Double or Nothing

What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas…

She should’ve known better.
Rather than satiate their urgent desires, Darla and Anton’s affair only fanned the flames of their unfulfilled needs. When he pursues her with the shrewd ruthlessness of a patient wolf, their relationship resumes course with predictable fervor. But things are different now. Very different.

Pax’s gambling debts remain unsettled, leaving him desperate and distrustful of his sister, while Henri’s return from France forces Darla to confront her displeasure with their fragile arrangement.

Faced with increased suspicion, mounting financial pressure and family obligations, will Darla sacrifice happiness for stability? Or will it cost more than she ever imagined??

This novella is part one of three in an ongoing serial. Each installment is available separately, or as a boxed set.

Reading order of the Casino Players Saga:

Book One All In
Book Two Double or Nothing
Book Three Ante Up

EXCERPT

 

I enter and walk past the line at the counter and towards the back where bistro tables give way to oversized furniture. As expected, she’s seated on one of the over-sized couches.

She drinks from a paper cup. Those shapely legs are curled  under her and she’s engrossed in her e-reader. She looks so content that I almost regret disturbing her. Almost.

I stop in front of her and she glances at my legs before she resumes reading. When I stay, she looks up at my face. Her look of annoyance transforms into instant shock.

“Anton?” She’s incredulous. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.”

Her spine stiffens and she takes a quick look around.

“Why?”

“You know why.” I sit down beside her. “We’re not done. Not even close.” I tell her in a strained whisper.

Darla sits back into the plush cushion while her e-reader falls off her lap. There’s no doubt my visit has caught her by surprise. The expression on her face transforms from panic to pained. It makes me worry for a moment that I’ve overplayed my hand.

She takes a deep breath. “Don’t do this. Please.”

“Darla.” My determined eyes bore into her troubled ones. “Do you think tracking you down here was my impulsive first choice?”

Her eyes widen and she bolts upright. “You’re having me followed.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yes,” I admit. “There was no other way to pull this off. Don’t worry, my investigators are very discreet.”

“Don’t worry?” Her voice is low and forceful. “You sound like a stalker.”

“A stalker? Oh, for Christ sake.” I cross my legs and shift away from her. “I was trying to be considerate of your situation. Considerate and discreet.”

“Considerate and discreet?” She repeats with angry disbelief.

“Yes,” I insist. “I know where you work and where you live. Would you have preferred that I showed up at either place unannounced and attempted this conversation?”

Darla’s eyes widen in horror. “No. Of course not.”

“Manufactured drama and public squabbles aren’t my style. I’m not a petty man. Or a desperate one. But you should know by now that I play to win.”

“And what’s the prize, Anton?”

“Us.”

“Us?” Disbelief returns. “What ‘us’?

The us that can acknowledge our mutual needs and desires.” I touch her thigh just above the knee. “The rare, strange, intoxicating arousal that comes from wanting and be wanted. And for no other reason.”

Darla shifts in her chair. She strokes my hand on her lap, but doesn’t push me away.

“What you haven’t considered is that I assume all the risk,” she says. “You have nothing to lose, while I could lose everything.”

“It’s true.” My finger traces the edge of her perfectly manicured thumbnail. “Resuming our relationship puts me at far less risk.  That’s why I’m willing to accommodate you.”

“Accommodate me?” she repeats in a cautious voice.

“Yes. You say when and where and I’ll make it work.” I promise. “I have the time, money and resources to pull it off. You know this.”

“To pull off what?” Her voice is troubled. “An affair? We’ve just met. Under intense and bizarre circumstances, granted. But maybe it’s nothing more than wishful thinking to hope that it could be more.”

I clear my throat and sigh in resignation. My intentions don’t make sense to her right now. Hell, they aren’t all that clear to me, if I’m honest. But I’m too much of a battle-scarred gambler to put all my cards on the table too soon.

“I know how it feels to be with the wrong person.” My clear eyes meet her troubled expression. “What it’s like to hope beyond reason that things will get better. I’ve suffered the toll it takes trying patch up the holes, then told myself the demoralizing lie that I was strong enough to tough it out and make the best of it.”

Darla’s shuts her eyelids, tight, trying to prevent the tears welling at their corners from running down her cheek. One manages to escape.

“I know that you and Henri don’t live together, and there are no other men in your life. Have you asked yourself how much longer you can endure the life you’re living?”

“Please stop,” she pleads, miserable.

My arm encircles her shoulders. Resigned, she rests against me like she did an eternity ago. For now, I’ve learned to savor these unguarded moments with her. They can’t last, not now. Maybe that’s why I treasure our time together so much.

Darla wipes her eyes, using her fingers to smooth away smeared eyeliner from underneath her lower lashes. When she regains her composure, I embark on the major goal of this contrived encounter.

“You’re receiving an industry award at a sustainable products conference in a few weeks. At Hotel La Fleur Miami.” I tell her in a calm voice.

She looks at me in disbelief. “Did your investigators tell you that, too?”

“No. I found that all by myself. It’s on the ‘About Us’ page of your company website. The first thing I did after you left was do a search on social media.

Speechless, she rolls her eyes and turns away.

“Listen to me.” I plead. “The La Fleur is one of mine.  I’ll be there during the conference.”

When she looks at me, I pull out a business card and hand it to her. On the front my name is printed without any title, over the contact details at of Hotel LaFleur Miami. Handwritten on the back in blue ink are the words ‘Special VIP’.

“If you… want me, ask for the hotel manager. Give them this,” I nod down at the card, “and they will find me.” I touch her hand. “At this point, it’s up to you.”

When she stares up at me, my lips seize hers and plant a quick, tender kiss on that unforgettable mouth. Then I stand up, smooth the line of my jacket and head for the door.