“Tell him,” Nina insisted.

“Take a chance,” Lily added. “I promise—accouterments are worth it.”

We all laughed. “Jake is more than an accouterment,” I said. It gave me a thrill to hear myself say that aloud.

Now I had to take the chance.

It was that simple.

It was always that simple.

I just had to trust myself enough to do it.

With a deep breath, I tapped out a text to the man who’d captured my body, my mind, and my heart.

Kate: Let’s make a bet. Ready? I bet I was wildly wrong on Sunday when I canceled our evening by text. I bet I feel incredibly foolish for giving up a chance to see you again. I bet I’d like another shot at another night. Then another. Then another.

The stakes are simple: you and me.

Let me know if you want to take this bet.

Xoxo

Kate

Perhaps the heavens had parted after all.

As Lily, Nina, and I walked over to the Rapture, I told myself to be patient. He’d respond when he was ready.

But when I reached the club, he was already there, waiting outside.

24

Jake

Kate was not the only one who paid attention.

I listened to details and filed them away—especially details about Kate.

Like on Saturday night, when Ivy had stopped at our table and in the course of conversation had mentioned the date of the book club.

That was how I knew she’d be here. I’d simply confirmed the time with Nina, via Adam.

Because I wanted to show up for Kate.

I wanted her to know I’d listened.

And I wanted her to know I recognized when I’d messed up, and I could admit it and try to fix it.

The second she stepped into view, I drank her in—sexy as sin in tight jeans, heels, and a dark-gray top, her chestnut hair loose and curling over her shoulders in waves.

My God, she was beautiful.

And smart.

And fiery.

And kind too.

She was exactly the woman I wanted to spend my nights with.

And she deserved more than a you’re welcome.

I closed the distance between us and stopped in front of her. Her friends kept walking, waving goodbye like they had a secret.

“What are you doing here?” Kate asked, confusion knitting her brow. “I just sent my text about three minutes ago.”

“I haven’t checked my phone. I’m here because I wanted to tell you something.” I was ready to lay my heart on the line.

“I want to tell you something too.”

Torn between taking the lead and being a gentleman, I chose both. “Ladies first, but you should know I’m here about a new role I want to play.”

She cocked her head, looking intrigued. “Oh. What is it?”

I lifted a hand, cupped her cheek, and stroked my fingers across her soft skin. She sighed into my touch, and it was all the confirmation I needed in the world. “I want to play the role of your man. I want to take you out. I want to spend more nights with you. I want us to be together and see where this goes, because I think we’re only going to go to fantastic places.” I gave her my best hopeful grin. “Because you and I—we go together so damn well.”

She couldn’t contain her smile either. She leaned into me, roping her hands around my neck and playing with the ends of my hair. “I’d say you’ve got the part.”

I dropped my lips to hers and kissed her.

I’d felt possessive from the first night I touched her. But this time I could fully show her that, show her how much I wanted her for my own. This time, it wasn’t only physical. It was so much more.

It was a promise of what I wanted us to become.

I kissed her hard, letting her know she was mine. When I broke the kiss, I ran a thumb over her bottom lip. “You’re mine, Kate Williams.”

“You bet I am,” she said.

I laughed. “You and your bets.”

“Speaking of bets, check your phone, Mr. Hamilton.”

I dipped my hand into my back pocket for my phone and slid my thumb across the screen, reading her apology and, underlying that, her hope.

“I’ll raise you,” I said, in answer to her note. “In fact, I bet you’ll be naked in my bed for the next several nights.”

“I’ll take that bet.”

I tipped my head toward where Nina and Lily had gone to join the rest of their book club. “Want to go to your meeting?”

She shook her head, a naughty look in her pretty hazel eyes. “Not as much as I want to skip it and get naked with you.”

“Best answer ever.”

25

Kate

The message arrived on Friday afternoon.

Jake: Meet me at Edge. Here’s the scenario. We’re lovers, and we haven’t seen each other in a month.

Kate: Does that mean we’ll be climbing each other in seconds?

Jake: No, because we have to stay there until the check comes. How long can you last—that is the question.


Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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