Authors: Jaci Burton
Titles by Jaci Burton
Wild Rider Series
RIDING ON INSTINCT
RIDING THE NIGHT
WILD, WICKED, & WANTON
BOUND, BRANDED, & BRAZEN
THE PERFECT PLAY
CHANGING THE GAME
TAKING A SHOT
PLAYING TO WIN
THROWN BY A CURVE
(with Jasmine Haynes, Joey W. Hill, and Denise Rossetti)
(with Eden Bradley and Lisa Renee Jones)
LACED WITH DESIRE
(with Jasmine Haynes, Joey W. Hill, and Denise Rossetti)
NAUTI AND WILD
(with Lora Leigh)
NAUTI AND WILDER
(with Lora Leigh)
The Ties That Bind
No Strings Attached
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.
“Wild Nights” previously appeared in
, published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
A Heat Special / published by arrangement with the Jaci Burton, Inc.
Copyright © 2007 by Jaci Burton.
One Sweet Ride
by Jaci Burton copyright © 2013 by Jaci Burton, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without
permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
HEAT and the HEAT design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Heat Special / May 2013
Cover photograph: “Romantic Evening Date” copyright © tankist276 / Shutterstock Images.
Cover design by Rita Frangie.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
for wild nights. I love you.
Special Excerpt from
One Sweet Ride
About the Author
Mike Nottingham cocked a brow at the gold
foil-lined envelope sliding across the table. He glanced up at his friend Denver McKenzie. “What’s this?”
Denver slashed a wicked smile and tipped his glass of scotch in a toast. “A gift. You look tense.”
“Understatement.” Every muscle in his body was wound tight. Getting away from work for four days had helped. The conference here in Las Vegas had been worth attending, and he’d learned a lot. But what he’d really been looking forward to was the vacation he so desperately needed. He glanced down at the envelope. “You got me a present.”
“I don’t suppose there’s a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in there.”
Den snorted. “You can get one of those yourself. What’s in that envelope you can’t.”
“So what’s in here?”
“Exclusive club. Invitation only.”
Intrigued, Mike opened the envelope and pulled out the single embossed card, read it and glanced up at Denver. “Wild Nights?”
“Right up your alley. I figured since you had some time to kill while you’re here, you’d want some fun. You’re not really the showgirl or BunnyRanch type. I thought you might want something a little more out of the ordinary, and definitely private.”
Den knew him well. Friends since their college days and through veterinary school, he and Denver went way back. Den knew Mike’s predilection for the wild life. Even the name of the club fit Mike’s personality He did his job as a veterinarian in Oklahoma. He made nice with his customers and he loved his animals. But at night and on his own time, he liked to cut loose, especially sexually. So did Den. Which had a lot to do with why they’d become and stayed such good friends. The only other person he trusted with his secrets was his best friend and partner, Seth Jacobs.
“Present that card at the club entrance and you’re in,” Denver said. “Your name is already on the list.”
Mike traced the raised lettering on the invitation with his fingertip. “I take it they know you well there?”
Den laughed. “I never miss a chance to visit Wild Nights whenever I’m in Vegas. Grace runs a very classy show. And the menu is as varied as your imagination.”
“Figured you’d zero in on that. Grace Wylde is the owner of Wild Nights.” Den spelled her last name.
“Intriguing doesn’t begin to describe her. Gorgeous, mysterious, keeps to herself a bit yet always makes you feel at home. And she’s sexy as hell. I’ve never known a woman so comfortable in her own sexual skin.”
“Really.” And she owned a club like Wild Nights? A man’s dream come true.
Den leaned back in the chair and shook his head. “Don’t even think about it. She’s completely untouchable.”
“Happily married or with someone?”
Den laughed. “Not even close.”
“Then she’s not completely untouchable, Den. You and I both know that.” They’d shared enough women over the years, women who at first look seemed like ice queens, but in the bedroom melted all over them.
“This one is. Many have tried. All have failed.”
“I can’t wait to meet her.” Failure wasn’t in Mike’s vocabulary. There wasn’t a woman he’d set his mind to having that he hadn’t succeeded in seducing. The conference he’d come to Las Vegas to attend had ended and he’d already made plans to take an extra week off.
Wild Nights sounded like a perfect start to his vacation. A place to relax, unwind and see a little bit of the Vegas wild life. And he was intrigued by Grace Wylde. He never could resist a challenge.
He was ready for some action. He’d been good during the conference. Maybe at Wild Nights he’d find a spark, something to alleviate the restlessness that seemed to be a part of his everyday life. Because no matter what he did, no matter who he was with or what sexual games he played, he was never satisfied. He’d been with some amazing women, and he’d played every game in the book. If it existed sexually, he’d done it. He was always searching for the next big thrill, trying to top the last sexual conquest with something even better.
But now it had just become a game—an endless stream of women in and out of his life. Women who couldn’t stand up to his challenges, although plenty had tried. He’d long ago stopped thinking of himself as a pervert or some kind of extremist. He was just looking for satisfaction.
So far, he hadn’t found it. He’d just about decided it didn’t exist, that sexual fulfillment would always lay beyond his grasp. Oh, he got off all right. He had good sex. Sometimes great sex. But he always felt like it lacked…something.
And he hadn’t been able to figure out what that “something” was.
“Mike,” Den said, capturing his attention again. “There will be plenty of others to play with at Wild Nights. You won’t even get a shot at Grace. Don’t even think about it.”
But he was thinking about it. He hadn’t even met her yet and she was already his target for tonight.
Look out Grace Wylde. If there was one thing that got him hot, it was a challenge.
* * *
No matter how many nights the doors opened to
Wild Nights, Grace Wylde still got a thrill as if it were the very first time. Every night was opening night. Each time had to be absolutely perfect.
She surveyed the club, watched her staff behind the bar shine the glassware and inventory the alcohol. Her gaze drifted across the room to the dance floor where the DJ was preparing tonight’s mix. He looked up, his headphones on, head bobbing up and down to whatever song played in his ears while he simultaneously did a light check. He grinned and gave her the thumbs-up sign. She smiled back at him and moved on.
Every table was clean and polished; not a single speck of dirt could be found on the parquet floors. Beyond the bar and dance floor were double doors leading to the private rooms. She greeted everyone. The staff, relaxed and joking around, waved at her as she walked by.
It seemed the only nervous one was her. Then again she had the most to lose. Wild Nights was her baby—had been for the past four years. It was incredibly successful, but she kept waiting for failure to occur, for no one to walk through those doors when the bouncers opened them. So far that hadn’t happened. Lines of the uninvited waited outside, hoping against hope they’d have a chance to get in. But Grace was very particular about her clientele, catering to her
clients but also careful about protecting her staff. She invited the best of the best, only those who could be trusted. She wanted people to enjoy her club, but she wanted it understood that her people must be kept safe. She loved her staff, and if any one of them was ever hurt, she’d never forgive herself.
Wild Nights was a place of fun. For her patrons, her staff and for her. Her clients paid a high price for that privilege, her staff was compensated extremely well to work here, and no one loitering outside was permitted entrance without an invitation and their name on the club list. No exceptions. Ever. And even those invited in were quickly escorted out the door if they didn’t follow the rules. No second chances. The club ran smoothly because of her rules.
And she was proud to say that once in, no one wanted to get the boot. What they found inside Wild Nights was something they couldn’t get anywhere else. Sexual freedom. No rules, no restrictions, only pleasure. If it was mutually consensual, it happened here.
Making her way back to the front entrance, she nodded at the bouncers who flicked open the deadbolts at the door and walked outside, ready to let in the regulars and the select few newcomers who possessed a coveted invitation and a place on tonight’s list.
The games were about to begin.
Grace palmed her stomach, mentally calming the jitters and pasting on her best smile of greeting. People began to pour in. Some she knew because they came every night, some she recognized as regulars who showed up when their schedules allowed it, and others held invitations in hand signaling their first trip to Wild Nights. Those were the ones she’d make a concerted effort to cater to tonight.
Some were men and women who came alone, others were couples. She never asked the reasons people frequented Wild Nights. Everyone had their own individual desires, tastes and reasons for doing what they did. And those reasons were as personal as her own desires—she wouldn’t dream of infringing on anyone’s privacy.
Tonight there were five first timers—two men, one woman and a couple. She already knew their names and had read their short bios. One of her staff would escort them to the drawing room where she’d greet them, introduce herself and give them a brief orientation. Then they’d be free to enjoy the club and all its amenities. She hoped they liked what they saw and came back again. And again. Repeat business was very good for the club.
Once everyone was inside and Grace had said her quick hellos to the regulars, she headed toward the drawing room, breezing through the open doorway. One of the attendants closed it behind her. A quick glance sized up the newcomers. A very nervous couple in their early thirties swinging for the first time, one rich corporate exec who enjoyed being dominated, a female out for adventure—newly divorced and extremely pissed off at her philandering ex-husband—and a dark, enigmatic man who caught her eye right away.
He slanted a gaze her way and smiled. His bio was unremarkable, and he came recommended by one of her best customers, Denver McKenzie. But what was his story? Mystery—she liked that in a man.
“Good evening, everyone. My name is Grace Wylde and I’m the owner of Wild Nights. I’m very happy you decided to join us and hope you find something to your liking at the club.”
One of the waitresses brought cocktails and handed them out. Grace took the glass of brandy Selena handed her. “Thank you, Selena.”
Grace settled into one of the single upholstered chairs set in a circle in the drawing room, took a swallow of brandy, then began.
“Wild Nights caters to anything and everything you could possibly desire, sexually, as long as it’s mutually consensual. Nothing is prohibited, as long as it’s legal. We do not tolerate drug use, pedophilia or bestiality or the use of nonconsensual force. If any of my staff is abused in any way, you will be promptly escorted from the premises and held outside until the police arrive. Please know that I
charges for assault on behalf of any of my staff members who are harmed. This is not a house of prostitution. No one is paid for their services. My staff like sexual pleasures and if they consent to have sex with you, then you are free to join them. You can also enjoy sex with any of the other guests at the club who agree to it. Safe sex is practiced and is a must—no exceptions. Condoms can be found in every room.
“There are many rooms and scenarios set up for your enjoyment, from straight sex to gay and lesbian, as well as fetishes, bondage and discipline, pain and torture, voyeurism and exhibitionism, ménage, oral and anal sex, masturbation…any one of a multitude of sexual pleasures await you.
“If you have any questions or concerns, my staff is set up throughout the club to assist you. You will see them wearing the appropriate Wild Nights shirts. There are video monitors set up in every room. Everything you do is watched. If you have a problem with that you are free to leave, but there is no corner, nook, cranny, closet, bathroom or room in this club that is not seen on video. This is for your protection as well as the safety of the staff.”
She finished her spiel and took a sip of brandy, letting what she’d said soak in before continuing. “Does anyone have questions?”
“What’s your favorite room?”
That from the tall, enigmatic man. Every night there was at least one like him who targeted her specifically. She could script it perfectly. As soon as she finished her speech he’d linger, hit on her, so confident in his own sexual prowess he’d expect her to select him as her partner for the evening. Granted, he was gorgeous. Well built, exuding sex appeal through midnight blue eyes that screamed sensuality.
But she chose her partners with care and she was never indiscriminate. This one had a lot to learn. She offered a half smile in response. “That, Mike, is my secret.”
He arched a brow, cracked a smile and nodded.
“Any other questions?”
No one spoke up. “Then enjoy your evening.”
As everyone stood to leave, she waited for him to approach, already prepared to let him down easy. She’d given her speech a thousand times before. She knew how to preserve a man’s ego.
But he surprised her, linking his arms with the single woman, whispering something in her ear that caused her to tilt her head back and laugh. Without even a backward glance in Grace’s direction, Mike Nottingham strolled from the room.
Grace was an expert at reading people, especially men. And she was never, ever incorrect. Her instincts were always right on. But she’d guessed wrong about Mike Nottingham.
Intriguing. Definitely intriguing.
* * *
Mike barely tuned in to the redhead on his arm,
blathering on about her ex-husband’s infidelities and how she was going to show him who could be wild and sexually crazy.
His mind, his entire body, was tuned into Grace Wylde.
Grace. Yeah, the name fit. She walked with it, talked with it—hell, she exuded it. He’d never seen a more beautiful woman. And he’d definitely been with his share of gorgeous ladies. But not one with raven hair and eyes the color of wild violets. Not one tall, slender, without the big tits and curvy body of a centerfold, but more like a ballerina. Small breasts, long legs, slim hips. She took his breath away, and it had been a damn long time since any woman had been able to do that.
His cock hardened just looking at her. She spoke of elegance, refined beauty, with a smoldering passion underneath just waiting to be uncovered.
And she was ready to blow him off in a millisecond. He’d sensed that when he’d asked her about her favorite room. He was no dumbass—he’d been playing this game far too long. The telltale smile gave her away. A woman like her must be hit on every night, and probably more
than once. There wasn’t a line she hadn’t heard or had a snappy comeback for.
Time for retreat and reconnaissance. Time to just watch and figure out how to approach without her throwing an obstacle in his way. Because he wanted more than just to fuck her. He liked hearing the sound of her voice. He wanted to know the hows and whys of her involvement with Wild Nights. She was intriguing.
And Mike hadn’t been intrigued in…
He wasn’t sure he’d ever been intrigued by a woman. This was a first.
Though she spent the next hour mingling with her
guests and making sure everyone was having a good time, Grace couldn’t help but keep one eye on Mike Nottingham.
She expected him to approach her. He hadn’t yet. He’d gone to the bar for a drink, spent some time talking to the bartender and a few of the staff, then hung out and chatted with some members. Not once had he sought her out or bothered her in any way.
For some odd reason, she was irritated by his seeming lack of interest. She
he was interested in her—her instincts were never wrong, dammit. He was simply playing it cool and waiting for the right moment to pounce.
She continued to perform her normal routine—stopping at tables to visit her regulars, answering a question or two from those who approached her, even dancing with men or women who asked. As owner and hostess, she made herself available to her clientele, within reason of course. Anyone who came here on a regular basis knew her sexual
boundaries. She did the choosing, and in that she was very particular. Partaking of the club’s activities was a rare occurrence. Typically she liked to keep her own sexuality private, her partners anonymous.
But periodically she’d dally at the club. It was good for business. Patrons liked to see her taking part in the club’s amenities. It fueled their fantasies of her. She knew it, the staff knew it, they all played it up.
She wasn’t going to dally with Mike Nottingham, though. Mainly because it’s what he wanted. And she never catered to men. They catered to her. It was part of her mystique. She did the choosing. She smiled at that.
“You have a beautiful smile.”
She didn’t jerk in surprise at the sound of Mike Nottingham’s voice behind her. She knew he’d come around.
“Like a cat who just ate a bowl of cream.”
Her smile didn’t die. In fact, she kept it on when she turned to face him. Like it or not, he was a client. “Thank you. Are you having a good time?”
“Yes. You’ve created a hell of a niche market here.”
“We stay busy.”
“I can imagine.”
He wasn’t crowding her or invading her personal space. She liked that. Most men targeting her invaded her space and she hated feeling cornered. He kept a respectable distance, one hand holding his glass, the other resting on the bar.
“Find anything to your liking yet?” she asked.
He laughed. “Grace, everything here is to my liking. I love sex. That’s why I’m here.”
“Ah. Honesty. That’s refreshing.” His southern drawl was sexy. Rolling off his deep, husky voice, it singed her nerve endings. How long had it been since she’d played? Too long.
“But I like to take my time before I choose. I don’t like to rush into anything.”
He nodded. “I might just want to look around tonight. I’m in no hurry.”
Also different than a lot of the men who came here, usually with a hard-on before they came through the door, their cocks out before they moved from the bar to the playrooms. They’d have their dicks in the first willing woman before Grace could blink.
Maybe Mike got laid often. Though she got the idea he wasn’t just after pussy, that he had more adventurous tastes.
“Any particular play you have in mind? Can I help you with something?”
He slanted a half-lidded gaze at her that admittedly got her panties wet. Practiced? Maybe. But either way, it worked.
“I haven’t been to the playrooms yet, so I can’t really say. I’ll have to take a look around and see if anything gets me hard. But thank you for the offer.”
The man smoldered. What would be wrong with a little one on one with him? He was damn fine looking and her pussy was quivering. She made no apologies to anyone for her sexuality so what was holding her back? When she found a guy she wanted to fuck and she was in the mood, she went for it.
“Let me show you around.”
His brows arched and he dipped his chin to look down at her. “Sure.” He held his arm out and she took it, guiding him through the double doors from the main room into the playrooms, cognizant of how tall he was. She wasn’t short by any stretch of the imagination, but Mike made her feel…petite.
His body was warm and he smelled…God, he smelled great. Like a fresh shower, not like those men who doused themselves in sickening cologne that gave her a headache. Mike smelled like soap. She breathed him in as they strolled down the hallway.
“Each room is marked so you know what it is before going in,” she explained, pointing to the door marked, “Masturbation.”
“Do you enjoy touching yourself?” he asked, his voice dropping down an octave.
Her nipples tightened. “Very much. Do you?”
“Every chance I get.”
Verbal foreplay had always excited her. She paused and turned, tilting her head back so she could look at his eyes. “How do you do it? Only at home, or elsewhere?”
His lips curled in a knowing smile that made her want to climb on top of him and kiss him. “Like I said, every chance I get. At home, in the car, at work, outside…anywhere I get the urge, as long as I don’t get caught.”
She nodded and inhaled, her mind filled with visuals of him pleasuring himself. “Me, too. Sometimes I’ll do it four or five times a day. Here at work, in the car when I’m driving somewhere. I even did it in my doctor’s office one day. They make you wait so long in those exam rooms, though it really doesn’t take me long to get myself off.”
“Everyone knows their own body well. It’s easy to make yourself come.”
“I’d love to watch you give yourself an orgasm.”
“I might like showing you.” She turned and moved down the hallway, recognizing her body’s signals. Flushed, breasts swollen, her nipples pebbling against her dress. Her panties were soaked and sticking to her moist cunt.
Yes, she was definitely going to have to play with Mike tonight. She needed an orgasm. Or five or six. She chanced a glance at his mouth as they moved to the next room, wondering how his full lips would feel latched on to her clit. Her pussy quivered and she wanted to stop right there, lift her skirt and let him lick her.
She hadn’t had it this bad in a long time. She should have masturbated before she came to work tonight. Instead, she’d gotten involved in paperwork, gone to the gym for a lengthy workout, then had to hurry up and shower so she wouldn’t be late. Now she was edgy and uncomfortable and in desperate need of release. Though the anticipation of what would happen tonight was nice.
“Spanking room?” she asked as they walked by yet another.
He grinned. “That could be fun.”
She glanced down at his hands and felt a tingle of anticipation at the thought of them wandering over her ass. They moved on down the hallway and she nodded at a couple women who worked for her. They sized up Mike, their eyes widening with distinct interest. Not that she could blame them. With his dark good looks and lean, well-toned body, he was a prime specimen. He walked in a barely leashed predatory manner that she found quite compelling since it wasn’t affected at all, but natural. He offered a friendly acknowledgment to the women, but kept his attention focused on Grace.
“Same-sex rooms ahead,” she said.
“Fun to watch but I’m completely hetero.”
“What do you like, then?”
“Just about everything you’ll suggest. That’s why I’m here.”
She had an idea he’d respond that way. “Been there, done that, in other words?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t exactly been a monk in the past.”
“I’m sure I could find something here to tempt you.”
“Only if your name is Eve and you’re holding an apple in your hand.”
Now it was her turn to laugh. She stopped and turned to him. “I’m the challenge every man who comes to Wild Nights wants, Mike. But I’m not a prize.”
Now he did lean in, though just enough to tantalize her with his scent. “No, you’re not. You’re a treasure worth exploring. A prize is something to show off in front of everyone. I don’t see you like that.”
“No. A man should take his time with a woman like you. But not here.”
He shook his head. “Someplace private, where we can get to know each other, explore each other. Without you being on display.”
Okay, now she was really impressed. The typical man who pursued her wanted to show her off like a trophy, like they’d just won the lottery and she was the grand-prize fuck. They always suggested one of the showcase rooms, where they could exhibit their prowess in screwing the owner of Wild Nights. Total turnoff Grace didn’t mind a little exhibitionism, but on her terms, and she didn’t want to be shown off like a prize deer during hunting season.
Which made Mike different than most men.
“Come with me.” She held out her hand and led him down another hallway, through the door and to an elevator marked “Private.” They passed some staff members along the way.
“David, I’m heading up to my suite. Please let the managers know where I can be reached in case of emergency.”
David nodded. “Of course, Grace. Have a nice time.”
She intended to. Mike had piqued her curiosity Now she wanted some time to talk to see if her instincts about him were right. She punched the code and the elevator door opened. Mike stayed silent on the ride up to her penthouse. One of the advantages to living where she worked was that there was no commute. When she wanted some privacy all she had to do was take a short ride and she was home.
“Nice place,” Mike said as they stepped inside her suite.
“Thank you.” She didn’t need to live extravagantly, preferring to put her money back into the club and bank the rest of the profits for later on. She didn’t intend to be in this business forever. But she loved the view of Las Vegas afforded by the floor-to-ceiling windows in her living room, and the privacy of living high above the city.
Her décor was simple—beige and black. Nothing fussy. Standard furniture, comfortable couches and tables and chairs. She liked her living space livable—not pretentious.
“Would you like a drink?”
He stepped to the window. “Whatever you’re having is fine.”
She poured two brandies and handed one to him. “I love this view. Frenetic pace, dazzling lights, absolute madness down there. But still, it relaxes me.” She took a sip of her drink, feeling it burn its way down and warm her.
“It’s home to you. Anything that’s home is relaxing.”
She motioned him to the couch in front of the window, kicked off her shoes and sat, curling her legs under her. “Tell me what’s home to you.”
“Oklahoma. I’m a veterinarian. Own a practice with my best friend. We’ve been partners since our college days. I have a house in a small town and that’s where I kick back and get away from it all.”
“And you obviously love animals.”
“Yeah, I do.” He took a long swallow of the brandy. She watched his throat move as he tilted his head back. “I have a couple dogs and I’d eventually like to own a horse ranch.”
Grace stared out the window. “I’ve never been on a horse in my life. But I’d love to ride someday.”
“Come visit me sometime. I’ll take you for a ride.”
“I’ll just bet you would.” She teased, imagining the kind of ride Mike would take her on. “But I’m serious about the horses. I’ve always loved animals but I never had any pets.”
She shrugged. “My parents never allowed us to have any, and after I moved away from home my lifestyle wasn’t conducive to keeping one.”
“That’s too bad. I was brought up around animals. I grew up on a farm.”
“Are you from Las Vegas?”
She laughed. “Oh, God no. I’m from Kentucky.”
He arched a brow. “No trace of an accent.”
“I left home at eighteen. That was a while ago. There’s no part of the Kentucky girl left in me.”
He reached out and grabbed a tendril of hair from the side of her face, letting it slide through his fingers. “You know what they say. You can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.”
“Trust me. This girl has no country left in her. I left their morality and their holier-than-thou standards and prejudices on the doorstep the day I walked out. There’s nothing of them left in me.”
His voice was soft. No accusation. “Not at all. I just didn’t want what they were selling.”
Mike nodded. “Now, that I understand. Those who preach one thing and practice another.”
“Exactly.” She took another drink and sighed, wondering why she’d revealed so much about herself to a stranger. She never talked about her past with anyone. Some of her close friends at Wild Nights didn’t know where she’d come from. “Your glass is empty Let me refill it.” She reached for his glass, but he laid his hand over hers.
“I’m fine right now, thanks.” He laid his glass on the side table, but didn’t let go of her hand. His thumb drew lazy circles over her palm. The sensation was wild. Amazing for someone as jaded as her. It was just her hand. She usually needed much more stimulation to get her going.
“I’m not promising you anything by this,” she said, needing him to understand.
His lips curled in a wicked, sexy half smile. “I just want to spend time with you, Grace. There are plenty of women I can fuck. I like you. I like talking to you. Just relax, okay?”
“Sorry. I’m used to meeting men whose sole objective is to fuck the panties right off me. It’s a defense mechanism to set the ground rules right away.”
“Consider them set. No promises. I won’t ask you to bear my children or move to Oklahoma with me tomorrow.”
She snorted. Dear God, when was the last time she did that? “That was funny.” He was right. She needed to lighten up.
“How long have you lived out here?” he asked, content to roll right back into talking.
“Ten years. I came out here right out of high school. Went to college and worked nights to support myself.”
“Damn hard life for a kid all alone.”
She shrugged. “I managed. I made friends and scored a couple really well-paying jobs. I knew exactly what I wanted.”
“Pretty impressive for someone so young.”
“It’s important to have goals.”
“And what were your goals?”
“To start up Wild Nights.”
His brows lifted. “You knew even then?”
She nodded. “I grew up in a repressed family. Sexuality wasn’t discussed. The town I lived in was littered with hypocrites who preached abstinence and morality and practiced adultery and indiscriminate sex. It was ludicrous.”
“And you were confused as hell, I imagine.”
She nodded. “Understatement. I had this raging libido and everyone telling me that what I felt inside was bad, evil. And it wasn’t bad. I knew it wasn’t. How could something that felt so good be wrong? What was so bad about expressing one’s sexuality?”
“I was determined to get the hell out of there before I ended up pregnant and married and trapped at eighteen. No way was I going the route of so many of my friends. They were brainwashed into believing that bullshit. I knew I was destined for something else. I felt stifled there and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to make a run for it.
“So as soon as I graduated high school I packed up and left. I’d worked a part-time job in school and banked every spare cent I could. Enough for a bus ticket to Las Vegas and money to last a month. I was lucky—I landed a job and a place to live and worked my ass off in school and at work for several years, with my eye always on the prize.”
She smiled. “Wild Nights.”
“So you’ve realized your dream, Grace. Are you content?”
She started to answer with a yes, then realized no one had ever asked her that question before.
Was she content with her life? Could she honestly say she was happy?
“Truthfully, Mike? I don’t know.”
Mike was surprised at Grace’s honesty. And absolutely
stunned by her. Everything about her. Her story, her beauty. Her tenacity and drive.
“You’re an amazing woman, Grace. You’ve put your life on hold to realize your dream.”
“My dream is my life. Or at least it has been for the past twelve years.”
“I did the same thing with my practice. Between school and setting up my business, there wasn’t room for anything else for a long time.”
“But you’ve found time to play, haven’t you?” she asked, shifting on the couch so she could draw nearer to him.
He knew what she was doing. She was trying to change the subject because she felt like she’d revealed too much. Fair enough. He owed her for her honesty.
“I’ve played plenty. Too much, I think.”
She stilled, then leaned back a little, frowning. “Too much?”
“I’ve played the game for so many years I think I’ve become desensitized to it all. So I find myself looking for the next big thrill, and finally coming to realize there isn’t one.”
She relaxed her shoulders. “Ah. Yes, I understand.”
“I’ve done it all, Grace. It’s hard to get excited about it anymore. It’s like I’m pushing the sexual envelope, looking for the next conquest before I’ve even finished the one I’m with.”
“And it’s not fun anymore,” she replied, nodding.
He laughed. “Well, sex is always fun. But lately it’s been a little…unsatisfying.”
She crossed her arms. “I know the feeling.”
“Really?” He couldn’t believe he was telling her this. Or that she of all people was a kindred spirit. Grace was like a shrink—easy to talk to. He didn’t really spend a lot of time talking to women. When he was alone with a woman, talking typically wasn’t something they did. Then again, she was a stranger. A beautiful, intelligent, eloquent stranger, and different from most of the women he knew.
After tonight he’d never see her again, so why not? It wasn’t like he had anyone else remotely close to open up to about things like sex. No way would his male friends understand how a man who got as much pussy as he did could possibly be dissatisfied with his sex life.
“People always wonder about me,” she said. “Why I opened this club. How I must have suffered some sexual trauma that made me want to explore the wild side of sex, when the truth of the matter is, I always felt sex should be openly celebrated. I’ve always enjoyed it. There is no dark history in my life—no rape, no incest, no horrors in my past that caused me to want to investigate my deviant side. I just love sex. That’s why I moved here and started this club.
“As I mentioned, I was dissatisfied with those who preached morality that sex was something to be hidden as if it were bad. There’s nothing bad about sex as long as it’s consensual.
“But the problem is, when you engage in so much open and free sexuality, when you can have anything you want anytime you want it, you become desensitized to it. Then what does it take to be satisfied?”
“Is that why you don’t partake of the fun and games at Wild Nights?” he asked, curious whether it was choice or just part of the mystique.
She shifted, stared out at the lights of Las Vegas again. “Partly. I have responsibilities at the club and if I spend all my time engaged, I can’t cater to my clientele. But yes, I’ve also become a bit jaded. I used to play a lot more than I do now. Because I’ve done it all. It doesn’t have the allure it once did.”
“When you’ve experienced everything, and more than once, there’s no thrill.”
She looked at him. “Yes. That’s it exactly. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever find the one man who’ll be able to touch me the way no man has been able to touch me before.”
He smiled. “Oh, that guy.”
“The perfect man. He doesn’t exist.”
She returned his smile. “Nor does that perfect woman you’re looking for.”
“We’re both alike, Grace. Looking for something or someone who can’t be found.”
“So what do we do about that?”
God she was beautiful. Her hair shined like blue-black magic in the lights from the strip. The silk of her skirt and top clung to her body like shrink-wrap, molding to her breasts and hips. He wanted a taste, a touch, to sink inside her and see if she held the magic key to what was missing in his life. He hadn’t felt this comfortable with a woman in too long.
Or maybe he just wanted to avoid what was going on downstairs. Maybe it didn’t have the allure he thought it would. In that, he’d been honest with her.
What he really wanted to explore was sitting right next to him. Grace had fired his engines in a big way. Her intellect, her free spirit, her honesty and her beauty—all of them intrigued him more than any woman had in a long time.
“One night. Give me one night with you. No promises other than enjoying each other.”
“We both know we’re not going to find what we’re looking for,” she said, her gaze betraying nothing of her emotions at the moment.
“I know, but I like being with you. Isn’t that enough?”
“I’ve been honest with you, Grace. That’s really all I can offer.”
He watched her face as she absorbed his words, wondering if she’d toss him out and deny him, and herself, a chance for a night together. She knew him. Okay, that was wrong. She didn’t know
, but he figured she knew hundreds of guys just like him. Men who’d had lots of women. She probably thought he was looking at her as just another conquest.