Read Gambler's Woman Online

Authors: Jayne Ann Krentz

Gambler's Woman (17 page)

Jordan was so much more than that, Alyssa thought, relief flooding
through her as her lover climbed out of the car and started toward the
steps to her front door. He was the man she loved.
"Jordan!" Unhesitatingly, she flew down the steps and threw herself
into his arms. He took the shock of her impact without flinching,
strong arms going around her and sensitive fingers instantly finding
the soothing places along her spine. "Oh, Jordan, you didn't have to
come all this way for me."
She felt him drop the lightest of kisses into her auburn hair as she
buried her face against his solid chest. "Of course, I did, sweetheart
You belong to me, remember? I have the right to take care of you."
"Well, well, this is really a touching little scene. Who would have
thought Alyssa would have been so
silly as to fall for someone like you, Kyle? But I suppose there's no
accounting for taste."
Slowly, Jordan freed himself from Alyssa's clinging embrace, tucking
her against his side as he started toward the man waiting on the
doorstep, Alyssa could feel the cool rage in him and wondered at it.
All that emotion on her behalf? He must feel something very strong for
her. Surely he did!
But his voice was remote and dangerous, soft with a menace that was
totally controlled and all the more frightening because of it "Let's go
inside, Davis. I think we can get this little fiasco cleared up rather
quickly."
Alyssa slanted Jordan a questioning glance as they mounted the steps
and waiked past the other man into her living room. But she could read
nothing on his impassive face. Only the golden eyes were alive with
a fire that threatened to consume. In that moment, she was eternally
grateful that his anger was aimed at Hugh and not herself. The
intensity of that anger would live in her memory for the rest of her
life. What had she unleashed by dragging Jordan into this mess?
When she looked across at Hugh Davis, who stood facing them, she
realized the effect was not lost on her tormentor. For the first time
since she had met him, there was something besides derision in his
expression. Confronting the devil with the golden eyes, Davis was
learning the meaning of having taken on more than he could handle.
"This needn't concern you, Kyle," he tried, apparently having decided
to take the offensive. "This is a little business matter between myself
and Alyssa."
"Everything that affects Alyssa concerns me, Davis. It's too bad you
didn't realize that earlier."
"All I'm offering to do is keep quiet about her new, uh, problem. She's
obviously unqualified for the promotion, and if she'll take herself out
of the running, I'll keep silent about the true facts. That's simple
enough."
"Blackmail usually is," Jordan observed, gently releasing Alyssa and
pushing her tenderly in the direction of the nearest chair. "Getting
rid of blackmailers, however, is even simpler."
Davis narrowed his eyes, and his tone became blustering. "Going to
threaten me, Kyle? If you do, I'll
go to the cops, and then this whole thing really will be out in the
open. Alyssa not only won't stand a chance of promotion, she won't even
be able to keep the job she has!"
"I'm not threatening you," Jordan murmured, sitting down on one of the
stools in front of the small
eating bar. He hooked one booted heel over a rung. Dressed in a pair of
charcoal slacks and an open-throated black silk shirt, he seemed very
dark and dangerous. A golden-eyed devil, Alyssa
thought once again as she watched him intently. "I'll save the threats
until after we see whether or not you're capable of a bit of reason."
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Davis demanded. It was
becoming increasingly clear that he
was out of his depth. Threatening Alyssa in her office had been one
thing. Dealing with Jordan Kyle
was proving to be quite another.
"So you were using my woman to shield one of your own, is that it?"
Jordan pursued mildly. When
Davis said nothing, he nodded. "Very commendable, in a way. I approve
of a man trying to protect his woman even if I don't approve of the way
he does it."
"So help me, Kyle, if you don't shut up and get out of here, I'll make
sure Alyssa loses her job! Who
the hell are you to interfere? You're nothing but a two-bit gambler!"
"Exactly." Jordan smiled grimly as Alyssa stirred angrily in her chair.
"No, he's quite right, honey.
I am a gambler. But there seems to be something our noble blackmailer
has overlooked about the members of my profession."
"Such as?" Davis challenged with a sneer.
"Such as the fact that we know how to take calculated risks. We depend
for survival on a lot of talents, Davis. Among those is the ability to
size up a man very quickly. When I met you Saturday night, I knew
almost immediately what kind of bastard you really are. One of these
days, I suppose your wife will finally realize it, too. But in the
meantime, suffice it to say that you, Hugh Davis, are no gentleman."
Davis gave a crack of nervous laughter at the mild observation. "I
don't see how that's any handicap!"
"Perhaps, perhaps not. Having accepted that basic tenet, however, we
are led to a further observation. Only a true gentleman would go out of
his way to protect his woman." There was a pause while Jordan let the
implication sink in. "You, not being a gentleman, couldn't be expected
to really take pains to protect a woman, any woman, could you? You
would only be concerned about protecting yourself in
any given circumstance."
Alyssa swallowed as it dawned on her exactly where Jordan was going
with his strange comments. Of course, she thought belatedly, she should
have seen the flaw in Davis's strategy from the first. Why
would he have used her to protect another woman? It wasn't his style to
worry about someone else getting into trouble. Apparently, his wife had
hounded several of his previous lovers, and it hadn't
seemed to bother him. Davis was not a gentleman in any sense of the
word.
"I don't know what you're getting at, Kyle," the other man snapped
forcefully.
"No? I thought it was obvious." Jordan held up the well-shaped fingers
of his left hand and carefully ticked off facts. "One, we have all
agreed you're a bastard who wouldn't worry unduly about any
woman with whom he was having an affair unless—"
"Unless?" Alyssa prompted expectantly.
"Unless," Jordan continued obligingly, holding up a second finger,
"discovery of the real identity of the other woman could do Davis,
here, a great deal of harm."
And then it seemed to Alyssa that all hell broke loose in her living
room. Jordan suddenly flew into motion, catching an astonished Hugh by
the collar of his shirt and slamming him up against the wall. "What am
I going to find out about this mystery woman whose identity you've been
protecting?" he growled, his face inches from the other man's now.
"What will 1 get back in the report I'm going to request from the
private investigator I'll hire tonight, Davis? Who is she?"
Apparently, Hugh Davis had the sense to realize when the odds were
overwhelmingly against him.
"It's none of your business," he said hoarsely. "For God's sake, let me
go! I won't tell McGregor about you or Alyssa; just let me go!"
"The problem in dealing with a man who is definitely not a gentleman,"
Jordan grated, "is that one just can't trust the bastard."
"I give you my word! I won't tell McGregor!"
"I think I'll go ahead and hire my own investigator this evening. I
know a very good man in L.A. He's played cards with me on occasion, in
fact I can trust him."
"Damn it, I gave you my word I'd keep quiet about Alyssa. What the hell
more do you want?"
"The full truth." Jordan waited, implacable and frightening, even to
Alyssa, whom he was in the process of defending. "I'll get it one way
or another. Either from you tonight or from the investigator within a
day or two. The only deal I'll make with you is that if you save me the
trouble of hiring my friend in L.A., I'll have Alyssa keep quiet about
the identity of the woman. In other words, we'll swap information,
Davis. And then we'll both agree to keep silent about what we know.
It's called a standoff, I think."
In the end, Davis told them. It was Alyssa who understood the full
significance of the name, however. "Marilyn Crawford? You've been
seeing Marilyn Crawford, Hugh?" She gasped in amazement.
There was silence from the other man as he made a show of straightening
his clothing. Jordan had released the now-sullen man when he'd produced
the name.
"Who is she?" Jordan asked, turning to Alyssa curiously.
"She's the president of a rival firm. No wonder Hugh wanted to keep the
name to himself. McGregor would be furious if he found out one of his
employees was seeing her. Yeoman Research and Marilyn Crawford's
company are arch enemies. We fight over the same contracts and bid for
the same projects. Marilyn's father, I understand, hated David
McGregor, and when he left the firm to his daughter, he apparently left
the legacy of hatred. McGregor would say without hesitation that any
involvement between Hugh and Ms. Crawford clearly amounted to a
conflict of interest. He'd probably suspect
him of selling information."
"That's not true!" Hugh blazed with surprising fury. "I wouldn't tell
that bitch a damn thing!"
Jordan arched a derisive eyebrow. "Like I said. Not much of a
gentleman, are you? You're calling
your lover a bitch?"
"Everything's over between us," Hugh muttered tensely. "She lied to me.
Promised me a position if
things didn't work out at Yeoman . . ." He stopped, realizing he was
saying too much, but Jordan
merely nodded.
"So she was trying to get information out of you, and when she got what
she wanted, she dropped you."
"She didn't get what she wanted!" Hugh exclaimed with such intensity
that Alyssa, for one, believed
him. "I never told her a damn thing about Yeoman."
"And that's when she decided to drop you?" Alyssa hazarded.
"We had it out yesterday. She made it very clear she was only trying to
get information out of me."
"Why did you ever get involved with her, Hugh?" Alyssa asked very
gently. "I know she's quite
beautiful, but you must have known what McGregor would do if he ever
found out."
"He'd do the same thing he'd do if he ever found out about your
gambling and who Kyle, here, really
is, wouldn't he?" Hugh shot back.
Alyssa winced. "Point taken. But I can tell you why I started gambling.
I like it. And I don't lose any
more than I can afford," she tacked on carefully, knowing he'd never
believe her if she claimed that she routinely won.
Hugh lifted one shoulder with a touch of bravado. "Maybe I started
seeing Marilyn for the same reasons. She was exciting, a little
dangerous, and I ... I thought that if I ever were to learn anything
useful from her, I might be able to use it to impress McGregor. Then
she offered me a position if I didn't get this promotion. I was
grateful. I still wanted the promotion, but it was nice to know there
would be somewhere else to go just in case. Then, yesterday, I guess
she decided her own scheme wasn't going
to work, and she told me it was all over. Told me to go to hell, in
fact," he added roughly.
"And suddenly getting the promotion became more important than ever,
didn't it?" Alyssa concluded perceptively. "So, armed with the
information your wife had accidentally dug up, you came to see me."
Hugh said nothing, his sullen glance sliding resentfully to Jordan, who
smiled very blandly. "Don't ever come to see my woman again, Davis. If
you try to do anything more than say hello to her in the hall at work,
I'll slaughter you. And if word of Alyssa's 'hobby' ever gets out, I'll
know where to come looking for the culprit, won't I?"
"You've got a deal," Hugh growled, heading for the door. "Alyssa and I
will both agree to keep our mouths shut, won't we, Alyssa?" But her
answer froze his fingers to the doorknob.
"You don't have to worry, you know, Hugh. The promotion is yours,"
Jordan, who had been watching his victim leave, swung around to stare
at her. She smiled serenely at him, ignoring the startled Hugh. "I'm
taking myself out of the running for that management post."
"What the hell... ?"
"The devil you are!"
She wasn't sure which man spoke first, but her eyes never left
Jordan's. "I've decided I don'treally
care for the lovely career I've built. Folks in this world play a
little too rough for me. I want out."
"Alyssa!" Jordan reached for her, yanking her up in front of him.
"Honey, you can't do this! Think
about what you're saying!"
She smiled again and nodded dismissively at Hugh. "Good night, Hugh.
This next part is between
Jordan and myself."
Jordan shot the other man a look of warning. "You're not to say a damn
thing about this, understand? Alyssa doesn't know what she's saying
tonight. She will undoubtedly change her mind by morning!"
Hugh nodded, eying his coworker narrowly, and slammed out the door.
Jordan instantly turned back to Alyssa, his powerful, supple fingers
digging into her upper arms as he glared at her.
"Honey, you've been under a lot of pressure today. Don't make any hasty
decisions tonight This is
your future we're talking about!"
"I know." She smiled.
"You can't just shelve it like that! You've explained to me how much it
means to you."
"It meant a lot because there was no other future which sounded more
appealing, and I thought I had to prove something to a couple of people
whose opinions no longer matter." Her father was dead, and she had
never really loved her ex-husband. She had her own life to lead.
He groaned and pulled her tightly against him. "Sweetheart, listen to
me before you do anything rash.
I know my world looks glamorous and exciting to you, but believe me,
you wouldn't like it on a permanent basis. Hell, I don't particularly
like it on a permanent basis! I can't let you give up everything
to come and join me there. Why the hell do you think I moved heaven and
earth to get here tonight in time to get you out of the trouble I'd
gotten you into?"
She moved her head once in a negative gesture against his chest "You
didn't get me into trouble. I got myself into it very nicely, thank
you. You were something of an innocent victim, actually."

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