of her own senses. For long moments, she lay still, enjoying the feel of his relaxed body lying along hers, knowing a purely feminine satisfaction in having pleased him. Then she made the mistake of opening her eyes. "Oh, lord!" "What's wrong, honey?" Reluctantly, Jordan lifted his head from the comfortable place he had discovered for himself on her breast. Framing her head between his arms he looked down at her, an expression of drowsy contentment in his golden eyes. He used his forefinger to smooth aside a tendril of tangled auburn hair. "Nothing," she said, grimacing wryly. "Just don't look up." Her body, lying tangled with his on the red velvet spread, was clearly reflected in the canopy mirror. After one glimpse, Alyssa refused to look up again. In that one glance, she had seen herself as another woman altogether. A sensuous, rather reckless, totally satisfied female lying trapped beneath the hard male body that had brought her such satisfaction. She looked, Alyssa realized belatedly, exactly as a mysterious lady gambler would took after meeting her equally mysterious male counterpart. It was just that she had never really expected to find a counterpart It had all been intended as fantasy. An amusing way to spend a weekend and make some easy money. What in the world had happened to her? Jordan's mouth crooked in a wickedly amused smile. "I have no desire to look up. The sight of my own backside doesn't particularly intrigue me, and as far as you're concerned, I prefer the view from down here. Much closer." He feathered a light kiss on her temple and another on her throat, "And the truth is, honey, you look very good lying here beneath me. Perfect, in fact" Alyssa braved another glimpse in the mirror overhead. "Actually, your backside is a little more intriguing than you might think." She pinched him in an experimental fashion. "Ouch! If that's the way you're going to show your appreciation, I'm going to deny you the view!" He rolled to one side, pulling her with him. With a deft movement, Jordan shoved the red velvet bedspread to the carpet, revealing gold sheets. Deftly, he tucked her underneath and followed. When she glanced up at their image in the canopy mirror, it was to see herself modestly swathed to the throat in a sheet Alyssa glanced around the red plush room and started to smile. A pleasantly dazed , languid sensation was protecting her now from reality. "What's so funny?" Jordan demanded easily, folding his arms behind his head and watching her. "I just realized. The Porsche that I'm going to buy— It's almost the same shade of red as this room! I think when I finally get ready to place the order, I might change the color." "No, don't do that." He reached for her, tugging her across his chest His golden eyes gleamed very brilliantly. "Get the red one. That way, whenever you drive it, you'll think of this night and this room." The laughter went out of her in the face of his intensity. Abruptly, the truth of what he was saying made itself felt But she had no need to buy a red car in order to make herself remember what had happened this weekend. Alyssa knew she would never forget this night, this room or this man. That realization brought with it another: no matter what happened this weekend, she must be certain that no one in her real world ever discovered the fantasy she had created for herself. The life-style and the career she valued so much would be put in jeopardy if the truth were ever known. Jordan must have seen the flicker of wariness that came and went in her sea-colored eyes because abruptly he cradled her face between his hands and pulled her close for a warm, lingering kiss. She felt his body hardening under hers and lifted her lashes to gaze down at him wonderingly. "Jordan?" His eyes laughed up at her with the promise of renewed passion. "I said the sight of my own backside in that mirror didn't particularly intrigue me. Yours, however, is another matter." "Jordan!" But he had already thrown the sheet off her and was guiding her body astride his. His warm, strong hands gently circled her waist, urging her to him completely, and as she obeyed, Alyssa forgot about the overhead mirror, the red Porsche and the threat to her career that this weekend represented. She gave herself up again to the fantasy and the man who had brought it to life.
The first thing Alyssa saw the next morning when she opened her eyes was Jordan Kyle calmly going through her purse. He was standing unabashedly naked beside the low table where she had thoughtlessly dropped the sequined mesh evening bag the night before. The money she had won was neatly stacked on the table, and he was flipping interestedly through the calfskin wallet when he noticed she was awake. "Good morning, Alyssa Meredith Chandler of Ventura, California. And happy belated birthday." Jordan glanced back down at the date on her driver's license. "Let's see, you turned thirty last week, didn't you?" Alyssa lay very still beneath the gold sheet, her eyes never leaving the face of the stranger who had become her lover. Dear God, what had happened to her? How could she have been so incredibly stupid? Was she about to become the victim of a professional thief who made a practice of seducing women who had won at the tables and then robbing them? The thoughts flickered through her mind as her hand tightened on the sheet at her throat. Jordan glanced up again from the driver's license, and his gaze narrowed as he took in the stark, uncomprehending expression on Alyssa's features. Her auburn hair was tangled from where he had run his hands through it during the night, and her mouth had a vulnerable, almost-bruised fullness about it. The sea-green eyes were wide and cautious, holding no sign of the hidden laughter that normally lurked just below the surface. There was a faintly reddened area on the soft skin of her throat, and the sight of it elicited a short, disgusted oath. "Hell, I should have remembered to shave before taking you to bed last night" He raised a hand to the shadow of an incipient beard on his jaw and simultaneously tossed the wallet down beside the money. "I'm afraid I've marked you, sweetheart. My only excuse is that I wasn't thinking very clearly by the time I got you back to the room!" Alyssa watched him warily as he came toward her. He seemed very much a lean, male animal in the morning sunlight. Without the sophisticated veneer of his evening clothes, there was little trace of last night's gentleman gambler about Jordan Kyle this morning. The fear that had awakened in her a few minutes before when she'd opened her eyes to find him systematically going through her purse went up another notch. Her body was a slender, taut length outlined by the gold sheet "Alyssa Meredith Chandler. Age thirty and a couple of days. Resides in Ventura, California, and works as a statistician for a company called Yeoman Research." Jordan repeated what he had learned about her as if savoring each small fact. He leaned down as he reached the bed, planting a palm on either side of her body to form a cage with his arms, trapping her. "And unmarried. Thank God." The golden eyes burned over her tense face. "Do you always go through a woman's purse the morning after?" Alyssa muttered, trying for some semblance of bravado. A semblance was all it was. She didn't feel particularly brave lying there with him looming over her like some vengeful devil. Yes, devil. Hadn't they once called casinos "gambling hells"? And with those golden eyes and those hands.. . Her body heated uncomfortably at the memory of those hands on it "Last night," Jordan told her carefully, "I wanted you too badly to risk asking too many questions. This morning, when I woke up, I realized just how little I knew about you. It occurred to me, in fact, that you might even be married. I had to get some answers, honey, and I wasn't too sure you'd be willing to part with them. That didn't leave me much choice. But you're not married, are you?" "Would it matter?" " Are you?" This time the question was dangerous. "No. Not anymore," she whispered starkly. "Are you?" "No. We're a little late with some of the more pertinent questions, aren't we? But I suppose better late than never." A sense of indignation began to eat away at the uncertain fear he had inspired in her. "Can I assume from the tone of this inquisition that you really are just curious about me? You're not planning to take my money and disappear?" One dark brow lifted deliberately. "Is that what you thought I was doing when you woke up? Getting ready to steal last night's winnings?" "The thought crossed my mind." Alyssa struggled up onto one elbow, but he didn't remove his caging arms. The lean power in his nude body seemed to be reaching out to suffocate her. She felt trapped, and she was far too aware of the strength in him. She should be. Her body still ached from it "After all, I don't know any more about you than you know about me." He stared at her broodingly for a long moment "No. I probably don't. Last night, in the heat of passion, I told myself that once I had you in bed, all the questions would be answered. I thought we'd know each other very well by this morning. And we do in some ways. I just hadn't realized how many questions there would remain to be asked. I seem to have developed an insatiable curiosity about you, Alyssa Meredith Chandler. I want to know everything there is to know, and taking you to bed only gave me some of the answers. My biggest single fear when I opened my eyes and saw you lying there beside me was that I might have been cast in the role of the other man." "Somehow I don't see you playing that part," she retorted caustically. "Neither do I," he agreed a little too blandly. "But given the fact that I went to sleep without even learning your last name, it was a distinct possibility." "You're in a rather negative mood this morning, aren't you?" she observed. "Do I get to go through your wallet now?" It was only a faint sally, and Alyssa was rather surprised when it worked. She hadn't really expected him to free her and walk across the room to fish the elegantly thin leather billfold out of the pocket of his slacks, but he did. She sucked in her breath in temporary relief as his weight left the bed. Wordlessly, he strode back across the room and dropped the wallet on her lap. Then he lounged at the foot of the bed and waited while she flipped through it. Feeling awkward at riffling through his personal things but not knowing what else to do now that she had demanded to see them, Alyssa hurriedly flipped through the few items. The driver's license was issued to one Jordan Kyle at an Oregon address. Alyssa automatically calculated his age from the birth date given and came up with thirty-nine. She had been right when she'd suspected he was dangerously near the forty-year mark. "Hmmm," she noted with an unexpected surge of wry amusement "No visible means of support. How does a professional gambler get credit cards?" She held up a couple of pieces of the magic plastic. His mouth curved wryly. "It's not easy. Not at first. Eventually, the bank stops asking questions when one's account becomes sufficiently large." "I'll have to remember that" "You don't have that problem. After all, you have a real job. Honest employment Banks love people like you." She glanced up, surprised by the curious note in his voice. He looked half intrigued and half wary. The thought crossed her mind very briefly that he seemed almost envious. No, that was crazy. He was the one with the exotic life-style, living the fantasy to the hilt She only dropped in on the illusion occasionally. "I have the feeling that your bank is probably lots more in love with you than mine is with me. Something tells me your account is considerably more established. After all, I've just started, uh, supplementing mine." "What do you tell people when you blow your ill-gotten gains on something frivolous? How will you explain the red Porsche when you buy it?" he asked deliberately. "If anyone asks, I'll tell him I've had a good year in the stock market," she said uneasily, this wasn't a subject she wanted to pursue. "Why not tell the truth?" Jordan persisted coolly, his eyes studying her with an intensity that made her even more nervous. "That would be impossible," she stated flatly. "The truth would cost me my job." "You're kidding! Cost you your job?" "Ummm. That company I work for, Yeoman Research? It prides itself on having several government contracts as well as some other business-sensitive research arrangements. People who gamble as much as I've been doing lately are considered something of an employment risk in situations like that, to say the least. We're seen as being particularly vulnerable to blackmail and pressure in order to pay off gambling debts. We might very well resort to selling company secrets, or worse, government ones. If the management at Yeoman Research knew I was spending so much of my time in Las Vegas lately, I would undoubtedly be quietly asked to leave or, at the minimum, transferred to a less sensitive position on the staff. That would be almost as bad from my point of view." "Why?" "Because I'm in line for promotion. With luck, I will be named the new manager of my department next month," Alyssa told him, unable to hide her satisfaction at the thought "I've worked hard, and I deserve the slot. I like the statistical research and analysis I do." "Better than you like winning at the card tables?" "I happen to enjoy both," she said very steadily, "and I don't see why I can't have both." If I'm very careful, she amended silently. "That's known as having your cake and earing it, too, and as I recall, it doesn't always work," Jordan pointed out politely. "I'm going to make it work." Aiyssa tossed his wallet back at him, Jordan caught it almost absently. Excellent eye-hand coordination, she decided with a sigh. Gained after years of experience at his profession, no doubt "Now, if we've quite finished with the interrogation this morning, I'd like to get dressed and go back to my hotel room." Might as well try to salvage what dignity there was left in this situation, she told herself forcefully. It would have been easier if he weren't lying naked at the end of the round bed. "You can't leave yet," Jordan informed her gently. "Why not?" Aiyssa lifted her chin challengingly. "You haven't seen how the shower works in that tacky bathroom." Quite suddenly, he was grinning again. The engaging, piratical grin that she'd only caught flashes of last night To her shock, Alyssa realized she was coming to like that grin very, very much. "I was getting the impression you were a little annoyed with me this morning," she said carefully. "I thought it might be best to be on my way." The golden eyes gleamed. "I mink I was more annoyed with myself than I was with you," he admitted. "I woke up with too many questions and too many worries. Bound to make a man grouchy in the morning. But don't get the idea that I'm going to throw you out. That's the last thing I plan to do!" Alyssa wasn't sure whether to be relieved or more wary than ever. She sat up slowly, holding the sheet in place at her throat and drawing up her knees in front of her. "Were you really worried when you woke up?" "Is it so strange that I'd at least iike to know the last name of the woman with whom I spent the night?" he countered, eying her laconically. Alyssa felt the flush rise to her cheekbones, but she kept her gaze very steady. "I was under the impression that here in Vegas such details weren't considered very important Last night, you didn't seem overly concerned." "Last night, I told myself nothing else mattered except getting you into bed and staking a claim on you," he retorted with a bluntness that deepened the red in her cheeks. "I wanted you from the first instant I saw you winning so coolly and deliberately. I decided you had probably been made just for me. A soul mate and lover." "Jordan . . ." "But getting you into bed didn't solve all the problems. As thoroughly satisfying as the experience was, it seems to have left me very, very hungry for more answers. It also left me exceedingly nervous. If there's one thing I can't afford to be in my profession, it's nervous. Plays havoc with my concentration." "I see," she grumbled aloofly. Without any warning, he launched himself toward her, pushing her back down into the bedclothes and pinning her beneath him. "I doubt that you do see, little lady gambler. Do you have any idea what it does to a man to wake up wondering if he's playing the part of the other man? If there's a husband waiting patiently in the wings back in Ventura?" Violently aware of the warmth of his body through the sheet, Alyssa stared up at him wonderingly, beginning to lose herself in the depths of those golden eyes, just as she had last night. "Why was it so important that you find out if I'm married?" she dared, waiting breathlessly for his answer. "Because I don't want to be the other man. I want to be the only man in your life now that I've found you." Jordan emphasized the uncompromising words with a quick, hard kiss as if he were branding her. "Having gone through your wallet, I'm reasonably certain there's no husband hanging about, though." "And if there had been?" "Professional gamblers don't worry about nonexistent probabilities," he declared softly. "There are always enough of the real kind around. Which brings us to the next item on the list. There's no husband back in Ventura, but is there anyone else who thinks he has a claim on you?" "So many questions," she whispered uncomprehendingly. Men who casually picked up lone women and seduced them were reputed to be just as casual about walking away from them the next morning. Jordan was behaving like a possessive lover who intended to stick around. "You have the easy part. All you have to do is answer the questions." "Asking them is the hard part?" "Not knowing all the answers is the hard part," he corrected smoothly. "Don't keep me in suspense, honey. Is there anyone waiting for you back in Ventura? Not that I can imagine any man in his right mind allowing you to traipse off to Vegas by yourself!" "I'm thirty years old. I stopped asking other people's permission to do things a long time ago!"