That was what we had done this weekend.

We’d hadn’t merely slept together. We’d been together.

My sister was right. My friends were right. There was something between Kate and me, and it was time to explore it fully.

And it was time I admitted it to Kate, whether or not she was ready for more than an arrangement. Was she? I didn’t know. But maybe her feelings had changed this weekend too.

I grabbed my phone to text her, just as a message from her popped up.

Kate: I’m slammed tonight. Sorry! I guess I’ll lose this bet. But this weekend was fun! Thanks again.

I blinked, the hair on my neck standing on end.

Was my phone infected? Had I been hacked? Was this a bug?

Because what the hell?

This sure seemed like a brush-off note.

I stepped away from the field, pacing toward the parking lot, and read her text again, as if I could decipher it differently the second time around.

But on the third and fourth times, it still said the same damn thing.

She was done.

She didn’t want anything more, or even another time.

Only I did.

Part of me wanted to fight. To ask what the hell had happened. But then I remembered what she’d said less than forty-eight hours ago. One weekend, no strings, no promises, nothing more.

She hadn’t lied, never led me astray. She’d been up-front from the get-go.

The weekend was over.

And there were most definitely no strings attached for her.

I might want to give this thing a shot, but she clearly didn’t.

Here was where I had to tread carefully. We had friends in common, work in common, life in common, and the woman had encountered enough jerks in her dating life.

I didn’t need to be the next one.

As I walked back to the field, ready to focus on Carson and the game, I hit reply.

Jake: You are most welcome.



That night, I set an overabundance of alarms.

My phone. My old clock radio. And Lily.

She was an early bird, so I called to ask for help. “Hi. Any chance you can give me a good old-fashioned wake-up call tomorrow morning, so I don’t miss my meeting with the potential client?”

“Like my parents asked me to do when they were in Hawaii a few weeks ago?”

“They did?” I trudged into my bedroom, making sure I had my outfit for tomorrow’s pitch laid out and ready. But I was missing a belt, so I headed for my bureau.

“Yes, they said the hotel had forgotten their wake-up call for a sunrise boat trip with the dolphins, and they missed that, and they didn’t want to miss their flight home, so they asked me to call them.”

“And you did?”

“Yes, but I also used it as an opportunity to lovingly guide them into the twenty-first century with a reminder that no one uses hotel wake-up calls anymore, since we all have cell phones.”

“Oh,” I said half-heartedly as I found the belt I wanted to wear.

“Hello! Earth to Kate?”

“What?” I looked up from the accessory in the sock drawer.

“Are you listening to me?”

“Yes. Your parents are old, and you think I am too.”

“Kate,” she said softly. “That’s not my point. It’s this—you’re not yourself. Of course I’m happy to give you a wake-up call, though it is the twenty-first century and your phone alert will work. But you’re so listless right now. And that’s so not you. Last time we talked, you were cheery and sassy and heading out to meet Jake. Now you’re like . . . well, you’re like someone who missed a sunrise boat trip with dolphins.”

I forced out a laugh and tried to give myself a pep talk. “I’m good. I swear. I just need to focus on this meeting tomorrow. It’s so important. If I don’t win this client, it might take a few more months to get out of debt. I promise I’ll be more chipper tomorrow.”

We exchanged a few more niceties, then said goodbye. After I hung up, I headed into the bathroom. “Get your act together,” I told my reflection.

Then I started giving myself orders.

Stop thinking about Jake.

Kick unholy ass tomorrow at work.

And don’t get distracted again.

It worked.

I didn’t think of Jake for a whole minute.

When I got into bed, I buried my face in the pillow, stupidly wishing he were next to me.

But what would be the point of that?

He wasn’t into feelings.

He wasn’t into possibilities.

And I wasn’t supposed to be either.

* * *

The next day I woke early, before the alarms, and hit the gym. Logging four miles on the treadmill before seven a.m., I felt energized. I was full of endorphins and ready to tackle the pitch.

As I left, I took a long swig from my water bottle and nearly bumped into Nina. Adam followed behind her.

“Hey, you!” she said with a smile.

“Hey,” I said, making my best attempt at an early morning grin.

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic