Sweet Sinful Nights(9)

By: Lauren Blakely


He’d tried valiantly to move on from the biggest mistake of his life. Because she’d been right—she’d been absolutely right with her last words. Hardly a day went by when he didn’t regret having walked away from being with her. As he covered the final mile to the meeting, he replayed some of the moments from their time together.

Like their first kiss outside a record store in Boston when he’d been riffing on how only old, angry record dudes listened to vinyl anymore, and she had laughed so hard she’d clutched her belly. He’d wanted to pump his fist from having made her crack up, but there was no time for that because she’d placed her hands on his cheeks and made the first move.

In seconds, he’d spun her around, backed her up to the brick wall, and kissed her as if his life depended on it.

The first time they’d slept together was only a few nights later. Neither one could hold back. The chemistry between them was too electric, too intense. They went to dinner at a Thai restaurant near campus, and the second he’d paid the bill he’d grabbed her hand, walked her out, and taken her back to his place. As soon as the door had fallen open, they were both nearly naked.

Then there was the evening he’d run out of gas in his motorcycle when they were on a date. They’d been one mile from his apartment. Still, he’d told her he’d carry her the whole way home. He’d hoisted her up and draped her over his shoulder as she’d swatted his back and shouted playfully, Put me down.

There were so many memories from their two years together. Smaller ones, slices of moments, but ones that he remembered just as fiercely. The way she looked as snow fell around her face when they walked through the city. The sweet, sexy smell of her neck when she fell asleep in his arms. How she went to nearly all his shows, and threw her arms around him and kissed him hard after each performance, even the night she gave up her tickets for them to see her favorite dance company, Alvin Ailey. She’d saved up for them, but he’d told her he landed a gig that night and needed her desperately at his show, so she came to see him instead.

Then the fighting—they fought over everything and nothing. They fought over their schedules, whose apartment they’d sleep at, and what they were going to do on a Friday night. They argued about petty jealousies and fears. Every now and then they argued over money—she’d gone to school on a full scholarship, so he never wanted her to pay when they went out, but she didn’t like to feel “indebted,” she’d said. They fought over secrets held too close. He was an open book; she was hidden. But some things she’d shared freely. Like the letters. With crystal clarity, as if it were happening that moment, he could recall kissing away her tears every time she got one of those letters in the mail. The letters tore her apart, and soon he started opening them for her because she couldn’t bear to read them, but she couldn’t bear to throw them away either.

He wondered if she still got them. If they still ripped her in two.

And who kissed her tears away.

The notion that someone else was there to do that was like a fist in his gut.

When he reached the Mandarin Oriental, he kicked her out of his head once more, said hello to one of the valet guys he knew, and headed to the elevator, ready to turn his focus back to business and away from the past. The Mandarin Oriental was one of the few hotels in Vegas without a casino. While Brent enjoyed a game of slots or a round of cards, he also savored the calmer, classier atmosphere of this hotel—that was what made it a great spot for meetings with other locals. When you lived in town—and he’d grown up in Vegas and spent most of his adult life there—you had to find the hidden oases that let you conduct business away from the jingle of clanging slot machines, the slap of cards from the table games, and the eye-numbing parade of bare flesh in sequined tops serving drinks to tourists. God bless the visitors; they made this town run, and they powered his clubs with their energy and night-owlish ways. But sometimes, you just needed to be part of the engine and operate under the hood rather than as the ornament.

This hotel was one of those spots that let him do that.

The sleek metal elevator shot him up to the twenty-third floor, and as he checked his phone, he saw he was early for the meeting. When he reached the Mandarin Bar, the hostess greeted him, and said that James Foster was already there. Exactly as Brent had suspected. James was beyond punctual, and Brent was grateful every day to have such a steady guy as his lead investor.

The hostess escorted him to James, who was seated in a oversized red leather chair by the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the city. He rose when Brent walked over, and reached out a hand to welcome him back.

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