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.“Let’s do this, little buddy,” I say to my new plastic companion.I spend a full two days just wandering up and down the Las Vegas strip, staring up at all of the bizarre, outlandish sights.There’s something very strange about Vegas in the daytime.Walking out of my apartment in the morning feels a bit like waking up to find that I’ve accidentally fallen asleep on the playground.The people I pass on the sidewalks are of every type imaginable.There are put-together executive types, eccentrics, teenagers.But mostly, they’re a bunch of lost children, just like me.Once I finally manage to talk myself into using my new credit card, I find that shopping isn’t at all as terrible as I remember it to be.I treat myself to an entire new wardrobe, just like Declan instructed me to do.I’ve only ever shopped at preppy, suburban mall staple stores my entire life.But here? It’s one designer boutique after another.I stock up on slinky evening dresses, sleek business attire, and well-made everyday essentials.In a particularly daring moment, I even snag myself some wickedly naughty lingerie.“Is this for someone special?” the shopgirl asks, boxing up my new black lace corset.“God willing,” I grin, handing her my card to swipe.“He’s a lucky man, whoever he is,” she whistles.“I’m the lucky one,” I reply, “That is, if I can land him.”“If you don’t mind my saying so,” she says, looking me up and down, “I think you’ll be just fine.”But there’s more to the city than shopping, of course.The rest of my time is spent taking advantage of my new building’s rooftop pool, the excellent spas that are hidden all over town, and having every imaginable cuisine available, whenever I want it.But while I spend plenty of evenings gazing out of my tinted glass windows at the teeming nightlife below, I just can’t seem to make myself brave the unknown territory of the casinos.My gambling streak is thick.Insatiable.Even knowing how badly things can go when you take big risks, I still have the urge.I’m terrified of letting that part of me loose.but I still want to so badly it hurts.There’s got to be a way to take risks without getting burned.Though perhaps it’s the thought of getting burned that makes gambling such a thrill.Kelly calls to check up on me every night that Declan is gone.She’s kind of like a worried big sister.It’s pretty adorable.“You’re not too lonely, are you?” she asks, the night before Declan is set to return.“I’m doing OK,” I assure her, looking down onto the busy street below.“I’ve stocked up on some very fine whiskey and some even finer chocolates.So my night is pretty much taken care of.”“I’m glad you’re comfortable and all,” Kelly says over the phone, “But when are you going to get out there and start having some fun?”“I am having fun,” I mumble around a mouthful of chocolate truffle.“You know what I mean,” Kelly says.“As soon as Declan’s back, I’m sure I’ll feel more comfortable taking the city by storm,” I tell my best friend.“Ah, I see,” she replies.I can hear her grin through the phone, “Kassenia Bennett, you are pining right now.”“I’m not pining!” I retort, looking guiltily around at my booze and candy.Oh, dear God.I am totally pining.“I thought the whole summer romance thing was out of the question with him,” Kelly says, “Aren’t you contractually bound not to fall in love with this guy?”“Who said anything about falling in love?” I scoff, “I mean, hey, I want to jump the guy’s bones.But since when do love and sex have to go hand in hand? You said so yourself.”“Good point,” Kelly allows, “Just make sure you keep them separate, Kassie.I know how strong you are, but the whole virginity thing.it can be complicated, sleeping with someone for the first time.People get attached to their firsts, you know.”“I think I can handle it,” I say, rolling my eyes.“OK,” Kelly sighs, “Just be careful, is all.You play it tough, but I know you’ve got a soft, squishy, breakable heart under that armor of yours.Just like the rest of us.”She’s right, of course.For all my posturing, I’m still vulnerable.I’ll bruise if beaten, break if bent too far.But I have to stop letting the fear of getting hurt keep me from all the best things in life.I know too well how short life can be.And I don’t intend to waste another minute of my own.I hear the elevator ding to a stop on our floor early the next afternoon.I’ve been pacing all around my suite, waiting for Declan’s return.I have to restrain myself from flying out the door the second I hear him head into his apartment.How can I have missed someone so much, after only knowing him for a few days?“You’ve really got a hold on me, Tiberi,” I mutter, tapping my fingertips impatiently against the kitchen counter.I’ve slipped into a pale yellow sundress today, and even dared to apply some of my fancy new makeup.I want Declan to see the fruits of his spending limit the second he walks in the door.My hair hangs in loose waves over my wing-like shoulder blades, and a pair of strappy white sandals completes the look.When I finally hear his knock at the door, my heart nearly bulldozes through my chest.“Kassie?” he calls, in his rich, irresistible voice, “Are you decent?”“Yep!” I reply, perching myself on the edge of a chic chaise lounge.The front door swings open, and Declan steps over the threshold.His curls are windswept, and his face is just a tiny bit tanner than when he left.He wears his Dante’s Nine cut over a white tee, and rocks a pair of sinfully wet-fitted black jeans.He looks fortified, somehow.More alive than ever.Where has he been that’s had such an effect on him?“Well, look at you!” he crows, crossing his arms appreciatively.“I took your advice and did a little shopping,” I say, arching my back ever-so-slightly, “What do you think?”“You look amazing,” he says, his voice husky.“Thanks.So.do you,” I bumble, unsure of how to accept his praise.“Yeah right,” he laughs, “I just climbed off my bike three seconds ago.”“Well, it works for you,” I say, rising to my feet.I can feel his eyes on me as I cross to the kitchen, letting my hips sway just a bit more than they usually would.“Do you want anything?” I ask him, “Coffee? Tea?”“Do I look like a tea drinker to you?” he chuckles.“What I mean is, no thanks.Besides, we’ve got to get a move on.The family’s waiting.”“Oh, great!” I reply, smoothing down my pastel skirt, “I’m ready to go whenever you—what? What is it?”Declan’s doubled over, laughing like mad.“No way.am I letting you meet my brothers.dressed like that,” he cackles.I look down at my outfit, self-conscious.I was only trying to look nice for him, and now I feel like an idiot for it.“I’m sorry,” he chuckles, coming towards me, “But pretty and polished is not exactly what these guys are used to.”“What would you suggest, then?” I ask, planting a hand on my hip.“Surprise me,” he grins, brushing a stray lock of hair out of my eyes.My knees turn to rubber at this most subtle touch.I snap my fallen jaw back into place and march off to my bedroom.He wants to see what a little girl from Fairfield wears to a biker bar? Fine.Challenge accepted.I start digging through my new duds and set to work on my brand new image.When I reemerge, my coy little act is dropped.What was I thinking, playing the wilting flower for this guy? That’s not who I am.Not who I want to be [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]