Read Gambler's Woman Online

Authors: Jayne Ann Krentz

Gambler's Woman (18 page)

"Alyssa, Alyssa," he crooned hoarsely, holding her so tightly she could
hardly breathe. "Honey, please don't act hastily. I don't want you to
regret anything. I can handle Davis if he makes more trouble."
"I'm sure you can. You handled him very well tonight. Whatever made you
guess he had something
to hide?"
"I wasn't absolutely sure, but it was worth a chance. There had to be
some reason why he was using
you as a shield. An affair is an affair. If he didn't care about his
wife finding out, why hide behind the wrong woman? I gambled that there
must be more to the story than what he claimed."
"And you won. As usual. You can be a little frightening, Jordan. My
world isn't the only one where
folks play rough, is it?"
"Don't ever be afraid of me," he groaned into her hair.
"No," she agreed gently.
"Sweetheart, I meant what I said. Please don't do anything rash like
quitting your job."
"Afraid of having to support me?" she said, chuckling into his shirt.
He shook her in soft punishment. "You know damn well that's got nothing
to do with It. I'm willing to support you for the rest of your life.
And protect you and make love to you!"
"That's nice. Remember that when I show up in Las Vegas tomorrow night,
okay?"
He held her slightly away from him, lifting her chin so that she met
his searching gaze. "One more time, Alyssa. Don't act hastily. We're
two intelligent, quick-thinking people. We can go on juggling both
worlds together indefinitely."
"But I don't want to do that, Jordan." She pulled free of his arms.
"Would you like a glass of cognac before we go to bed?" she asked, her
eyes smiling at him.
"No."
"No cognac?"
"No bed. I'm going back to Vegas tonight," he declared grimly.
"Oh, Jordan." She sighed, knowing what he was doing now because she
could almost read his mind.
"I have to give you time to think," he declared, running a hand through
his dark hair in exasperation.
"I know that between the two of us we can make each other believe
anything we want by morning."
"Which is a polite way of saying you can seduce me into forgetting
everything when I'm in your arms? That I can't possibly think straight
while you're making love to me?" she teased tenderly.
He shot her a narrow glance. "It works both ways, you know. Why do you
think I had to come looking for you when you sent that message saying
you couldn't make the Friday-night flight last week? I
couldn't even pay attention to my work! All I could think about was
you."
Try to understand what that means, Jordan, Alyssa pleaded silently. Try
to understand that maybe that means you're in love with me the way I'm
in love with you! Aloud she said persuasively, "It's a long trip back
to Vegas tonight."
"Not as long as the trip getting here," he assured her grimly. "The
thought of you tangling with Davis made me so damn furious I thought
I'd go out of my head!"
"I tried to tell you it wasn't necessary to come and protect me, but
you hung up the phone before I
could get the words out."
"Believe me, it was necessary in spite of whatever you decide to do
about your job tomorrow." He
stood staring at her, and the helpless, vulnerable expression on his
hard face made Alyssa want to
cradle him in her arms and soothe him.
But there was nothing she could do at the moment. Instead, her eyes
were full of her love as she said simply, "Good night, Jordan. I'll
find you at the casino. I'll be arriving sometime between seven and
eight, I imagine." His mouth tightened as he read the determination in
her, and he stepped forward, catching her possessively in his arms and
kissing her hard. Then he was gone into the night.
Ten
The following evening, Alyssa drifted into the glittering casino
sheathed in the black gown with the silver edging that she had worn the
night she had met Jordan. She was every inch the sophisticated worldly
lady gambler, a graceful figure of feminine mystery. Her rich auburn
hair gleamed in the light of the
heavy chandeliers, and the silver trim on her gown moved as if it were
molten.
In the depths of her sea-colored eyes, there was a beckoning and a
longing and a promise that caught
the attention of more than one male as she moved through the boisterous
crowd. But each seemed to
take one glance and recognize that the expression wasn't meant for him.
A few turned their heads,
curious to see which man would claim the promise in her.
Alyssa was unaware of the reaction. She was scanning the crowd of
elegantly dressed players, searching for only one face. Tonight none of
the glitter or the brash luxury surrounding her appealed. Tonight
nothing mattered except finding the man for whom she searched. It
occurred to her as she made her
way through the casino that she had never felt so free before in her
life.
Always there had been a predetermined goal, an end set for her by
others. Her father had set impossibly high scholastic standards, hoping
he had sired a genius to take his place. Her ex-husband had set her to
work, luring her into marriage with the promise that somehow she could
share the academic world through him, even though she wasn't quite up
to the genius levels required to participate fully.
When she had finally gone out on her own, the goal of success in the
business world had, in a sense,
been predetermined for her, also. It was the only route left to her by
which she could prove herself.
The fantasy world of the casino had been her escape for a while, but
tonight she entered it knowing she no longer needed it Tonight she had
come to free not only herself but the man she loved. Together they
would build a new world all their own. If he loved her, too.
That was the only hitch, of course, Alyssa reminded herself as she
wound her way into the crowd, heading for the blackjack tables. Did
Jordan truly love her? She was betting everything on the hope that he
did. Never had the stakes been so high.
She found him seated at a blackjack table, and for a long moment she
stood silently watching him as he played. Dressed in the black and
white of formal evening clothes, his lean, hard body made a subtly
dangerous statement The overhead light gleamed off the Vandyke-brown
hair that touched the crisp
white collar of his shirt, and she knew when he turned around that the
familiar golden eyes would be warm with their own inner fire. Standing
very still a little distance away, she watched the smooth, sure
movements of his long fingers as they placed bets and checked cards.
Magic hands.
He didn't rum around until the play had ended. Then he politely
accepted his modest winnings and slid
off the stool, starting toward her as if he had known she was there all
along. He stopped a couple of feet away, eyes raking over her, from the
black patent leather sandals to the crown of her aubum head. He had
known she was there, watching him, she realized because he could almost
read her mind. And she could almost read his.
Almost That was the factor that made the next step so risky. Almost was
not for sure.
"Can I buy you a drink?" she murmured, knowing her outward composure
probably hid the way her pulses were racing.
He smiled, remembering, as she had, the way he had approached her that
first night, "it's all right," she went on, eyes glinting with a trace
of laughter, "I don't work for the casino."
"No?" he questioned, coming closer by a pace as if drawn by invisible
cords. The sound of his deep
voice touched every nerve in her body.
"No," she assured him softly. "It's quite safe to come and have a drink
with me."
"I'm not so sure about that," he said as he allowed her to take his arm
and they headed toward the
nearest lounge. "You look a little dangerous to me tonight."
"But I don't work for the casino. I don't work for anyone, as a matter
of fact" She felt his arm tense under her fingers. "That's one of the
things I wanted to speak to you about," she went on bravely.
"I resigned my job today."
He seated her carefully and slid into the black leather booth beside
her, his face intense. "You don't
have to worry. I'll take care of you. Always."
Her mouth crooked lovingly. "That's very generous of you, but it's not
quite what I had in mind."
He touched her wrist as it lay on the small table they shared, and
Alyssa stirred faintly when the familiar thrill trickled through her.
"What, exactly, did you have in mind?" he murmured. He was looking at
her, she suddenly realized, as if he couldn't quite believe she was
there. Had he really thought that in the end she would choose her job
and her world instead of him?
"I had in mind a new career for both of us, Jordan. Something quite
respectable. You seem to be lured
by the prospect of respectability." Alyssa held her breath after she
made the statement. Would he want what she was going to suggest?
The fingers on her wrist ceased their gentle tracing. "What are you
suggesting?"
"A consulting firm with a name like Chandler-Kyle. Or, if you insist,
Kyle-Chandler. A firm which
would offer statistical and probability consulting to business. One
that would not get involved in government contracts where a reckless
past might prove a hindrance. We would have to invest in some hardware,
like a computer, and some of your skills might have to be expanded a
bit in new directions,
but on the whole I think that, between us, we have a lot of potential."
"And if it didn't work out?"
"Then we could always fall back on making our living by our wits,
couldn't we?" she murmured, flicking a careless hand toward the active
casino floor in front of them. "In fact, we might find gambling a
useful way to drum up a little capital for our new business. We might
also find it a pleasant way to spend our vacations."
"In other words, you're suggesting we make a stab at having the best of
both worlds?"
"On our own terms. Which we can do if we don't work for other people
who have prejudices against
our particular talents."
His fingers began to move again, drawing an intimate design on the
vulnerable skin of her palm. His
eyes never left her face. "Do you think I could hold up my end of such
a consulting firm?"
So that was it. Lacking the formal degrees, Jordan apparently lacked
some confidence in his own
abilities. Alyssa didn't. "I've been around enough mathematians in my
life to know true ability when
I see it. Believe me, Jordan, you've got it. You may not have a degree,
but you seem to have acquired
a formidable amount of training along the way. Between us we have the
skills."
He drew in his breath. "The skills to be respectable."
"Yes." Damn it, what was he thinking? All at once, Alyssa couldn't read
even a fraction of his mind.
The heat in his eyes was almost overwhelming, however, and she tried to
take heart from it.
"And on our own we can still wander in and out of your fantasy on
occasion?" he pursued thoughtfully.
"If you like," she amended cautiously.
Then he smiled, a brilliant, challenging grin that set all her fears to
rest in one fell swoop. "Oh, I think
I'd like that. This world of mine might be a hell of a lot more fun
once I knew I wasn't trapped in it. You've got yourself a deal, Alyssa
Chandler. We'll toss a coin to see whether the new firm's name
will be Chandler-Kyle or Kyle-Chandler."
"If you don't mind, I'd like to be the one who does the tossing," she
murmured.
He threw back his head with a laugh that drew several interested
stares. "Don't you trust me, sweetheart?"
"With my life," she responded immediately.
"Oh, Alyssa!" Then he was puffing her hard against him, finding her
mouth with his own in a kiss that swirled her helplessly into a loving,
sensual world full of promise and hope and commitment His mouth moved
on hers, draining every vestige of uncertainty from her and replacing
it with sureness and
spinning wonder. "Alyssa"—he breathed raggedly when he reluctantly
lifted his head—"Alyssa, my
sweet lady gambler. If you're willing to take a chance on me, I swear
I'll never let you down. I'll give
you everything I have to give."
She swallowed and took the final risk. "Your love, Jordan? Could you
give me a little of your love?"
He shuddered, his eyes almost tortured. "My God! Don't you know you've
had that from the first?"
"Jordan"—she sighed, leaning her head down on his shoulder—"Oh, Jordan.
Have I really? I love you
so very much, you know ..."
"I was beginning to hope you might when you talked of quitting your job
last night, but I was almost afraid to start counting on it," he
confessed huskily.
"I didn't think you were afraid to count on anything," she taunted
gently. "After all, you count so well!"
"Some things, unfortunately, are true risks. Real gambles. They're a
bit scary. Alyssa, if you really
love me—"
"You know I do." She lifted glowing eyes to meet his shattering gaze.
She could have sworn that he moistened his lips with the tip of his
tongue, as if he were actually nervous.
"Then as long as you're proposing to make a respectable man out of me,
I'm going to propose that I return the favor."
"Make a respectable woman out of me?"
"Will you marry me, Alyssa?"
She caught her breath, her heart in her throat. "You . . . you always
said you weren't good husband material."
"I am now," he retorted confidently, even a little arrogantly, as if he
were suddenly very sure of himself. "Marry me, Alyssa, and you can bet
I'll make the best damned husband material around!"
"It's a deal," she whispered.
*  *  *
Jordan flatly refused to even consider a Las Vegas wedding. And
although Alyssa pointed out that if they got married there they would
be able to spend their honeymoon in the bordello-red bedroom suite, he
refused to reconsider. If they were going to be respectable, he
declared, they were going to start off on the right foot. A quiet
wedding with a real minister. He produced both in the small town in
Oregon
where he had his house on the coast.
"Nice car," Alyssa observed politely as he drove her home from the
minister's three days after he had swept her out of the casino and off
to Oregon.
Jordan winced as he handled the wheel of the silver Porche. "I forgot
you told me that first night you were going to use your gambling
winnings on a red Porsche. Well, don't worry, sweetheart. I'll buy
you one."
She chuckled. "I don't think we need two in the family. I'll just use
yours. Unless," she added blandly, "you're afraid to have a wife at the
wheel?"
"I'll risk it," he said, grinning back. "After all, if you wreck it,
you can always replace it with a few trips
to Reno or Vegas."
"Such an understanding husband," she drawled lovingly.
He stretched out a hand and found hers, squeezing it tightly for an
instant before returning his fingers
to the wheel. "My wife. My very own wife." He sounded dazzled by the
notion.

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