Read Gambler's Woman Online

Authors: Jayne Ann Krentz

Gambler's Woman (10 page)

"Fantastic pasta dish, Alyssa," Ned Grummond commended as he forked up
an oversized portion.
"Don't let me forget to get the recipe from you before I leave tonight"
Ned's portly figure gave ample evidence of his long-standing interest
in food. But he apparently had other interests in life, too, Alyssa
realized as he turned a beaming smile of welcome on Jordan. "So you're
an expert in probability theory, eh?"
"J make my living using various aspects of the theory, yes," Jordan
returned easily, settling down onto
the couch and reaching up to assist Alyssa. The moment the strong
fingers closed around her arm, she knew there wasn't any option except
to sink down beside him.
"Have to confess I've never been much good at math myself." Ned sighed
and was joined by several ruefully agreeing voices from those around
him. "All I can do to balance my checkbook, I'm afraid.
But it's always kind of fascinated me, you know? I've always admired
people who have a head for numbers. I know Alyssa here uses her
background in the statistics area. How about you? What exactly does an
expert in probability theory do?"
There was a murmur of interest from some of the others, and several
people glanced inquiringly at Jordan. Do something, Alyssa, she
screamed silently at herself. This is your future that's on the line.
If Jordan answers this question accurately, it's going to shock this
whole roomful of people, including
your boss.
"I believe I mentioned earlier that Jordan isn't really free to discuss
his work," she began bravely.
"You know how it is with government projects."
"That's okay, honey," Jordan interrupted smoothly. "I think I can talk
about my subject without giving away any state secrets. Ned has asked a
very good question, and you know how I love my field."
She cast a desperately appealing glance at him and realized there was
nothing she could say or do to
halt the inevitable. "Are you sure you wouldn't care for another
helping of mushroom tart?" she tried valiantly, mostly for the sake of
trying.
"I've got plenty, thanks. Actually, Ned, I'm afraid probability theory
has its roots in the disreputable
world of gambling," he went on conversationally.
Ned chuckled, and so did several of the others. "I hadn't thought about
it, but I suppose there must be some direct applications."
"Precisely." Jordan nodded approvingly. "In fact, legend has it that it
was the curiosity of gamblers that first gave rise to the questions,
which, in rum, gave rise to the beginnings of the theory."
"What kinds of questions?" Lucy Chavez inquired, leaning forward
interestedly and managing to display
a fair amount of bosom in the process.
"Oh, questions such as the ones some gamblers asked Galileo over three
centuries ago. They wanted to know why a throw of dice turns up certain
sums more often than others. Professional gamblers were still asking
similar questions a hundred years later, and a lot of mathematicians
such as Pascal tried to answer them. The mathematics which developed to
describe the theory of chance have a lot of useful applications, but
it's still often easier to understand them if you think in terms of a
familiar game of chance."
"Like roulette?" Lucy interjected.
"Good example," Jordan murmured appreciatively. "Or craps or blackjack
or any one of several other games. You'd be amazed at how many people
who gamble have no understanding at all of the theory behind the games."
Alyssa choked on a small sliver of her French bread. Instantly, Jordan
was all concern, slapping her heartily on the back until she managed to
gasp that she was all right. The interruption, however, didn't slow him
down at all, and his listeners were fascinated.
"For example," he went on cheerfully, reaching into his pocket and
extracting a coin. "If I toss this
quarter ten times and it comes down heads each time, a tot of people
will think that because of some
'law of averages' the eleventh toss is far more likely to turn up tails
than heads."
"Isn't it?" Ned Grummond demanded curiously, his eyes following the
coin as Jordan idly flicked it into the air and caught it on the back
of his hand "I mean, after having turned up heads so many times in a
row, it's
bound
to eventually
turn up tails."
"In my profession, that's sometimes affectionately known as the Monte
Carlo fallacy." Jordan grinned, displaying the coin, which had indeed
landed heads. "Trie truth is, every toss of the coin is independent
of every other toss. Assuming the quarter is a correctly made, evenly
weighted coin, it's just as likely to turn up heads on the eleventh
toss as it was on the first or sixth or eighth toss. A fifty-fifty
chance." He flipped the coin again, catching it with a sureness that
made Alyssa wince. "If you were betting on the outcome, you'd want to
remember that every toss has a fifty-fifty chance regardless of how
many tosses have been made or how many times heads has already come up."
"Dessert anyone?" Alyssa asked quickly, surging to her feet hopefully.
"Sounds great, honey." Jordan smiled before turning back to his
audience. "Oh, and while you're getting it, do you think you could
rustle up a deck of cards?"
"Cards?" She looked at him, horror-struck.
"Cards," he repeated firmly. "You must have a deck around. Everyone
keeps one. A lot of things are easier to demonstrate with a card deck."
When she realized everyone was looking toward her expectantly, Alyssa
lost her nerve. "I'll see what I can find" She fled toward the kitchen,
an angry red coloring her cheeks. She couldn't believe this was
happening. A sense of unreality began to take over, providing a welcome
numbness.
By the time she had dished up cheesecake and produced the deck of
cards, Alyssa was, in fact, becoming quite fatalistic. The evening had
to end in disaster. There was no alternative. Given the inevitability
of the outcome, why let herself grow tense each time Jordan responded
to another question. After all, a catastrophe was a catastrophe. When
it came, it would be quite final.
She looked on with her new fatalistic calm as Jordan shuffled the cards
for his latest demonstration of the theory of probability. Almost idly,
she wondered if anyone in the crowd watching him would notice the
expertise of the shuffle. Those damned good hands were going to be her
downfall, she thought Those strong, beautifully shaped fingers were
going to pull down the fragile bricks and mortar of her career just as
surely as if they had planted a bomb.
"Where did you run into Kyle, Alyssa?"
She started a little as Hugh Davis appeared at her shoulder. "He's a,
uh, colleague of mine, Hugh. We've known each other on a professional
basis for some time." It sounded weak even to her own ears.
"Really? I'd say he considers himself a bit more than a professional
colleague, wouldn't you? He's been calling you 'honey' since he came
through the door."
"Jordan's very casual about things like that," she managed a little
grimly. Why should Hugh Davis care one way or the other how Jordan
addressed her? At that moment, the man in question glanced up from
across the room where he was dealing a "demonstration" hand of cards
for a group of interested people. The golden eyes snagged hers, and
something decidedly menacing flickered in his gaze. In spite of her
numbed sense of reality, Alyssa shivered. With the still-functioning
feminine intuition that was born into every woman, she read the
expression in his eyes very accurately.
Jordan Kyle didn't like her proximity to Hugh Davis.
As if he had any right to object after what he's done to me tonight,
she thought vengefully.
Hugh Davis moved perceptibly closer, bending his head in what must
appear a too-attentive fashion. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but something
tells me you're going to be in for a lecture after everyone else goes
home tonight. Your friend Kyle may be casual, but that look he's giving
me is definitely not one of easygoing camaraderie!"
Alyssa gave herself a small, inner shake and moved away from him. "If
you'll excuse me, Hugh, I think Mr. McGregor needs another slice of
cheesecake." It was only as she deliberately turned to head for the
buffet table that Alyssa realized Jordan wasn't the only one in the
crowd eying her proximity to Hugh Davis. Hugh's wife, Cari, was
watching the small tableau with a sullen expression that made Alyssa
uneasy.
Would this horrible evening never end?
But it did eventually, and much to Alyssa's stunned surprise, it did so
without the disastrous finale she
had been expecting from the moment Jordan Kyle had entered her home.
To her everlasting astonishment, the wretched buffet party drew to a
quiet, happily reluctant close as guests finally began to take their
leave shortly after midnight And each and every one of them bid good
night to Jordan as if they were delighted to have encountered him.
"I hope we'll see you around, Jordan," David McGregor announced
enthusiastically, shaking Jordan's hand in farewell. He flicked a
paternally amused glance at Alyssa, who was quietly ushering people out
the door. "I assume that's a foregone conclusion, though, isn't it?"
"I think so," Jordan returned suavely, following McGregor's glance. "I
have no intention of letting Alyssa out of my sight for any lengthy
stretch of time. You know how women are, sir. A man needs to keep his
eye on his property or he runs the risk of its getting lost, strayed or
stolen."
Alyssa shot him a distinctly unamused glance before turning to say
good-by to Lucy Chavez and her
date. "Good night, Lucy. I'll see you Monday morning. Thanks for
coming."
"Oh, you know I always enjoy your parties, Alyssa," the other woman
said, laughing. "But I must say
that I never dreamed the evening would be so educational!" She smiled
at Jordan. "Perhaps if my math instructors had made their lessons as
entertaining as you make yours, I would have gotten more out of
the classes back in high school!"
"Thank you, Lucy," Jordan said with a sincerity that caught Alyssa's
attention. He meant it, she thought to herself. He really enjoyed the
compliment
It was one of many he received as the remainder of the guests made
their way out the door. By the time the last one had departed, Alyssa
was forced to concede that Jordan Kyle had been the evening's most
popular attraction.
And every single one of those departing guests seemed convinced they
had spent the evening being entertained by a pre-eminent expert in the
field of probability theory. Dazed, she acknowledged the fact that not
one of them had apparently guessed Jordan's true occupation. Alyssa
shut the door behind the last guest with a mixture of wonder and
apprehension flooding through her.
There was only Jordan left now in the quiet room. Slowly, she turned to
confront him, her eyes narrowing as anger began to break through the
artificial, fatalistic calm that had overcome her during the latter
half of her evening.
"I suppose," she began seethingly, "that you think you're rather
clever!"
He eyed her for a long moment, and she wondered what he was thinking.
His expression gave no clue. "I know I'm rather clever," he corrected
too mildly as he strolled over to the white couch and threw himself
down on it in a lithe sprawl. His eyes gleamed. "I make my living by
being rather clever, remember?"
"Jordan ..." She felt the danger in him very clearly now.
"So this is how you spend your time when you're not amusing yourself in
Vegas, hmmm?" He glanced meaningfully around the living room with its
litter of glasses and plates. "This is your real world?"
"Part of it," she made herself say very bravely.
He nodded. "I enjoyed dropping in on your world tonight, Alyssa. I
liked passing myself off as a mathematical scholar. I liked having
people admire my abilities just as if my skills were quite respectable.
It was a complete change of environment for me." He surveyed her taut
expression. "And I think I like the idea of returning to your world
whenever I feel like it."
"Jordan! You can't mean that," she whispered, aware of the mounting
tension in the room. "What are
you trying to say?"
"That I'm going to be right behind you when you shuttle back and forth
between your two worlds,
Alyssa. You're not going to relegate me to Las Vegas or Reno. I'm not a
tame consort who will agree to stay out of sight and out of mind until
you happen to work me into your schedule. I'm not going to play the
other man on weekends while you maintain a normal, proper sort of life
here in Ventura during the week. If you want to come and play in my
world, you'll have to let me come and play in yours!"
"Jordan, listen to me. I realize you're probably still a little upset
about the way I postponed my arrival in Vegas until tomorrow," Alyssa
began, some instinct warning her that angry as she was, it might be
wiser to placate him tonight.
"Upset? Not at all," he drawled, watching her the way a leopard watches
its prey. "Haven't I just explained that I had a great time this
evening?"
She sucked in her breath, summoning up her courage. "I think we ought
to talk this all out in the morning."
He was up off the couch in one easy movement, gliding toward her with
cool menace. "What an
excellent idea. We'll save the discussion for the morning. That leaves
us the remainder of the evening
to clarify another matter."
"Jordan, wait!" Eyes widening with sudden anxiety, Alyssa instinctively
backed away from him.
"I have been waiting," he said simply. "All week. 1 still haven't
decided yet whether or not I'm going to beat you, but I sure as hell
intend to take you to bed, my reckless lady gambler. I want to make
certain you understand that I'm going to play a very real role in your
life."
Panic overwhelmed her, but it was too late to run. Jordan moved,
catching Alyssa up in his arms before she could even think of escape.
Then he started down the corridor to her bedroom without any hesitation
whatsoever.
Six
It took almost twenty seconds for Alyssa's shock to wear off, and by
then it was too late. Jordan was already striding through her bedroom
door with his captive securely in his arms when her outrage finally
overcame the stunned paralysis.
"Put me down," she demanded, her sea-colored eyes more green than gray
as they reflected the full
force of her rising fury. "I mean it, Jordan. Let me go this instant!
You have absolutely no right to treat me this way. I won't tolerate it!
Do you hear me?"
"I hear you. Do you always sound this shrewish when things aren't going
exactly as you planned them?" He seemed more interested than alarmed,
and Alyssa felt anger sizzling in her blood stream.
Anger and something else. Would there always be an underlying element
of passion coursing through her whenever this man touched her? That
thought made her even more furious, and she used her gilded coral nails
with sharp effect on his shoulders. Since she had slid her finger tips
inside the collar of the suede jacket, he had no protection against the
savage little attack. "Damn you, Jordan, I won't be treated like this!"
He sucked in his breath as she sank her nails into the fabric of his
dark shirt, and then he simply opened his arms and let her fall. The
unexpected release startled her, and she parted her lips to cry out But
the bed came up to meet her before the small sound escaped, and she
sprawled awkwardly on the thick, sand-colored quilt.
"You," he announced grimly, leaning forward to plant a hand on either
side of her, "are going to learn a few facts about me tonight that
apparently escaped you last weekend. The most important of which is
that as long as I'm in your life, I'm really in your life, every aspect
of it. You can't relegate me to the weekends and come back here to
Ventura to flirt with that Davis character."
"I wasn't flirting with him!" Struggling to sit up and finding it
impossible, Alyssa lay trapped within the cage of his arms, her eyes
glinting with resentment and, perhaps, a small tinge of fear. She
didn't want
to acknowledge the fear, however. She refused to acknowledge it. Her
determination not to do so led
her to add rashly, "But even if I were, you'd have no right to object!"
His face hardened, and his eyes resembled more than ever those of a
hunting cat. Where was the charmingly polite gambler? The man who had
woven a spell of seduction last weekend? The man who had so entranced
her guests tonight? Alyssa lay very still and tried to retain her nerve.
"He was watching you every time you moved, and I'm not the only one who
noticed. His wife was
aware of what was going on, too. Are you having an affair with Hugh
Davis? An amusing little interlude to occupy you during the week until
the weekend rolls around and you can hop a plane for Vegas?"
"For the last time, I'm not having an affair with the man!" But she was
beginning to understand some of Cari Davis's hostility. Did Hugh's wife
really believe her husband was having an affair with Alyssa?
There wasn't time to worry about that angle, however. Alyssa had her
hands full dealing with her
primary accuser. "But for the record, who the hell are you to stand
there demanding explanations?
How did you spend your week, Jordan?"
"I was working!"
"And after work? Did you pick up a lady to help you while away your
off-duty hours? Or are you going to tell me you didn't keep yourself
occupied this past week?" she snapped, remembering all those nights
when he hadn't returned her phone calls. Her imagination had worked
overtime during those long evenings. "Las Vegas is a city of beautiful
women, and they all love winners!"
"Jealous?" he asked with savage curiosity.
"Why should I be? We have no claims on each other!" she tried to say
with lofty dismissal, but inwardly she cringed because he was making no
effort to deny her accusation.
"You're wrong on that score. I sure as hell am staking a claim on you,
and I intend to see to it that you honor that claim. Whatever is going
on between you and Davis is over as of tonight. Understood? The only
affair you're involved in from now on is the one you're having with me.
And it's not just a weekend arrangement!"
He moved abruptly, straightening and beginning to peel off the soft
suede jacket. His eyes never left Alyssa's wary, tense face as he
absently draped the jacket over the back of a nearby chair and began
unbuttoning the dark shirt
Temporarily free, Alyssa sat up on the quilt, curling her legs under
her protectively. She could feel the blood racing through her veins and
was unable to shake the heady combination of passion and anger
that was swirling through her. "Jordan, I won't let you do this to me.
If you think you can casually
show up on my doorstep and . . . and force yourself on me, you're out
of your mind!"
"Not surprising," he agreed laconically, tossing the shirt in the
general direction of the jacket and
beginning to unclasp the leather belt at his waist. "I think I've been
half out of my mind for a good
portion of the week. I even lost money on Thursday night. Money I
didn't intend to lose."
Alyssa blinked, aware of the significance of his admission. "I'm . . .
I'm sorry about your concentration," she began tentatively, edging
carefully away to the opposite side of the bed.
"Don't worry, I intend to restore my peace of mind!" He yanked off the
expensive calfskin shoes he
was wearing and then stepped out of the dark slacks. Along with the
slacks went his one remaining garment, a pair of snug cotton briefs.
Alyssa swallowed as his hard, lean body emerged from the clothing. She
knew a primitive urge to run
and an equally primitive need to touch the blunt, sleek planes of him.
He was aroused, and the soft light of her bedside lamp threw dark,
dangerous shadows across his smoothly muscled thighs and the contours
of his chest
"Jordan, please, wait." Her right hand lifted in a pleading gesture.
"We need to talk. You know that.
There are too many misunderstandings. You're angry, and so am I. This
isn't any way to solve our problems."
He fit his strong hands to his waist, and a flash of cool amusement lit
his gaze. "I suppose we could try dialing a marriage counselor. Except
that we're not married."
"This isn't a joke!"
"Well, given the fact that we can't call in outside arbitration, we'll
just have to solve our problems in the old-fashioned way." He leaned
forward slightly, one hand going to the buttons of her black bow tie.
Alyssa reacted, realizing that there was nothing she could say now that
would stop him. With a violent little twist, she leaped for the far
edge of the bed and was on her feet across from him in an instant. Her
bow tie dangled from his fingers as he straightened to pin her with his
gaze.
"Are you going to try running?" he asked almost conversationally.
"Don't threaten me, Jordan." Her breath was coming more quickly now as
she realized the peril of the situation. She couldn't take her eyes off
him. Or perhaps she didn't dare to do so, she told herself silently. He
was between her and the door, and the odds of getting safely back out
of the room were definitely
not in her favor, Jordan was far too good a gambler not to realize that
fact, too.
"I'm not going to threaten you," he said almost gently, surprising her
by sinking down onto the quilt with his back to her. He gazed musingly
down at the strip of black silk in his fingers as if it fascinated him
in some way. "I'm going to make love to you. There's a difference, you
know."
Alyssa moistened her dry lips. "Not as long as you're going about it in
this highhanded fashion!"
He glanced back over his shoulder, a wry curve to his mouth. "Come
here, Alyssa," His eyes were gleaming, and his voice was exquisitely
deep and gentle.
She blinked, taken aback by the change in his approach. Quite suddenly,
he was the infinitely seductive man she had known in Las Vegas, and the
knowledge that he could turn the dangerous charm on at will made her
deeply wary. "I don't think so, Jordan. Not until we've talked."
"Then talk to me," he invited huskily, threading the black silk through
his fingers. Alyssa found herself following the small action,
hypnotized. Those hands . . . "Talk to me and tell me you understand
how much I want you."
"Do you, Jordan?" she heard herself breathe. "Do you really want me?"
"So badly that I swallowed my pride to track you down here in Ventura,"
he said simply.
"I thought it might have been your pride which brought you here," she
countered, wondering desperately what was happening to her will to
resist. Her eyes still followed the way his sensitive fingers toyed
sensually with her bow tie.
"If I'd listened to my pride," he said carefully, "I'd still be in
Vegas. I had to come and find you tonight, Alyssa. I couldn't bear the
thought of your being out with some other man."
The desire and longing was clearly visible in the depths of his eyes,
and they drew Alyssa like a magnet. She might have been able to go on
resisting him if he had stuck to the macho approach, but this sensual,
captivating honesty tugged at all her senses. If she had gone to Las
Vegas tonight on schedule, they would by now have been lying in each
other's arms. How could it be any different having him here? This man
could weave magic around her, and realizing that didn't seem to make it
any easier to fight it
"There isn't any other man, Jordan," she stated quietly.
"Davis?" he prompted softly.
"He and I are after the same promotion at work. We know each other
strictly on a business basis.
That's all there is to it," she whispered.
He continued to gaze at her over his shoulder for a moment longer, and
then his head inclined faintly
in acceptance of her explanation. "There wasn't any other woman during
the week, honey."
Her fingers curled into the palm of her hand as she stood very still.
"I... I wondered. When you didn't call."
"It was my pride that kept me from calling. Not another woman."
"Oh, Jordan," she sighed.
The hand with the strip of silk laced between the fingers was held out
to her. "Now will you come here, Alyssa?"
"Are you ..." she broke off and tried again. "Are you still angry with
me for not going to Vegas tonight?"
"Do I look angry?" he countered softly, his hand still extended across
the bed. "Come here, Alyssa, and let me show you how I really feel
tonight."
The last of her wariness dissolved in the face of his gentle seduction.
Slowly, Alyssa knelt down on the bed and put out her hand to touch his.
He touched her palm lightly, drawing her toward him with such a
gossamer pressure that she was almost unaware of what was happening
until she found herself kneeling less than two inches away from him.
Then the lure of his broad shoulder overcame her, and she trailed her
finger tips down the curve of his arm.
"I'm not angry, Alyssa. Not any longer. I need you too much." He turned
her palm upward, moving his lips across it in a warm caress. "I've been
needing you all week."
"Did you really lose last night?" she whispered, loving the touch of
his mouth on her vulnerable palm.
The thought of being capable of wrecking his concentration sufficiently
to cause him to gamble badly
was intoxicating. It gave her a heady sense of power and an equally
pervasive feeling of tenderness.
"I lost. But I won't lose tonight, will I, sweetheart?" He moved his
lips to the inside of her wrist, holding her hand with the lightest of
touches. The silk bow tie dropped unheeded to the quilt as Jordan
shifted
his weight in a subtle manner.
The next thing she knew, Alyssa felt herself being lowered slowly until
she was lying on her back and he was ranged alongside her. The warmth
of his naked body was like a fire on a cold night, infinitely inviting
and full of promise. She could feel the blatant thrust of his manhood
against her leg, and she shivered.
"Oh, Jordan, I thought about you all week," she confessed softly, her
arms going up around his neck
in a gesture of acceptance. Or was it one of surrender? Alyssa didn't
want to think about the nuances
of the action just then.
"And you've been on my mind ever since I had to put you on that damn
plane back to California," he muttered. Slowly, he undid the buttons of
her pleated tuxedo blouse, working with care and anticipation. He
wasn't going to hurry this, she realized. As if he had read her mind,
his mouth crooked slightly as he pushed aside one edge of the blouse
and bent to kiss the swell of her breast above the neat white bra.
"I'm in a mood to make it last the rest of the night I want to
compensate myself for all the long, lonely evenings this past week."
Alyssa trembled a little beneath the feather-light kiss, and her
fingers flexed, catlike, in the darkness of
his hair. "You're sure you're not still angry?" she questioned one last
time. There had been a real threat
in him when he'd arrived on her doorstep this evening and then again
when he'd watched her with Hugh. It was hard to believe all that male
vengeance had truly disappeared.
"I want you too much to be angry tonight." He lifted his head, his
fingers slipping along the high waistband of her black trousers. "But
this time I'm going to make very, very sure of you, sweetheart,"
he added huskily.
She shifted with a trace of unease. "I don't understand."
"You will by morning." His mouth closed over hers in a slow, drugging
kiss that seared away the last of her uncertainty.
Alyssa sighed into his throat and gave herself up to the embrace. This
was what she had been dreaming
of all week. This man of math and magic was the lover she had never
quite dared to believe existed.
How could she resist him tonight?
His teasing, gentling, arousing fingers traced erotic patterns across
the skin of her stomach before unfastening the black trousers and
slipping them down to her feet. Alyssa stirred restlessly as the fires
within her began to build. She stroked him again and again, unable to
get enough of him. Her hands moved over his shoulders and along his
lean hips to the hard, muscled pianes of his buttocks. There her nails
sank lovingly, enticingly into him, and his groan of response was as
satisfying as the finest wine.

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