Back in her husband's bed(10)By: Andrea Laurence
“So is everything in place in terms of the arrangement with Annie?” Gabe asked, drawing Nate back into the conversation he’d been having alone with Jerry.
Nate noted his tone. Gabe didn’t like his plan at all and made no secret of it. “Yes. I think with her assistance we will have a very good shot of putting an end to this and securing the tournament contract.”
Jerry nodded in approval. His casino manager had worked at the Sapphire for thirty years, helping Nate’s grandfather start the place. After a heart attack and an unfulfilling decade of retirement, he’d come back to help his best friend’s grandson. The whole Annie situation had happened during his hiatus.
“Remind me again of the story we’re using?” Jerry ran his wrinkled hand over the balding dome of his head. “I want to make sure when people ask, I’m telling it right.”
Nate repeated their cover for everyone’s benefit. “Annie and I got married a couple years ago, but it didn’t work out. She came back for the tournament and we’ve reconciled. I’d leave it at that. Too many details and we run the risk of messing up.”
Jerry’s radio squawked at his hip. He lifted it to his ear to listen to the message before responding and turning to Nate. “If we’re done here, I need to get over to pit one.”
Nate dismissed him with a wave of his hand and then watched the older man shuffle out of the lounge. He hoped he had half that much spunk when he was in his seventies.
Turning back, Nate could tell Gabe was biting his tongue. He wasn’t happy, idly rotating a cardboard coaster on the table and glaring at the platinum band on Nate’s ring finger. “Just say it, Gabe.”
Gabe shook his head, his closely cropped goatee emphasizing his frown. “I just don’t like this. I don’t trust her. How do we know she isn’t friends with one of the cheaters? She could tip them off or send us on a wild goose chase. We have no idea where her loyalty lies. Hell, she could be in on it herself.”
Nate doubted that. Annie had too much pride in her skills. But Gabe was right about her loyalties. She’d been in the game a long time, knew everyone. If it wasn’t for the divorce papers he was dangling, he couldn’t be sure. “She wants a divorce. Her loyalty to herself will trump everything else.”
“I know why this is important for the hotel, but why her?”
“Why not use Annie? She owes me after all this time. If I can make her miserable and teach her a lesson this week, all the better. Once the tournament is over, I’ll let her walk away and never give her a second thought.”
“For someone who says he doesn’t care about a woman,” Gabe commented dryly, “you’re sure putting a lot of time and effort into this.”
“I deserve my chance to get back at her, don’t I?”
“Sure. She deserves everything you’ll dish out and then some. I just worry this isn’t going to end well.”
Nate appreciated Gabe’s concern but wished his friend had more faith in him. “It will all go as planned. We will bust those dirty crooks, Annie will pay for her irresponsible and thoughtless actions, and I’ll finally have some peace.”
“I’ve seen the way you look at her, Nate. Even today. It’s still there. It may not be love, but whatever it is was strong enough for you two to lose your minds and elope after a few days together.” Gabe paused, leaning across the table toward him. “If she’s your sexual kryptonite, what do you think will happen living in such close proximity for over a week?”
Nate could handle Annie. “Nothing is going to happen. I’ve learned my lesson, I assure you.”
After Nate left, Annie finished unpacking and found herself at a loss for what to do. Her day had taken a radical turn since Nate interrupted her game, and she had far too much nervous energy running through her veins. The situation was nerve-racking, but Nate made it even worse. As usual, he’d managed to stir her suppressed arousal and send her libido into overdrive.
She had an hour before dinner, so she opted for a hot shower and some fresh clothes. It had been a long flight from Miami.
By the time she rounded the corner to the entrance of Carolina’s Restaurant, it was eight-thirty on the nose. The dark, romantic steak house was the jewel of the hotel’s restaurants. There was always an extensive waiting list for those wanting to propose or celebrate an anniversary. Nate and Annie had eaten there only once. It was here, among the candlelight and low, sultry music, that the idea of eloping had been conceived.