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"Good morning, this is Sasha Kilgore, public relations assistant."
"Hi, Sasha. Blake Fortune, here."
At the sound of his smooth baritone filtering through the phone into her ear, Sasha's heart skipped a beat and she had to remind herself to breathe.
"Hello, Blake. What can I do for you today?"
"I need a favor, Sasha."
Every time he said her name, a tiny little flutter in the pit of her stomach reminded her that she apparently still carried the remnants of a schoolgirl's crush for the youngest of the Fortune men."
"I'll do what I can," she said, hoping she didn't sound too eager. "What do you need?"
"Me?, Her pulse raced and the room suddenly felt as if it had become a vacuum.
"I know this is late in the game to be asking about something like this, but I'm opening a new casino here in Deadwood toward the end of the month and I need your help coming up with a special PR campaign to kick things off. I want it to run though the summer to attract vacationers."
It was completely ridiculous, but she felt a little disappointed that his call wasn't of a personal nature. "Hotels and the gaming industry aren't exactly my area of expertise."
Why hadn't he consulted his own PR director? Surely he had one. After all, this would be the third casino he'd opened in the past four years and she'd heard through the office grapevine that he'd recently formed his own corporation.
"Come on, sweetheart." His use of the endearment sent a little shiver straight up her spine. "We both know you're one of the best. Otherwise you wouldn't be working for Dakota Fortune."
She felt warm all over from just the sound of his voice. "So now you're going toresort to charm and flattery?, "Is it working?"
She laughed. "No, but it's nice to hear."
"Tell me you'll help me out here, Sasha," he said, his voice taking on the no-nonsense tone she was used to hearing from him. "My public relations director is out on family medical leave, helping his wife with their new twin girls and I'm up against a wall on this. Fortune's Gold is opening in three weeks."
"I've never seen the place and that makes it extremely difficult to come up with ideas that would work for you," she warned.
"Not a problem. Just set a day and time and I'll send my private jet to pick you up."
"I could probably research your needs on the Internet, then"
"you'll get a better idea if you see the operation firsthand," he said obstinately.
If there was one thing about the Fortune men that she knew as surely as she knew her own name, it was that they didn't take no for an answer.
Sighing, she reached for her electronic planner. "The earliest I could possibly meet with you would be day after tomorrow. Would that be convenient or would the following week be better?"
"Friday's great. I'll be looking forward to seeing you. Plan on spending the weekend here in Deadwood, then we'll fly back to Sioux Falls together on Monday morning."
"That's three days."
"Your math skills are impressive."
"And your persistence is annoying."
His deep chuckle caught her off guard. To her knowledge, she hadn't heard him laugh in years and she'd come to the conclusion that his brothers, Case and Creed, had been right when they'd insisted that Blake didn't have a sense of humor. Apparently, they'd been wrong.
"Come on, Sasha. you'll be able to get an idea of what my clientele experience while they're here. That should help you come up with a more attractive promotional offer. And besides, it'll be a nice little break away from the rat race."
Oh, he was good. He knew just what to say and just how far to lower his voice to make her feel as if it really meant a lot to him for her to spend the weekend working on his promotion campaign.
"I suppose it would be nice to get away for a weekend," she said slowly. "I just wasn't aware that it would take that much time to research what you need and come up with a viable plan."
"I thought since you'll be here, you could go ahead and take a look at my other casinos and give me a fresh perspective on ways to promote those as well." He paused. "But if it's a problem."
When his voice trailed off, she shook her head at how masterful he was at getting what he wanted. "No, no problem. I should be able to clear my calendar for the weekend." Truth to tell, she didn't have anything planned beyond cleaning her apartment and vegging out in front of the television for a Julia Roberts movie marathon on one of the cable channels.
"Then we're set. I'll have my pilot pick you up at eight on Friday morning. And, Sasha?"
"Thanks." He made the word sound extremely intimate and caused the fluttering in her stomach to go absolutely berserk. But before she could get her suddenly paralyzed vocal cords to respond, he hung up.
"Who was that?"
She looked up at the sound of the familiar male voice to find Creed Fortune standing in her office doorway, looking extremely suspicious.
"It was your brother Blake," she answered cautiously.
"Half brother," Creed corrected tightly. "What did he want?"
It was a well-known fact that although Creed and Blake were brothers, they weren't close. Far from it. At the best of times, they were barely civil and at the worst, openly hostile.
"His PR director is on leave of absence and Blake asked me to help him work up a campaign for the opening of a new casino."
She concentrated on inputting her meeting with Blake into her planner. Why did she feel as if she were being disloyal to Creed? They had never been anything more than good friends.
"Are you going to help him?, From the disapproval in Creed's voice, Sasha could tell that he thought she should have turned Blake down.
She nodded. "I see no reason why I shouldn't help him with the grand opening of his new casino."
"I can give you a damned good reason." Creed shook his head. "The son of a bitch can't be trusted. Hell, I'd trust a rattlesnake before I put any kind of faith in Blake Fortune."
"That's a horrible thing to say about your brother, Creed." Being an only child, she'd always wanted a brother or sister and couldn't understand anyone feeling such antagonism toward their sibling. "Whether you get along with him or not, he's still part of your family."
Creed grunted. "The worst part."
Choosing her words very carefully, Sasha met his piercing gaze head-on. "you're one of my best friends, Creed, and I place a lot of value on that friendship. But don't ask me to choose sides. Whatever grievances you have with Blake are between the two of you. I have nothing to do with it."
His mouth flattened into a straight line a moment before he nodded. "All I'm saying is, watch yourself around him, Sasha. He's just like his mother. Bad news."
Hoping to lighten the moment, she grinned. "he'd probably tell me something similar about you. Now, why don't you go back to your office and do something productive while I get back to work?"
Long after Creed had left her alone, Sasha wondered what could possibly have caused the siblings to be at such odds. The two older Fortune brothers, Case and Creed, made no secret of the fact that they had no use for their younger brother. And from everything she'd seen and heard, the feeling was more than mutual. Blake had even gone so far as to leave Dakota Fortune, the multibillion-dollar corporation their grandfather had founded, to build his own empire in the South Dakota gaming industry. As far as she knew, he still maintained his shares of stock in Dakota Fortune and was a member of the board of directors, but had nothing to do with running the enterprise.
Leaning back in her leather desk chair, she stared at the entry she'd just put into her planner. It appeared the hostilities between the Fortune brothers were escalating and they expected those around them to choose sides in their battle of willssomething she had no intention of doing.
Unfortunately, she wasn't sure how she was going to avoid it. She was good friends with one brother and the other brother had always had the ability to make her feel as if the earth moved whenever he looked her way.
Sighing heavily, she shook her head as she opened the browser on her computer and keyed in a search for casinos in the Deadwood, South Dakota, area. When war broke out between Creed and Blake it could very easily destroy whoever got in the way. She needed to keep that in mind and make sure that she wasn't the one caught in the middle when it all came to a head.