My orthopedic team has assured me it will continue to get better as I strengthen the leg. It’s just taking time given the femur was crushed, and I lost a good chunk of my thigh muscle. As it stands, I don’t use the cane if I’m walking around a room or a short distance, but it’s just easier to take it everywhere with me.

The weight of Brandon’s stare presses on me, but like everything else, I just don’t care.

“This is serious business with the Harlan family,” Brandon says as I move past him. I can hear him lurch out of the chair. His voice follows me out the door, but I don’t give him my regard. “You’re going to have to appear before the ethics panel.”

“Let me know when,” I reply, knowing I’m being a dick but not able to help myself.

“Please,” Brandon murmurs, and the desperation within that one word almost causes me to stop. Almost.

I leave my office, my limp only slightly pronounced since I’ve gotten so good at walking with this cane.

“Don’t throw everything away,” he says, and the warning within is clear. “I can only do so much to help you, Benjamin, but you’re making it hard to even fucking do that.”

I don’t respond as I walk away from him. I’m going to have to pay for my rash words with the Harlans. Deep down, I realize I’m going to have to figure out some way to keep my mouth shut when I get angry at patients.

But that’s a worry for another day.

CHAPTER 2

Elena

My cell phone rings and because my car isn’t new enough to rate Bluetooth technology, I have to turn my radio down before tapping on the screen to answer my best friend. The phone sits in one of those contraptions mounted inside my AC vent, and Jorie’s face stares merrily out for just a moment before the call connects. I tap again on the screen to engage the speaker phone, all while maneuvering through Vegas traffic.

“What’s up?” I chirp, as happy to hear from her today as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. As best friends, we talk every day.

“The count is up to three hundred and fifty people,” she drawls dramatically, and I can envision her eye roll on the other end.

“Wow,” I murmur. “That’s a heck of a party.”

“It’s ridiculous,” she snaps, and I hold back my snicker of amusement.

“He loves you,” I point out. “He’s proud of you. He wants to celebrate the day you were born, and that means your husband is going to go over the top for your birthday. Just sit back and enjoy it.”

“I know,” she mutters petulantly, but it’s obvious she loves how much Walsh loves her. They’re childhood friends who fell in love as adults, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

Jorie’s twenty-fifth birthday is next weekend, and Walsh is throwing a huge party. He wanted it to be a surprise at first, and he’d consulted me about it. I’d said it was a terrible idea because she hates surprises, and he seemed, well… surprised. I had to remind him that yes, he might have been best friends with her brother, Micah, growing up, but he would never know her as well as I do since I’ve been her best friend since childhood. It was probably an exaggeration, but I am confident she hates surprises.

So he turned it into just a regular birthday party. By regular, I mean it will now include the Vegas elite. It’s what happens when your husband owns a successful casino called The Royale, and he’s considered Vegas royalty himself.

“So what are you up to tonight?” she asks.

“On my way to The Wicked Horse,” I reply, checking my right passenger mirror so I can merge over to the next lane. My exit is coming up soon.

“Oh, can’t wait to hear the details,” Jorie whispers, and I’m guessing Walsh must be in the room with her. While we share plenty of juicy stuff, she wouldn’t breach my privacy to her husband.

Funny how Jorie and Walsh sort of reconnected at The Wicked Horse. They “coincidentally” fucked at a masquerade event, not knowing who the person behind the mask was. Granted, it was an incredibly confusing time between them, especially since Walsh had a tough time accepting his attraction to his best friend’s little sister.

But they eventually realized how deeply they loved each other. Now they’re happily married, and I take a lot of the credit for it. I was the one who dragged Jorie to The Wicked Horse that night. I wasn’t a regular member and couldn’t have afforded the yearly membership, but I do treat myself to the exorbitant five-hundred-a-night fee a few times a year. As a woman completely in touch with her sexuality, I find it more than liberating to be able to go somewhere and be surrounded by like-minded people who enjoy celebrating pleasure with one another.

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