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Book cover of woman's legs with red heels. Text reading What Happens in Vegas a short steamy romance by Mariah Ankenman

What Happens in Vegas

By Mariah Ankenman

Copyright © 2021 by Mariah Ankenman. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.


Chapter 1

“What the hell are you doing in my bed?”

Emily Flannery winced as the shrill sound of her own voice pierced her ears. Her head pounded, punishing her for the volume of speech…and the pitcher of daiquiris she’d imbibed last night with her best friend Tess. Rude of it to be upset. It had been her BFF’s bachelorette party. Copious amounts of alcohol were a requirement.

“First of all, I’m not in your bed. You’re in mine.” The sleep roughened voice answered her. “And second, take it down a few notches. That pitch has got to be hurting your head.”

She glared at the annoying man in her bed. Scratch that, his bed that she happened to be in. She would be more freaked out if she didn’t know the guy who she apparently slept next to last night.

Unfortunately, she did.

Sucking in a deep, calming breath, she did her best to ignore her throbbing head and lowered her voice so as not to upset the drummer who had decided to take up residence in her frontal lobe.

“Gray, why am I in your bed?”

Grayson Stone, big brother of her BFF and all-around pain in Emily’s ass opened one dark brown eye and grinned. That smile always did annoying things to her heart. Like make it beat faster and wish for things that would never happen.

“I came to grab you all at the designated time. Delivered Tess to Prisha and then tried to take you back to your room, but you insisted on coming to mine to,” his smile went wolfish. “And I quote ‘have a chat.’”

So her bestie was safe with her fiancé, that was good. Emily would have felt like a terrible maid-of-honor if she’d failed to deliver the bride-to-be safely after the party. She vaguely remembered Gray picking them up from the hotel bar, walking them up to the rooms. Her head revolted as she tried hard to focus, bringing up the hazy memories of last night. What the hell had she wanted to talk to him about?

“You pushed your way into my room—”

“I did not!” she protested, immediately regretting the brash tone when a sharp spike of pain exploded behind her right eye.

“You did, Em,” he chuckled.

Oh crap, she did! It was all coming back to her now. Dropping Tess off to her future wife’s room, insisting Gray take her back here so she could tell him—

“You yelled at me for a solid ten minutes.”

Oh no, her face heated as the words floated back to her consciousness.

She couldn’t have.

She wouldn’t have.

Her heart beat a rapid tempo, competing with her head to see which organ would kill her first. Please oh please on everything in the universe, please don’t let her have said…

“You berated me for being too sexy and tempting and demanded I stop it that instant.”


Fisting the blanket in her hands, she pulled it up over her head. Her entire body flushed with embarrassment, adding to the already sweltering heat under the covers. Didn’t matter, she’d rather die of heatstroke under this down comforter than see the smug, smiling face of Gray. What the hell, brain? How had she let the secret crush she’d held onto for ten years slip out like that?

“I was drunk, nothing I said held any truth to it,” she said through the blanket.

His laughter was muffled by her embarrassment cocoon.

“I’m sorry, what was that? I can’t hear you under there.”

Irritation overriding her mortification, she shoved down the covers to give him a piece of her mind. The words stuck in her throat as she noticed a few things. The first was that Gray looked irritatingly sexy with his sleep rumpled dark brown hair. Seriously, it wasn’t fair how men could have hair that looked good without even trying. It took her three different products and a flat iron to get hers to appear even passable.

Next, she noticed while she was under the covers, Gray lay on top of the bed, fully clothed. The only thing he wasn’t wearing was his shoes. What the hell happened last night? They obviously hadn’t…done anything.

Her heart sunk a little at that realization even as her brain reminded her that was a good thing. Gray didn’t see her that way, and even if he did, she would hate to have their first time together be one she couldn’t remember.

Ha! First time.

She held back a snort of laughter. As if they would ever have any time. Gray made it very clear over the years how he felt about her. She was his sister’s best friend. Nothing more. The man was a world-class flirt, but he’d never once made a pass at her.

Peaking under the covers she noticed she wasn’t wearing her clothing from last night. The tightfitting black bodycon dress had been replaced by a large, soft, white cotton t-shirt. Gray’s? Most likely, considering this was his room. She tilted her head down to take an inconspicuous inhalation. Warm calmness enveloped her as the familiar scent of Gray’s body wash and aftershave wafted up from the garment.

A soft chuckle drew her attention. Heat burned her cheeks as she realized Gray caught her sneaking a sniff. Fantastic. Could this morning get any worse?

“Why am I wearing your shirt?”

His smile dropped, concern filling his eyes. “You had a pain flare last night.”

Shit! It could get worse. Of course, on top of all her drunken secret spouting, her stupid body would have to go ahead and give her a flare-up. Fibromyalgia was a real bitch. Most days she could handle her chronic illness, but she hated it when she had a flare-up in front of others. A lot of people didn’t understand invisible illnesses. They figured if they couldn’t see it, it had to be fake, right?

If she had a dollar for every time someone told her she was lying about her pain…she wouldn’t have her student loans anymore, that was for sure. She’d learned long ago to hide her pain from others. They never understood. Only those closest to her knew how bad it could really get. Over the years, Gray had seen her at her worst more than once. As much as she hated having anyone see her like that—let alone the man she had a thing for—Gray had never doubted her pain. Maybe because he knew what it was like. Being a physical therapist, he saw people in pain every day.

But she didn’t want him to see her as another patient. She wanted him to see her as a desirable woman.

“You couldn’t take any of your medication because you had some drinks, so I gave you a massage to help with the pain. You changed into my shirt because your dress didn’t allow me access to your legs.”

Right, now she remembered. The pain, the tears. Oh crap, she’d cried in front of Gray! She could scratch desirable off the table forever.

Swallowing down a giant chunk of humiliation, she stared at her hands, refusing to meet his gaze. “Thank you. I appreciate the help.”

“Of course.” His voice softened, his fingertips gently grasping her chin and turning her head until she met his gaze. “How are you feeling this morning?”

Embarrassed, mortified, dejected, and like her head has been put through the blender the bartender used last night. 

“I’m fine.”

He stared, searching her face, but she wasn’t giving anything up. Yes, she felt like crap, due to the alcohol and the remnants of last night’s flare-up, but her best friend was getting married today so she was going to suck it up and pretend she got eight restful hours of sleep last night because—

“Shit! What time is it?”

She scrambled to the bedside table to check the alarm clock.

“It’s fine, Em. We still have five hours until the wedding.”

She tossed an annoyed glance his way, hopping out of the bed and scanning the hotel room for her clothing. “Yes, and as Tess’s maid of honor, it’s my job to help her get ready.”

He laughed. “It takes five hours to get ready?”

“It’s a wedding!” Where the hell was her dress?

Gray rose from the bed, walking with a sure and steady gait, and disappeared into the bathroom. When he emerged, he had her dress and shoes in his hand.

“It’s a Vegas wedding and they’re getting married by Elvis.”

She snatched the items from his grasp, muttering a thank you as she made her way to the bathroom to change. Shouting through the closed door, “It’s the happiest day of their lives, and your sister and her future wife will take as long as they please.”

Fully dressed, she decided to forgo the heels from last night. After a flare-up, the last thing she wanted to wear was three-inch stilettoes. She breathed out a sigh of gratitude that Tess picked cute ballet flats for Emily to wear at the ceremony today. Heading out of the bathroom, she debated the risk of running down the hotel hall to her room barefoot. They vacuumed the carpet daily, right? It couldn’t be that gross.

She paused in her rush to the door when Gray stepped in her way, holding up a pair of large flipflops.

“Here, don’t go out there barefoot, trust me.”

She took the shoes from him, her heart doing a little flip flop at his gesture. Of course, he would know she couldn’t wear heels today. He knew too much about her, which was exactly the problem. To him, she was just another person to take care of. Even an entire night in his bed hadn’t turned Emily into a sexual being in Gray’s eyes.

Though she wished it had.

“Thank you,” she cleared her throat, dropping the shoes to the floor and slipping them on. “I have to go, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell your sister about…any of this.”

She didn’t want to ruin her bestie’s day by admitting she drunkenly made a pass at Tess’s brother only to be waylaid by a pain attack. Yeah, that was the rom-com moment no girl dreamed of.

He grinned, a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he winked. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Chapter 2

“I can’t believe he fake cried and said, ‘I’m all shook up’ after they kissed.”

Gray chuckled at Emily’s muttered disbelief. “What did you expect from an Elvis officiant?”

She snorted, grabbing her glass of champagne and taking a small sip before answering, “In all the years I’ve known Tess I’ve come to expect the unexpected. It’s why she’s the best.”

He’d cheers to that.

Lifting his glass, he lightly tapped Emily’s, grateful his sister had such a loving and sweet best friend. If only the feelings he had toward her were anything close to sweet.

For years Gray had been pushing down his attraction toward Emily. Ever since the first day his sister introduced them when he’d come home from college for winter break. Even at eighteen, she’d been a knockout. Long dark hair, bright amber eyes, and a smile that could light up the entire city. But she’d been eighteen to his twenty-one. Some people might not have seen that as an issue, but he felt like a perv being in college lusting after a high schooler.

Not to mention she’d been his sister’s best friend. Her only friend at the time. Tess was amazing, but her social anxiety made connecting with people tough. When Emily showed up, offering unconditional friendship to his amazing sister—who’d had trouble making friends her entire life—Gray could have loved her for that alone. Then he got to know her and…

He shook his head.

Now was not the time to be thinking about Emily. This was his sister’s wedding.

Only, Emily was here. Right next to him. Sitting just inches away. And after last night…

For years he’d been under the impression she didn’t care much for him. She always clammed up around him. She argued with him constantly. Like she was trying to get a rise out of him. He chalked it up to annoyance over his overprotective nature. He was a big brother, that was his job.

But he wasn’t her big brother. And after her drunken confession last night he was beginning to wonder if all her bustle was just a cover. An overreaction to her pushing down the same feelings he’d been fighting for a decade.

He wasn’t a dreamer. He knew there was no way Emily cared for him the way he cared for her. But she had called him irritatingly sexy last night. That was good right? It meant she felt…something toward him.

“Should we dance?” he asked, leaning closer to her.

She side-eyed him. “Do we have to?”

Okay then, maybe it had been the rum talking last night.

He bit back a sigh, before remembering the other component their previous evening together entailed. Suddenly worry overrose his disappointment. Examining her face for signs of discomfort he lowered his voice and asked, “Are you feeling okay? How are your spoons?”

She gifted him a soft smile. Damn, he loved that smile. It made his heart race and still at the same time. How the hell did she do that?

“I’m fine, thank you. I have plenty of energy to dance. Whatever magic you worked last night helped. I’m barely fatigued at all so thank you. Spoons at full capacity.”

He hated seeing her in pain. He wished he could take it all away, but he couldn’t. He was amazed how she never let her pain define her. She was one of the strongest people he knew. Most people didn’t understand. But he had years of medical training and hands-on experience. He knew oftentimes the injuries and illness you couldn’t see caused the most pain.


She gave a heavy sigh, downing her drink before placing it on the table. “I suppose we should. It’s customary to dance at weddings, right?”

Laughing, he stood and held out his hand to her. “My sister just got married in The House of Love by an Elvis impersonator. Pretty sure customs are out the window, but I’m game if you are.”

She rolled her eyes, but her lips tilted up in a smile. When she placed her hand in his it sent a shockwave of electricity through his entire body. Touching Emily always did that to him.

He led her onto the dance floor, pulling her close as the DJ played the soft melodic love songs of none other than The King himself.

As they swayed to the dulcet tones crooning about falling in love, Gray tried to remind his body that this was just a dance between two friends. Nothing more. But holding Emily in his arms, inhaling the sweet scent of her floral perfume, hearing the echo of her words from last night, he was having trouble reminding his heart.

“Um, Gray? About last night…”

He held his breath, hands tightening against her hips. “Yeah?”

She stared at his chest, her eyes focused on the rose boutonnière pinned to his suit jacket, refusing to meet his gaze.

“You know I was just kidding about all that stuff right? I didn’t mean anything by it and I would never want to put you in an awkward position. I know you don’t feel that way about me and—”

“Who said?”

She glanced up. “Huh?”

He tugged her a bit closer. Close enough so she could feel the effect she had on him. Her golden eyes widened as she pressed herself against the erection straining his suit pants.

“Who said I don’t feel that way about you?”

“Oh…I,” breathless, she shook her head slightly. “But you’ve never said anything…”

“Because you’re Tess’s best friend and I didn’t want to be that perv who creeped on his sister’s friend.”

“So…you do find me attractive?”

Attractive, irresistible, amazing, and a million other things he didn’t think he would ever be able to put into words, so he simply nodded.

She glanced around the reception room where everyone was dancing, laughing, and enjoying the wedding festivities. “Then, um,” she cleared her throat, speaking in a hushed tone. “Maybe while we’re here we could…have a fling?”

“A fling?”

She nodded. “Yeah. A kind of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas type thing. Like you said earlier.”

He very much regretted tossing out that common phrase as a joke to her fluster this morning. He didn’t want a fling with Emily. He wanted everything. But right now, he was having a hard time saying no to her proposal.

Hell, who was he kidding. He couldn’t say no to Emily ever. She could ask for the moon and he’d become an astronaut just to fly up there and bring a piece back for her. She had no idea how much he cared. His fault because he’d never told her. Honestly, he never imagined she’d feel the same way.

By her indication, she didn’t feel as deeply as him, but she was attracted to him.

He could work with that.

He’d give her what she wanted, what they both wanted, and maybe she’d see just how much she meant to him. How good they could be together.

Mind made up, he nodded. Now they just had to wait for all the fun to be over so they could wish the happy couple goodbye and find their own happiness in his room.

Chapter 3

She couldn’t believe this was happening!

Emily suppressed a nervous giggle as Gray slipped the keycard into his hotel room door.

She was going to do it. Do him. She and Gray were…arg! Why was she so nervous about this? It wasn’t like she’d never had sex before. She had her fair share of relationships, even a few one-night-stands in college. So why was she suddenly feeling like a teenager sneaking out of the house for her first time?

Because this was Gray and she’d had a crush on him for years. Plus, he was her best friend’s brother, so if things went badly…

No. She couldn’t think like that. Like this was a potential long-term thing. It was a fling. Fun in Vegas. Nothing deeper. They’d agreed.

“Well.” He shut the door, leaning against it and sealing them inside. Alone. “Here we are.”

“Yup. Here we are.” She fiddled with the neckline of her pale blue bridesmaid dress.

Gray pushed off from the door, slowly approaching her with a sensual stride. Like a lion stalking its prey. He stopped inches from her, so close she could see the light brown freckles dancing across the bridge of his nose, feel the heat radiating off his body.

“I want to kiss you, Emily.”

She hoped he wanted to do a lot more than that.

“Can I kiss you?”

She nodded, heady anticipation clogging her throat, preventing her from saying anything. Gray reached out a hand, gently grasping the back of her neck and pulling her closer. She went willingly. Oh so willingly. His head tilted down, lips hovering over her for a fraction of a second, heightening her need, before gently pressing against her own.

Sweet holy hell!

This was even better than she imagined. His soft lips caressed hers, coaxing them open and she happily complied. The brush of his tongue against hers tasted sweeter than all the chocolate in the world. Kissing Gray felt like that moment at the top of a roller coaster when your body is just slightly weightless and your heart leaps into your throat. All thrill and ecstasy.

His hands left her head to glide down her neck, pausing at her shoulder to slip the straps of her dress down. The Silken slip dress easily slid down her body, falling to the floor, leaving her standing before him in nothing but a strapless bra and her lace thong. Both of which she quickly got rid of.

“Fuck me, Emily,” he muttered roughly as he pulled back slightly to stare at her.

“That’s the plan, right?” She laughed, smile widening when he joined in. Suddenly her laugh turned into a yelp as Gray scooped her up into his arms and placed her gently on the bed.

“Tell me what you want, anything you want.”

He quickly discarded his suit jacket and ripped his dress shirt off, a few buttons flying off and pinging against the wall. She started to laugh at his exuberance, but the laughter died in her throat when he shucked his pants off and she learned a very interesting fact about Grayson.

He went commando.

It might have been rude, but she couldn’t pull her gaze from him.

“See what you do to me, sweetheart?”

Yes, she did, but she’d rather see what he could do to her.

As if he heard her unspoken wish, Gray joined her on the bed, grabbing both of her hands in one of his and lifting them over her head.

“Tell me the minute something doesn’t feel good and I’ll stop, okay?”

She nodded, touched that he was so intent on checking in with her. Her fibro tended to make her overly sensitive at times to the point that even a whisper of a touch would hurt. But thankfully, not now. Right now, all she felt was pleasure.

He kissed her again, feasting on her lips as his free hand traveled down her body. He caressed her breasts, first one then the other before his feather-light fingers moved down her stomach, past her hips and in between her thighs.

She cried out, pulling away from his delicious mouth when his thumb circled her clit. Bolts of pleasure racing up and down her spine at the touch.


“Amazing,” she panted out.

He chuckled softly then pressed two fingers deep inside her. Her hips arched up of their own accord, body needing the release he promised.

“Tell me what you want, Emily.”

She had no idea, nothing had ever felt this amazing before. What was happening? Did the man have magic hands or something? “More…just more.”

He kept up his ministrations, not going any faster, not going any harder, simply giving her what she asked for. More.

Soon she felt her body tighten, the crest of the wave in sight, she threw her head back, crying out her release. Gray gentled his touch, bring her down, but she wasn’t finished yet, she wanted everything. She wanted him.

“Please tell me you have condoms in here,” she said, staring up at him. If he didn’t, she was going to make a fool of herself running down to the hotel’s duty-free shop in nothing but a hotel robe.

He smiled, reaching over to the nightstand and pulling open the drawer. “Condoms and lube, I stocked up this afternoon. Just in case.”

He did? She wasn’t going to look too deep into that gesture. This was just a fling. Gray was a guy, so of course he was excited about the prospect of sex when she was spouting off her nonsense last night. He was just being responsible. There were no deeper feelings behind it, and she had to remind herself of that in case her heart decided to fall.

“Gotta love a man who’s prepared.”

His eyes widened at her use of the L-word. Shoot! She hadn’t meant to let that slip out. Hopefully, he wouldn’t read too much into it. It was a phrase people said all the time, right?

Working to cover her blunder, Emily reached over and grabbed the condom strip. “Allow me.”

She ripped off one and carefully opened the package, pulling it out and tossing the wrapper on the floor. Reaching out, she grasped Gray’s impressive erection in her hand. He swore, eyes closing as she stroked.

“Please, Emily,” he begged. “I need to be inside. Now.”

To emphasize his point, he grabbed the lube and poured a generous amount in his hand before thrusting his fingers into her once more. Now it was her turn to swear.

Okay, playtime was over.

She rolled the condom on his hard cock, wrapping her legs around him. He removed his hand, positioning himself at her entrance before pausing.

She glanced up into his eyes, so dark, yet so warm.


She nodded, “Yes.”

He pushed into her, slowly, so slow she thought she might die. When he’d seated himself fully they both sighed in unison.

“Fuck, Emily. You feel amazing.”

Her? He was the one filling her so full she felt surrounded by the man. Had anything ever felt this complete?

He started to move, slowly at first before upping the rhythm. She tilted her hips, squeezing her legs tighter around him until every thrust sent tremors of elation through her. She felt herself peaking again, but this time, Gray was with her. She cried out as her climax washed over her. Gray kept the pace up, shouting out his completion just seconds after her.

He rolled them so she splayed on top of him as their frantic breaths eventually evened out.

“Wow.” She knew things would be good with Gray but she had no idea it’d be so…altering. Her entire being felt broken apart and put back together again.

“Please stay,” his soft request echoed in the darkness of the room. “Stay with me tonight?”

She supposed the fling could last as long as they were in Vegas. As long as her silly heart remembered what this was, it would be fine….


“Well,” she laughed, trying to cover her internal panic. “You did buy an entire box of condoms. I’d hate for them to go to waste.”

He chuckled, the sound vibrating through her, pinging all her good places and wrapping around her heart.

She swallowed down a shiver of trepidation. It was fine. She just had to remember this for what it was, and everything would be fine.

Chapter 4

Gray woke up feeling the happiest he’d felt since…ever.

Last night had been everything he’d ever dreamed of and more. He’d dreamt about being with Emily for so long, but the dream couldn’t hold a candle to the amazing reality of holding her in his arms, caressing her soft flesh, losing himself within her. His body heated just remembering it.

The bed, however, was cold.

Sitting up, Gray glanced at the rumpled empty blanket beside him. He shook off the flicker of unease. Just because Emily wasn’t in bed, didn’t mean she left. Tossing back the covers he leaped up and strode to the bathroom. He pushed open the door to…emptiness.

No Emily.

Heart sinking, he rushed to his suitcase and tugged on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. His eyes glanced around the room, taking note that her dress and shoes were gone. He searched every surface, the small table in the corner, the dresser the TV sat on, both bedside tables, but there was no note. No ‘went to grab coffee’ ‘had to grab my clothes’ or even a Dear John.

She’d simply left.

He scrubbed a hand over his face as the cold, stark reality sank in.

Emily ran.

Her flight didn’t leave until tomorrow. He knew because they were on the same flight. He’d been hoping they could continue this fling until then.

That was a lie.

If Gray was being truly honest with himself, he’d been hoping to show Emily how much he cared. Now that she’d admitted she had a thing for him, he wasn’t going to back down. Yes, he’d agreed to her “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” adage last night, but technically they were still in Vegas and he wasn’t giving them up without a fight. He wasn’t giving her up.

Not until they talked.

He needed to tell her how he felt, how he truly felt and if, after that, she still wanted to be a one and done then fine.

His heart pounded in his chest, calling him a liar.

Okay, not fine, but he’d respect it.

But he wasn’t going to let her run simply because she was scared. He loved her and after last night he couldn’t go back to pretending she was anything less than the woman who owned his heart.

Chapter 5

“Are you sure there are no earlier flights available?” Emily pressed her cell tighter to her ear as she tossed her clothes into her suitcase.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” the customer service representative said calmly. “But there are no earlier flights back to Denver. All the flights are full.”


“Okay, thank you.”

Hanging up, she tossed her phone on the bed with a heavy sigh. Looked like she’d have to hole up in her bedroom until tomorrow, but that didn’t solve the problem of her flight. She’d have to get on it with—


A loud knock on her hotel room door made her jump. Crap, he already found her. What was she expecting? It wasn’t like he didn’t know where her room was. Had she really thought she could sneak out of Gray’s room and hide from him?

The problem was, she hadn’t been thinking at all. She’d freaked. After their amazing night together she’d woken up in panic mode. The consequences of her actions swirling around in her brain, screaming her mistake so loudly she panicked and ran.

“I know you’re in there.” Gray’s voice didn’t sound angry, but there was an edge to it. “Please let me in. We need to talk.”

Ugh! Why did that phrase even exist? Nothing good came after those four cursed words.

“I can stay out here all day, Em.”

He would too. Just to annoy her.

Hurrying to the door, she opened it, her heart pinching as she took in the worried expression on Gray’s face. His dark eyes locked on hers.

“May I come in?”

Unable to speak, she stepped back, allowing him into the room. The moment she closed the door, he turned.

“What the hell, Emily? I wake up and you’re gone? No message, no note.”

She winced. Yeah, it was a shitty move, but she didn’t appreciate his tone. “We agreed it was just a Vegas fling.”

“We’re still in Vegas,” he pointed out.

True, but her heart had been so far gone after one night, she knew she’d never survive another. She had to get out of there before she did something stupid, like let herself believe she had a future with Gray.

“Look we had fun, but we head back home tomorrow. All this will be over so—”

“What if I don’t want it to be over?”

Her brain blanked. Blood rushing to her ears at his confession. No, he couldn’t mean that. He didn’t see her that way. This was just a one-time thing. They’d agreed.


He stepped forward, invading her personal space. His hand came up to gently grasp her arms, tugging her closer. She wanted nothing more than to go up on her toes and press her lips against his mouth. Taste him one more time.

“I don’t want this to be over, Emily. I know we agreed to keep it in Vegas, but I want more. I want you. I want to see where this thing goes.”

Her heart pounded in her chest. The dream she’d held for so long standing right in front of her, taunting her with the possibility. But, “What if it all goes wrong?”

Fear made her words whisper out of quivering lips. “What if it all goes to hell and then Tess and I can’t be friends anymore.”

“I would never come between you and my sister,” he assured her. “Ever. No matter what happens between us, you and Tess’s friendship is solid. I would never do anything to break that.”

She knew that. Gray loved his little sister more than anything. It might be awkward if they dated and broke up and had to see each other, but it wasn’t like Tess and Gray still lived at home. She could easily hang with Tess while avoiding Gray. That wasn’t what she was really afraid of.

“What if we do this thing and…we find out we don’t…like each other.” It had happened before. She got close to a guy then they discovered they liked the idea of her more than actually being with her.

His lips curled in a soft smile, one large hand coming up to cup her face. “Em, I’ve known you for ten years. I’ve always liked you, but more importantly, I love you.”

She pulled out of his embrace, shock dropping her jaw wide. “You….you what?”

No way could she have heard him correctly because Grayson Stone had not just said—

“I love you, Emily.”

Okay then, apparently he had.

“I have for a while now. You’re smart and funny, not to mention beautiful and hot as hell in bed. You have the kindest heart of anyone I’ve ever met and you’re so damn strong. It amazes me. You amaze me.”

He loved her.

She blinked, his words sinking deeper and deeper. Wrapping around her heart. Filling her with a warm brightness that rivaled the hottest summer day.

He didn’t see her as the annoying friend of his little sister or another one of his patients fighting daily pain. He said she was smart and strong. Tears gathered in the corner or her eyes.

He saw…her.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

He shrugged. “I thought it was a one-sided thing. I didn’t know you felt anything for me until you got drunk and yelled at me for being the ‘man of your dreams you could never have.’”

Oh, crap she had said that! Okay, no more rum for her. It was off the table.

“I never wanted to make you feel any sort of pressure because you’re Tess’s best friend, but last night…” He reached for her hand, sliding his fingers against hers, rubbing her knuckles with his thumb. “We had something last night, I know you felt it.”

She had and it scared her so bad, it sent her running.

“I don’t expect you to return my feelings, not yet anyway. I mean, I hope one day…but I am asking you to give this a chance, give us a chance. Please, Em.”

He was offering her her heart’s secret desire. It was terrifying and wonderful. Her mind was all over the place, rushing to every possible conclusion of welcoming this man into her heart. Everything from the heartbreak to the happily ever after. So what did she do? She could run scared, protect herself from the potential pain of taking a risk or she could dive in. Eyes wide open and heart full of hope.


His brow furrowed at her whispered answer. “What?”

“Yes,” she said, louder this time. “Yes I want to try, I want to give us a chance, and yes…I love you too, Grayson. Very much.”

His expression brightened as a wide smile filled his face. He tugged her into his arms, his lips claiming hers. The kiss sent a burst of happiness through her entire body, burning away all the doubt and fear she’d woken with. He lifted her into his arms, moving them to the bed.

“Our flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow.”

She giggled, staring up at him, wondering if she’d ever been this happy in her entire life. “Whatever shall we do to fill the time?”

He arched one eyebrow, giving her a devilish grin that promised all sorts of wickedness she couldn’t wait to explore.

“Oh, I’m sure we can find something to do.”

She let out a blissful sigh as Gray began to divest her of her clothing, grateful she hadn’t been able to change her flight. Grateful she drank all that rum and opened her big mouth the other night. But most of all she was grateful for Gray.

She came to Vegas to see her best friend marry her true love and now she got to go home with the love of hers.

Good thing what happened in Vegas didn’t always stay in Vegas.


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