"Jordan, please!" Alyssa didn't know whether to laugh or scream for help. Before she could make up her mind, she was being whisked out the door and into one of the cabs lined up in front of the casino. Jordan was rattling off the name of another famous establishment before he had shut the car door. Hearing the destination and knowing she would be safe on the premises of such a major hotel casino, Alyssa gave up the small battle and collapsed back into the seat Across the small distance separating them, she eyed her abductor with a mocking gaze. "Do you have references?" "Sorry, in my business, references would be disastrous," he said, chuckling. "I cultivate anonymity. The only guarantee I can give you is my word as a professional gambler that I'll take care of you tonight" "Do you do this sort of thing often?" "Kidnap lady gamblers? No, not often. But then I haven't encountered one quite like you before. Ah, here we are." The cab deposited them beneath the lights of a glittering casino complex, and Jordan escorted Alyssa into the orderly confusion of gamblers, slot machines and cocktail lounges. "Here, put a quarter in one of the slots," he instructed, handing her the coin. She took it, arching an eyebrow in surprise. "You play the slots? Everyone knows they're almost as bad as a state-run lottery! The odds against the player are incredible. For heaven's sake! The house mechanics deliberately set them to pay out only what the house wants paid out!" "Alyssa, my sweet," he explained easily as he urged her toward the nearest bank of slot machines. "I don't play the slots to win." "Then why... ?" "I play them for luck," he said, smiling. "Luck!" Now she truly was startled. "You believe in luck?" "When you've seen as much of this world as I have, you'll discover that like it or not, there is an element of luck in the universe. Play the slot, Alyssa. Tonight I feel lucky." Lips curving in quiet laughter, Alyssa plunked the quarter into the hungry machine and pulled the handle. The colorful wheels spun madly, and then, to her surprise, two quarters cascaded into the small pan beneath the bandit She scooped them up and handed them to Jordan with a flourish. "Your winnings, sir!" "What did I tell you? Tonight I am a lucky man. No more work, however. We're here to play." He took her arm and walked her through the crowd thronging the gambling floor. "There's an excellent group in the lounge." Alyssa knew later that she would never forget that night. It was a fantasy come to life. She moved through the exotic world of the Las Vegas illusion on the arm of a man who seemed to have materialized from it They didn't play at the tables, although they occasionally watched others gamble and spoke softly about the odds of various games, the house edge, the bewildering variety of people who came to throw their money away joyously. Through it all, Alyssa sensed a growing feeling of companionship, a closeness to this stranger. Jordan Kyle viewed the world oi cards and dice exactly as she did, as a complex set of problems in probability that could be manipulated to a certain extent by those rare individuals who had the intuitive feel for the math involved. Instead of being the victims of the wild ups and downs of chance that hypnotized the average player, they were in control of their luck. That single fact proved a bond. They were different from the rest, a man and a woman with a shared talent Jordan Kyle moved in his world with the subtle confidence of a man who knows he can control it, his firm grip on Alyssa telling her that he considered her his intellectual mate in this dazzling, glittering sphere. That realization brought up the inevitable question of whether or not Jordan was also seeking in her another kind of mate. The question was answered when he took her into his arms on the dance floor.
"Can we talk about the rest of the weekend now?" The rich, dark voice was a deeply seductive whisper as Jordan pressed his mouth lightiy against Alyssa's hair. "Or at least the rest of the night? You must realize by now that I want you, honey." She was a little startled by the fine trembling she sensed in the hand that rested possessively against the small of her back. Alyssa doubted that there was very much that could cause Jordan Kyle to reveal any inner turmoil he might be experiencing. He'd had far too much practice wearing the polite, remote facade he used in this dangerous, glittering world he called home. The knowledge that she had the power to make his control slip even a little was deeply seductive in itself. "I'd rather not talk about anything except the present," she breathed. But her arms lifted to circle his neck, and her head found a natural place against the charcoal-gray shoulder of his evening jacket "Do you think the future will cease to exist just because you insist on dealing only with the present?" She could feel his strong, sensitive fingers on her back, moving with ravishing awareness, sending a thrill of almost feline pleasure up her spine. Such wonderful hands, Alyssa thought vaguely. "The future will arrive in due course. Why anticipate it?" "When you work with probability theory the way we do, Alyssa, the future is always a factor," Jordan growled half humorously. "Because the mathematics of chance rest on the concept of an infinite future?" she teased. "It may be true that the probable outcome of a spin of the roulette wheel can be calculated only because there are, in theory, an infinite number of spins which can be made," she went on in a lecturing tone. "But I," she added with mocking demureness, "am not a roulette wheel." "Meaning I can't possibly calculate my chances of having you in my bed tonight?" "Precisely. Save your mental energy for the gambling tables where the laws of probability apply." Alyssa lifted her head, gray-green eyes sparkling with mischief. Her lips parted in a gently taunting smile that drew his gaze like a magnet. In the next instant, the mockery was being kissed from her mouth. Jordan had signaled no warning of his intentions, and he found her mouth vulnerable and invitingly open in the soft curve of a smile. He seized the opportunity with the single-minded will of a man who respects the laws of chance too much not to take advantage of a bit of luck. Alyssa's eyes opened wide as his mouth closed forcefully, warmly over hers. She hadn't been expecting the kiss; not here, not yet. The future was upon her. And it seemed to envelop her. She felt her senses spin, making her feel rather like a roulette wheel, after all. At the mercy of chance instead of in control of it, Alyssa could rally no defense. The touch of his mouth was firm and heated and deeply demanding. She felt unable to do anything other than let the professional gambler determine the rules of the game. Slowly, inevitably, he forced her head back while he explored the unknown territory behind her lips. As the languid strains of the music swirled around them on the shadowy dance floor, Jordan probed the delicate flower of her mouth with his tongue. Even as he mastered her lips, his exquisitely erotic touch was working magic in the deliriously sensitive area at the base of her spine. "Alyssa," he grated against her mouth, "my sweet lady gambler. Do you know what you do to me? What you've been doing to me all evening? I've never wanted a woman as suddenly, as completely, as I want you tonight" The barely restrained passion of his words touched her senses as deliberately as his fingers stroked the curve of her hip, and Alyssa sighed as her mouth was freed When he feathered the smallest of kisses on her temple, she turned her lips instinctively against his throat The shudder that went through him as she began to respond was accompanied by a husky groan. Jordan's hold on her tightened. "Jordan?" The question in her single word was fraught with a million uncertainties, all ancient and all female. "Hush, sweetheart. There is only the present for you tonight remember?" Alyssa knew she was being seduced, and she could only wonder at it She was thirty years old, and never had she experienced anything quite like this, not even during the short, disastrous period of her marriage to an awesomely brilliant mathematician. It fascinated and hypnotized and lured and promised. She had attempted to live a reasonably normal, if somewhat restrained, social life since her divorce. But always she maintained a sense of control over any given situation. No, never in her whole life had she known the true sensation of outright seduction. Was this the peril involved when illusion became reality? The dance slowly drifted to a conclusion, leaving Alyssa feeling as unsteady as if she had been drinking far too much. There was no need to worry about how she would make it back to the table, however; Jordan's arm was anchored securely around her waist, and she was pinned tightly against the side of his lean, warm body. "Another Drambuie for my lady and another Scotch for me," Jordan murmured to the hovering cocktail waitress as he carefully seated Alyssa. "Are you plying me with drink?" Alyssa demanded interestedly. "Don't fret," he said, sitting down next to her and reaching out to cover her hand with his own. "I don't intend to get you drunk." The pad of his thumb traced a tantalizing line across the sensitive skin of her inner wrist When Alyssa silently caught her breath, he cradled her hand in his fingers and lifted it to his lips for a fleeting caress. "You've been spending too much time on the Continent," Alyssa informed him with an attempt at lightness as she retrieved her hand. Propping her elbow on the table, she rested her chin in the palm he had just kissed. His eyes met hers, and now she could clearly read the desire in them. "Alyssa, are you going to play games with me tonight?" "Why not? We're both so good at games of chance," she mocked, feeling an overwhelming desire to bait and tease. It wasn't at all her normal style, but she was beyond questioning her own behavior now. "Ah." He nodded as if he understood exactly what she was doing. "I must warn you that I feel an overpowering need to win tonight." "Meaning you might resort to cheating?" "Will that be necessary?" The eyes of antique gold seemed to shimmer for a moment as he searched her expression. "Yes, no, maybe. Do you expect me to go to bed with you when I hardly even know you?" " Yes , no, maybe," he retorted softly. "I only know I want you." He paused "I take that back. I know something else. I know I need you tonight Come upstairs with me, Alyssa." "Upstairs?" "I have a room in this hotel," he explained, watching her intently. "But I'm staying in the hotel where I met you," she began, feeling strangely confused by the accelerated pace at which the evening of illusion was beginning to move. "You won't need anything. I'll supply everything you ask for tonight Alyssa. Take a chance and trust me, honey." "I never take chances when I can't calculate the odds," she made herself say deliberately. Yet she was longing to take his hand and go with him. The sweet desire to abandon herself to fate this evening was growing with every second that passed "I can't seem to calculate the odds tonight, either," Jordan drawled softly, leaning forward to brush the lightest of kisses against the tip of her nose. "We'll go into this game evenly matched." "You mean evenly uncertain about the outcome," she countered. "Haven't you ever wondered what it really means to take a genuine gamble? One where you can't predict the final card in the deck?" "I find the thought a little frightening," she admitted, unable to look away from his gaze. "But you're a daring lady gambler, remember? Come with me, Alyssa, and we'll find out together what chance has in store for us." As if he knew the depths of the spell he had cast Jordan didn't wait for an answer. Tossing the cash on the table for the drinks they had not finished, he stood up and tugged Alyssa up beside him. Without another word, he guided her through the lounge, out across the wide casino floor and over to the elevators on the far side. In a sensually taut silence, they traveled to the high reaches of the huge hotel. When the elevator doors opened onto a wide hallway decorated in the typically ornate Las Vegas style, Alyssa hung back for a moment Then Jordan was gently crowding her out into the thickly carpeted halL "Don't think about the future, sweetheart," he coaxed huskily. "Just think about how much I need you tonight" His arm around her waist was binding, the palm of his hand against her hip a heated branding iron that burned through the thin material of the draped black dress. "Jordan?" She turned a questioning face up to him as he brought them to a halt in front of one of the doors. "You'll have to forgive the room, honey," he said on a note of wry humor as he shoved the key into the lock. "I didn't have much choice!" "The room? But I... Oh!" Alyssa stared in shock as he opened the door and switched on the light "Oh, my goodness," she managed before the laughter overtook her. "I had no idea there was anything like this available! My room is quite ordinary." "Anything is available in Vegas for a price, but I give you my word I didn't request this." Jordan grimaced ruefully as he shut the door with quiet firmness. "The front desk said it was all they had left" It was undoubtedly some decorator's fantasy of a room devoted to passion. Everything appeared to be done in red—heavy, plush bordello red. The bed was round and elevated on a red-carpeted pedestal. There was a round canopy above lined with a round mirror. Red velvet drapes framed the view of the endless Las Vegas night, and one wall was done in mirrors. A wallpaper design in red velvet and gold foil dominated the opposite wall. "I'm afraid to go peek in the bathroom!" Alyssa managed between giggles. The laughter shone in her eyes as she watched him cross the room toward her. For some reason, humor was an excellent release for the tension that had been building within her from the moment when she had first become aware of those golden eyes. She clung to the uneasy laughter as if it could save her. "Equally tacky, I'm afraid," Jordan said regretfully as he fitted his hands to the bare curve of her shoulders. "No one has ever accused Las Vegas of having taste. Plenty of flash and glitter but not taste!" "You're going to stand there and claim you didn't deliberately request this room for purposes of seduction?" Alyssa demanded innocently, desperately trying to keep the small joke alive. Anything now to stall the inevitable. A dull red stained the high bones of his cheeks. "Dear God, no! How could I have guessed I'd be lucky enough to find you tonight?" Jordan rasped, hauling her close and forbidding any further mockery by sealing her mouth with his own. In an instant, the brief flare of humor was gone, evaporated beneath the heat of Jordan's kiss. Alyssa forgot all about the garish room, the exotic world of the casino twenty stories beiow, the future and the past Right now there could only be Jordan Kyle and the passion he was offering. Illusion or not, Alyssa surrendered to it. "Jordan, oh, Jordan . . ." His name was a sigh on her lips as he freed her mouth to begin a fiery trail of stinging kisses down the line of her throat. Alyssa's questing fingers slid up from the firm breadth of his shoulders to tangle in the dark depths of his hair. Deliberately, she drew the frosted flames of her nails through the inviting pelt, glorying in the shudder that passed from her body through his. "Don't think about anything else except us," he commanded thickly, moving his palms heavily along her slender back. Every inch of her was being molded against the strength of him, and when he at last cupped the roundness of her buttocks in his hands and lifted her boldly into his hips, Alyssa sucked in her breath. "I never intended anything like this to happen," she heard herself whisper dazedly, pressing her face into his jacket The intoxicating male scent of him tantalized her nostrils. It seemed to be comprised of a hint of spicy aftershave and the natural musk of his body. "I know, sweetheart. I know," he soothed, and then the gently probing touch of his fingers located the long zipper in the black and silver dress. The fabric began to part, and Alyssa felt the coolness on her back as the fastening was slowly undone. Suddenly, vividly conscious of the mirrors lining the wall behind her, she stirred in his arms. "Jordan, wait I... all these mirrors," she ended lamely, not daring to lift her face from the shelter of his jacket. "I want to see you. All of you." One hand lifted to circle her throat and raise her chin. For a timeless moment, his eyes searched hers, asking questions she couldn't begin to unravel, and then he kissed her. Under the spell of the deep, drugging kiss, Alyssa stood submissively as the black gown cascaded lightly over her hips to fall into a soft heap at her feet Then she remembered the outrageous underwear she had bought to go with the dress. My God! She must look right at home here in this gaudy room. Deeply embarrassed at the thought of how she must appear in the strapless black silk demibra and infinitesimal panties, Alyssa tried to step back. The two wisps of enticement were iced in black lace and had been bought in an attempt to complete her private fantasy. She had never intended any man to see them! "What's the matter, honey?" Jordan's fingers moved persuasively, gentling her as he sensed the shift in her mood. "These, uh, things," she began awkwardly, flicking a disparaging gesture down her own almost-nude body and aware she was blushing rather vividly. "I didn't. . . That is, I don't want you to think I normally dress like this. I mean, they sort of went with the gown and ..." Helplessly aware that she wasn't making much sense, Alyssa lifted pained eyes to meet his.