It’s far too easy to stay where we are, in our comfortable places, and never take a chance.

But a chance at true intimacy is a chance worth taking.

I know. I’ve been there, and I want you all to have what I’ve had.

So, if you’re on the cliff, jump off. It’s worth it.

I won’t give you a step-by-step instructional. All I will say is, you won’t get what you want unless you ask for it.

I hit end, stared at myself in the mirror, and vowed to find a way to ask. After I dressed for my shoot, my stomach rumbled and my brain demanded coffee.

I answered the call of the belly and the brain and headed for the kitchen, where I stopped short. There was a note left by the coffee maker.

My heart stuttered. Nerves slammed into me.

But then I talked back to them. After all, I’d been learning how to ask for what I wanted.

“Please let this be my chance.”

I opened it.

22

Brandon

For the record, I was not a cheap bastard. I’d looked far and wide for hotel rooms.

I’d happily pay a couple hundred a night for one on the Strip. No. Make it an even five.

But I couldn’t find one for less than two grand.

When certain conventions sent more than one hundred thousand people at any given time to Sin City, one did not simply find a hotel room that didn’t cost a kidney the night before he flew to town.

Still, that was what friends were for, and I was damn glad I had Adam and his offer to turn to when I got off this plane.

But first, champagne.

The blonde flight attendant handed me a glass. “It’s calling your name, Mr. Winters.”

“But it’s so early,” I said playfully, shaking my head as if truly debating the consumption of this beverage. “How can I live with myself for drinking so early?”

“It’s not early in France,” she said with a wink in a faint French accent. “Pretend you are at your favorite brasserie, having a glass, watching the men and women walk by on cobblestoned streets.”

Ah, sounded exactly like my life for the last few years.

I raised the glass, grateful the airline had upgraded me, thanks to my frequent flyer miles. “When you put it like that, how can I live with myself for not drinking this champagne at three in the afternoon in Paris?”

She patted my shoulder, smiling softly. “Exactly.”

It was a passing touch. It ended a second later as she moved to the row behind me, treating another first-class passenger to a breakfast drink.

But it was enough to remind me of how long it had been.

Three years of only passing touches.

Three years of missing.

Three years of watching the world go by.

I lifted the glass and downed half the drink, letting the bubbles tickle my nose and go to my head.

I wasn’t going to get drunk on half a glass of champagne. Please. But as the plane zoomed closer to Vegas, the city where I’d met, romanced, and fallen madly in love with Jenna, I’d need a drink or two to get off this plane.

Hell, I’d required shots, lots of shots, last time I came here.

I downed the rest of the glass for good measure.

When the attendant turned around, passing me again, she didn’t ask if I wanted another. Instead, she stopped, giving me a soft grin. “What brings you to Vegas?”

“Friends. Work. The usual.”

She arched a curious brow. “And is that good?”

“Good enough,” I said, my standard reply.

“Sometimes ‘good enough’ is all we can hope for, isn’t it?” Her brown eyes were rimmed with sadness. She didn’t even try to hide it. It was there to see so easily, to read so completely.

But then, that was what I did. I read people. “Yes. Sometimes it is all there is.”

She sighed, a little melancholy sound, but then she smiled, and just as quickly, her sadness disappeared. It was gone in the snap of the finger. “But we go on, and we find the joy in other things, don’t we? That’s what I’ve done.”

I was too startled by the slice of honesty she’d served up to say anything at first. It was rare to connect with a stranger so easily, one I knew I’d never see again.

But maybe that was what strangers were for sometimes. For those unexpected encounters that cut you right to the heart.

“Yes, I think that’s true,” I said. “At least, I hope it’s true.”

“It is,” she said reassuringly. “I’m finding mine again. I’m trying again. You’ll get there. I can see in your eyes that you’re thinking about it. I know you’ll get there, and you’ll be glad when you tried.”

She set her hand on my shoulder once more, took my empty glass, and walked to the galley.

It wasn’t romantic, her touch. I didn’t follow her to the galley and beg for her number. That wasn’t what that moment was about.


Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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