Home > My Sinful Love (Sinful Men #4)

My Sinful Love (Sinful Men #4)
Author: Lauren Blakely

1

 

 

Michael

 

 

The letter smelled like her. Like rain.

I ran my thumb over the corner of the paper and closed my eyes briefly. Memories rose to the surface, bringing with them feelings of hope and possibility.

Things that were far too risky when it came to her.

I shut them down, opened my eyes, and stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows of my penthouse on the Strip, trying to focus on the here and now, not the enticing lure of what-if. Tonight the lights of Vegas would blink like a carnival unfolding below, from the miniature Eiffel Tower, to the pyramid, to the blazing signs adorning The Cosmopolitan. Neon, glitz, and billboards ten stories high proclaimed the best night ever.

But I had to stay fixed on the minute details of the present, not be seduced by the past and how good it was, or of how much I’d longed for a future with her.

I wasn’t having the easiest time of that. From my vantage point, twenty stories above the concrete ribbon that beckoned millions of tourists, I brought the letter to my nose for one final inhale.

The scent of falling rain.

Try as I might to fight it, a reel of sensory images rushed back from years ago, like the snap, snap, snap of old film. How many times had I kissed Annalise in the rain? Brushed her wild red hair off her cheeks and touched her soft skin? Listened to her laugh?

Countless. Just like the times my mind had lingered on her over the last eighteen years, including that heartbreaking day in Marseilles, which had damn near slaughtered all my hopes in the world.

Carefully, I folded up the letter, slid it back into the tiny envelope postmarked from France, and stuffed it into my wallet next to a crinkled, faded, threadbare note from my father that I carried with me always. Her letter had arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I’d read it a thousand times already. I could read it a thousand more, but it wouldn’t change my answer—the same one I’d emailed back to her.

Yes.

It was always yes with her.

 

Dear Michael,

 

 

I hope this note finds you well. I will be in Las Vegas for business in a few weeks. I would love to see you again. Would you like to have a coffee with me? Come to think of it, do you drink coffee now? If memory serves, you were never fond of it. Perhaps tea, or water, or martinis at midday? Any, all, or some would be lovely.

 

 

My information is below so you can respond. I would have emailed, but a letter seemed more fitting. And, truth be told, easier to ignore, should that be your preference.

 

 

Though I will be wishing to see your name pop up in my email soon.

 

 

xoxo

 

 

Annalise

 

 

As if I stood a chance of not emailing her. As if there were any universe, parallel, perpendicular, or otherwise, where I wouldn’t take her up on her offer for coffee, tea, liquor, or a few minutes in a café.

Any, all, or some.

I turned away from the midday view of the city I loved and headed to the stereo system above my flat-screen, piping music through my home. This Sunday afternoon, following a long, hard run and an even longer workout at the gym, I’d cued up my favorite playlist as I got ready to see her, methodically picking songs I’d discovered in the last few years, rather than the music I’d shared with her when we were younger.

Not that I didn’t still love my late ’90s tunes. I just knew I’d be a goner if I let myself trip that far back in time.

I turned off the fading guitar riff, and silence descended on my home.

I grabbed my keys and my phone from the entryway table, locked the door, and headed down the hall, wishing my pulse wasn’t already competing in a race.

The ride down the elevator was both interminable and not long enough. Anticipation curled through me as I left my high-rise building, crossed the big intersection, and headed toward Las Vegas Boulevard. The air had cooled—September had rolled into my hometown. This brief walk in the crisp air would surely quell the nerves that bounced in my chest.

I didn’t want to feel them. Nor did I want to experience this wild sense of hope rattling in me like a marble sliding down a chute. Dragging a hand through my hair, I tried to focus on anything but her.

Later this afternoon I had a meeting with a client, then this evening I’d review some new contracts for work. Sometime this week I’d meet with the detective working my father’s case, touching base with him before I left for a trip. I also needed to check in with the private investigator.

My phone bleated from my back pocket, and I grabbed it quickly. My friend Mindy’s name flashed across the screen. “Hey there,” I said, while winding my way through the throngs of visitors on the sidewalk.

“Whatcha wearing?” she singsonged. “Wait. Don’t tell me. You went for your favorite jeans and a lucky T-shirt.”

I laughed. “I assure you I don’t have a lucky T-shirt.”

“Well, you should. I would get on that right away.”

“Duly noted. I’ll order up one lucky T-shirt after this meeting.”

“Meeting. You make it sound so businesslike.”

“How should I make it sound?”

“Like you’ve been counting down the hours for this since you received the letter,” she said, making the note sound ominous. An information Hoover, Mindy had a way of wheedling details out of me ever since we’d graduated from professional colleagues to good friends over the summer when we’d paired up on a moonlighting project.

“Speaking of counting down the hours, I’ll see you early evening still?” I asked, sidestepping her far too accurate assessment of how I’d measured the time since Annalise’s missive had arrived.

“Yup. I’ll be there at five. I fully expect you to tell me every dirty detail.”

“There won’t be any dirty details.”

She scoffed. “Oh, I bet there will, and I plan on extracting them all.”

“Goodbye, Mindy,” I said.

The thought of seeing Annalise Delacroix had pretty much played on a loop in my mind since I’d flipped through the mail on my desk a couple of weeks ago, the lavender envelope sliding from the top of the pile into my palm, the past thundering into the present. I had a shoebox full of her letters from years ago. I hadn’t looked at them in ages though. I couldn’t bring myself to chuck them, but I also wasn’t interested in inflicting the kind of self-torture that reading them would bring.

I threaded through the crowds outside the Bellagio as sprays of water from the fountains arced in their daytime ballet, shoes clicking against the stone pathway that curved around the man-made lake and took me inside the hotel lobby, with its marble floors, glass sculptures, and grand archways.

As I cut a path toward the casino floor, I tried to pretend I was here for business. Meeting a potential client. Seeing an old friend. But the way my heart tried to torpedo out of my skin, I was going to need some much better tricks.

When I reached the hostess stand at the upscale Petrossian Bar, I simply resigned myself to the storm brewing inside. Besides, how else was I supposed to feel right before I was about to see—as my brother Ryan had so aptly called her—my what-if girl?

“Like this,” I muttered to myself. Like a case of what-if bombs had exploded inside my chest.

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