Charmed by Lexi Blake

Chapter One

Dallas, TX

“You need to get laid.”

Nina Blunt bit back a groan at the words and held her hand up to indicate to the bartender that she was definitely going to need another glass of wine. She adored Sandra Croft, the woman sitting beside her at the bar, but sometimes she could be a lot to take. She’d met Sandra months before when she’d shown up at the London office of McKay-Taggart and Knight with her daughter and granddaughter. Like many people Nina knew, Sandra was ex-military, and it showed in her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of conversation.

“I’m not here to get laid. I’m here to do a job, and that job starts tomorrow afternoon,” Nina pointed out, sliding her empty wine glass forward so the bartender could pour out some more Pinot Noir.

Sandra turned in her chair, her hand on the beer she’d ordered. “When was the last time you got laid? I’m thinking it’s been a couple of years. Fess up. I’ve got a bet on this.”

This rarely happened in London. There was a reason she didn’t come work for the Dallas team often. Ever, really. It was her first time working directly with Ian Taggart’s team, and this was what she got. “It’s absolutely none of your business.”

“I totally disagree. I have to go undercover with you. I’m your backup. I need to make sure my girl is loose and ready to rumble. I’ve got some thoughts on hookers.”

Sometimes with Sandra she just had to go with it. Often with Sandra, things got so over-the-top awkward it was amusing. “I think they’re called gigolos when they’re male.”

Sandra shook her head. “I refuse that terminology. Look, a doctor’s a doctor whether said doc has lady bits or dangly parts or anything in between. A pro’s a pro. If there’s one thing my daughter’s generation has right, it’s sexual fluidity.”

Sometimes it was utterly fascinating to watch Sandra go. It was one of the reasons she was kind of excited about the upcoming job. Sure, it was a fairly simple catch-the-corporate-spy-in-action job that she’d done a hundred times, but Sandra was her backup and that meant the world might explode. “So you think I should call up an agency and tell them I’ll take whatever they send. Girl parts. Boy parts. Doesn’t matter.”

“I’m only saying these people are professionals and strap-ons exist.”

The bartender nearly dropped the bottle of wine she’d been pouring. That happened a lot around Sandra. The woman had no filter and absolutely no fucks to give. Still, she had to smile. Many good things had come out of the mission that had finally brought the Lost Boys full circle, but meeting Sandra had been a blessing to Nina. Sandra had become her friend, and she needed a friend who took no bullshit and told no lies. It was refreshing, even if sometimes challenging. “Well, I will certainly keep that in mind if I feel like I need a good snog.”

“You need more than a snog,” Sandra pointed out. “Your shoulders are up around your ears. You know they’re not supposed to be there, right?”

She couldn’t help it if she was a bit on the Type A side of the personality scale. It had served her well in her profession. Well, mostly. “What do you think the wine is for?”

Sandra considered her for a moment. “I think you’ll have two glasses of wine, and even though you might want a third, you’ll refuse. Like at dinner. You wanted dessert but turned it away. You’ll drink the amount of wine you’ve agreed you can have and then you’ll be in bed by nine alone. You’ll read a romance novel but when ten o’clock strikes, no matter how much you want to read more, you’ll close the book and turn out the lights because you have a schedule.”

Well, put like that her evening sounded boring. Yes, she’d wanted the cheeseburger and settled for the grilled chicken salad sans dressing. Yes, she’d wanted a taste of chocolate cake, but a taste tended to lead to eating the whole thing, and then she might gain a pound and he would…

She wasn’t really thinking of Roger, was she? She wasn’t still making choices based on the humiliation he might heap on her. Shame washed over her, the horrible cycle of a terrible relationship so ingrained in her being that she hadn’t even realized she was still going through it. “Maybe I’ll have a third glass of wine. But I should go to bed early. I have to deal with Big Tag tomorrow. That requires all my faculties.”

Sandra’s face softened. “Big Tag is the easiest person in the world to deal with if you don’t mind a little sarcasm. Honestly, he’s the single most tolerant human being I’ve ever met.”