That was one more thing you could lose in Vegas.

Worries.

“Toss that restraint out the door,” I said in the spirit of things. “Use a condom, give consent, and then have the time of your life.”

The bride grinned broadly. “See? She thinks you should do it.”

“Do it,” I said.

Once I left them to their adventures, my friends and I headed for Edge, our favorite club. A few minutes later, three men walked in, and my eyes arrowed right to one of them.

Tall, dark, and handsome Jake. Jake with the cocky grin and bedroom eyes, the hard body, and the just-right amount of confidence. Never too much. He was the Goldilocks of confidence.

My mind raced several steps ahead to a brand-new what-if.

What if he were an escort? What would it be like to order him up?

The man radiated not just sex appeal, but sexual intelligence.

Like he knew things. Deep, dark, dirty things.

Things I was damn curious about.

Like he knew the answers to all my what-ifs . . .

Except there were far too many complications to entertain those thoughts about Jake.

He was a friend, a business associate, and a white-hot distraction.

I hadn’t the time or space for the latter.

Even though I couldn’t shake the thoughts now that they’d begun.

5

Jake

The second I walked into the club, I knew for certain what I wanted.

No. That was wrong.

It was greater than want.

It was what I needed.

The same thing I’d wanted for the last few months.

The same person.

Kate Williams.

In many ways, she’d been a mystery to me, and like in a good whodunit, I wanted to unravel her. Wanted to know what was going on in that gorgeous head of hers. She watched everyone, seemed to soak in details, to absorb everything she saw.

She seemed, too, like the kind of woman who knew everyone’s secrets.

Did she know mine? That I fantasized about her relentlessly? About telling her what I wanted to do to her, whispering sweet, filthy words in her ear about taking her up against the wall, bent over the bed, right here, right now. Hard, deep, primal.

Anywhere, everywhere.

Lust was a gift, but it could be an out-and-out annoyance too.

Because the woman was, to put it mildly, hard as hell to read.

Despite the regular texting, she’d given no real indication she’d be game for more.

But sometimes I’d see Kate looking at me, checking me out, her eyes roaming up and down my frame. Fair play, I figured. I’d checked her out more than a few times.

More than a lot of times.

She was gorgeous, with lush chestnut hair, hazel eyes, and a face that could start wars—high cheekbones and full lips. Not to mention she had a stunning body.

But none of that would matter without her brains.

The woman was bright and clever. Unafraid to jump into any conversation, discuss any topic, toss out any question. That was the biggest turn-on of all—the boldness of her mouth and mind.

Yet, for the last few months, the time had never seemed right to make a move—for many reasons. We were friends, we had a burgeoning business relationship, I’d been as busy as ten thousand beavers, and, well, the other one.

Did she or didn’t she? If she wasn’t on the same page in the desire department, I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable or awkward. So, I kept my eyes open for cues.

Of the crystal clear variety.

I hadn’t spotted any . . . yet.

Tonight, though, I had my Kate radar on high alert as I weaved through the crowds at Edge with my buddies.

Maybe they noticed I couldn’t take my eyes off the brunette.

“Do you need some pointers on finally going for it with Ms. Williams?” The asshole remark came from my closest friend, Finn. He was also my business partner and, evidently, a mind reader.

“How did you know what I asked for from Santa for Christmas?” I went with sarcasm, the only defense when a friend could see right through you.

Adam clapped my back as we headed toward the women. “Bro, I don’t even know if good old St. Nick has enough time on his hands to read that kind of sad letter.”

Finn met Adam’s eyes and nodded sympathetically. “It’s clearly up to us to help our sorry-ass friend.”

I rolled my eyes. “Gentlemen, has it ever occurred to you that the timing might simply not be right?”

Finn furrowed his brow and shot Adam another look. “Adam, has it ever occurred to you that Jake might be full of shit?”

Adam stroked his chin thoughtfully. “It has, in fact, occurred to me. Like, right now.” He stared at me. “Just ask her out, man.”

“You’re missing the point,” I said, because he was. There was no simple ask her out in this situation.

“No, you’re missing the opportunity,” he said, no sarcasm now.

His words gave me pause. Was I missing an opportunity?

But the conversation ended abruptly when we reached the women.


Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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