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Seduce Me, Page 2

J. Kenner

  "What's wrong?" I call.

  "Nothing. I've got news."

  I glance at Damien, relieved. "Then meet me in the kitchen. I'll be right there."

  The house actually has two kitchens, but I have never used the one on the first floor, which is huge and tricked out with so many amazing gadgets it would make Gordon Ramsay proud, not to mention easily serve up an intimate dinner party for two or three hundred.

  I much prefer the normal-sized kitchen on the third floor. It was designed to be a space for caterers, as it is connected to the open area intended for entertaining. But it has become the kitchen that Damien and I use regularly.

  From the mezzanine, I take the stairs that lead to an alcove near the kitchen. Damien and I arrive in the breakfast nook right as Jamie is helping herself to a cup of coffee.

  "Okay," she says, "this is seriously awesome."

  "The coffee?" I ask, and my best friend rolls her eyes.

  "Gloria Myers. Do you remember me mentioning her?"

  I scour my memory, but nothing comes to mind.

  "She's the head of programming for the network affiliate in Dallas that offered me a job. You guys were on your honeymoon."

  "Right," I say. "I remember." Jamie and I are both from Dallas. I came to LA to reinvent myself. She came to take the acting world by storm. It hadn't worked out quite the way she planned, however, and at one point Jamie had seriously considered returning to Texas to work as an on-air reporter while she got her shit together. She'd ended up staying, though, not in small part because her new boyfriend, Ryan Hunter, is doing a damn fine job of keeping her grounded.

  "What about her?" Damien prompts.

  "Gloria wants me to cover a tech convention in Vegas." Jamie bounces a little. "Just a couple of interviews, really. But it's a good break and a foot in the door. I told them months ago I wanted to be their West Coast correspondent, and I guess now they're taking me seriously."

  "That's fabulous." I hurry over and give her a hug. "I'm so proud of you."

  "It rocks, yeah. But the best part is that it's only a few hours of work tomorrow morning. If we go soon, we'll have two nights and almost two full days."

  "We?" I repeat.

  Damien is much quicker on the uptake. "So you came to whisk my wife away to Vegas? I don't know, Jamie. Sounds like a bad precedent to me." He is speaking in his corporate boardroom voice, but I can hear the tease underneath.

  "On the contrary," I say, "I think it's an excellent plan." I smile sweetly. "We can consider it your punishment."

  "Oh, please," Jamie says. "Punishment? What? You two haven't heard of sexting?" She bats her eyes innocently. "That's what I intend to do with Ryan. It'll make the return home all the more delicious."

  Damien puts on a mock scowl. "Is that why our corporate text rates are so high lately?" Not only is Ryan Jamie's boyfriend, he's also the chief of security for Stark International.

  Jamie waves his words away. "Well?" she demands of me. "Are we on? If we leave now we'll hit Vegas early afternoon and have plenty of time to play. You should check out the convention, Nik. Mostly gamer related, but still right up your alley. And it's at the Starfire Resort and Casino," she adds with a meaningful look at Damien. The Starfire is a Stark International hotel. "Which means I figure you and I can snag one hell of a nice upgrade. So what do you say?" she asks me. "You can clear your schedule, right?"

  I glance at Damien with a very smug grin. "Yeah," I tell Jamie. "As it turns out, I absolutely can."

  Chapter 2

  Despite Jamie's desire to hit the road immediately, it took us a few hours to actually get under way. For one thing, I had to shower and get dressed, which I did once I'd thoroughly kissed my husband goodbye and watched the helicopter whisk him off toward San Diego.

  After that, I had to pack, which didn't take too much time since we're staying only two nights. But the calls I had to make to reschedule an entire Friday's worth of appointments were another matter altogether. And while I sat at a shaded table by the pool with my phone and my laptop, trying to juggle my schedule with the schedule of everyone else involved, Jamie stripped down to bra and panties, then splayed out on a chaise lounge to work on her tan.

  Honestly, it just didn't seem fair.

  It was lunchtime when I finally got everything squared away, and we were able to pile into the limo. Damien had insisted that Edward drive us, and since the ride from Los Angeles to Vegas is infinitely more interesting in the back of a limo with alcohol, we hadn't been hard to convince.

  Right as we got under way, we had Edward pull into Upper Crust, a charming local bakery and sandwich shop, where Jamie and I bought paninis for ourselves and Edward, then she and I settled in the back with our sandwiches, chips, and the well-stocked Stark International limo bar.

  All of which goes a long way to explaining why, when we roll into Las Vegas at just shy of six in the evening, Jamie and I are just a teensy bit drunk. Not to mention very easily amused.

  Which is why I burst into giggles when Jamie pulls out her phone, stares at the screen, and very plaintively asks me why there isn't even a smidgeon of sex in her inbox.

  "Knowing you," I retort, "I find that very hard to believe."

  "Okay, that's fair. If I scroll back I'm sure I can find some truly stellar sexts. But Ryan promised he'd send me something to keep him on my mind, and so far pffft. Nothing."

  She flops back in the seat and pouts--or at least pretends to. I'm feeling a bit pouty myself, because I was certain that once Jamie planted the sexting seed in Damien's head he would jump all over that but my inbox is likewise sexless. Of course, sexting is like sloppy seconds compared to Damien's truly incredible phone sex skills. But that's not something I want to experience with Jamie in the limo with me. We're close. But we're not that close.

  Truthfully, I'm not surprised that Damien hasn't checked in. His schedule was jam-packed today, what with zipping all over the West Coast. And right about now, I know he has a meeting with his assistant Sylvia. They have a conference call with a friend of Damien's at the Pentagon about buying Santa Cortez, a military-owned island off the California coast.

  Most likely he's on that call right now, immersed in details and negotiations. It's really not the time for me to be bothering him.

  Of course, I do anyway.

  Just arrived in Sin City. Feeling deliciously sinful. Who knows where that will lead...

  I hesitate only a second and then press send.

  A moment later, my phone buzzes with a reply.

  I'm intrigued. Take pictures.

  I text back: ???

  I don't have to wait too long for his explanation.

  If you're naughty without me, I want to know exactly what I'll be punishing you for later.


  I think of some of the very delicious ways that Damien might punish me and decide that a few selfies during this weekend jaunt will be well worth the trouble.

  And no underwear. When I think of you, I want to think of you bare.

  I lick my lips, my mouth suddenly dry. My soon-to-be-abandoned panties, however, are damp. I tap out a quick, Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir.

  Good girl. Meeting starting. Soon, Mrs. Stark. Until then, imagine me, touching you.

  I smile, then tap my final reply: I always do.

  When I look up, Jamie has her chin propped on her palm and is watching me.

  "What?" I demand.

  She just shakes her head. "You guys are so good together."

  "Aren't you and Ryan?"

  A wide grin lights her face. I'm girl-next-door pretty, with my blond hair and curves, but Jamie is movie star gorgeous. And when she smiles, it's a wonder that Hollywood producers don't drop from the skies and sign her to projects.

  The smile she flashes now with Ryan on her mind is one of the most radiant I've ever seen. "Yeah," she says. "We are. Isn't that just the coolest thing?"

  Considering Jamie's crappy track record with men, I have to agree that it is. And I am trul
y, genuinely happy for both of them.

  "This is where we really got together," Jamie says, nodding out the window at the Starfire Resort and Casino, which we are approaching. "I mean, we fooled around in Malibu after your wedding, but it wasn't until Vegas that things really heated up." Her grin is wide and a little sappy. "So I really, really love this hotel."

  "I'm very glad to hear it."

  Although the Starfire is a Stark International property, I've only been a couple of times, and then on very short stays. The fact is, Damien owns so many properties in so many places that I could visit one every day for the rest of my life and still probably not hit all of them.

  It's a little daunting when I think about it. Which is why I usually don't think about it.

  Edward turns off the Strip and into the drive, which circles a magnificent fountain that shoots jets of colored water into the sky to the delight of a crowd of people gathered around its edge.

  We roll to a stop under the portico, and it's clear that although this limo has no identifying marks, the staff knows who we are. I'm treated like a queen, Jamie like a princess, and we are whisked through the lobby and down one of the long, tiled hallways to a set of elevators that access the penthouse suites.

  Jamie and I are chatting as we walk, debating whether we want to go out for dinner or just have drinks in the bar and then go back up for room service. I pause, reaching out for Jamie's elbow.

  "Did you see--?"


  But I shake my head, feeling silly. "Nothing. Just thought I saw someone I knew."


  I shrug. "Probably no one." I hook my arm through Jamie's. "I say we go with shopping, then drinks, then grab some sushi." I point to a placard advertising a new Japanese restaurant that has just opened inside the hotel. "After that we can either crash in the room with a pay-per-view movie or go try our luck at the tables."

  "Or we could find a club and go dancing?"

  "You have to work tomorrow."

  She makes a face. "True. Maybe tomorrow night."

  I nod, though I'm secretly planning to veto that come tomorrow. I love to dance. But I love it most when I'm dancing with Damien.

  We're in the owner's suite on the thirty-fifth floor, and the first thing we see when the bellman opens the double doors is the amazing view down the Strip through the wall of floor to ceiling windows. It's early March, so the sun has already set, and the lights of the city beyond the glass fill the room.

  There is a huge kitchen, four bathrooms complete with Jacuzzi and steam shower, a living room, a media room, an exercise room, and two master bedrooms, each with their own private entrance.

  The entire suite is more than twice the size of Jamie's condo, and despite having experienced the power of Damien's money many times over now, I have to admit I'm at least as wowed as my best friend.

  I tip the bellman, who tells us to pick up the phone if we need anything at all, and when I turn back, I find Jamie in the middle of the huge living room, her arms out wide as she turns in a slow circle. She comes to a stop, meets my eyes, and then grins. "Can I just say how fucking awesome it is to have a best friend who's married to a bazillionaire?"

  I match her grin with one of my own. "Funny, I was just about to say how awesome it is to actually be married to one."

  Chapter 3

  The bar closest to our bank of elevators is called Rain and has a water theme, including walls that feature streams of water running down them in what appears to be a permanent loop.

  Jamie and I sit at the bar, which is made of a hollowed out slab of marble filled with water and covered with glass. Goldfish swim in the water, back and forth in this makeshift river. It's whimsical and fun, though I have to wonder what the fish think about the whole thing.

  "They love it," Jamie says. "I mean, they're goldfish. Usually the most they can aspire to is a bowl in some kid's bedroom. This is the big time for them."

  I laugh and have to concede that she has a point. And then we both raise our glasses and toast the fish.

  We've been down here for an hour, chatting and drinking and trying to firm up our plans for tomorrow.

  "So shopping is definitely on?" Jamie asks. "I'm in the mood to do serious damage to my credit card. And you get some sort of discount here right?"

  "Only in the hotel stores. We go out into the mall, and you're on your own."

  "Fair enough." She sips her martini. "After lunch, then? I have the first interview at ten and the next at eleven. And after that, I'm done."

  "Are you ready?"

  "Absolutely." She'd read over her prep material a little bit in the limo and then again before we came down here. "And I'll get up about six to give it another go-over. Don't worry. This isn't my first time playing a reporter."

  "I just want you to rock it," I say. "This might lead to a full-time job, right?"

  "Maybe. Gloria kind of hinted around. But I'm not going to get my hopes up. I'm just going to take my check for this gig and run. Straight to Michael Kors," she adds with a laugh.

  I roll my eyes.

  "You should come down with me tomorrow. Watch the interview. Or at the very least, scope out the trade show. It's mostly about games geared toward smartphone users."

  "I'm tempted," I admit. "But I've pretty much decided that my goal for the weekend is to be as unproductive as humanly possible. So while you're slaving away, I'm going to be drinking mimosas by the pool."

  "You bitch."

  "And completely proud of it."

  Jamie grins, then slides her hand into her purse. She stops mid-motion, then catches my eye, her expression sheepish.

  I know exactly what she was doing--she was going to check her phone to see if she'd missed a call or text or email from Ryan.

  I know, because I've done the same thing a half dozen times since we arrived at the hotel. And there hasn't been a single word from Damien.

  "We're pathetic," I say. "Two fabulous, smart women out on our own, and we can't even go an hour without checking for a message from our significant others. Seriously, how girly and needy are we?"

  "I'm not being girly and needy," she says firmly. "I just keep expecting him to ask me what I'm wearing under my clothes."

  I raise a brow as I take another sip of my drink. "And what are you wearing?"

  Her grin is slow and devious. "I'll never tell."

  I laugh and we clink glasses. But I remain silent on my own relative state of undress. And, yes, I do feel naughty.

  Which reminds me...

  I reach into my purse and pull out my phone. "Not girly and needy," I tell Jamie, who is giving me The Look. "We need a selfie."

  "Oh! Totally! With the drinks," she adds, which is easy for her to say. I end up leaning way back, holding the drink in my left hand and the camera in my right. Honestly, it would be easier to ask the bartender to take it, but Damien told me he wanted selfies, and for this particular game, I'm all about following the rules.

  "Did you get us?" Jamie asks as I open up my photos.

  "Hang on." It's a reasonable question. Photography is my hobby, but that doesn't translate to selfies. I tend to shift at the last second and mess them up completely. "Oh, check it out. This one's not too bad."

  I pass her my phone, now open to the image of us, smiling and holding our glasses. Instead of shifting to the side, though, I apparently lifted my arm, because we don't fill the frame the way I had planned. Instead, we're in the bottom third, and the crowded tables in this popular bar are in the background. I figure that's even better, since it gives a sense of location.

  "Nikki!" Jamie's voice is a low, startled whisper. "Did you look at this?"

  "At what?"

  "The picture. What's behind us."

  "I--no." I frown. "What are you talking about?"

  She slides the phone back to me. "Look."

  I do--and then I turn toward her and grin.

  "Don't turn around!" she says, as if I were planning to.

  Of course, now t
hat she has said that, the urge is powerful. Because now I know who's behind us. Now I know why neither of us have received any sexts.

  Now I know that this weekend is going to be more interesting than I anticipated.

  "I have to look," I admit.

  "Yeah, me, too."

  We both shift on our stools. And there, just sitting and talking as if they haven't got a care in the world, are Ryan and Damien.

  They look up at the same time, and Damien's eyes meet mine. At first, his expression is flat. Corporate. Then his mouth curves up and his eyes darken, and I can see such promise of heat and pleasure that my stomach turns to butterflies and my mouth goes dry.

  I expect him to say something. I expect him to come over.

  I expect him to do anything but what he does next, which is turn his eyes away and continue talking to Ryan, as if I wasn't sitting right there at all.

  I smile, suddenly understanding.

  And this, I think, is going to be so much better than sexting.

  Beside me, Jamie still isn't with the program. "Should we go sit with them?"

  "No," I say with a grin. "That's not the game."


  Just as realization dawns, the bartender sets fresh drinks in front of us. "From the gentlemen," he says with a jerk of his chin, and we both turn to raise our glasses in a silent gesture of thanks. Damien, however, is the only one at the table.

  I give him a little nod, then turn my back to him, hiding my grin.

  Beside me, Jamie is about to lean toward me, presumably to ask where Ryan is. But that's when I see Ryan approaching her. He takes a seat on the open stool beside her, and I casually reach for my drink, then take a sip as I eavesdrop on my best friend.

  "Haven't I seen you on television?" he says.

  Jamie turns to him, her body language suggesting she gets this question all the time and is bored with it. "It's possible."

  "I'm Ryan."

  "I'm not the kind of girl who picks up strange men in hotel bars."

  "No? I'm not a strange man."

  "Too bad." Jamie's voice holds as much heat as a small nuclear reactor. "I like strange."