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Sweet Sinful Nights

By:Lauren Blakely

Sweet Sinful Nights
Lauren Blakely

       Book One in the Sinful Nights Series




DEDICATION


This book is dedicated to my daughter,

who helped brainstorm the plot. You are brilliant, my dear!

And, as always, to my dear friend Cynthia.





CHAPTER ONE


Ten years ago

I'd go anywhere with you.

People said those words, but they didn't always mean them. Brent was sure Shannon did though. She'd go anywhere with him.

As he gunned the engine on his bike, all he could think was that in less than ten minutes it would be happening. He'd be walking through the front door and giving the woman he loved the best news of their lives.

Weaving through the late afternoon Boston traffic, he fast-forwarded to the next few weeks-they'd go to the land of sunshine. He'd take her far away from Boston, and keep her far away from all the other places she didn't want to be. He could see them holed up in a little one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, spending their nights fucking, their days working. Fine, she didn't have a job yet, but there had to be work in Los Angeles for an injured-dancer-turned-entry-level-choreographer, right?

With equal parts excitement and anticipation radiating through his bones, he darted through the stalled cars. Up ahead, maybe five hundred feet, was the exit that would take him to his apartment, where she'd been living for the last two weeks since her lease ran out after they'd graduated. His was up next week. Perfect timing to leave town together.

Flipping on the blinker, he turned off the highway, then jetted down the road to his building. Soon, he pulled into the asphalt lot, shut off the engine, and unsnapped his helmet. He headed to the concrete stairwell, taking the stairs two by two, up to the third floor.

He unlocked the front door quickly and tossed his keys on the entryway table. The late afternoon sun shone through the dirt-streaked window, but the living room was empty, the gray, rumpled couch missing his pixie-sized woman. Then again, he'd never known Shannon to sit still or lie down. Unless her legs were wrapped around his waist, and hell, that was where he'd like them to be in about three minutes, because this called for a celebratory round or two in the sack.

He turned into the kitchen, looking for her.

"Babe," he called out.

The home was still.

Their apartment crackled with silence.

It was the tiniest apartment in all of Boston, and for a split second, maybe more, his heart stopped beating, and a rabid fear swooped down out of nowhere. But then, it wasn't entirely from nowhere. It was born from the life she'd lived before she came to college.

A door squeaked-a sliding glass door badly in need of oiling. He spun around, returning to the living room and the tiny balcony that he hadn't thought to check. There she was, walking inside, the widest smile in the world on her gorgeous face, her bright blond hair, short and sleek, pushed back in a slim silver headband.

"I have something to tell you," she said. Her eyes lit up as she held her flip phone in her hand.

"I have something to tell you, too," he said, and roped his arms around her waist, easily lifting her lush, limber body. Instantly, she wrapped her legs around his waist and dropped her mouth to his, kissing him hard. She darted out her tongue, sliding it between his lips, and he groaned, wanting to take her right there against the wall, on the balcony, on the floor. Or hell, just standing up like this would be fine. Being madly in love with a woman who could bend and move in hard-on inducing ways was pretty much the greatest thing in the world. Yeah, he was a lucky bastard.

"Ladies first," he said, setting her down, then gesturing for her to talk.

"No. You go," she said, her forest green eyes twinkling. "I want to hear all about your big interview." She reached for the collar on his shirt, tugging both ends. "I bet they adored you. I bet you already have your second interview lined up."

"Better than that," he said, and dipped her, her back arcing effortlessly as she looked up at him from that position.

The last thing he'd expected when he walked into his job interview today was to be hired on the spot. That wasn't even in the realm of possibility. It was an informational interview. Besides, the job he'd originally gone in for was based in New York. But the post that Late Night Antics offered him-a gig with more money, more cred, and more opportunity-was in Los Angeles. At twenty-one, he'd landed a comedian's dream job.

"Tell me, tell me!" she demanded, laughter in her voice.

He raised her up again and parked his hands on her shoulders. "We're moving to L.A. next week!"

Her sweet laughter stopped, as if he'd turned off a switch, but the eerie silence made no sense to him.                       
       
           


///
       

"What?" she asked, her voice small.

He nodded, letting the enthusiasm he felt roll off him. Surely, she'd catch it, too. She'd have to be infected with his excitement. Their future was unfurling before them. "I got the job. They offered me a job on the spot. For Late Night Antics. This never happens, Shan. I'll be the youngest comedy writer in the history of the show, and you know what happens to the youngest writers."

"They go on to have the biggest careers," she said, repeating what he'd told her many times before, but she sounded monotone, as if she was merely parroting him.

"This is huge, babe," he said, keeping the conversation upbeat.

"I know. It is," she said, sounding hollow.

"What's wrong?"

"I thought it was for a job in New York. That we were trying to find work together in New York so we could be together. You know, Mr. and Mrs. Nichols, and all," she said, trying to smile but her lower lip quivered the slightest bit.

He shook his head. "Well, it was. But they loved my work so much they offered me a gig and want me to start next week in time for the new fall season. It's an amazing opportunity. Top late-night TV show in the country. In the world. And you are looking at the newest writer. And he is looking at his bride-to-be."

He thought for sure that would return the smile to her face, the kind that made her crinkle her nose, with its constellation of freckles. He loved nothing more than making her smile, making her laugh, especially considering what she and her family had been through that wasn't the least bit funny whatsoever. "We're going to L.A.," he added, because the silence was too much.

But there was no smile. Her eyes were glassy, wet maybe. Then she seemed to draw in that flash of sadness and replace it with a hard fierceness, and a tight line across her lips.

"Brent," she said carefully. "Did you say we're going to L.A.?"

He nodded eagerly. "I start next week. We're moving to L.A. I took the job."

She stepped away, pushing her hands against him. "You. Took. It?" she repeated, each word needing its own longitude and latitude.

"Hell yeah."

"You never thought to discuss it with your bride-to-be?" she asked pointedly, holding up her hand and flashing her ring at him-the diamond he'd given her, set in her grandmother's band that her brother Michael had helped him track down.

"No." But he was too surprised by her question to even try to figure out why she was asking.

"What about me?"

"What about you? You don't have a job."

"But we agreed to look for work in New York. That was our plan. I thought the job you were interviewing for was in New York. That's what you told me, and that's the only place I've been looking. I turned down an opportunity in Tucson last week because you were worried it was too far away."

He shot her a look. "Shan, that was with a tiny little dance company."

Her stare could burn a pinhole through him. "Don't put it down now. We both know why I said no. Because you said you couldn't bear to be apart from me. That's what you said, so don't act like it would have been the wrong career move for me. I did that for you. You said you weren't going to find work as a comedian in Tucson. And now you just went and took a job in L.A. without even talking to me," she said, holding her hands out wide, waiting for his answer.

"I didn't think I needed to," he said, raising his chin up, holding his ground. "It's the perfect gig for me. So I said yes." He planted his feet wider, as if they were two gunslingers ready to do battle. She crossed her arms, the next move in the dance of their anger. Familiar choreography for the two of them.

"Well, I got a job, too," she tossed back, arching an eyebrow.

"In L.A.?" he asked, hoping wildly.

She shook her head. "In New York. Like we talked about. Then it goes to London."

He wrenched back and narrowed his eyes. "You didn't tell me you were looking for work in London."

She huffed. Oh, she breathed fire. That woman knew how to be angry with him. She'd mastered it. She pointed a finger at his chest. "No, I didn't tell you, because there was nothing to tell, and now I am telling you that my modern dance teacher called me today to tell me Lars Branson just lost his assistant choreographer for the West End production of West Side Story and asked did he know anyone who could fill in at a moment's notice? He mentioned me, since he knew I was looking for work, and the job starts in New York and then moves to London at the end of the summer. I didn't say yes because I wanted to talk to you about it first. To see if you'd even want to go to London with me."                       

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