“Layla,” Joy said, “Can you grab my phone please?”

I did as she’d asked while Hannah shoved some decorative pillows behind Joy’s back, lifting the woman until she sat partially upright.

“Whew,” Joy puffed as she held out her hand over her enormous belly. “Give me that, it’s probably Ramon.”

I handed the phone off. She was right, it was Ramon, and he was pissed.

“I know my heartrate is elevated,” Joy snapped into the phone as she looked at her smart watch. “But I’m fine. In fact, I’m sitting down right now. No, don’t you dare come in here! I need my girl time. Damnit, Ramon. No, don’t you try to pull the Master card, buddy. That may work in the bedroom, but your growly Dom voice will not make me—I heard that!”

Giggling, Hannah smiled at me and said in a low voice, “I give it two more minutes before Ramon bangs on the door.”

Glancing at the gold and diamond watch I’d been given by my adoptive parents for my eighteenth birthday, I raised my eyebrows. “But he’s not supposed to be here for another half hour.”

“Please, Ramon has been sitting downstairs with Leo since he supposedly dropped Joy off. He doesn’t trust her safety to anyone but himself right now.”

I sighed. “He’s very protective of her. That’s so romantic.”

Hannah rolled her eyes at me. “Yeah, at first it seems like it, then you realize it’s also super annoying.”

“Oh, trust me, I know. I had an ex-boyfriend that…” I replied then quickly wished I hadn’t as both their gazes turned to me. “So, is Ramon on his way up?”

“You’re ex-boyfriend did what?” Joy said as she narrowed her eyes on me. “What ex? You’ve never mentioned an ex anything.”

I winced, then started to twist the leash in my hands. “Ex-boyfriend. He was…um, very controlling. And older than me.” I gave a dry laugh. “That seems to be my type, huh? Older, dominant guys. My therapist says I might have daddy issues.”

Hannah held up her hands. “No judgement here. You know Leo’s my Daddy Dom so I’m the last one to cast stones.”

Before I could reply, there was a knock at the bedroom door.

I glanced over at it, “Should I answer it?”

“If you don’t, he’ll just pick the lock,” Joy sighed.

I opened it, and sure enough, Ramon practically shoved me aside in an effort to get to his wife.

“Hey, Ramon,” I said to his back. “Nice to see you, too.”

Ramon raised a distracted hand. “Hey, Layla. You look nice.”

He then leaned down and began to scold a mutinous looking Joy who had a full-on pout going that would give any toddler a run for their money.

Giggling, Hannah pulled me over to the mirror and fiddled with her hair as she smiled at me. “We’re going to have so much fun tonight. I promise, you’re going to have a blast.”

Chapter 5


If I didn’t get a grip, I was going to barf all over Hannah’s beautiful gold stiletto heels.

We were in the hallway of a luxurious hotel leading to what I assumed was the main ballroom area. The dull roar of hundreds of voices grew louder as we walked down the carpeted space with our bodyguards silently spread out around us. I was immensely grateful for both Diego’s firm grip on my arm, and the anti-anxiety medicine I’d taken earlier. It helped to slightly dull my mind and nerves, leaving me a little more relaxed and just less…caring about stuff. For most people, this would be a bad thing, but for my hyperactive anxiety, it was exactly what I needed.

Though I wondered if maybe I should’ve taken a double dose.

Diego put his hand over mine where it rested on his tuxedoed forearm. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said for what felt like the hundredth time.

Diego’s full lips curved into a slight smile, and his dark eyes watched me carefully. He was a very handsome man with his long, midnight black hair pulled back into a braid and his cutting bone structure. Pair that with a solid jaw and a body that showed he worked out and you had just about the perfect man. Now put a tux on all that magnificence, and Diego was good looking enough to literally turn a woman’s head. While I admired his good looks, I didn’t get any tingle at all when he smiled at me, and his touch felt…about as non-sexual as one could get. We just had no chemistry together, and while that was disastrous for a romantic relationship, it made our friendship easy.

Since Diego was one of the heirs of the Cordova Empire, and had been raised in immense wealth, I had expected a suave, sophisticated man. Which he was, but he was also funny, smart, and very down to earth. Diego went out of his way to charm and relax me, keeping up a steady stream of small talk that helped me focus outward instead of inward. When you have a brain as messed up as mine, that’s a good thing. I had a tendency to overthink, which led to worrying, which sometimes leads to me trying to hide in the nearest women’s restroom.

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