I watched out the rear window as Bennett’s long, purposeful strides carried him down the sidewalk. He looked back over his shoulder and hailed a taxi as soon as he thought we were out of sight.
Bloody hell. For someone known for being so absolutely unflappable, he was a mess. He hadn’t even kept up that flimsy charade of an illness long enough to see us down the end of the street and ’round the corner.
I turned back in my seat, watching as the lights and tourists roaming the sidewalks passed by in a blur, and let my thoughts move to Sara. She’d said she felt hollow with how much she wanted me, and Christ, just the memory of those words was enough to wreck me all over again. She was so rarely demanding, and even during our busiest weeks when we hardly saw each other, she was the patient one out of the two of us, always insisting we’d make up for lost time on the weekend, or on a Wednesday. For her to tell me she needed more tonight made it almost impossible to deny her. But I could see, in her eyes, the way she’d immediately regretted it, as if by telling me that she knew I’d be torn.
With her eerie sense of timing, my phone buzzed with a text from her: I’m fine, honestly. I’m sorry I distracted you.
I smiled as I typed my reply: Alas, you’re my favorite distraction.
Have fun with the boys tonight, she wrote back.
A loud pop drew my attention and I blinked over to where Henry and Will had uncorked a bottle of champagne. “Show of hands for those of us who think Bennett just needed to rub one out in the bathroom,” Will said, offering me a glass of champagne. I waved it off, waiting instead for a real drink at the restaurant.
“We did just leave a strip club,” Henry said, protective-brother mode in full force. “Cut the man some slack.”
I worked to keep my expression neutral. Will and Henry didn’t know the girls were here, but they were eerily close to the mark.
“Henry’s right,” I cut in, surprised to find myself defending Bennett for deserting us to go shag his fiancée during the first night of his stag weekend. “Maybe he just needed a moment. The man is notoriously ruled by his dick.”
“Ha!” Will barked. “I love the implication that you’re any different.”
It didn’t matter that he was right, and since meeting Sara I’d thought of practically nothing else beyond what she was doing, what she was wearing, and of course, where I could fuck her. The side of me that loved to argue with Will couldn’t resist responding. “I’ll admit that Sara takes up a great deal of my thoughts—” I began.
“Understandable,” Will interrupted, giving me a knowing glance.
“But,” I continued, ignoring him, “I’m perfectly capable of keeping my head in the game when necessary.”
Unfazed, he hummed and topped off his drink, settling back into the supple leather seat. “Yes. Clearheaded businessman like yourself, never dream of shirking responsibility or, let’s say . . . friendship, for a woman.”
I nodded warily, sensing a trap.
“And when you missed picking me up after my flight back from China because you had an ‘emergency,’” he said, using air quotes, “which of course means getting sucked off by Sara in the back of your car in the airport parking lot, that was keeping your head in the game.”
I felt the weight of Henry’s congratulatory slap across my back. “You sly son of a bitch,” he said.
I winked at Henry, knowing Will was far from done.
“And when you ditched me with three of the most boring clients on the planet for two hours because you were fucking Sara in the library at James’s house—that also was keeping your head in the game. Yeah, Ryan could really take a lesson and stop thinking with his cock.”
“I think you’ve got it about squared,” I said, laughing.
“Just making sure,” he said with a charming smile, lifting his champagne flute to his forehead in salute.
We stopped at a light just beyond the Palazzo and although I was looking forward to the meal, I wished I’d had the idea to run to the “pharmacy” before Bennett did.
“See, if you kept a better schedule,” Will continued, “you wouldn’t be so desperate to shag whenever you get a free second.”
“Schedule?” Henry asked.
I sat forward, smiling. “He means his calendar of women. Our Will here might not be attached or fucking everything in a skirt, but he’s certainly never at a loss for company. He keeps his ‘relationships’ neat and tidy and in regular rotation on his calendar.”
Will frowned while Henry looked between us, obviously confused, and asked, “Wait. Are you telling me you schedule your booty calls?”
“No,” Will answered, glaring in my direction. “It means the women I’m involved with each know about the other. They also know I’m not interested in anything more for the time being, which works perfectly because neither are they. Everyone gets what they want.” He threw his hands up and shrugged. “You won’t find me running to the pharmacy, or banging a girl in the middle of a work meeting because I can’t find any other time in my schedule.”
“Right . . .” Henry and I said in unison.
The car jolted to a stop and we each moved to a window. “Looks like we’re finally here,” Will said. “Jesus, what took so long?”
The door opened and we climbed out in front of the Wynn, taking in the scene around us. It was chaos. Rows of cars lined the curb, many of them still running and with the doors left open. Handfuls of bewildered attendants stood around in small groups, obviously at a loss for what to do.
“Looks like there’s a broken hydrant on the property,” our driver said, motioning over his shoulder. “I can drop you off but it’ll be at least an hour before I’d be able to get back in to pick you up.”
The other two rounded the car to join us and I sighed, looking down to my watch. “Shouldn’t be a problem,” I said. “We’re having dinner and something tells me it’s not going to be quick.” I was torn between wanting a night out with my best mates, and wanting to make sure Sara was sorted. I was growing more wound up, feeling restless and edgy despite the time I’d spent with her just an hour ago.
The driver nodded and we left him at the curb, moving inside and deeper into the casino, following the signs until we’d reached the restaurant. There was a club nearby and the persistent thump of music could be felt through the walls, through the floor, as we crossed the sleek restaurant and each took a seat at our table. The pulsing music mirrored the tension building in my limbs, the rhythmic beat of Sara Sara Sara humming beneath my skin.
I checked my mobile for the hundredth time and frowned when I saw there were no further messages. Where was she? Had Bennett found Chloe and if so, why hadn’t Sara texted yet?
I thumbed through a few of the more recent photos on my phone: the two of us curled up in my bed; a photo of her spread below me, limbs heavy with satisfaction after a good, hard fuck; a close-up of her naked breasts; my hand on her ass as I took her from behind late at night in my office.
I realized I’d lost the thread of the conversation when Will’s voice broke into my haze, from studying a photo of Sara’s red, red lips around my cock.
“Max.” Will rapped his knuckles on the table.
I looked up, surprised to find our waiter standing at the table, and quickly turned off my screen.
“Something to drink, sir?”
“Sorry,” I murmured. “Macallan, neat.”
“Twelve, eighteen, or twenty-one years, sir?”
My eyes went wide. “Twenty-one. Brilliant.”
After jotting it down he stepped away, and I attempted to go back to my phone, only to be interrupted by Will again. “Share with the class or put that thing away. I know what you have on there, you sick bastard. No girls, remember?”
Henry nodded as he tossed a piece of bread at me from across the table. “Dudes only,” he agreed.
Will leaned forward, reminding me, “The promise of not being a third wheel with you was the only reason I let you talk me into this in the first place.”
I sighed and tucked my phone away, knowing he was right. When I looked up my eyes widened, catching the path of Bennett as he walked through the restaurant to join us.
“Well, well. Look who it is,” I said.
Henry pulled the chair out for his brother. “Feeling better?”
Bennett unbuttoned his suit jacket and took a seat. “Much,” he said, grinning.
Bennett Ryan was fucking grinning.
Our drinks arrived and I reached for mine, looking at him over the rim of my glass. “Didn’t take too long, either, did it?” I asked, feeling a satisfied thrill when his expression fell just long enough to glare at me. “Some things are better when they’re fast. Like a pharmacy.”
“Nothing like efficiency to make a man happy,” he agreed with a self-satisfied grin.
“And you’re a king among men,” I said, laughing and holding my glass up for him to toast with his water. “Get yourself a cocktail in celebration of efficient pharmacies everywhere.”
“Why do I feel like I’m only getting half this conversation?” Will asked, looking dumbly between us. His eyes narrowed. “Is something going on we don’t know about?”
I barked out a laugh. “Don’t know what you’re on about, mate. Just taking the piss.”
Henry began studying the menu but Will seemed less convinced, looking away only when Henry called his attention to a cart of flaming meat being rolled by our table.
Satisfied they were sufficiently distracted, I leaned toward Bennett. “Where’s Sara?”
“Wouldn’t you love to know?”
I narrowed my eyes at him, scowling. “Arsehole.”
“Hey, you started this,” Bennett said, reaching for my drink.
I smacked his hand away. “Me? What are you on about?”
“You know: Chloe? Here? As grateful as I am, don’t try and pretend it wasn’t you who suggested the whole lap dance thing.”
“For me,” he said, smirking. “Right. So I’d be distracted and you could be with Sara in that club.”
Maybe he had a point.
“You can’t tell me if Sara teased you for forty-five minutes in a strip club you wouldn’t immediately go find her and . . . fix things. Even if you were meant to be hanging out with the guys.”
I laughed. “Too right.” I leaned closer, voice low. The idea of being able to slip out of here and have Sara one more time was too delicious to pass up. “This dinner is going to take at least two hours. I could be back in twenty.”
This time when he reached for my drink, I let him take it. “She’s visiting a friend,” he whispered.
I paused. “Visiting . . . what?”
“Oh, that bothers you? Leaves you feeling unresolved? I’m not so sure I should tell you,” he said, studying me. “It’s pretty clear the start of this night has gone far better for you than for me. Maybe your focus should be on my bachelor party instead of what’s in your pants.”
“Or,” I began, “I could tell Henry about that time you shagged two girls in his bed when he was stuck working at school over the uni holidays.”
That sobered him up. “She has a friend that dances in some show at Planet Hollywood. Chloe mentioned something about Sara going over there for sound check or something between performances.”
Sara, sitting in a dark theater all alone? That was all I needed to hear. Pushing away from the table, I stood. Will and Henry looked up at me from their menus. “Where are you going?” Henry asked. “They have a forty-ounce rib eye!”
“Toilet,” I said, placing a hand over my stomach. “I’m, ah . . . not feeling well.”
“You, too?” Will asked.
I nodded, hesitating for only a moment before saying, “Back in a bit.”
And I was off, sprinting from the restaurant, blood pumping hot in my legs and that untethered need to be with her buzzing steadily under my skin.
The smell of asphalt hit me in the face as I raced down to the curb, looking up the distance to Planet Hollywood on my phone as I walked. This was shite. It was several blocks away, and at this point in the night the streets were packed with slow-walking tourists looking and pointing at every possible sight between here and where I would find Sara.
Although the car traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard had cleared up significantly, the valet area was still a mess: some of the same cars were parked curbside and there wasn’t a taxi in sight. Fuck, how was I going to get there? I looked down into the car next to me: door still open, Eiffel Tower key chain hanging from the ignition.
The keys were swinging, as if they were actually trying to grab my attention.
It took me all of five seconds to decide that I’d lived my entire life without stealing a car, and how could I possibly have let that happen?
Borrowing, I thought. I was borrowing.
With a quick look ’round, I slipped in through the open door and turned the key. A dark hat sat on the leather seat next to me and I picked it up, turning it over once before placing it on my head. Oh well, when in Rome and all that.
I had no idea what in the actual hell I was doing as I raced away from the curb, but I rationed that at this point, nothing else could possibly go wrong.
It turned out that driving a stolen—borrowed—limousine was every bit as difficult as one might imagine. It was awkward and handled like shit, and wasn’t exactly the most inconspicuous thing on the road. But traffic was almost nonexistent and soon I was arriving at the blazing neon casino.
With my fingers crossed I pulled into the underground parking garage, tossing my hat and the keys to the first valet attendant I saw. Borrowing a stranger’s car during a stag party in Vegas . . . another tick off the bucket list.
I was met with a bank of escalators as I stepped inside, declining the opportunity to stand still and take a breather, opting instead to race up them two at a time. Rows of purple neon were embedded into the ceiling overhead, as well as a giant sparkling chandelier. I followed the signs to the opposite end of the casino, stopping just in front of the Peepshow theater.
I was stopped by an older lady at the ticket counter, who stood up to stop me from entering, insisting access pre-show was limited to performers and crew, only.
Taking a few seconds to study her—blonde hair with solid gray roots, heavy makeup and a bright red sequined top—I decided “Marilyn,” as her name tag suggested I call her, had probably seen her share of loser men chasing after the showgirls here.
“A girl here, one of the performers, called tonight to tell me she’s pregnant with my child. She told me she’d be here.”
Marilyn’s eyes grew to roughly the size of dinner plates. “I don’t have your name on any list.”
“Because it’s personal, you see.”
She nodded, obviously wavering.
I decided to close the deal. “I’m just here to make sure she’s okay.” I had a momentary pang of guilt over the lie, but then I remembered Sara, in the dark theatre, alone. “I need to know if she needs money.”
Once inside the darkened auditorium, I looked around. The stage lights overhead washed everything in more purple—the plush carpet, the seats, even the handful of people moving about on the stage. It was quiet and obviously in between shows, and there was just enough light for me to find Sara on the second level and begin making my way toward her. I climbed down slowly, taking the time to observe her as she sat, unaware. She was watching someone and smiling. She still took my breath away, and here, painted in violet light, I wanted to memorize everything about her: the shine of her hair, the smoothness of her skin. I wanted a picture of her, just like this.
As rehearsal started, the music began to swell, the lights dimming further as I descended the final rows to take a seat next to her. I could barely see my own hand in front of my face, but as if she’d known I was there all along—or maybe hoped I would find her—she hardly reacted. A simple glance, a small smile, and the tiny gold pendant I’d given her for Christmas twisting slowly between her delicate fingertips. I placed a hand on her thigh, felt the warm, supple skin beneath my palm, and motioned silently up to the stage.
A man counted down as girls in skimpy jeweled costumes balanced on pointed toes and spun themselves around. I was dizzy just watching them. They danced, circling one another and finally stopping beneath a concentrated beam of light, to kiss.
I tightened my grip on her thigh, swiped my thumb beneath the hem of her skirt, and heard the slight hitch in her breath. There was no one but us in the darkness beyond the stage and I wondered, would Sara’s love for being watched translate into watching someone else?
My hand traveled farther up her thigh and I leaned in to kiss her ear. She sighed, tilting her head as I moved her hair, and traced my tongue down the curve of her neck.
She pulled back just enough to meet my eyes, letting hers flicker quickly to the performers in wordless communication. Here? she was asking. While they dance and touch each other on stage?
Another woman spun around a gold pole, the single spotlight accentuating every acrobatic movement of her graceful arms and legs, the way her body bowed to the pulse of the music that played in the background. It was erotic, and I felt myself harden even further both from the show in front of us and Sara’s reaction to it.
I smiled, shifted in my seat to whisper against her cheek. “What are you thinking?” I asked.
“You have to ask?”
“Maybe I want to hear you say it,” I said.
She swallowed. “Are we going to?” There was need in her voice. The edge of that hollow little ache I’d heard earlier at the Black Heart.
“Maybe not everything, Petal,” I said, letting my fingers trail higher, pushing the lace of her pants to the side so I could run a finger along the soft folds of her pussy. “Are you still wet from me?”
She swallowed, flicked her tongue out to lick her lips. “Yes.”
I dipped my finger inside. “Do you feel like you were fucked earlier? Can you still feel me?” I pressed deeper and she hiccupped the tiniest breath; her mouth went soft and round, glistening in the dim light.
“Someone might see us,” she murmured, head falling back against the seat and eyes fluttering closed. She struggled to find words as I added a second finger, pushing them both in at once. I smiled at how breathless she was, how immediately incoherent.
“Isn’t that the point?”
“Cameras . . .”
I glanced up and shrugged. “And what would you do, sweet Sara? If someone saw you this way? Would that make it better? Would you come on my hand as soon as you heard their feet on the stairs?”
She moaned quietly and I couldn’t look away from the hint of movement between her thighs where I touched her, the way she spread her legs farther to open herself up, arching into it. I liked her pliant for me, boneless, where I could arrange her the way I wanted and just take. But I liked her like this, too, desperate and forgetting herself.
I groaned, squeezing myself through my trousers because—Christ—would it always be like this? Would I always want her in this way that made me dizzy and completely stupid?
I wanted to put her on my lap and ride up into her, hear her screams and the way she said my name over and over, hear it echo off the high ceilings, echoed above the music. It would ring around us, sound back to me, and the people still dancing on the stage would know that she was mine.
Of course we couldn’t, and when a small moan left her lips I leaned in, whispered a soft “Shhh,” against her skin. Her eyes were pinned to the stage, where a woman danced topless, and in the almost pitch-black auditorium I struggled to make out the side of Sara’s face. The rustle of fabric dragged my attention lower, to where she played with her breast, tugging on her nipple where her shirt had fallen open the tiniest bit. And the fact that she was getting off on what we were doing and where—by being watched but also watching in return—well, the thought alone was enough to get me riled up, have me almost shooting in my pants.
My heart kicked at my ribs and I palmed my cock, watching, hearing as Sara got closer and closer. In the glow of the stage lights I could see a thin sheen of sweat across her forehead, could feel her beginning to tighten around my fingers. Her sounds changed, growing longer with every circle of my thumb over her clit, every rhythmic rock of her hips.
I could feel my orgasm building in my spine. “Sara,” I said, but she leaned forward, catching my mouth in a rough kiss. I wished I had my phone out, or a camera set to record the way her teeth pulled at my lips, the way it must look when her tongue darted out to taste me.
Her breath hitched and I felt her body tense, felt her orgasm race through her, hot and wild, her sounds swallowed by the thump and bass of the music. She reached across me to fumble with my zipper and I was right behind her.
“Oh fuck yes,” I said, practically melting into my seat. My head fell back and I gave myself over to the feeling. “Fuck, Petal, pull it hard. Fast.”
Three rough strokes in and I felt the pleasure climb up my back, sparking light behind my eyelids and I came, pulsing in Sara’s hand.
The music was suddenly deafening and I opened my eyes, feeling heat slip from my cock to finally return to the rest of my body. I blinked several times and was met with Sara’s wide grin, the pleased expression she always wore when she’d proven once again how completely she owned me.
“There’s one to add to the list,” I said, focusing again on the performers still wandering around onstage. I saw her bend forward to reach for something in her purse, pulling out a tissue to wipe off her hands before dabbing at my trousers. “I suppose we’re back to the old days? Where you tell me this is where it ends and I’m to zip myself up and leave you here.”
Sara laughed. “How’d you manage to get away from them anyway?”
“Told them I was going to the toilet and left.”
Her eyebrows disappeared beneath her hair and she fell back against the seat in laughter. “And you’ve been gone all this time?”
I nodded. “Suppose they’ll try and suss out the truth of where I’ve gone. Damn them.” I finished adjusting my clothes and leaned across the chair, taking her face in my hands and dragging a finger down her nose. “I’ve got to go.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I love you, Petal.”
“Love you too, stranger.”