AS THE DAY WORE ON, the drinks flowed as freely as Amber’s laughter and her easy touch-her hand on Mike’s arm, his back, it didn’t matter. She obviously felt comfortable being demonstrative, and during the long, playful day he spent with her, she kept him in a constant state of arousal. She seemed happy to remain with him and he was having too much fun to question why or ask what she’d normally be doing.

His friends didn’t have a set agenda, they only wanted to party and Amber was happy to be their tour guide. They visited the premier hotels, viewing them from the unique perspective of someone who’d grown up there. Along the way, they stopped in each of the bars and casinos along the Strip, including one owned by Amber’s friend Paul, where Amber said she worked part-time.

Mike lost count of the amount of beer he’d consumed, but he had a healthy buzz going on, while Amber had kept up with the women, drinking her orange vodka. They spent hours touring Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in the Venetian Resort Hotel and documented the trip with photographs on someone’s digital camera. They ate dinner at Grande Lux Cafe where they gorged on cheesecake and returned to the casino afterward where everyone split up, agreeing to touch base the next morning.

“Looks like we’re alone,” Amber said.

He nodded. “Does that bother you?”

“Actually, I’m relieved. How else can I get to know you better?” she asked, slipping her arm around his waist. Warm and feminine, she wrapped him in seductive heat. “Come.”

“Where are we going?” Not that he cared. Anywhere she wanted to take him was fine by him.

Her eyes glittered as she walked him through the entryway leading to the shops. “We’re going on a gondola ride.” Laughing, she nudged him forward until they ended up at the back of a short line.

He glanced over a railing to see a canal running through the hotel, complete with bridges that led to other upscale stores. “I heard Vegas was incredible,” he said in awe.

Growing up in a small town on the Massachusetts coast hadn’t prepared Mike for the glamour and excitement here, beginning with this woman.

“Here comes one now.” She leaned over and pointed in the distance. “An authentic Venetian gondola complete with singing gondolier.” The long, graceful boat glided beneath a bridge, through the water and toward them.

Five minutes later, they were seated in their own private gondola, taking a scenic tour of cobblestone streets filled with cafes, balconies and shops.

The boat glided through the water and Mike leaned back, wrapping his arm around Amber and pulling her close. She snuggled into him, her soft curves fitting against his hard chest and thighs. Her hair smelled fragrant and fresh, tickling his neck as she settled in.

“Your friends, the ones that got married. They look so happy.”

“They are. They even bucked office politics to be together. We had a no-fraternization policy until Natalie got the other women to petition for a change.” He shook his head, laughing at the memory of her determination. “She was so adamant, even the men ended up backing her.”

Including Mike. He’d even had a moment of envy during the ceremony yesterday…until he reminded himself of his heritage. First comes love, then the Corwin curse kicked in. For as many generations as Mike could remember, and even those that he couldn’t, any Corwin man who’d fallen in love had suffered the repercussions. His reclusive father, Edward, was living, breathing proof the curse existed, as were his uncles, Hank and Thomas.

“I admire a woman who goes after what she wants,” Amber said just as the gondola glided beneath a long, dark bridge.

She slipped one hand onto his thigh and she tilted her head back. Her lips parted, her desire as clear as the dual meaning of her words.

Unlike his male relatives, Mike refused to let the curse rule his life. Instead, he made it a point to avoid the right kind of woman. The kind who believed in happily ever after. The type who wouldn’t take a chance on a cop who faced being killed each time he walked out the door. A woman who’d take one look at his family, his history, and run screaming the other way.

What a prize package he was, Mike thought wryly.

But he wasn’t here to fall in love, he was here to have fun.

And Amber seemed more than up for that.


VEGAS HAD ALWAYS instilled a sense of adventure in Amber and with the flowing drinks throughout the day, today was no different. Her surroundings faded away as she leaned closer to Mike, gathering her courage.

“Kiss me,” she said, going after what she wanted.

He stared into her eyes, tracing a finger down her cheek. Her head spun. From her alcohol-induced buzz or from him? He’d had a potent effect on her from the beginning. Throughout the day he’d allowed her to forget her problems and be carefree in ways she’d had to suppress since returning to care for her dad. Mike was generous, and over her protests, he insisted on paying for her drinks, lunch and everything in between.

He seduced her with his easy wit and charm and with the sex appeal she couldn’t ignore. Between working all the time and then dealing with her father’s illness, romance hadn’t been all that important to her. But the electricity that crackled between them made her wonder if she’d just never met a man who affected her the way this one did.

He was solely focused on her. Nothing else around him seemed to matter except her. By the time the moment arrived, kissing him seemed natural.


She touched her lips to his and he responded, slipping his fingers into her hair and cupping her head in his hands. She responded to the possessive way he took control, opening her mouth to let him inside. The kiss immediately turned hotter and more urgent. He drew insistent circles with his tongue, gliding as smoothly as the gondola they rode in, leaving no place untouched. He took her to heaven. Her heart pounded in her chest and she didn’t want the dizzying sensations to end.

“Ah, the beauty of young love.”

The sound of the gondolier’s voice brought Amber back to reality and she regretfully pulled back.

“The ride’s over,” the man said. “Unless you’d like me to keep going?” he asked in a knowing voice.

She couldn’t be embarrassed over something so right. Besides, the man was probably used to people making out under his watch. She glanced at Mike. Though she’d love to continue their ride, she had other plans for him.

“We’ll get out here,” she decided for them.

Mike raised an eyebrow, obviously surprised, but he stepped out first, then helped her do the same.

“Ready for some more fun?” she asked him.

He nodded. “Though I can’t imagine anything being more fun than that.” He tipped his head back toward the gondola, his eyes glittering with unslaked desire.

Her stomach fluttered with answering need. “I’m not finished showing you my Las Vegas.” She grasped his hand and led the way.

She didn’t question the impulse that demanded she share the city as she knew it. She wanted him to know her better and this was the perfect way to do it. Because she and Las Vegas had the same spirit.

From the Venetian, they traveled to Circus Circus where she took him to the Adventuredome. “My dad used to love roller coasters and we’d go to carnivals all over the U.S. I grew up loving a fast ride.”

Mike heard the wistful tone in her voice. “Did your father pass away, too?”

“No. He has Alzheimer’s and it’s progressed fast. Sometimes it feels like…” She shook her head, unable to continue.

He squeezed her hand tighter. “I’m sorry. I know what it’s like to have a father who’s not all there.”

And he did. Edward Corwin had always been off somehow. Before his parents’ divorce, Edward had been withdrawn and eccentric, making it hard for Mike to bring friends home. Afterward, the older man’s behavior only got worse.

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