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Brander Sharpe sat alone at a cocktail table in the middle of the lounge.
He didn’t feel conspicuous, though.
This was where he liked to be.
It allowed him to survey his surroundings, his opportunities.
It also allowed him to be clearly seen.
He was the hawk on the treetop.
Just beyond the confines of the quiet lounge, the casino buzzed.
The chimes of the slot machines, and the rare cheer of some guys hitting it big –or modestly so– at the tables seeped into the room.
It reminded everyone of where they were.
Vegas, the adult desert playground.
People playing large and fast.
Rules rewritten for the sake of personal advantage.
Secrets locked away like the heaps of cash in the casino vaults.
Brander was certainly there to play.
Yet, unlike the schleps who emptied their wallets before the gambling gods, entertaining dreams of financial windfalls, he was there to win at another of Sin City’s infamous games of chance.
He exuded the confidence of a skilled player.
Sipping from his low-ball glass, he peered above the rim.
Past a couple of empty cocktail tables, his green eyes locked upon a booth where three women sat chatting.
Maybe they were like him, here on a business trip or convention, looking to doll up and unwind with a night of sophisticated fun.
He smiled, knowing that he matched them in grooming and attire.
While the image of the high-rollers in Vegas had shifted over the years to polo tops and sneakers, Brander went with a classic, dark-grey suit.
It wasn’t his attire when he met with his associates during the day.
This suit served other purposes and attracted other interests.
It was more luxurious than most men would think he needed to be, but he knew the value of it.
Brander leaned back.
He swirled his glass, the ice inside clinking.
His thick brows relaxed over his eyes as he continued to cast a confident gaze towards the women.
His attention settled on the one at the center of the trio, the others blurring to his periphery.
Poured into a comely maroon dress, her cherry-blonde hair cascaded down to her shoulders, one thick lock draping down and barely covering the left of her petal-shaped eyes in the most alluring fashion.
A few minutes ago, she had offered him a fleeting glance before turning to her friends in conversation.
Then she stole a sideways look from the corner of her eye.
Now she turned her head back and forth more times than necessary, meeting his gaze.
Brander nodded once and smiled.
She paused, then returned his smile.
He beckoned the waitress.
“May I offer you something, sir?” she asked.
He tilted his chin towards the booth.
“A martini for each of the ladies.
Apple for the two on the left and right, and pearl for the one in the middle, please.
” The waitress noted the women then headed to the bar.
Brander casually sipped from his glass.
He resumed holding it aside and swirling it, enjoying the certainty of the evening.
“You don’t want that.
” Someone from behind suddenly lifted the glass from his hand.
Caught off guard, he paused, confused, before sitting up in his seat.
“Excuse me?” he said as he watched a young woman walk around to the chair beside him and seat herself.
“I don’t mean this,” she said, holding up the glass.
She waved it nonchalantly towards the women in the booth.
“I meant that.
” Brander couldn’t unravel his brows, nor could he stop an incredulous grin from curling onto his lips as he watched her knock back the amber liquid with one bold gulp.
Through her dark-rimmed, bookkeeper glasses, she locked a cool gaze upon him.
Then her black, impeccably plucked brows peaked as her eyes widened.
She suddenly sputtered.
Dropping the glass on the table, she turned her head aside and coughed uncontrollably.
“What… the hell… ” she squeaked and gasped, “… is that?” Brander leaned forward, still bemused.
“Whiskey,” he said.
She removed her glasses and rubbed the bottom edge of her eyes.
She croaked, “Oh God, that burns.
” Grinning, he said, “It does tend to curl the hairs on your chest if you don’t respect it.
” “I think it’s singed the hairs off my chest.
” Brander snickered.
She took a moment to clear her throat and regain her composure.
Finally, she turned back towards him with an exuberant flip of her long hair and adjusted her glasses.
Then she sat there, legs casually crossed, smiling confidently as if some reset button had been pushed.
“May I help you, miss?” Brander asked.
His instincts told him she was harmless, but the timer on his patience had officially begun.
“Ahh, I think it’s more like I’m here to help you,” she said, again accentuating her words with a dainty stab of her finger.
He inhaled and narrowed his eyes.
A field of pink blush bloomed on her peachy-tanned cheeks, the whiskey working its magic within her.
“Oh? How so?” he asked, playing along.
She curled her finger, beckoning him closer.
He indulged her, leaning forward till their shoulders touched.
He noted the pleasant fragrance of her hair.
She whispered in his ear, “She’s not worth the price of admission.
” Still leaning in close, Brander closed his eyes and gave his head a little shake.
He whispered back, “I have a very discerning eye and I’m quite capable of paying a premium.
” She sat back, cocked her brow and she said, “How about value for your money?” “In Vegas, smart players know when to go all in,” he said.
He noticed that the waitress had brought the women in the booth their drinks.
“All in…” she repeated softly, as if momentarily lost in thought.
When he regarded her again, she noticeably shook herself.
She asked, “So is that what all of this is? Going all in?” She raised her hand from his feet to his neck.
“The suit?” he asked.
She tilted her head, casting an appreciative eye.
“Monogram cuff-links, silk shirt, sharp suit and shoes… Italian?” Brander grinned and nodded.
She was observant.
“The suit is Brioni.
Shoes are English, though.
” She gave him another once over.
“I can tell you’re a roller, you sitting here all decked out like James Bond.
” “Connery Bond?” he asked.
She narrowed her eyes as if trying to squeeze out a memory of the original 007.
“More like Brosnan… with a touch of grey at the temples.
” “But I like it,” she quickly added, “Adds to your refined look.
” “It’s pretty high-class attire,” she conceded, “for a guy sitting by himself in a casino lounge.
” “It suits the intent,” he said, looking toward the booth.
The woman in the maroon dress seemed amused by his sudden company, but not put off by it, fortunately.
Probably didn’t think much of the competition.
He regarded the woman beside him and, addressing her with a wink, said, “It seems to work in wider circles, apparently.
” Her blush deepened as she grinned and threw him a coy wiggle of her shoulders.
“I can dig a guy in a zippy outfit.
” Brander chuckled.
She was cute, he gave her that.
The way she spoke with sass out of the edge of an angled grin was rather appealing.
When she smiled, her small, bud-shaped lips curled over a hint of an overbite.
It wasn’t unattractive at all.
“So, is everything on you nothing but the best? Including under the hood?” she asked, suddenly.
Brander’s brow pinched.
“Excuse me?” “Well, what’s the point of having a Porsche exterior when the engine is a Kia Rio?” She smiled and looked up and away.
He shifted his tongue against his cheek, holding it there for a second.
Finally, he folded his hands and said, “Look, miss, I’m afraid I’m not interested in your game.
” She sat back, stiffened her lower jaw and threw him a harsh glare.
Pushing up her glasses she said, “I’m not a hooker.
” Brander froze momentarily, then grinned, shaking his head.
“I wasn’t implying that you were a hooker… honest.
” He’d been to Vegas too often not to be able to identify a local prostitute.
Though a bit brash, there was a freshness about her that distanced her far, far away from the seedy hooker type.
Her attire –a simple and pretty royal-blue party dress and suede pixie ankle boots– and squirrelly demeanor didn’t announce a professional escort, either.
She reminded him of a stray lamb, actually.
Somewhere her flock must have been calling for her while she sought to play with the Vegas wolves.
Her sour expression lingered awhile before she slowly eased down.
Didn’t mean to offend you,” he said, surprised and impressed that he was the one apologizing.
“There’s nothing about you that indicates a ‘business’ woman.
” Placated, her pleasant smile returned.
“Well,” she said, “it just looked as if you needed some company, sitting here by yourself.
I thought I’d come over and perk you up.
” “Thank you.
You’ve succeeded in the latter,” he said.
Once more he regarded the woman in the booth.
“As you noticed, I was working on the former.
” She glanced at the object of his attention then tilted her head aside and eyed him.
“Don’t you ever prefer doing something a bit more fun and frisky?” “That’s why I keep a dog back home,” Brander joked.
Well, there you go,” she enthused.
“A man with a dog must be bursting for some energetic fun.
” “He’s a Bassett Hound.
” “Oh,” she replied, deflated.
She pouted her lips and nodded with an audible sigh.
Brander chuckled to himself.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
Seemingly caught off guard, she replied, “Oh, ah… Ana.
” “Ana,” Brander said, pausing.
I’d like to buy you a drink.
” Her eyes perked up behind her glasses.
“In appreciation of your entertaining company,” he replied with easy sincerity.
” “Not implying you’re a hooker, of course.
” He nodded.
That earned a smile.
“Of course,” she chimed.
Brander waved for the waitress again.
“Care for anything else, sir?” she asked.
“Whatever this young lady wants,” he replied.
Ana perked up.
“Something fun and frisky.
Not a drink for a Bassett Hound.
” The waitress paused, but nodded.
” “She’ll have it at the bar,” Brander said.
“The bar?” Ana asked, blinking.
?” “It’s been very pleasant, Ana.
” He meant it.
Maybe if it was another evening, in another lounge, he would have set his sights on her.
Tonight, though, he had already committed.
Ana slid her rows of teeth together till her jaw was set off to the side.
She fixed a calculated gaze upon him, as if plotting a move, but then her demeanor softened.
Shrugging her shoulders, she stood and said, “Okay, then.
Thanks for the drink.
or should I say drinks?” Brander picked up his empty glass from the table and held it up to her in mock toast.
“Respect the whiskey, Ana.
” She opened her arms.
“Hug?” Brander smirked.
“We’d look like casual acquaintances to her,” she suggested.
“Old friends who ran into each other.
” Still grinning, he shook his head.
Sighing, he stood and took her into his arms.
She rested her head just below his shoulder.
It was quite pleasant holding her.
He particularly enjoyed the gentle fragrance of her hair and how the curve in the small of her back fit in his hands.
He could feel the smoothness of her skin as it slid behind the fabric of her dress.
It made the tips of his fingers tingle.
It required some surprising effort to pull away from her.
“Be good,” he said.
He sat back down as she began to walk away.
Ana took a couple of steps then suddenly paused and leaned back with a teasing grin.
“I’ll bet anything you won’t end up with her tonight,” she said.
“You, Ana, should not be gambling,” he gently scoffed.
“Gotta roll the dice sometimes.
Vegas, right?” She winked.
Despite his mock warning, there was a lightness in her feet as she strolled over to the bar, holding her evening purse with both hands behind her back.
Alone momentarily, Brander suddenly realized he was still sporting a bemused grin.
He resorted to stroking his chin to ease it away.
Before he re-established eye contact with the woman in maroon, he glimpsed the bar from the corner of his eye.
He hesitated, but he just had to turn his head.
There, perched on a stool facing towards him, was Ana.
Leisurely leaning back with an elbow on the counter and her legs crossed, slowly bouncing one over the other, she looked like she was waiting for a limo.
Peering her sharp-lashed, dark eyes through her glasses, she slipped a slanted smile towards him just as the bartender passed her drink forward — something pink and fruity.
Brander gave her a gently admonishing look and gestured with a twirl of his finger for her to turn around in her chair.
She replied with an upward tilt of her chin.
He frowned and mouthed, “Turn.
” Again, with pursed lips, she nodded her chin forward.
Brander shifted in his chair, adopting a stern expression.
He motioned for her to stop with a firm finger wag.
Finally, she shrugged and spun around in her seat.
Glaring at her back, Brander sighed and shook his head.
“Is now a good time?” a female voice asked.
” Brander quickly turned.
Standing before him was the woman in the maroon dress.
“Should I…” she batted her lashes towards the bar then looked back towards him, “…come back later, maybe?” It was like his mind and body were moving in molasses.
He drew a deep breath before he stood.
Not at all,” he said, composing himself.
“Well,” she said, smiling her glossy red lips, unfettered, “I just wanted to thank you on behalf of myself and my friends for the drinks.
” She held up her martini.
” Brander nodded and stole a glance towards the booth.
It was empty.
She followed his line of sight and then said, “They decided to go see David Copperfield.
” “Oh? And you?” She looked aside with a coy shrug.
“I prefer to make my own magic.
” Through the slightly parted grin on her lips, he could see her tongue slide across the back of her teeth.
Brander firmed his jaw and felt like he was on familiar footing once more.
Sometimes it was so easy.
The woman offered her hand.
“I’m Sasha,” she said.
“Sasha,” Brander thought.
She said it as easily as a breeze, yet reading the look in her eyes, he knew exactly how the evening’s game was to be played.
As he accepted her hand and squeezed gently, he said, “David.
” “Hello, ‘David’,” she said with an assured nod.
She knew the game, too.
He offered her a chair and they settled in.
Once more he beckoned the waitress.
Then the two of them began their game.
-0- The conversation over the next twenty minutes was like a pair of rigged dice, rarely veering toward the unexpected.
The suggestive glances, sly gestures, overt touches, and the innuendo all came into play.
Some would ask why bother.
However, both Brander and Sasha knew that there were rules and protocols to follow.
Brander was cheating, though.
At first, he was unaware of it.
Then he suddenly realized what was happening but didn’t stop.
While his eyes were set on the demure, sultry woman in front of him, his attention was on the very corner of his sight-line.
Ana had kept her back to him the entire time.
It was odd.
He expected to catch her lobbing those teasing glances his way, trying to cajole a response from him.
Odder still was the flicker of disappointment that crept through his mind.
She remained at the bar with her back turned, chatting in her cajoling way with the bartender who seemed genuinely engaged by her.
Eventually, other customers pulled him away, leaving Ana to nurse the drink Brander had comped her, still leisurely bouncing her leg over her knee.
“So… David, L’Atelier, then?” Sasha asked.
“David?” Brander fell out of his thought cloud.
“Hmm?” “For dinner?” “Ah, yes.
” He nodded slowly, smiling.
Probably should call ahead.
” Sasha’s voice was a ripple in a pond.
Nothing cracked her pristine veneer.
“Would you mind doing the honors while I slip away to the Ladies’ room?” Brander stood as she rose from her seat.
As he watched her walk away, he reached for his phone in his coat pocket.
Just then, two men slid up on either side of Ana, framing her between their broad shoulders.
Brander noticed her leg immediately cease bouncing, her whole body stiffening.
The two college aged guys, wearing casual t-shirts, denim and sneakers, spoke and nodded at Ana with noticeably lurid curls on their lips.
One of them placed his hand on her shoulder.
She shrugged it off.
Brander paused, his hand still under the lapel of his blazer.
He frowned while he watched the scene unfold, listening to the men’s mutterings.
The words were unintelligible from where he stood, but he could guess what they were saying.
Ana then stood up from her stool, tossed a dismissive wave towards the men, then quickly exited the lounge.
It eased Brander momentarily to see her shake the guys.
Then he saw one of the men pat his hand against the chest of his mate and nod in the direction Ana had gone.
Still sporting those ugly grins, they quickly left the lounge.
Then he relaxed, taking a deep breath and letting out a long sigh.
“Oh well,” he thought, shaking his head, “Vegas.
” He casually adjusted his coat and cuffs, checked his watch and looked towards the Ladies’ restroom.
Then he quickly strode out of the lounge.
“What’d I tell you guys? I’m not into that!” Brander heard Ana insisting as he approached.
Her two unwanted companions had backed her against the edge of a fountain in the casino’s walking arcade.
“Aw, c’mon,” one of the guys, a rose-faced, dirty blonde Varsity type, jeered, “we’re winners tonight! We scored big at the roulette table and we want to spend it on another little spinner.
” “Ha!” Ana huffed.
“You’re hilariously slimy.
” “Yeah, we got money, baby.
Moolah for some mama,” his swarthy friend added, looking just as inebriated.
He reached into his pants pocket, pulled out a crass roll of bills and waved it in her face.
” Ana cringed and scrunched her nose.
“Ever consider washing your jeans… or burning them?” Brander took another couple of slow breaths as he moved behind them.
“Picked the wrong place to go shopping, fellas,” he declared.
All of them paused, then the men slowly craned their necks.
It was an amusing sight: two tall, flush-faced guys with their furry brows pinching downward in annoyance, and one petite woman standing just behind them, peeking out like a rabbit in a hole, propping up her glasses.
“Conducting business here, so fuck off,” the blonde guy growled.
“I assure you, she is no business lady,” Brander replied.
That elicited a grin from Ana.
“What is it? She already on the clock?” the swarthy one sniped.
He eyed Brander from his shoes to his nose.
“Your money is better than ours, huh?” “The first mistake you made was bringing money into the equation,” Brander replied.
“Like I said, she’s not in the business.
” The men turned square towards him, shadowing out Ana.
Brander filled his chest with a deep breath.
“Look,” he said as he unbuttoned his coat and removed his cuff links, “if you continue to stand here like this, the security guards who are watching through the dozens of cameras pointed at your slack jaws will soon be descending upon these two square meters of space to escort you out.
” He nodded towards the black domes hanging from the ceiling.
“Now if we were to actually get into some physical altercation, when they arrive be prepared to feel the intimate touch of a Taser, trade whatever flop house you’re staying at for the comforts of a holding cell, and have that tidy roll of cash reduced to spare change once you’re done paying your attributed fines.
” The men’s angry frowns slowly melted.
“Plus a couple of black eyes, busted noses, and possibly a loose tooth or two,” Brander added.
He knew what they were thinking.
He grinned but his glare was like a shard of steel pulled from a block of ice.
Yeah, he could take on both of them.
Standing tall, he said, “I was going to bring this suit to the cleaners tomorrow, anyway.
” There was a simmering standoff, before the two men blinked, the pilot lights slowly illuminating in their thick skulls.
The blonde’s lips trembled between a sneer and a pout, while the swarthy one’s eyes darted aside.
Eventually, the blonde slapped the elbow of his partner and the two of them grudgingly knuckle-dragged themselves away.
Brander watched them disappear into the crowded casino then turned his attention back towards the fountain.
Ana stood holding her purse, gawking as if a chicken was perched on his head.
“Wow,” she exclaimed, “you really are James Bond.
” Brander noted a hint of sarcasm, but he was impressed that she didn’t seem fazed by the preceding situation.
He eyed her as he redid his cuffs.
Hand it back.
” Her eyes narrowed.
“What?” “My phone.
” She held her breath, then surrendered.
” Ana opened up her purse and handed him his cell phone.
“I was going to give it back.
I even just sat there waiting for you to notice.
” Brander checked his phone and pocketed it.
He believed her.
He didn’t know why he continued to believe her, but he did.
“Just wanted your attention,” she added with a coy tilt of her chin.
“And you have it,” he replied.
“So, what other talents do you possess other than pick-pocketing?” She laughed, “Would you believe that was the first time I ever tried that? I had no idea what I’d pull out of your pocket!” The edge of Brander’s lips quivered.
There was something infectious about her and his immunity from it seemed to be diminishing by the second.
“Come on,” Ana goaded him with a cheeky wink, “you know you’ll have more fun with me.
” Brander shook his head as he looked back towards the lounge.
Only a real ass would leave Sasha standing at the table wondering where he had gone.
Ana held out her hand and beckoned, “I want to mess up your zippy suit.
The idea of messing up her pretty dress was growing more appealing by the moment as well.
She affected a drippy, high-society accent.
“Join me, Mr.
Let’s rule the world.
” Looking at her, his head lolled toward his shoulder as if weighed down by decision.
The moment he raised his hand, she grabbed him and tugged him forward, stepping back on her heels.
“You’re not going to regret this,” she laughed.
“Oh, I bet I will,” he replied.
“Okay, place your bets.
” With that, momentum took hold and they were quickly striding their way into the evening.
‘Sasha’ would have to make magic on her own tonight.
“Should we start with dinner?” Brander asked.
“Oh hell, yeah.
I’m starving!” “What’ll it be?” She peered back at him with a voracious look behind her glasses and smiled with that inviting overbite of hers.
“I could destroy a burger right now.
” –0– Standing by the window of the packed burger joint overlooking the bustling crowds clogging up the sidewalks below, Brander set to the task of trying to eat his loaded burger while avoiding feeding any of it to his suit.
He did so to the overt amusement of Ana.
“So I won the bet?” she asked as she chewed.
“You didn’t end up with Ms.
” “You cheated,” he replied.
“Do you know what happens to cheaters in Vegas?” “Tarred and feathered?” “Feathers I can find, no problem.
I’ll stop by a burlesque show.
I can get the tar from a street construction crew.
” “Just mind your suit when you do,” she said as a glop of sauce dripped off the edge of his wrapper.
“Watch it!” Brander held the burger aside, the offending sauce splashing on the floor inches away from his shoes.
He rolled his eyes.
What the hell was he doing? After polishing off their burgers, they made their way back out to the streets.
“Thanks for dinner,” Ana said, smiling as they walked along the sidewalk.
“Not at all,” Brander replied.
Despite the mess, that sloppy, over-priced burger was amazing.
“So before we continue, I have just two house rules,” Ana declared.
” “First, neither of us pays for the other for anything else.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
” He nodded.
“You don’t want to be in debt in this town.
The other rule?” “We have fun.
Frisky, stupid fun.
” Brander smirked.
I’m certainly dressed for it.
” Ana stepped in front of him and stopped.
Looking up, she smiled and brushed some fluff from his collar with the back of her hand.
Like a prince at a carnival,” she said.
“By the way, do I keep calling you ‘James’ or what?” “Brander,” he said.
It just slipped out, his usual rules drying up like the Nevada desert.
Her eyes narrowed somewhat.
“Nice to meet you,” she said, shaking his hand.
A pleasing smile crossed her lips.
“Show me the city, Brander.
” They launched themselves full tilt into temptation.
Ana led the way, exuberantly insistent, leading him along as if he were some overgrown boy in a luxury suit.
Just like the burger, the night was a delicious, hot mess.
It became apparent immediately that Ana really hadn’t a game-plan as they zipped around in cabs and wended their way through the throngs.
From a rollercoaster to a Ferris wheel to an aquarium and an indoor gondola ride, they seemed to be doing things on the flutter of Ana’s whim.
Brander hadn’t any second thoughts about indulging her either, her irrepressible spirit proving a potent enticement.
Sitting through a topless revue, Brander found Ana’s amused expressions and giggling much more engaging than the flourish of flesh prancing on the stage.
Though he balked at zip lining, she convinced him to do an Old Time photo shoot.
All he added to his suit was a white fedora and red suspenders to complete his costume for their ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ portrait.
It was worth it to see Ana in the pearl-white, silk flapper dress.
She talked constantly throughout their escapade, but she seemed to understand –whether inadvertently or not–one of Vegas’ rules: don’t tell too much.
He gleaned very little personal information from their conversations.
Not knowing her end game continued to pique his interest, in particular.
Later in the evening, they hit a club where the music rattled his teeth and the glowing shots of alcohol stirred his stomach and stimulated everything else.
He offered little resistance when Ana guided him onto the crowded dance floor.
Among the sweaty, gyrating scrum, he surrendered to Ana’s pleasing wiles.
They may as well have been dancing by themselves, the sole object of his attention dancing before him.
By the time they were back on the streets hailing another cab, a grin seemed cemented on his face.
He gave up trying to shake it off.
As Ana clutched excitedly at his arm, he regarded her.
Her excitement never wavered.
Her beaming expression never failed.
It invigorated him in unexpected ways.
Ana chirped, “Where to now?” “My hotel.
” He felt her hand tighten a touch in his.
“You mean the casino?” Brander measured her hesitancy.
“Sure, let’s go try our luck at the tables.
” Ana eyed him, head tilted.
Finally, she nodded and said, “Okay, why not? I’m feeling pretty lucky!” During the cab ride back, Brander continued to glance towards her.
She seemed less like the lost lamb he had met earlier that evening… although his tendencies as a wolf were stirring.
—0— “I rarely do this,” Brander remarked.
“Don’t be scared.
Just give it a pull,” Ana replied, nudging his arm.
“Actually, all you have to do is push this now,” he said, tapping the illuminated ‘Spin’ button.
The reels of the slot machine spun, accompanied by the sound of pleasing chimes.
Then the machine was depressingly silent.
Ana’s shoulders slumped.
“Well, twenty dollars was worth three seconds of excitement, I guess.
” Brander shrugged.
“This is why I don’t play the slots.
” They hadn’t done much better at blackjack or roulette.
“Lots of other games to be played,” she said.
She clawed her fingers into fists and growled, “It’s Vegas, baby!” Online Now! Lush Cams Alejandro_Castiblanco He said, “Well, as you’ve demonstrated, there are many pleasures to be had in this city.
” Ana leaned back.
“Oh? Is that gratitude I detect?” Brander chuckled and nodded.
The two strolled in silent reverie through the casino, Ana’s hands at her back, Brander’s in his pockets.
They arrived at the passage leading to the elevators of the hotel’s suites.
Brander offered, “So… night cap in my room?” She hesitated when he asked, the same hesitancy she revealed earlier.
Her eyes blinked and widened, and her lips rolled inwards.
She was like a student suddenly remembering she had an exam in the morning.
For a second, he thought the odds were that she would say ‘no’.
“Sure,” she finally said with a terse nod.
It was a quick, silent ride up twenty-two floors.
As they walked from the elevators down the long, quiet corridor, Ana fell half a step behind.
Brander glanced back.
She was looking towards the floor, lost in thought.
“Hey,” he said, pivoting on his heels, “we’re here.
” Ana came to a sudden stop, almost bumping into him.
She stepped back quickly and looked at the door.
” He nodded towards the door.
“Want to do the honors? You have my key, after all.
” Ana’s face momentarily drew a blank.
She reached into her bag and mindlessly produced his room card key.
“That would be the one,” Brander said.
“You’re a helluva pickpocket, Ana.
” Her cheeks blossomed.
Brander nodded towards the door again.
” Ana slipped the card through the slot.
After a beep and a click, Brander opened the door and led her in.
He tapped a pad on the wall as he closed the door behind them.
“Wow,” Ana said with a whistle as the lamps illuminated, casting a gentle glow across the spacious suite.
Brander touched the pad again.
The fireplace in the corner lounge area by the floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows breathed to life.
“You certainly like to spoil yourself, don’t you?” Ana spoke, entranced by the elegant room.
Brander walked ahead and offered a sly brush of his suit lapel with the back of his palm.
“To paraphrase: ‘Why bother with a Porsche engine if you’re going to put it in a Kia body?’” She rolled her eyes.
” She winked.
“See the wisdom of a charming young woman?” At the bar, he poured a couple of glasses of brandy.
“Do you mean like eating junk food and behaving like a teenager at a carnival?” “I mean like having fun,” she said.
“You’re having fun, aren’t you?” Brander conceded with a nod, “I certainly am, Ana.
Though I feel a touch guilty about abandoning an innocent lady at the bar.
” She shrugged.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say ‘Sasha’ was