I had a dirty little secret.

Those were the best kind.

And the worst too.

Because sometimes secrets could torment you.

Like at night when you were alone.

Or during the day when your mind wandered to what-ifs. I had so many what-ifs running through my head.

As I weaved my way through the casino, checking out the crowds, scanning the couples tangled up in each other, the women sliding close to their men, the men dropping kisses on their cheeks, the latest possibility pulsed inside me.

Just a regular day in Las Vegas.

Then, I walked past the roulette tables, headed toward the restaurant where I was meeting my friends, and I spotted a new boutique.

New to The Luxe Hotel, that was.

Ava’s, a well-known lingerie shop, had moved last month from the Bellagio to here, peddling an eye-catching assortment of lace and satin that beckoned shoppers through the windows.

But that wasn’t what first caught my eye.

It was a sign next to the display, where a lightbox flashed in lush pink: Explore Your Fantasies.

Might as well be my mantra.

It was what I’d encouraged my girlfriends to do when they’d come to me for advice.

I preached it like a religion.

“Are you reading my mind, Ava?” I whispered.

Maybe so, because I was a card-carrying believer in delving into your dirty dreams.

Trouble was, I’d yet to explore all of mine.

Not the way I wanted to.

Not the way I craved. I’d never met the kind of man who’d take that journey with me. But still, the possibilities were powerful and alluring, flitting through my mind like will-o’-the-wisps just out of reach.

I peered at the white door to the shop, open, inviting.

Hard to resist.

Music pulsed low, drifting faintly out of the shop into the cavernous hallway, some Corinne Bailey Rae number that suggested nudity was on the menu.

Well, it was a lingerie shop. The kind of lingerie meant to be taken off.

Meant for exploring fantasies.

Would this store hold the key to unlock mine?

I shivered as I pictured scenarios of entangled bodies, desires, and longing.

Of hot, naughty nights.

And words, so many filthy words spilling from lips.

I stepped into the store, my heels sinking into the plush pink carpet.

Ava’s was no clandestine sex dungeon, but when I spotted a display in the far corner of the store, I grinned, whispering, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Elegant French maid costumes. Insanely sexy stewardess uniforms. Schoolgirl skirts that left little to the imagination.

No, that wasn’t my kink. I wasn’t a costume-play girl. More power to the ones who were, but that didn’t do it for me . . . except in how they suggested scenes, just a few in the endless array of scenarios I could imagine.

The games. The role-play. The infinite possibilities.

If a couple came in to buy a schoolgirl costume, what sort of script would they follow that night?

What might unfold between a flight attendant and a first-class passenger on a transatlantic flight?

What if, what if, oh yes, what if.

A slight shiver ran through me.

“Anything catch your eye?”

The sultry, smoky voice drew me back from speculation to reality. I turned to a willowy blonde behind the counter.

“All of it,” I said with a smile, raising an eyebrow at the items in the corner.

She smiled back. “Glad to hear you like what we have.”

But I wasn’t so interested in my likes. Since I’d never met a question that I wouldn’t ask, I voiced the one foremost in my mind. “Are they selling well?”

Translation: are there role-playing games transpiring all around us right now, this minute?

“Indeed.” Her satisfied grin hinted that she had a naughty secret, and I wondered briefly what it might be. Maybe she was buying up the naughty nurse garb. “We added them last week. They’re a big part of our store’s mission.” Her gaze drifted to the displays. “Is there anything particular you’re looking for in that arena?”

I could have answered that question in many ways. The most honest would have been I’m merely interested in the games people play.

But before I could fashion any sort of reply, my phone trilled from the pocket of my purse—my boss’s ringtone.

I smiled apologetically, patting my purse. “Another time,” I told the blonde.

She nodded. “We’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Something about that stuck with me. When you’re ready. I liked how it implied the opportunity would inevitably come. It wouldn’t pass me by.

Right now, though, I had to be ready for a call with Trish Valentine.

I always had to be ready for my twenty-four-seven boss. But that suited me just fine—work and the paychecks that came with it were what I needed most in my life.

Not fantasies. Not mine, and not anyone else’s.

I shucked off those distractions as I stepped out of the store and into the wide hallway.

“Hi, boss lady,” I said into the phone, keeping it as upbeat as she liked.

Trish laughed, a familiar throaty sound. “Haven’t I told you that Queen of the Night will do? That’s all I require.”

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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