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Her Secret Thrill(2)

By:Donna Kauffman

“Con? As in Conrad Jones?” She groaned inwardly. She’d been ogling a groupie. At least she could have consoled herself if he was a working professional, instead of a…a sycophant, a hanger-on.

“We grew up together. Lamont, Wyoming.”

A childhood groupie. Even worse. He’d made a life out of standing in his pal’s spotlight. But this was none of her business. “Let me get my purse, I’ll be glad to loan you—”

“I don’t need the money,” he said quickly. “It’s just that Con—”

Right then, a loud thumping reverberated through the room at the end of the hallway, followed shortly thereafter by someone screaming, “God, yes!”

That someone sounded suspiciously like Liza.

“What the—?” Natalie went to move past him down the hallway.

The blond stranger reached for her arm. “You might not want to—”

His warning wasn’t even completed before another, far more masculine, shout echoed around the room. “Ooooooooh, yessssss. I’m coming, baby!”

Natalie froze as an incredibly primitive and impossibly loud groan followed that pronouncement. Shrieks of undeniable rapture accompanied said groan. Liza’s.

Well. Okay, then. Natalie was pretty sure that in her entire twenty-eight years she’d never once covered this particular social gaffe. At least she now knew where Liza had gotten off to, after all. Gotten off. Dear Lord. Her face flushed and no amount of social breeding was going to stop it.

“I’m sorry,” he said from behind her.

She turned to face him. Best just to brazen it out. “Well, I guess I’m really not alone, after all.” She wanted to smile brightly, make light of the whole thing, but she couldn’t pull it off.

“Yeah.” He did have the grace to look a little uncomfortable. “Listen, maybe I will just head downstairs and see if the bar is still open or…or something. I’m staying with Con and I don’t have keys to his place,” he added by way of explanation. Then he gave up and grinned. “This is really embarrassing, isn’t it.”

And just like that, she suddenly found the whole situation hilarious. She was already laughing even as she nodded in agreement. And once she started, she couldn’t seem to stop. He joined in, and they were both leaning against the hallway walls by the time they managed to stop long enough to catch their breath.

“Um, just tell Con I’ll be in the lobby. Or leave a note. Whatever.”

“But what if— I mean, are you sure he’ll be leaving?”

“If I had my wallet, I’d just get a room, but—”

Whatever she’d thought moments ago, right now Natalie felt a certain kinship with him. They were both being put in an incredibly awkward position by their friends. The least she could do was end it as gracefully and quickly as possible. “I know you’d rather handle this on your own, but I honestly don’t mind reserving a room for you. You can always switch the charge to your card when you…um, get your wallet back.” Laughter threatened to erupt again, but she tamped it down. She was so tired now that she knew the giggles were perilously close to the surface. Best to get him on his way so she could go bury herself in her room under a mound of covers and forget this whole episode.

She didn’t give him a chance to refuse. She moved past him and went toward her bedroom, where she’d stashed her purse in a dresser drawer. “I’ll be right back.”

“Really, it’s okay,” he said, half following her down the hall. “You don’t have to—”

And just then, the thumping started again.

Natalie stopped and whirled around. “Oh, for heaven’s sake.” She looked at the far wall, where the paintings already had shifted to an odd angle. Liza’s bedroom was on the other side of that wall. The thumping increased. And there were groans now. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she muttered.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”

She looked at him. “Pardon?”

“Your name?”

It took her a moment to process the request and why it mattered. It was impossible to think with the sex marathon getting into full swing in the next room. She was fairly certain swing might be the operative word. “My name? Natalie,” she said absently, trying hard to block out the escalating groans and yeah, babys coming from the other room.

“I’m Jake. Listen, Natalie, why don’t I get you out of here and buy us both a cup of coffee.”

She looked at him as if he had just grown two heads. What was he saying? He was asking her out? “You don’t have any money.”

He grinned sheepishly. “Okay, well then, I’ll let you buy me a cup of coffee.”

“But I can’t reserve you a hotel room? What, you have a limit on charitable donations?” This whole conversation was getting strange.

But then he stepped closer to her, and she found herself completely focusing on his blue eyes. She told herself it was the only way to block out at least some of the shrieks of ecstasy now coming from the other room.

“What kind of vitamins do they take, anyway?” he asked.

Then he grinned. It was the grin that did it. Or maybe Liza’s noisy climax. She wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she couldn’t stay in this room one more second.

“Come on,” he said again, as if sensing her shift. “Let’s get out of here and leave them alone. Not that they seem to care, but I do.”

Right at that moment, she couldn’t find a hole in that logic. She ducked into her room, snatched her purse and headed to the front door, not even looking to see if he was following her. She’d buy them some coffee, talk him into letting her get a room for him, and hope that by then Liza and Con would have screwed themselves into unconsciousness—and she could crawl into her bed and sleep till noon.

Galvanized by the plan, she walked over to the elevator and punched the only button on it. Jake stepped out into the hall, Liza’s shouted “Yes, right there!” following him through the open doorway.

They both stepped into the elevator, careful not to look at each other. Or at the door to the penthouse.

Natalie punched the lobby button.

“Going down,” intoned a deep recorded voice.

They both glanced at each other. Jake snickered first. Natalie snorted. Then they collapsed in laughter that continued for the entire eighty-eight floors.


NATALIE WAS SLIGHTLY overdressed in a gold-colored tunic—Liza’s—over tight black silk pants. Also Liza’s. She’d only caved to Liza’s pleading and worn the slinky attire because she knew she’d be in the penthouse all night and not out in public. Well, she was out in public now. But after what she’d just been through upstairs, wearing pants that clung to her fanny and outlined her thighs like a second skin, along with a top that could only be worn with no bra, seemed like a cakewalk in terms of public discomfort.

They were in an all-night café several doors down from The Maxi. Jake motioned past the counter to a small booth. Thankful, she took him up on the offer. Not as much of her would show if she was tucked into a booth.

His hand brushed the bare skin of her back ever so slightly as she moved in front of him to slide into her seat. For whatever reason, that brief touch was like a hot jolt of electricity. Flustered and caught off guard by the heat of her reaction, she instantly opened the small menu in front of her, even though she had no intention of ordering more than one quick cup of coffee. She just didn’t want him to notice the fact that her nipples had become little heat-seeking missiles.

Surely it was the atmosphere she’d just left that was making her body react that way. Mortifying as it had been, there was also no denying it had been just a little bit…well, arousing.

“Black, please,” she mumbled to the waitress. What was she doing here again? Now that she’d escaped the sex-o-rama upstairs, she was having second thoughts.

“I’ll have the same, please. But with cream.” Jake smiled at the tired waitress. “Real cream if you have it.”

The waitress actually smiled. “Sure thing, hon.”

Natalie’s eyebrows lifted. “I didn’t think waitresses were allowed to smile in New York City. Isn’t that a code violation or something?”

Jake grinned and shrugged out of his jacket. “Guess it’s that Wyoming charm my mom pounded into me.”

And damn if he didn’t have it. In spades. She could keep on telling herself that it was the late hour and her obvious fatigue, but her life had stepped so far outside its neat little box in the past fifteen or so minutes, she decided to just say the hell with it and go with the flow. Tomorrow, life would resume. And boy, were she and Liza going to have a little talk.

But for now, she was drinking coffee at a quarter-to-four in the morning with a good-looking guy in the city that didn’t sleep. Might as well enjoy the rare adventure.

“So, how long have you known Liza?”

Small talk. Small talk was safe enough. “Since law school.” She smiled over his obvious surprise. “Liza dropped out. I didn’t.”

“What kind of law do you practice?”

“Corporate. Boring stuff.” She loved her job but didn’t want to talk about herself. She wanted to talk about him. He was the adventure, after all. “What do you do back in Wyoming?” Then she remembered. He was one of Con’s followers. Oh well, she wouldn’t let that dampen her newfound spirit of adventure. She could sustain her little thrill for at least as long as it took to have one cup of coffee.