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 f**king 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.”
I sat forward, smiling. “He means his calendar of women. Our Will here might not be attached or f**king 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 na**d 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.
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.
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?”
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.
“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.”
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?
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.”
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?