I parked a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “Your foot looks great in your mouth.”

“Thanks. I think,” he said, furrowing his brow.

“It reminds me of what I need to do. But I need a favor from you.”

“Name it.”

I told him what I needed, then I headed to my car, focused on my mission.

What exactly should I say to the woman I wanted? That was the question, and I wanted the answer.

Because I had some strings to attach.



The next day, I waited for The Moment.

For the heavens to part and the angels to sing.

I waited for the complete and utter bliss of being debt-free.

I was no longer paying for my ex. I was no longer responsible for my romantic mistakes.

Surely a mariachi band would serenade me at lunch.

A singing telegram would arrive and tap-dance through the afternoon lull.

None of that happened.

Work was work.

I had a satisfying job I enjoyed doing from nine to five, and I was glad to be free and clear.

But as I finished a call with Daisy about the next steps in the marketing plan for Sin City Escorts, I felt oddly empty.

Because I missed Jake.

When I said goodbye to Daisy, I glanced at the calendar and spotted a sticky note that said Book Club.


That would fulfill me, surely.

But wait . . .

Ivy had confessed she’d switched to reading a hot romance novel. Truth was, we never stuck to the books we chose, and our meetings ran off on tangents about the sexy books we’d devoured. I couldn’t handle that tonight. Not when the missing was so fresh.

Grabbing my phone, I found the group chat with the book club gals and fired off a quick note.

Something came up, and I can’t make it tonight. Keep the pages turning for me.

Then I breathed a sigh of relief.

Relief from the dread of talking about hot novels, but not from the spot inside that satisfaction and gladness and success couldn’t fill.

I had to fill this emptiness somehow and soon.

Maybe I’d go for a walk and do some window-shopping, or maybe I’d work out.

I gathered my bag and got ready to take off.

Then Trish knocked on my door.



Youth. It was wasted on the young.

If I’d known at age thirty what I knew more than ten years later—well, I’d be richer.

But so it goes.

Life was for the learning and the loving.

That was where I came in today.

Kate was my top employee, a vice president at my firm. And she’d been in a funk since Sunday at our lunch.

Oh, sure, she thought she was expert at covering it up. She’d flash a smile, pump a fist, give an appropriate response when I asked how she was.

But with my forty-plus years came twenty-twenty hindsight. Something was amiss, and I had a hunch what it was.

“Kate . . .” I spoke as if she were my younger sister—that was how I thought of her. “I’d expected you to be bouncing off the walls in excitement.”

Her brow knit, then she quickly unknit it. “Of course. I’m thrilled about Sin City Escorts.”

I shook my head. “No. I meant paying off the debt.”

She swallowed, trying to school her expression. “Excuse me?”

I smiled sympathetically. “I’ve heard some of your conversations with the banks.”

“You have?” Guilt shadowed her face as she ducked her chin.

I waved a hand airily. “Don’t feel bad. It happens to many people. I’m just glad you’re able to move on.” I took a beat, then confirmed, “Were you able to move on?”

She nodded. “Yes, the bonus helped. Thank you, Trish.”

I strode across her office and sat in the chair across from her. “I’m glad you put the money to good use. I could tell you were anxious to get it paid off.”

Kate chewed on the corner of her lip for a moment, perhaps putting two and two together. “Did you offer me bonuses so that I could pay it off sooner?”

With an impish grin, I shrugged. “I didn’t give you anything you didn’t deserve.”

“Trish,” she said softly. “You didn’t have to.”

I swung my high-heeled foot back and forth. “Kate, I don’t do anything because I have to. I do things because I want to. And now I want to give you a piece of advice.”

“Okay,” she said with a tentative laugh.

I drew a steadying breath. “I have a hunch this little funk you’re in . . .” I gestured to the space around her to illustrate the cloud of annoyance that followed her like a perfume. “You could resolve it easily.”

“What do you mean?”

But of course, she had no idea I knew what she’d been up to this weekend.

Nor did I ever want her to know that I’d played a part.

But I had. At times, I’d arranged and nudged and acted as a fairy godmother. And a fairy had to do what a fairy had to do.

The lovely little secret of Las Vegas was this—powerful women populated the city in strategic places, and we all played our part in making dreams come true, sometimes for ourselves and sometimes for others.

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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