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Sweet Filthy Boy(4)

By:Christina Lauren

But for some reason—let’s blame the alcohol—and without looking away from the hot man across the bar, my lips readily form the word “Hi.”

He says it back, before pulling the corner of his lip between his teeth, and wow, he should do that every day and to every person he meets for the rest of his life. He has a dimple and I reassure myself that it’s just the lighting and shadows playing it up because there’s no way in hell something so simple could possibly be this adorable.

I feel something strange happen to my insides and I wonder if this is what people mean when they say they melt, because I am most definitely feeling less than solid. There’s a distinct flutter of interest from the vicinity below my waist, and good God, if his smile alone managed to do that, imagine what his—

Harlow grabs my arm before I can finish that thought, jerking me from my careful study of his face and into a crowd of bodies rocking and snaking to the rhythm of sex blasting from the speakers. A boy like that is way way out of my comfort zone, and so I shove the urge to go find him into the proverbial box, under the proverbial bed along with everything else.

WE MUST BE easing into Vegas, because after dancing and drinks, we’re in our room by midnight, all three of us worn-out from the commencement ceremony in the sun, the hot drive, and the alcohol we rushed into our systems without enough food.

Even though our suite has more space than we need, and even though there are two bedrooms, we’re all piled into the one. Lola and Harlow are out within minutes, and the familiar string of Harlow’s sleep-mumble starts. Lola is almost shockingly silent and still. She buries herself so completely in her bedding, I remember wondering when we were younger if she somehow disappeared into the mattress during sleepovers. There are times I actually consider checking for a pulse.

But across the hall, a party rages.

The heavy bass of music rattles the light fixture hanging above me. Male voices rumble across the empty space separating the rooms; they shout and laugh, have their own little cacophony of whoops and man-sounds going on. A ball hits a wall somewhere in the distance, and although I can only identify a few unique voices in the mix, they’re making enough noise that I can’t believe the entire suite isn’t full of drunk boys tearing up a weekend in Vegas.

Two a.m. passes the same: I’m staring at the ceiling, growing somehow both more awake and more asleep. When three hits, I’m so irritated, I’m ready to be the Vegas buzzkill just so I can get a few hours of sleep before our early spa appointments.

I slip out of bed, being quiet so I don’t wake my friends, before laughing at the absurdity of my caution. If they’ve slept through the ruckus across the hall, they’ll sleep through me padding quietly across a carpeted floor, grabbing a room key, and slipping out of our suite.

I pound my fist on the door and wait, chest heaving with irritation. The noise barely dips, and I’m not sure if I can pound hard enough for them to even hear me. Raising both fists, I try again. I don’t want to be that person—in Vegas complaining about people being joyful—but my next stop is calling hotel security.

This time the music dies down and footsteps slap on the tile just in front of the door.

Maybe I expect some older, sun-bleached trust fund douche to answer, a bunch of middle-aged investment bankers visiting for a weekend of debauchery, or a roomful of fratty guys drinking shots out of a stripper’s belly button. But I don’t expect it to be him, the guy from across the bar.

I don’t expect him to be shirtless, wearing black boxers that hang so low on his tanned stomach that I can see the soft trail of hair, lower.

I don’t expect him to smile when he sees me. And I most definitely don’t expect the accent when he says, “I know you.”

“You don’t,” I say, completely steady, if a little on the breathless side. I never stutter in front of friends or family anymore and only rarely in front of strangers I’m comfortable with. But right now my face feels hot, my arms and legs prickling with goose bumps, so I have no idea what to make of my completely stutterless words.

If possible, his smile grows, blush deepening, dimple taking center stage, and he opens the door wider, stepping out toward me. He’s even better looking than he seemed from across the room, and the reality of him immediately fills the doorway. His presence is so huge I step back as if I’ve been pushed. He’s all easy posture, eye contact, and beaming smile as he leans close, and playfully studies me.

Being a performer, I’ve seen magic like his before. He may look like any other human, but he has that elusive quality that would force every pair of eyes to track him onstage, no matter how small his role. It’s more than charisma—it’s a magnetism that can’t be taught or practiced. I’m only two feet away from him . . . I don’t stand a chance.