Back in her husband's bed(5)

By: Andrea Laurence



 At that, Nate took a step away, a Cheshire-cat grin crossing his face. The sudden shift in his mood was unnerving. The dimple in his cheek she’d kissed a hundred times was barely visible from where she was standing. “Did you really think it would be that easy? That you could just look at me with those big blue eyes and I would change my mind?”

 Annie stiffened. No, but she wanted this over. Done. She didn’t need a single reason to have to be in the same room with Nate again. It was too dangerous. She was too weak. The farther they were apart, the firmer her resolve.

 “What’s your lawyer charge by the hour, Annie? If you turn down my offer, we can see who runs out of money first.”

 That was certainly a losing game for her, even after a few fabulously lucrative years. Annie flopped back against the couch, unable to continue fighting with him. “Please, Nate.” She wanted out of the marriage, but she knew she couldn’t win this hand. She gazed down into her lap. “I can’t change what happened between us in the past. But don’t force me to jeopardize my future. If someone finds out I’m spying for you, my career will be ruined. I will be the most hated woman in poker.”

 Annie didn’t look up but caught Nate’s movement out of the corner of her eye as he settled into a nearby chair. She couldn’t say anything else. She’d laid all her cards on the table, but the dispassionate look in Nate’s dark eyes told her it wouldn’t matter. Whether in court or in the casino, Nate would ruin her and have his revenge. After three years, he had her right where he wanted her.

 “These are my terms,” he said, his voice cold. “Do you want a divorce or not?”

 Of course she did. But... She shook her head. “This is blackmail.”

 Nate smiled widely, his pleasure at watching her squirm plainly evident. “Blackmail is such a dirty word. I prefer to look at it as a mutually beneficial arrangement. I catch my cheaters and secure the tournament for a decade. You get your divorce without going bankrupt first. Simple as that.”

 That was a vast understatement. It couldn’t be more complicated. “Why me?”

 Nate watched her, his lips pursing in thought before he spoke. “I need an insider. You’re an excellent player. You have a good read of your competitors. The odds of you making it to the final table are in our favor. And I have the leverage to incentivize you. It’s perfect.”

 Not entirely perfect. She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes tightly shut for a moment before she spoke. She wanted to walk away from the Desert Sapphire when the tournament was done and never have a reason to see Nathan Reed again. And yet the price was high. Spying for him. Publicly adoring him. Privately conspiring under the guise of their so-called marriage. It was dangerous territory. But the tournament was only a week long. If all went well, she could play poker as planned, throw Nate a couple leads to chase and hopefully walk away from the Sapphire a free woman.

 “And I can trust you to keep your word if I keep up my end of the bargain?”

 Nate arched an eyebrow. “Annie, my trustworthiness has never been in question. But yes. If you agree to see this through, I’ll call my lawyer and have him withdraw the protest. If we get things started soon, the divorce should be finalized in a few weeks’ time.”

 He’d left her no other choice. She met his gaze across the coffee table. “All right, Nate. You’ve got a deal.”





                       Two

 Annie regretted the words the minute they passed her lips, but she couldn’t take it back now.

 Nate glared at her in disbelief. It was obvious he’d been prepared for a battle. He thought she’d fight harder. There was a flicker of disappointment across his face as he straightened up in his chair and mentally regrouped.

 Annie hated that she was so aware of his body. Every twitch of every muscle beneath the tight fabric of his suit registered in her mind. She could tell herself that she was just good at reading body language after years of poker, but it wasn’t true. She knew him better than she cared to admit. Her own body remembered every inch of the hard physique hidden under those expensive suits. It wasn’t something she could easily forget.

 “Well, good,” Nate finally managed to say. “I’m glad you could be reasonable about this.” He set his glass onto the table and nodded. “Have you checked in to the hotel?”

 She hadn’t bothered. She’d figured Nate would have his security goons come after her before she could reach her room. She’d arrived a day early to get that unpleasantness out of the way so she could focus on her game. “No. Not yet. I wanted to play a little first.”

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