An ample living room was spread out before me, with a sunken area holding a large couch strewn with pillows. After putting my purse on the table by the bar, I headed into the living room, adjusting switches as I went.

Now the lights were low, seductive.

The plush carpet was inviting.

Not that a man would care one lick about the carpet. But I did. I was all about the mood.

I turned to a playlist on my phone—a low beat hummed from the device, a delicious soundtrack to seduction.

An image flickered in my mind as I pressed my hands on the back of the couch.

I pictured how Ms. Williams wanted her new business partner to find her.

Ready. Waiting. Aroused.

The latter was easy—I was more than aroused. My skin tingled with anticipation. My bones hummed. My God, I was doing this. Finally doing this.

I walked over to the bar, peered in the mirror, and pursed my lips. Grabbing my lipstick from the side of my purse, I slicked some on.

I turned around.

Unzipped my pencil skirt. Let it fall to the floor.

I shot a picture of it, sent it to Jake.

Feeling deliciously playful, like the type of woman who’d perhaps order a man to come to the room, I slid out of my panties with a sashay of my hips.

I took a snap of the lace on the floor and sent that to Jake too.

Or Mr. Hamilton.

My business associate.

Grinning, I returned to the couch and took my position.

I imagined Jake walking down the hall. That confident stride. The fire in his eyes. His tall, broad frame. I bet he was unknotting his tie as he went. My mouth watered at the thought of him tugging at his neckwear, undoing it.

“Jake,” I said out loud, letting his name roll around on my tongue, letting it play on my lips. Ever since that first spark of attraction at the diner so many months ago, I’d wanted to know how it felt to say his name in the heat of the moment. To say it unbidden.

The attraction had only grown.

It expanded in my mind. It took over my dirty thoughts.

For the longest time, I hadn’t known what to do with those feelings. Hadn’t known how to fit them into my life, inside the walls that hemmed me in. So, I’d denied them. He’d flirted, and I’d darted and dodged.

But now I was giving in, fitting him into what I needed.

And as I gave in, I had my first answer to one of my questions—how would it be to say his name in a moment of longing?

Easy, that’s how.

It was so damn easy to say his name with want.

As I waited for him, the full scope of my proposition shook me like the chorus of a rock song at a concert.

I craved this man.

I craved him from deep within my body and my mind.

For long, heavy seconds, the strength of those cravings scared me.

I had no room for longing, no space for anything more than knowledge.

Just stay in the moment.

Remember the mission.

Embrace it for what it is.

There. I was as ready as I’d ever be.

The moment began with a rustle of sound. Then, movement. The click of the lock. A rush of heat in my core.

The door opened. His breath hissed, then he groaned, low and deep. “Ms. Williams. I see you’ve prepared the final paperwork,” he said. I thrilled at how he stayed in character.

“Yes, but I thought you might want to make sure everything is to your liking first.” I turned my gaze to him.

Hell. This man was a sight.

He had indeed loosened his tie, and he tugged it off now, slow and measured, dropping it on top of my clothes. Raising one hand, he undid the top button of his shirt, and then the next.

“Actually . . .” He walked toward me, sounding as if he was appraising something, or like he was about to make a last, decisive chess move. “I have some terms and conditions.”

“Oh?” My voice rose at this unexpected turn.

“Yes. Final points, if you will, that you’ll need to meet.”

“And if I don’t agree?”

He bent closer, his lips near my face. “Then I walk away.”

A shiver spread through me at his power play. “So, a loophole?”

“Yes, let’s call it a loophole,” he said, gently teasing.

“What’s the loophole exactly?” I sounded breathless. I felt breathless.

He bent over me, his strong body pressed to my back, his stubble near my cheek, his scent—clean and masculine—drifting past my nose and intoxicating me. “With a bonus clause,” he said, running his hands along my arms. His touch was exhilarating. It was tender and controlling at the same time. And his voice, so rough and husky, turned me on more with every word that fell from his lips. “If I make you come in the first five minutes, the bonus clause activates, and you get another one.”

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic