Back in her husband's bed(3)

By: Andrea Laurence

 “I am working on a side project of sorts during the tournament and you’re just the right person for the job.” He paused, sipping his scotch thoughtfully. “If I sign the papers and give you the divorce you want, you agree to help me.”

 “I don’t understand. How could I possibly—”

 Nate cut her protest short with a wave of his hand. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the cheating problem the poker circuit is having. The rumors are getting fairly loud and the tournament sponsor’s reputation is suffering for it. Everyone is anticipating they’ll hit the tournament.”

 Annie sighed. “There’s always rumors of cheating, but nothing ever comes of it. The people they catch are usually small potatoes compared to the amount of money exchanged in one of these events. What’s the big deal?”

 “Hosting the tournament is a huge draw for my hotel. As you well know, it’s been held at the Tangiers for the last twenty years. Talking the organizers into moving it here had taken more than some nice negotiating. They wanted concrete guarantees that anyone cheating during the tournament would be caught and prosecuted, to send a message to the community.”

 “And why are they so confident that your team can do a better job than the Tangiers?”

 “Because I have one of the best security systems in the business, with some of the most qualified staff you can hire. We go well beyond the typical measures most casinos employ.”

 “Seems like overkill to me. I hardly think you can stop cheating.”

 “This hotel was on the verge of going under when I took over from my father. He wasn’t well at the time and people took advantage of the situation. Our biggest issue was people gaming the house, especially our own employees. I wouldn’t tolerate that on my watch and invested in cutting-edge technology to stop it. Over the last five years, our estimated losses from cheating are down by eighty percent.”

 “Then why do you need me?” Annie crossed her arms defensively, pressing her breasts tight against the low V-cut of her sleeveless red silk top.

 Just a quick glance at the soft curves of her femininity sent a sharp spike of need down his spine and forced him to turn away. “Because,” he said, “I suspect this is a more elaborate and well-organized operation than we’re used to. More people are faces with clean records. But we have to succeed. If we manage to bust this ring, I’ve got a guaranteed ten-year contract for the tournament. That’s something my grandfather wouldn’t have even hoped for.”

 “And what?” she prompted. “You think I know who’s involved?”

 “I think you probably have your suspicions. You’ve been active in the community for several years and have to have heard your share of stories.” He lifted his gaze to meet hers. “I also think you could flush them out with the right...motivation.”

 * * *

 Annie leaped up from her seat, the nervous energy his proposal generated propelling her off the leather couch. “I’m not a snitch.” There was no way she was going to ruin her reputation like that. Not for a divorce, not for the attentions of a charming, handsome man like Nate. Her honor was all she had in this business.

 “If we do it right, no one will ever know that you are.”

 “And how’s that? There are cameras everywhere. The odds are they have help on the inside, possibly even your own security guys and dealers. You don’t think they’ll notice us talking?”

 “Nope. They won’t.”

 He hadn’t told her everything. Her game was poker, but Nate’s game was chess. He was already three moves ahead of her. Annie hated being outmaneuvered. “Enlighten me.”

 His mouth curved up in a sly smile. “There are no cameras in here.”

 Annie looked around the office and down the dark corridor to his suite. She sincerely hoped not. They would’ve gotten an eyeful during their wedding night. “And no one will find it suspicious that I’m up in your suite? That I’m spending all my time with the casino boss?”

 “Why shouldn’t you spend time with your husband?”

 Annie’s blood turned to ice in her veins. If there was one thing she clung to, it was that no one knew about their mistake. Their marriage had been a secret she’d shared only with her sister, Tessa, and her mother. Yes, she and Nate would’ve told people eventually, but in the beginning they’d been far too wrapped up in one another to share the good news. Then it was over. “You don’t think people will question that we’re suddenly married? That we’re together again after all this time apart?”

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