That was my Adam. He was a good man, and seeing him here in my home warmed my heart.

I set down the fork, heaved a satisfied sigh, and gestured to the empty plates. “Fine, you win. My taste buds are definitely singing a rock anthem,” I said, conceding.

“Excellent,” he said, his hazel eyes twinkling. “Are we talking ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ or a ‘For Those about to Rock, We Salute You’ kind of anthem?”

“Please. This is ‘We Are the Champions’ level.”

He rubbed his fingers on his shirt then blew on them. “Damn. That’s tops. I impress myself.”

I patted his shoulder. “Don’t rest on your laurels though. One must always guard against complacency,” I said, then lowered my voice to a whisper. “Or else—”

He held up a hand, shaking his head. “Don’t say ‘pumpkin.’ Don’t even say ‘pumpkin.’”

“Pumpkin? What pumpkin? I was simply going to say you don’t want to slip to only a pop song level of success for your dishes.”

“Can’t stoop to pop. I’m a rock-anthems-or-bust kind of man,” he said.

“Don’t I know it,” I said as I picked up the dishes and brought them to the sink.

As we rinsed the plates and set them in the dishwasher, we caught up more on our workday. He told me about his two deals, and how excited he was for the shows to launch.

“I’m stoked about this new slate of shows. They’re edgy and clever. The perfect dark comedies that today’s viewers love.”

“I can’t wait to tune in when they’re on,” I said.

I loved his enthusiasm for his business. It matched my own for mine, and we’d always had that in common.

“And what about you? Did you capture some fantastic photos from your shoot?”

“I did,” I said as we finished cleaning. “The couple that was in today—Marco and Evangeline—were great subjects. The camera loved them, and they seemed to enjoy their shoot too,” I said.

“Of course they did. You’re ‘We Are the Champions’ level good at your job.”

“And on that high note, want to play a round of our favorite trivia questions game?” I asked as I folded the dish towel and set it back on the counter.

“With wine, of course?” he asked.

“Everything is better with wine,” I answered, and we settled into the couch, glasses in hand. With each question, I was reminded once more of why I’d said to Miss Sheridan that we were just friends.

Because we were the kind of pals who teased and laughed, who poked fun and played games.

But then he grew quiet as we volleyed questions about new science facts at each other. Normally he’d make a joke about some impossible-to-answer question, pretend it was a trick by the game maker.

Only he didn’t. He seemed lost in thought.

“Excuse me for a second,” he said, and rose, heading for the guest room.

That’s odd.

But ten seconds later, he returned, a determined look on his face as he sat next to me, closer than he had been.

I parted my lips to speak. “What’s—?”

“Nina,” he said, his voice rougher, deeper than I’d heard it before. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

Tension darted down my spine. Those words never preceded anything good.

What was he going to tell me? Was he leaving Vegas? I worried about that from time to time. He worked in the entertainment business, and his job could easily be moved to Georgia or Canada or Hollywood. While he traveled to those places a lot, Vegas was his home and his company’s home. I hoped it would remain so, but you never knew. “Are you moving to Atlanta?” I blurted out.

He furrowed his brow. “What? No.”

“Oh good. I was worried,” I said, relaxing. But then, something else was bugging him. “What’s going on?”

He scrubbed a hand across his jaw, exhaling, then meeting my gaze, his hazel eyes shining darker than usual, like there were secrets in them he was going to reveal. “I’m going to be blunt because I believe that’s what you want. When I came home today, I needed to write a phone number down, and I flipped open your notebook. To grab a sheet of paper,” he said, and my heart raced rabbit fast. My pulse sped off the charts.

“I wasn’t prying, Nina, but I saw a list you’d written,” he said, like he was laying out the facts he desperately wanted me to believe.

A white sheet of shame descended over me. Mortification took on a new meaning.

But inside my embarrassment something else formed—a kernel of anger. Red and glowing.

“That was personal,” I said, my jaw tight, as I moved away from him. “You shouldn’t have looked at it. You shouldn’t.” Maybe if I said that enough, he’d forget what he saw, erase it from his mind.

“I know I shouldn’t have,” he said, gravel in his voice. “And I’d like to say I feel terrible for invading your privacy. But . . .”

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic