* * *

He waited at the bar, drinking a scotch and looking insanely sexy with his dark hair, his five-o’clock shadow, and a button-down shirt that I wanted to rip off.

Or maybe he looked insanely sexy because of how he stared at me.

With hunger and with need. With dirty intent.

But with a little something else too.

Something tender.

Something that, if it was anything like what was happening to me, felt a little bit like falling.

That was what I was feeling for Jake Hamilton.

I walked over, licking my lips, savoring the sight of my man. As soon as I reached him, I went for it, pressing a kiss to his lips.

“It’s been too long,” I whispered.

“I couldn’t agree more,” he said, sliding a hand around my waist, grazing lower, squeezing my ass.

“Let’s get out of here,” I murmured, my skin heating in mere seconds from his touch.

His other hand traveled up my arm, along the back of my neck and into my hair. Tugging on my strands, he said, “But I have to take care of the check.”

I arched into him. “Then you can take care of me.”

“You bet I will,” he growled, jerking me closer, sliding my body between his spread legs so I was pressed against the heavy weight of his erection through his slacks. I moaned as I felt his length, wanting him inside me.

He pulled me closer, knowing it was driving me wild to be this near to him. Lowering his head, he whispered in my ear, “I bet others are watching us.”

“What do you think they’re saying?” I asked, breathless, loving this new direction.

“They’re saying, ‘He’s going to take her upstairs and strip her to nothing in ten seconds flat.’”

I wriggled against him, aching. “They’re saying, ‘Doesn’t it look like she’s desperate for him?’”

“They’re imagining I’m going to take you against the wall. They’re betting as soon as the door closes, I’ll hike up your skirt, tug down your panties, and slide my rock-hard cock inside you.”

Lust slid down my spine as a shudder wracked me. “And I’ll ask for deeper, harder, more.”

“And I’ll give it to you that way. Because I love nothing more than giving you all the pleasure in the world.”

I ran my hands through his hair. “And I love it when you do.”

Ten minutes later, the door to the room banged shut as Jake unzipped his pants, yanked up my skirt, and pushed inside me.

I cried out in absolute bliss.

This was the true decadent gift—this wicked, sinful indulgence as he took me to the ends of pleasure, sending me to ecstasy.

But what made it even better was what came next.

After, as we stumbled to the bed, wrapped up in each other, I ran my hands over his chest and said the hardest and easiest thing of all. “I’m falling in love with you, Jake Hamilton.”

He pressed a kiss to my lips. “I’m falling in love with you too.”

I was choosing to trust. Choosing to love. Choosing to take a chance.

That was the gift I gave myself.



“That worked out quite well, I think,” I told Christine, the pulsing music in the club covering our self-congratulations. Tonight, my dear friend and I celebrated a project that only affected a beloved few, but this city’s boys’ club mentality assumed the only plotting we ladies were up to was shoe-or-accessory related.

As if.

Christine raised her glass of champagne in a toast. “To brilliant ideas.”

I clinked my glass against hers. “To brilliant partnerships.”

“To brilliant women.” She lifted her glass once more and took a deep drink.

I sipped the bubbly, grateful for friends like Christine Hamilton-Carey, and like Ivy Carmichael, who’d passed on a little tidbit about how happy Kate had seemed on Saturday night with her “friend.”

A sexy man-friend who’d made her smile.

And I was glad of that.

I set my drink down with a knowing smile. “None of this subterfuge would have been necessary if they’d simply admitted that we always know what’s best.”

We checked out the scene at Edge from the lounge, where we were set up with a chilled bottle of bubbly and more breathing room than there was at the bar.

Christine shook her head. “So stubborn. It’s a good thing we are benevolent fairy godmothers.”

We toasted again and debriefed the last few weeks. For some time, I’d been watching Kate, my brilliant, irreplaceable Kate, peddling for all she was worth just to keep from losing ground on the mountain of trouble left by her last relationship. I could sense she was on the cusp of burning out, and I knew with a little help she could get over the hump. I’d made sure she was well paid for everything she did, but Sin City Escorts was an opportunity for me to give Kate the opportunity to gain traction with a hefty bonus. Was it on the generous side? That didn’t matter nearly as much as the risk of losing her.

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