“Dream big, my friend,” I said, then shifted gears. “To what do I owe the pleasure of an early morning phone call?”

Brandon furrowed his brow, casting his gaze from Nina to me and back. “Isn’t it eight-thirty where you are? I know you two are like Batman-and-Robin kind of close, but I didn’t realize you were hanging out in the bat cave that early.”

“For the record, I’m not Robin, and besides, this is my bat cave,” Nina said, arching a brow over her glasses. I reined in a grin, both from the comment—because who in their right mind ever wanted to be Robin?—and also because she looked badass in her red-as-sin glasses and with that sharp stare in her brown eyes. And tough, too, with her whole photographer look in full force this morning. Dark jeans, black boots, and a wine-red shirt. Biker chic, and did she ever wear it well.

She wore everything well, including her kinks. To think the woman who’d been my friend and neighbor had been hiding this fantastic secret these last few years, and I didn’t mean her virginity. I meant her appetite in bed—she was a little bit submissive, a lot kinky, and all kinds of dirty.

My kind of woman.

And I was the only one who knew about the other side of Nina.

“Fine, you can be Catwoman and he can be Batman. How’s that?” Brandon asked, and his tone was still inquisitive, but I doubted he wanted to know what we thought of his superhero assignments. The way he glanced from Nina to me and back again suggested he was still trying to get a read on us. “Anyway, what are you two comic book characters up to?” he asked.

Nina smiled for a sliver of a second, like it escaped her lips and she had to catch it before it sprinted away from her. Then she schooled her expression, but I could read between the lines. She was keeping our little tryst a secret, and relishing, too, that we were having one.

Same here.

I reveled in our secret.

“I’m on my way to work, and Nina is too,” I said to Brandon, giving the simplest reply. “And to answer your other question, you nosy bastard, I’ve been staying with Nina for the last few nights, since my place is being painted. What’s up with you? I need to head to the car, so I don’t have long.”

“Funny, I don’t either. I have a few meetings, then I have to pack because I happen to have a plane to catch . . .” He let his voice trail off, like he had something up his sleeve.

“Where are you headed?”

He took a beat. “To Vegas, as a matter of fact. And if you play your cards right, I just might let the two of you take me out for a night on the town. How’s that for generous?”

I grinned. “That’s great that you’ll be here.”

Nina leaned in close. “We’d love that. We’d be happy to see you. You have to join us.”

“We?” Brandon’s eyebrows shot into his hairline. “Are you two a we and I’m just learning now?”

The smile on her face disappeared instantly. She blushed, turning the shade of a fire engine. She pressed a hand to her cheek and stepped away from the frame, whispering, “Sorry.”

No way. No way was I going to let her feel like she had to apologize.

I told Brandon I’d be right back, then I muted the call and set down the phone on the entryway table.

I closed the distance, cupped her cheek. “Nina, you have nothing to be sorry for.”

She shook her head, like she was mad at herself. “I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have acted like we were a thing, or like we did things together.” It came out in a whisper.

I tilted my head. “But we do. We do hang out together. And we will keep doing that. You know that, don’t you?”

But her shoulders still radiated tension. Her jaw was set hard. I tucked a finger under her chin, raising her face. “We’re good. I promise.”

She let out a long gust of breath. “Please know I wasn’t trying to suggest anything. It just came out. I guess because you’ve been staying here this week, and we got into a rhythm with the dinners and everything.” She laughed, but it sounded forced. “Anyway, I know we’re not a we. We’re just friends, and it will be so fun to see Brandon as friends.”

She flashed me a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, then she shoved my shoulder like a pal would do. “Go finish with Brandon. He needs you.”

I swiped my thumb over her chin. “He’s doing well. I swear. Last time I saw him, he was definitely himself again.”

“Good,” she said with a smile. “I’ve been hoping he would be.”

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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