Anna, Part One Discovery Draft, Sept. 25, 2020

Okay, the old hands around here know that discovery drafts change radically, that they’re just getting the idea down so I can meet the characters and, well, discover things. So read with that in mind. This will change. Probably.



Anna Jones looked over her glasses at the guy in the good suit by the roulette table and thought, Maybe him.

He looked bored, so that was in her favor, although a couple of suits had stopped to talk to him while she’d been scoping him out, so he wasn’t without companionship. He was good-looking in a dangerous executive kind of way, cheekbones and dark very-close-cropped hair, elitist trust fund guy basically. The kind of guy that made Jason crazy. “Those guys,” he’d say. “Those guys get all the breaks.”

Yeah, him, she thought, and then a pretty blonde in a red cocktail dress walked by and stopped to lean close to him.

He looked down at her and said something short.

She laughed and moved on.

That was not a good sign since Anna was a presentable redhead in green merino, not a sexy blonde in red spandex, so if the blonde didn’t interest this guy, Anna’s chances for rejection were epic. Possibly she should have dressed better for this. Twin sets did not project sexuality. “Why yes, my cardigan does match the shell beneath it” did not inspire heavy breathing. She pushed her glasses back up her nose and decided it was too late to rethink wardrobes. Onward.

People turned to look as she made her way toward him; they all looked vaguely surprised before they turned back to what they were doing. Evidently twin sets and sensible shoes were not the norm in Vegas, unless the twins were human. That made her think of seamy sex and debauchery since twins in Vegas probably meant a three-way, but that’s what she’d come to the casino for. Seamy sex and debauchery, not twins or a threeway. She had enough problems without twins.

She stopped in front of the elitist trust fund, noting an immaculate tailored suit—guys like that never spilled—and a perfect manicure wrapped around a glass of something that was probably expensive liquor. Shaken not stirred

It was very possible she was aiming too high.

She frowned at him in consideration as he looked down and saw her. Not that far down, she was five nine, not some little cookie, not that all short women were cookies, look at Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but still—

“Yes?” he said to her.

“This is going to be either a really embarrassing moment or your lucky day,” Anna said.

He waited.

“My boyfriend cheated on me and then dumped me before I could dump him, and then right after that I had to get on a plane to come here for business, and where better to have revenge sex than Vegas, and you’re his worst nightmare. Would you like to have sex with me?”

He went very still for a moment, and she could swear she saw wheels turning behind his dark eyes. Probably with questions. Like was this a joke, was this a scam, was this an insane librarian—

“Give me a minute,” he said and drank the rest of his martini in one swallow. Then he put the glass on a tray going by, not missing a beat. “Exactly how are you going to show your boyfriend that you had sex with me?”

“Oh, I’m not,” Anna said, hastily. “He doesn’t have to know. I just have to know.”

“So no cameras.”

“Oh, god, no.” Anna tried again. “I just want monumental headbanging revenge sex. I have no diseases and I’m on the pill and I bought condoms.”

He nodded. “All good things.”

“I am wearing plain white cotton underwear because the whole dumping thing was a late development before I left for the airport, I didn’t seriously think of revenge sex until I saw the casino, and I don’t have anything but sensible underwear anyway because lace itches, but since I’m assuming the underwear won’t be on long, I didn’t think it would be a deal-breaker.”

Stop babbling, she told herself.

“Fair assumption,” he said.

He hadn’t cracked a smile or backed away, they could have been talking about the weather. Unflappable, she thought, and felt a little surge of lust. Unflappable would be so good. Everybody in her immediate circle flapped, so calm was a real turn-on. The thought of letting somebody else being calm for a while was damn near orgasmic.

She tried again.

“I fully realize that you’re a ten, and on my good days, I’m a six, but I’m assuming the offer of one night of no strings sex offsets that.”

“You’re a six?” He frowned. “Let me guess, the ex told you that.”

“He really is a dickhead.” Anna tried a smile, but it was fake, and she was against faking so she stopped. “But you know how you don’t see that until the other shoe drops and you realize it was all a lie and everything becomes clear in retrospect? And to be fair, he described himself as an eight.”

“Thereby keeping two points ahead of you.” The guy was so calm. Practical. Well groomed. Confident. All of which was extremely hot. “You realize you lost nothing when you lost this man.”

“Except my hopes and dreams.”


Anna sighed. “Well, he was definitely my future for two years. Can we stop talking about him?”

“Yes.” He stared down at her, his brow a little furrowed, and she could see him thinking again. The guy gave off brain waves that could knock a person down.

“Okay,” Anna said, giving up. “This isn’t working for you, but you seem to know people here, so could you point out a good guy I can try this on next? Because I really want to do this and go home.”
“Get it over with?”

That sounded bad, and she was trying to talk him into bed—when did it become so hard to get guys to have sex? When you targeted the handsome rich, she told herself—so she added, “Well, not the sex part, I plan on enjoying that, making sure the guy, whoever he turns out to be, does, too, because I’m actually very limber and open-minded, so don’t let the twin set and the sensible shoes cloud your judgment. However, it seems clear that you’re not–”

The blonde reappeared and took his arm. “I’m going on with Ben and Milo. You should come with.”

“I can’t,” the guy said, not taking his eyes off Anna. “I have to remove a twin set and sensible shoes.”

“What?” the blonde said.

“Excellent,” Anna said. “Do you have a room? Because I don’t.”


Anna stood in the middle of the hotel room, remaining calm. If there was one thing she was good at, it was remaining calm. Thirty-three years with her family had made her an expert at calm no matter how nervous she was. Calm was her–

“Should we start with names?” the guy said and she turned to look at him as he tossed the key card on the desk.

“Oh, let’s not,” Anna said, and took off her cardigan to show she was serious.

He was still tall, dark, and calm, but also still not smiling and a little ominous in the light of the lamp by the bed. Bigger than she’d thought. More filled out. Sort of . . . large in the lamplight.

Do not talk yourself out of this.

Anna folded her sweater and put it on the chest of drawers next to the desk. “I think we keep this as cheap and anonymous as possible.”

The guy took off his jacket. “I did get a deal on the room.”

“Oh, I’ll pay for that,” Anna stopped in the middle of kicking off her shoes. One shoe. That left her lopsided so she kicked off the other. Both feet firmly on the ground. Carpet.

The guy began to unbutton his shirt. He even made a plain white shirt look good. So unfair. “You bought the condoms,” he said, “I got the room.”

Anna unzipped her skirt. “I’ll be fair, I won’t get anything from the minibar. The prices there are obscene.”

The guy stopped unbuttoning his shirt. “You’re hungry?”

“Not now.” Anna shimmied her skirt off and folded it neatly before putting it beside her cardigan on the dresser. “After sex, I am often hungry. But the minibar would be exploiting you. I’ll get something downstairs.”

“I’ll treat for breakfast.”

Anna stopped. “You think we’ll still be here in the morning?”

“It’s Vegas,” he said patiently. “You can get breakfast any time.”

“Right. You can get anything any time.” She noticed him looking at her legs. “They’re good, aren’t they?”


“My legs.”

“Very good.” He took off his shirt.

His chest was also very good. Excellent, really, but then so were her legs. So his top and her bottom were at least quality.

I’m very calm, she thought.

He sat down on the bed and took off his shoes and socks. “Why do you keep evaluating yourself?”

“Hmmm?” Anna fingered the bottom of her crew neck sweater. The red border was coming off at the hem. She’d have to fix that. Not now, of course.

With your shield or on it, Anna, she told herself and stripped her sweater off. She folded it calmly and put it on top of her cardigan, telling herself that she still had her white bra and underpants—she was never going to call them panties—so she wasn’t naked. Yet. “Is it okay if I turn down the bed? I mean it’s your bed, you paid for it, so I don’t want to assume I have the right, but my mother says that you should never lie down on a hotel bedspread because they don’t wash those, and this is Vegas, so god knows what’s lurking on that spread–”

“Feel free.” He stood up and took off his pants.

He was wearing boxers, another point in his favor. Good strong legs. Really, he was just all the points, all the time. Thank god, this was a one-night stand, she’d never measure up.

She pulled back the bedspread and dumped it on the floor at the foot of the bed, and then there was the mattress, covered in crisp white sheets, the size of a football field in the lamplight.

“Second thoughts?” he said, when she paused looking at it. “I handle rejection well.”

“That doesn’t seem logical.” She sat on the edge on her side of the bed with her back to him. “When have you ever experienced rejection?”

“You don’t have to experience it to be decent about it,” he said and she felt the bed give as he sat down on the other side. “And of course, I’ve experienced it. Every guy has.”

Name one time, she thought and then realized she was just stalling.

Her heart was racing. But not in a bad way. Not in a terrified way. More in a “Fuck me, I’m breaking the rules” kind of way. Which she had not experienced before but which she planned to be decent about. Handle it well. She could do this.

She swiveled around on her butt so that her back was against the headboard and shoved her feet under the top sheet. “This is not rejection. This is inexperience. I’ve never done this before.”

He’d leaned against the headboard, too, but now he froze. “You’ve never had sex before?”

Of course, I’ve had sex before,” Anna said. “Copious amounts of it.”


“But I’ve never had meaningless sex with a stranger in a hotel room before.”

“Plus there’s the dodgy bedspread.”

“Are you laughing at me?”

“I don’t think I’d dare,” he said, and she realized he hadn’t cracked a smile since she’d accosted him, so he probably wasn’t laughing.

“So maybe you could just take the lead here,” she said.

He stretched his legs out under the sheet, inches away from hers. This was getting serious. “You didn’t have a plan? That’s not like you.”

“You don’t know what I’m like.”

“I am learning.”

He looked down at her, and she realized he had brown eyes which was totally irrelevant but somehow reassuring. What if they’d been blue?

“What?” he said.

“Brown eyes,” Anna said. “I was afraid they’d be blue.”

“Do I want to know why?”

“No,” Anna said, thinking a Children of the Damned reference would be out of place at the moment. “Look, I really don’t know what I’m doing, I didn’t have a plan, I think I’d assumed you’d fall on me like a crazed animal and we’d have–”

“-headbanging sex,” he finished for her. “You may have picked the wrong guy. I don’t do ‘crazed’.”

“I think as long as we have sex, I’m good,” Anna said.

“Oh, we’re going to have sex,” the guy said. “At this point, I wouldn’t miss it.”

“So.” Anna spread her arms out. “What’s next?”

“The mini-bar,” he said and got out of bed.


Two tiny bottles of vodka mixed with orange juice later, Anna was feeling much more relaxed.

“I didn’t think I was nervous,” she said, leaning against the headboard again. “I definitely want to do this. But I am feeling better.”

“Good to know,” the guy said, still nursing his first mini bottle of Jack. “So let’s get the basics out of the way. What can’t I do?”

“God knows.” Anna tipped the last of her orange juice into her mouth and slapped the glass down on the bedside table. “You look capable of anything.”

“I meant,” he said patiently, “what do you not want me to do? What’s off the menu? What, if I try it, will make you unhappy?”

“Oh.” Anna thought about it. “Anal and German Shepherds.”

“I’m going to miss you when you go.” He pitched his now empty mini-bottle across the room to the wastebasket. It went in, of course. Thank god she wasn’t dating this guy. She’d have to start waxing and wearing thongs. It would never work.

Then he rolled over onto his side, toward her, and crooked a finger at her. “Come here . . .” He stopped. “I need a name. Make one up.”

“Oh.” Anna thought about it. “Natasha.”

“No, really.”


He shook his head. “Come on.”

“Look, you want a name, you make one up.”

He tilted his head and looked at her, sizing her up.

Esther, she thought. Martha. Something practical to go with the twin set.

Then she realized she still had her glasses on.

Oh, god. Hortense. Bertha.

“Lucy,” he said.

She frowned at him. “As in Ricardo? Wacky redhead from the last century?”

He reached over and took off her glasses. “In the sky with screwdrivers.” He held up her red catseyes. “And diamonds in her frames.”

“That’s almost romantic,” Anna said, trying to focus on him, which was difficult after two screwdrivers and without adaptive eyewear.

He reached behind her to put her glasses on her bedside table, and then unsnapped the clip from her hair, and she hoped he wasn’t looking for a tumbling, shampoo-commercial mane because what he was going to get was a mass of frizzy curls. Try and run your fingers through those, she thought, as he pulled the clip free. We’ll have to cut you out of there.

“You know, I’m not the sexy romantic type,” Anna said, as she felt her hair spring out around her face like a rusty halo. “I appreciate the effort but–”

“Lucy, you have a banging body, a great face, crazy hair, and a mind that has more twisted passages than the Winchester House.” He almost smiled as he said that, and Anna went a little breathless.

“You know the Winchester House?” she said, and then he did laugh.

“Pay attention, Luce. We’re going to have sex,” he said and kissed her. His mouth was hot on hers, and his hand moved against the back of her neck, and then he opened her lips with his tongue and Anna lost several brain cells and blew out a synapse and kissed him back.


Of course, he did everything well.

She watched fascinated as his hand slid down her stomach and over her underpants. “Lucy,” he said softly and when she looked up, he pulled her against him—really lovely chest there, she thought, broad, muscled but not so much that his pecs were bigger than hers, that was important–and unsnapped the back of her bra with one hand—she wondered if he’d practiced that in high school or if he’d been born with that kind of dexterity—and then he kissed her again, easing her onto her back as he took her bra off, and then his hand moved to her breast, which is when Anna’s train of thought jumped the track.

He slid his fingers into her pants and she shuddered and bit him on the shoulder—“Ouch.” “Sorry.” “No, that’s fine.”—and then his finger was inside her and then another finger as he kissed her on the curved part of her neck that made her crazy—he’d found that fast–and then as Anna moved against his hand—such good hands—she remembered that he had body parts to grab, too.

She slid her hand into his boxers and felt him tense as she slipped her hand over him, glad to find there was a lot of him but not a painful amount, this guy was just good taste all over, and she began to stroke, closing her eyes at the twin pleasures of his fingers finding her and her fingers sliding over his thickness—

He caught her hand and pulled it free. “Lucy, if you want this to last more than the next minute, stop that.”

Anna blinked. “Sorry?”

“Very grateful,” he said, looming over her, blocking the lamplight. “But I really want to be inside you at least once tonight, so–”

“Lie back and think of England?” Anna said.

“Hell, no,” he said. “I want your hands everywhere but there.”

“See, that’s the kind of thing you have to stipulate up fr–”

He kissed her again, and she thought about mentioning that men who didn’t let women finish their sentences were annoying, but his tongue tangled with hers, and his hand between her legs was making her breathe faster, and then his mouth was on her breast making her arch toward him, and basically, feminism could wait for the afterglow.


Later she got into trouble because of her vocabulary, when she was hot and crazy for him, and he whispered, “Tell me what you want,” and she said, “Oh god, this,” and he said, “It’s time to move into debauchery,” And she said, “This isn’t debauchery?” and he laughed in her ear, softly, which made her shudder, and then he kissed his way down her body and licked and sucked until she screamed and came, and while she was still shuddering with the aftershocks from that, he slid inside her and rose up high over her, and she held onto him, wrapped herself around the bulk of his body, moved against his weight and force, biting down on his shoulder as he twisted the heat high in her again, and then he turned crazed after all, surging down on her, making her cry out as she came over and over because he was a stranger and he didn’t stop.

A few minutes later, when he’d gotten rid of the condom and she’d collected her scattered brain cells and they were both trying to breathe normally, lying side by side, her on her back, him on his stomach, his hand on her stomach, like he was marking his place, she said, “That was good. That was really, really, really good.”

“We need to work on debauchery,” he said, half asleep already.

“No, I think we got it,” Anna said. “Merciful heavens.”

He turned to look at her then. “Debauchery may not be for you.”

“I feel debauched,” she said. “I feel decadent and debauched and . . . deviant.”

He opened his mouth to say something, and then nodded. “Good for you.”

“You were about to tell me I’m vanilla, weren’t you?”

“Lucy, you just fucked my brains out. If you are vanilla, then vanilla is my flavor.”

“Oh.” Anna smiled at him. “What a great thing to say.”

He closed his eyes and laughed softly, and she decided to take that as a compliment and turned on her side so she could watch him until she fell asleep because he was good to look at and her lover, even if only for one night.

Then exhaustion overwhelmed her and she passed out.


An hour and a half later, Anna woke up, starving because she’d missed dinner and also there had been all that sex, so she eased out of bed, careful not to wake him, and hit the minibar for a Snickers. She could pay him back in the morning. She got back into bed and chewed nougat as she thought about what had just happened, dwelling on why it had been so good while she stared at him.
Maybe because he was so damn good-looking. He had dark eyelashes that were about a mile long. If she had eyelashes like that, she’d never need mascara. So unfair to give them to him. And cheekbones. Really, if God gave you cheekbones like that, you were just home free for the rest of your life. And then there was all that lovely muscle, tight and toned, moving against her in confidence and heat. Up close, he was bigger than she’d thought, solid, he felt more blue collar than white, but that might have been because he’d been naked and on top of her. The suit was a façade, she decided. There were some faint bite marks on his shoulder and she could see why her mouth had gone there, that lovely trapezius muscle angling across the top of his body, but she should apologize for that. All in all, he was just fun to look at.

Still, being pretty wasn’t any guarantee of good sex. A comparison of tonight with any night with Jason would tell her that.

So maybe the sex had been good because it was dangerous, being naked with a guy she didn’t even know the name of. Because it was reckless, made her feel like she was hot stuff. Because it was depraved and decadent, she thought and then remembered his skepticism. Well, it was depraved for her, she still didn’t know his name. That was practically deviant. My god, she was damn near edgy. Grandpa would be proud. Well, not if knew she was having sex with a stranger, the guy would be dead, but he’d be proud of her boundary crossing. “Rules are for other people, Annie,” he’d say. Of course, then he’d gone to jail, but . . .

Anna looked back at the-guy-she’d-just-had-sex-with.

This was why names were useful.

Okay, if she was being honest, the good sex was probably because the guy was good. He seemed to have an advanced knowledge of female sexual triggers, and he’d pulled all of them. She’d been riddled with ecstasy. She sighed and finished off her Snickers, wadding up the wrapper to throw it in the trash and accidentally elbowed him in the head.

He woke up and squinted at her. “Why are you awake?” he said, his voice thick with sleep.

“I was hungry.” Anna showed him the Snickers wrapper. “I’ll pay you back.”

“Hell, have two,” he said, dropping his head back into the pillow. “You’re worth it.”

You were worth it, too, she thought. Such a good idea. “I’m going to have to do something nice for Magnolia.”

“Good,” he said into the pillow, not asking who Magnolia was, which she gave him points for. Focused on the essentials, that was her boy. Well, not hers. Hers for one night, though. Which had some hours left in it. Possibly it would not be greedy to ask for seconds while she was still feeling debauched and depraved.

Possibly just another Snickers.

She rolled out of bed and went back to the minibar. I’m naked in a hotel room with a nameless stranger, eating grossly overpriced chocolate, nougat, and peanuts. It had never been a fantasy, but now it was. Except it was reality.

She looked at him, stretched out in lengthy, toned exhaustion, tangled in hotel sheets, his face in his pillow as he went back to sleep. This was a man to remember. She really did want more to remember. Maybe if she woke him up.

She got back into bed and smacked into him, accidentally on purpose. “Magnolia’s kind of a ditz but she’s very nice.”

He said something like “Mmmph” into his pillow.

“She’s the one who told me to go have meaningless sex with a hot stranger.”

He sighed and tried to wake up. Such a gentleman. “Thank you, Magnolia.”

“I’ll tell her you were grateful.” Anna bit into the Snickers and chewed with relish. “I do see your point about names. I should have one for you. Otherwise I’ll have to say, “Magnolia, the nameless stranger I had headbanging sex with in Vegas says ‘thank you.’ It lacks . . . something.”

“I don’t get your name, you don’t get mine,” he said, and punched his pillow into shape before he sank into it again.

“Nigel,” she said.




“Marco. Rafe. Orlando.”

“No. No. No.”



“Sorry, it’s Charlie.”

“Charlie is a tuna.” He rolled over so his mouth wasn’t muffled by the pillow any more. “Or a horse.”

“You’re hung like one.” She bit into her Snickers again.

“I am not. Completely average.”

She shook her head. “It must be what you do with it.”

“Probably the same thing every guy does with it.”

“Oh, no.” Anna shook her head. “You are adept, Charlie.”

He was staring up at the ceiling now, looking tired but awake again. “Lucy and Charlie.”

Anna nodded. “She wears sensible shoes, he wears Armani, they fight crime.”

“I don’t wear Armani, and we don’t have time to fight crime. I have to catch a nine AM flight.”

She squinted at the clock. “That’s hours from now. We can fight crime.”

“No,” he said, and yawned again. “We’re going to be too busy having sex.”

“Oh.” Anna put the rest of her Snickers on the bedside table next to her glasses. “For hours?”

“There will be sleeping, also.” He pulled her close and she wriggled next to him.

“I remember this. I had a good time the last time I was here.” She put her hand on his chest. “Listen, you’re not patronizing me, are you?”

“What?” He slid his hand up to cup her breast.

“We really are good at this, right? You didn’t just say that to make me feel not mediocre?”

He propped himself up on one elbow, and she missed his hand on her breast. Shut up, you idiot, and let the man work.

“Lucy, your only flaw is this insecurity,” he said, bending over her. “This has been, without a doubt, the most interesting night I’ve ever had, and it’s been satisfying as all hell. You are a lovely, fascinating woman with killer legs and a great rack, not to mention the limberness you were bragging about earlier, so yes, you are really good at this, and we are really good at this, and I want to do it again right now.”

“Thank you,” Anna said, feeling a little breathless. “Any requests?”

“Yes. Do not speak again until we’ve both come, aside from hot moans and screaming, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’”

“I can do that,” Anna said.


Two and a half hours later, Anna woke up again and stared at the ceiling, having had a weird dream about the future. It was all well and good being depraved with no names, but what if there was some strange fate at work and she’d see him again after tonight?

That would be bad. Although probably exciting and satisfying, but still, bad.

Then she had a horrible thought. It was possible he was her new boss, she was getting one. She was in Vegas because her old boss had had a heart incident—“They found out he had one?” Magnolia had said when they were informed—and she’d had to fill in as a courier. It could happen.

She poked him awake again. “This isn’t going to be one of those things where tomorrow I go to work and you’re my new boss, is it?”

He blinked at her as he made an I-don’t-want-to-be-awake face, probably because he wasn’t getting any REM sleep, and then yawned, trying to wake up enough to focus. “I have no employees.” He yawned again. “Tomorrow we will have breakfast and then I leave for the airport and we will never see each other again. Go to sleep.”

“Exactly what I wanted,” Anna said, and felt bereft.

But reassured. Charlie had no employees so the new head would not be him. Which meant that Charlie was, in fact, perfect. She hoped he’d had as good a time as she had. This depraved sex with a stranger thing could catch on. Not that she’d ever do it again. He probably would. He’d said he’d had a good time, but Charlie was very polite. He’d really worked hard, too, the man was obviously driven to succeed, not the kind of guy who assumed you’d come as you were, so maybe it had just been . . . “Hey, Charlie.”

“Lucy,” he said from his pillow, “go to sleep.”

“I have a question,” Anna said, “although no complaints. This has really been excellent.”

He sighed into his pillow and turned his head to face her. “What?”

“Did you get everything you wanted?”

He lifted his head up a little, frowning at her in the bad light. “What?”

“Well, I got what I wanted tonight, did you?”

“Lucy, I had sex. Twice. Not counting the oral.” He dropped his head back into the pillow. “I would like to bend you over the bed and take you from behind, but I’m too tired to stand up right now, so I’m good.”

Anna thought about it. “Jason used to ask for that, too, but I didn’t like it. I never came.”

“Jason was doing it wrong,” he said into his pillow.

“You know what I’m going to miss?”


“Talking to you.” She rolled over on her side to face him. “You are not a predictable conversationalist.”

He sighed.

“You’re not like a spy or anything like that, are you?”

“No,” he said. “I’m a–”

“Don’t tell me,” Anna said. “I don’t want to know. Now that I know you’re not my new boss or a spy, I’m good.”

“Good,” he said, watching her now, looking exhausted but awake.

“This was the best idea I’ve had in a long time.” Anna smiled at him. “Well, Magnolia’s idea, but I picked you. You’re the best idea I’ve had in a long time.”

“Thank you for having the idea,” he said. “And me. You have a great smile. Come here.”

“I thought you wanted to sleep,” Anna said, but she slid across the bed and back into his arms.

“I’ll sleep when I die,” he said into her hair, “which will be from exhaustion in about half an hour. Worth it, of course.” She pulled back to look at him, and he said, “It’s the way I want to go,” and kissed her.

“Me, too,” she said and kissed him back.


They had breakfast in the hotel café, after a shower with fooling around, back in suit-and-twin-set mode, just like they’d started only different: connected, closer, together. Anna had waffles and chicken. She insisted that Charlie order waffles, too, and when he pushed his plate away after a couple of bites to concentrate on black coffee and waking up, she ate his.

He didn’t say anything, but she still felt guilty. “You didn’t want your waffles, right?”

He shook his head over his coffee cup. “I wanted to watch you eat them. You’re a woman of strong appetites, Luce.”

“Actually, I’m not.” Anna pushed the plate away. “I’m usually very contained. Restrained, even.”

He smiled, and she blinked and took a deep breath. It wasn’t the first time, but he’d smiled so seldom all night that when it happened—

“I’m going to miss you, Lucy,” he said. “You are going to be one of my best memories ever.”

“You, too, Charlie,” Anna said. “For me. Ever. This is so unlike me.”

He checked his watch and put his cup down. “I have to go. Breakfast is charged to the room, and I didn’t check out, so feel free to order whatever else you want.”

You again, she thought, but she said, “I think I’m good.”

“I think you’re amazing.” He stood up.

“Be safe,” she said, looking up at him. “The world needs more guys like you.”

He picked up his bag from beside the table and then bent down to her ear. “Be happy, Lucy,” he whispered and kissed her cheek.

Then he left.

“Damn,” Anna said, and ordered Eggs Benedict in lieu of crying.


When Anna got to work at the museum library on Monday, she found there was a staff meeting scheduled at two o’clock to meet the new head, which gave her five hours to get over her jet lag, clean up the work on her desk and find something to eat. Not a Snickers.

Magnolia said Jason was in the office with the new boss and the old boss’s secretary, having what Jason had called an executive meeting. “Like we have executives,” Magnolia said when she brought back Chinese take-out for lunch, chopsticks stuck through her black updo so she wouldn’t lose them. Then the two of them locked themselves into Anna’s office to prevent mooching from the rest of the staff and dug in.

Magnolia bit into an egg roll with much relish. “So did you pick up a guy in Vegas and have revenge sex?”

“Yes,” Anna said.

Magnolia put down her egg roll. “Seriously?”

“Yes. I called him Charlie, he called me Lucy and we had sex three times.” Anna chewed her Crab Rangoon reflectively. “Plus the oral.”

“Oh my god,” Magnolia said. “Was he cute?”

“No,” Anna said. “There was nothing cute about him. He was . . . compelling. And he bought me breakfast. Plus two Snickers from the minibar and two screwdrivers. He was lovely.”

“Oh my god,” Magnolia said. “Tell me everything.”

“No,” Anna said. “But I think I need new clothes. Not a twinset.”

“Oh my god,” Magnolia said.

At two, they unlocked the office door, having finished off the Chinese plus a few Dove chocolates Anna found in the back of her drawer, and headed down the hall to the meeting room.

“I heard the new boss really cute,” Magnolia said. “His name is Blake Rankin. Doesn’t that sound cute? Like a romance hero.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Anna said, but it was really a mixed feeling. Friday night had been great, exactly what she wanted, no strings, but now Charlie was gone, and she was kind of, sort of, wishing there might have been a string or two, or at least a loose thread, but she definitely didn’t want him as a new boss—

Jason came out of the office and stopped when he saw her. “How did the trip to Vegas go?”

“I delivered the package to Mr. Barrett as instructed,” Anna said. “Then I went to the casino and picked up a handsome stranger and had sex all night. Also that sex-from-behind thing you kept wanting? You’re doing it wrong.”

“What the hell?” Jason said, but she moved on down the hall with Magnolia close behind her.

“That trip was very good for you,” Magnolia said.

They reached the meeting room, and Magnolia opened the door, looked inside and whispered, “Oh, he is cute,” and Anna held her breath and looked past her and saw a nice-looking blond guy she had never had semi-depraved sex with in a Vegas hotel room.

“He’s okay,” she said, trying to be relieved, and followed Magnolia in.

At least this way, she wouldn’t have to wear a thong.