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.

“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 f**ked 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.

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 f**k 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 c**k 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.”

I was pretty sure I looked like an idiot. Will and Henry continued to sip their drinks and pore over the menu, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting across from them, damn near giggling and randomly breaking into the widest, goofiest grins imaginable.

Despite Max’s sudden departure, I was still on a high from how much fun it had been to follow Chloe, then spank and f**k her in a bathroom. And she was going to be my wife.

I had no idea how I’d gotten so lucky.

“Are you gentlemen ready?” the waiter asked, removing a slew of empty glasses from the table and stacking them on his tray. Will and Henry looked up for the first time in about ten minutes and blinked around the table.

I shook my head, refolding my napkin in an attempt to avoid their eyes. “Doesn’t look like it.”

“Should we wait for him or . . .?” Henry asked. “I could go out and kill a few minutes at one of the tables while we wait.”

I glanced down at my watch and groaned; the flimsy excuse Max had used about needing the bathroom was most definitely losing its credibility with each passing minute. And it wasn’t that I particularly cared if Max got busted—it’s possible that might actually improve my night—but if Max went down then so did I. We had the rest of the weekend with these guys, and Will would make it a living hell if he found out we’d been sneaking out to bang our girlfriends on Valentine’s Day.

And, truth be told, Will was the only single one here and was the most focused on hanging out with the guys. I felt a pang of guilt that, of the three of us who seemed to care more for women than gambling, he was the only one not getting laid this weekend.

“Sure he’ll be back any minute,” I said. “Must not have been feeling well.”

“What the hell did you two eat anyway?” Henry asked.

I tried to formulate an answer and remembered the waiter only when I heard him sigh. “I’ll give you gentlemen a few more minutes,” he said before stepping away.

Will narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, what is going on,” he said, words slurring together a little. “There’s no way a person could have this much diarrhea and survive.”

“Thank you for that very tasteful analysis.” I set my napkin on my plate and stood. “I’ll just step over there and see how much longer. You two go ahead and order for us. I’ll have the filet. Bloody.” I started to walk away and stopped, turning to face them again. “Oh, and get yourself a few more drinks,” I added with a smile. “It’s on me.”

The mood in the restaurant had changed as the night went on. Lights embedded in the ceiling and around the room had shifted from the soft white to warm gold, washing everything in rich color. The music was louder, not so loud that you couldn’t talk or make out individual conversations, but loud enough that you could feel it deep in your chest, a pounding like a second heartbeat. It felt more like a nightclub than a restaurant now and made it easier for me to step out unnoticed, to text Max.

Where the f**k are you?

I paced the glossy wood floors just outside, debating whether I could leave and get away with it. My phone vibrated with his incoming message less than a minute later.

Just pulling up. Two minutes.

We need to talk, I answered. I’ll meet you near valet.

With a glance over my shoulder to make sure Will or Henry hadn’t followed, I headed down to meet Max.

The casino floor was bustling. The sound of laughter and cheering floated up from one of the tables and a couple of police officers stood near the entrance, speaking to a group of valets.

Max stepped through the doors and stopped just in front of me, rebuttoning his suit jacket and straightening his tie. “Always so impatient,” he said, glancing twice at the police before gripping my arm. “Perhaps we could move just over here . . .” He guided us away from the area and out of their direct line of sight.

“Oh, that’s comforting. You’re dodging the police now? Jesus Christ, what is happening? I feel like an accomplice in some sort of crime spree,” I said, running a hand through my hair.

“The less you know, the better, mate. Trust me.”

“And the toilet, Max? Really? That’s the best you could come up with?”

“As if your excuse was any better? An ulcer? You’ve lost your touch, mate. The Ben I knew in uni would be ashamed. Love’s made you soft.”

I sighed, glancing behind me. “You’ve been gone for almost an hour. What the f**k took you so long?”

He gave me a wide, leering smile. He looked happy. Fuck, he looked downright giddy, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I knew that expression; I’d been wearing it less than ten minutes ago.

“Okay, right. I did not need to know that.”

“You’re one to talk.” He stretched his neck, cracking it. “So how are the boys?”

“Replacing most of their blood with vodka and discussing the beauty of aged meats.”

“Shall we head up for dinner, then?”

He went to push by me but I reached for his arm, stopping him. “Look, you know what I’ve been doing and I know what you’ve been doing, let’s cut the bullshit. Back in New York, I’m lucky to get Chloe to myself for ten full minutes. They’re only here tonight. Let’s help each other out here.”

His expression seemed to sober and he nodded. “Am I the only one that finds it hilarious that it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re the ones behaving like idiots and chasing them rather than the other way ’round?”

“The thought may have occurred to me once or twice, yes,” I said with a shake of my head. These women made us insane. “We need a plan. It will be no problem to get our comrades lost in a meat coma but that won’t last all night. And Will is getting suspicious.”

“Agreed,” he said. “How much do you think he knows?”

“I’m not sure. Henry hasn’t stopped drinking or looking at the poker chips in his pocket all night, but Will—he seems to be under the impression that you and I are both suffering from some sort of horrible digestive issue.”

Max groaned. “I’ll want to see her again, mate. I have to be honest. She’s here, and she’s . . . well, I’d like to check in on her again.” He looked up at me and I nodded, understanding. “Will would never let me live it down if he thinks I couldn’t go a single weekend without seeing her. You know him. I love the man but he’s enough of a tosser as it is; I’m not giving him this, too,” he said, shaking his head.

“Exactly. My brother loves giving me shit about Chloe and the fact that I slept with her while she still worked for me. If he finds out about this there won’t be a Ryan family holiday where he doesn’t regale everyone with the story of the other time Bennett couldn’t keep it in his pants. Fuck that.”

“So what now? If we wanted to see them again tonight, how could that work?”

Max paced back and forth in front of the registration desk before turning to face me. “I think I’ve got it.”

“I’m thinking . . .” He was looking down at the ground, still putting the pieces together in his head. “I think . . . we need them distracted, yeah? And we want to make sure Will has a brilliant night.”

I nodded. “But it’s got to be more than booze. Those two have been drinking all night and somehow still seem to be functioning. I don’t want them blind or facedown in a gutter somewhere.”

“Obviously.” Max pulled out his phone and began scrolling through the contacts. I shifted from foot to foot and kept glancing over my shoulder, waiting for Henry to come out and drag me back by my collar to the table.

When I turned back to Max, he’d stopped on a number. “Who are you calling?”

“How do you know him, anyway? An old friend?”

Max laughed. “Not sure I’d call him a friend. Not sure he’d call anyone a friend, really. But he does owe me a few favors and as you’ve seen, caters to the type of crowd that might be helpful in our situation.”