That said everything. And it said all the things porn never did.

It was the truth.

They came together like it was their only truth—the way they felt for each other.

And when they finished, and they curled up, softer, gentler, tangled in each other, I snapped that too. They’d want that—the before, the during, and the after.

Because it was the after that spoke the loudest. That said who they were to each other.

They were so madly in love that something else in me cracked.

Maybe it was the last layer of pain. The last layer of self-protection.

I hadn’t come to Vegas looking for absolution from grief.

But somehow, absolutely unexpectedly, I’d found it on a plane, and it had been finished in a bedroom as I witnessed someone else’s love. As I saw everything I’d denied myself since Jenna died.

And as I learned something new about myself.

I didn’t want to be lost after her.

I wanted to move on. I wanted to live again. Someday soon.



A week later

That was a helluva day.

One of my new shows had started production, and I’d had a fantastic meeting with a pair of business partners.

I was giving today an A-plus already. I didn’t even need to wait for the night to update my grade book. Nights with Nina were always an A-plus.

Even though I wouldn’t be able to get my woman alone till much later.

My parents were arriving at the airport any minute, flying in from North Carolina where they’d been enjoying their retirement.

I met them at baggage claim, smiling broadly when I spotted the two of them on the escalator, hand in hand.

My mom laughed at something my dad said, then he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and kissed her forehead. Seeing them like that, more than thirty years after they’d said I do, warmed my heart.

I was a lucky guy. I loved my family, enjoyed the company of my parents, and had great friends.

And I wanted that too—right in front of me.

Someday soon, I wanted that with Nina.

For now, I walked over to the escalator and brought them both in for hugs once they stepped off.

“Good to see you, Mom, Dad.”

“Good to see you too, son,” my dad said.

“And you look quite happy,” my mother added, scanning my face. The woman missed nothing. “Any particular reason for that?”

“There’s a very particular reason for that,” I said as I walked to the carousel. “And you’re going to meet that reason tonight.”

My parents loved Nina. No surprise there. She was engaging, smart, and loved to ask questions.

So did my mother, and the two of them gabbed all night long over our sushi dinner, talking about modern art, new shows to see in Vegas, and quirky scientific discoveries. That was my Nina.

As the brunette beauty reached for a piece of rainbow roll, she said to my mom, “You should definitely check out this new podcast I’ve been listening to.”

I froze.

She wasn’t going to mention Ask Aphrodite to my mom, was she? Nina had told me about it, but even though Mom was cool, she didn’t need to tune into something that had helped my girlfriend ask me to push her face into the pillows and screw her hard.

Something I did nightly, thank you very much.

“It’s all about modern art, and the hostess dives into whether any of it has meaning at all,” Nina said.

I relaxed, laughing quietly to myself.

Of course she wasn’t going to say anything.

Some things were private.

What we did after dark and why would always be one of them.

Later that night, with my parents sleeping soundly in my newly painted condo, I joined Nina in her bed.

That was where I’d spent every night for the last week.

And tonight we had a new item to tackle on our list.

Number twelve.

Seemed fitting to add it officially, since we’d talked about it in the heat of the moment.

Tonight I gave her that, something she wanted, and something I wanted too.

After, when we cuddled, I found myself counting the days till I could ask this wonderful woman to be my wife.

Was tomorrow too soon?

The answer was yes. It was definitely too soon.

But a month later, I’d arrived at a different answer.

Nina had asked me to join her on a passion project, as she called it. When she wasn’t shooting empowering images of women feeling beautiful, she was drawn to the natural world. To landscapes, deserts, and forests. We didn’t have forests in Vegas, but outside the city, we had a beautiful desertscape in Red Rock, with its canyons and rock formations.

Today, we hiked through it as Nina took photos. “Some new ones for our wall,” she said, because I’d moved in with her and put my newly painted place up for sale.

“You don’t want to hang those photos of you in your white panties on the wall?” I teased as I followed behind her on the path.

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic