Some people believed this city was a man’s world, and in many ways, Vegas still was.

But in other respects, this city catered to women. It was run by women. Women were rising up.

If I were the type to call it “girl power,” well, I’d say it. But I didn’t believe women should be called girls. I did believe in woman power though.

That was why I’d ensured Kate had opportunities to earn her way out of her money troubles sooner rather than later.

That was the extent of my role—well, along with my ever-so-subtle suggestion that she bring a friend along on her observation adventure. As her employer, I couldn’t very well tell her to shag a man.

But I had powerful friends willing to help me help Kate. Friends who knew that Kate had her eye on someone. Other friends had helped too—some more than others—but some secrets couldn’t be revealed.

Yes, I used my network to my advantage. Not sorry.

But now Kate was in a funk again. I didn’t want her to think she had to be with a man. I was perfectly content being single. I didn’t need a man or a woman to complete me. But she was clearly miserable without this particular man, which called for my intervention. Perhaps my stubborn vice president needed a gentle kick from my Louboutins.

“Kate,” I said in a brook-no-nonsense tone, “it occurred to me that a woman who accomplished two major goals yesterday shouldn’t give up on what she wants from a certain friend without a fight.” I rose and smoothed my skirt with a flick, giving her an encouraging but implacable smile. “Now, why don’t you think of that while you go and sort out your plan of action?”

Then I walked out, leaving her with something to chew on.

Life advice. How I loved giving it.



Two things were official.

I had the coolest boss ever.

And I . . . I was a stubborn mule.

Wait. There was a third thing. I wanted my friend. I wanted to see what Jake and I might become given more than a weekend.

Was I in love with him?

I was falling in that direction.

But the last time I’d fallen for someone, I’d been burned, badly. I’d trusted someone who’d used me and left me at financial and emotional rock bottom.

I hadn’t suspected a thing, and that scared the hell out of me. If I’d been fooled once . . .

The scars of betrayal had turned me off of love. Made me shut it out.

But those scars were temporary, as it turned out. I’d worked hard to clear the way to move on. I was free, and I needed to act like it, not shut myself off in fear.

Life came without guarantees. There were people like Damon out there, good at romance and deception. But just because Damon had screwed me over didn’t mean Jake would.

Emotions were a gamble, but I didn’t want to miss out on a chance at love because I cinched my protective armor too tight.

The weekend with Jake had been incredible, and it wasn’t simply the sex.

It was the way we connected.

It was the ease of our conversations.

It was the tenderness in his touch.

And the roughness too.

It was everything.

I trusted him with my fantasies because . . . well, because I trusted him.

And it was time to trust myself again too.

I didn’t know if Jake would want to give us a shot, but I’d never know if I didn’t try.

To sort this out, though, I needed my friends.

I needed Lily and Nina, and I knew where they’d be.

At book club.

Decided and almost optimistic, I grabbed my purse, slung it over my shoulder, and didn’t delay any longer than it took to pop into Trish’s office to thank her. Then I fired off a note to my best friends as I made my way out of the office, letting them know to expect me after all.

Kate: I need your help, you two. This is a major mayday.

Nina: We are here for you!

Lily: Get your cute ass over to The Extravagant lobby now!

The hotel wasn’t far from my office, so I marched down the Strip, passing the fountains at the Bellagio.

Funny, how just a few nights ago those fountains had framed my thoughts about Jake. As I walked past them now, watching them dance in the air, their patterns underscored a new mind-set. A new plan.

A plan that said Why wait?

When I reached The Extravagant, my two closest friends were waiting for me.

We huddled in a corner, and I let the truth out. “It was more than dinner with Jake this weekend. We spent the whole time together, and I’m definitely falling for him. I want to see where it goes.”

Nina cooed.

Lily clapped.

I looked between them, grateful for their encouragement, but hoping for something more tactical. “So . . . what do I do?”

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic