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Behind closed doors, the real games begin...
Winning it big.
That's the name of the game at Las Vegas's Liege Hotel and Casino, where the hottest fantasies hinge on a roll of the dice...and the tantalizing knowledge that anything could happen before sunrise.
Cocktail waitress Carinna wants a man to tie her up, not tie her down. Little does she know that her most willing partner yet has something else planned for this fiery Latina bombshell.
Dahlia is a burlesque dancer with a brain for business and a bod for sin. Her latest admirer may be a sweet-talking Casanova, but despite what he thinks she's not giving anything away free.
Meanwhile, Amy has the perfect plan to rob the Liege Casino blind...until the intimidating owner catches her red-handed. Now she knows she's going to pay... with both pleasure and pain.
Professional shill Cassidy is ready to experience a breathless rendezvous with her "friend with benefits." But when he proposes five delicious nights of sexy blackjack, the stakes have never been so high.
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Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels and novellas across several genres. She lives in the Northwest with her patient husband and three wild children.
Visit Lauren on the web at www.laurendane.com
You can write to her at: PO BOX 45175, Seattle, WA 98145
As much time as I spend at The Liege, between working in the casino's Taboo Tequila Bar as a cocktail waitress and visiting the progressive bingo room on Sundays with my grandmother, I'd never had the desire to play cards there until tonight. I can only guess that what propelled me through the door of the twenty-four-hour poker room and to the last available seat at a table filled with men and reeking of testosterone and cigar smoke was Hank's deception.
The bastard had lied.
We'd agreed the first time we hooked up that we were in it for two things: sex and more sex.
So what the hell was he doing proposing?
I liked Hank, but—Christ—proposing?
If he'd gotten to know me at all the past three months, he'd know I didn't do relationships, documented ones or otherwise. He clearly didn't know me. Not beyond the way I liked my martinis and men—both dirty as a girl could get 'em. Not beyond the fact that, unlike many women, I didn't have a problem sucking a cock bone-dry. In fact, I loved it.
The taste of hot, salty f luid sliding down my throat. The feel of a man's stiff shaft thrusting between my lips. The knowledge he was under my complete and total control. There was no better feeling in the world.
Or so I was telling myself when I eased my chair up to the poker table with a little hip-scoot shuff le, and discovered Jack Dempsey sitting three chairs away.
From the thick, wavy black hair that matched his mustache, to the graceful slide of his long fingers across the table's green felt as he pushed a stack of nickel chips into a fast growing pot, to the rasp in his voice as he confirmed the bet, Jack was de-fucking-licious. That I could say the same about the body beneath his clothes, and that being laid by him beat any mouth job I'd ever given, amounted to the biggest mistake of my life.
Four months ago, following the death of my father and one martini too many, I'd given in to the lust I'd felt for Jack since puberty and jumped his bones. He'd put up a marginal fight, saying it would ruin our friendship, and then jumped mine right back.
The way nearly every guy at the table stopped what he was doing to check me out said I could end tonight on a bone-jumping note, as well.
I'd changed out of the tit-popping top and barely crotch-covering miniskirt the tequila bar called a uniform, but—along with my Latina appearance—I'd inherited the body of a centerfold from my mother, and my snug black jeans and midriff-baring white tank top weren't hiding that fact. Having 34 Cs, a trim waistline and thirty-three-inch-long legs was a blessing when it came to pulling in tips at the bar. It was a bitch the rest of the time.
I couldn't make the trek from my apartment five blocks from the Vegas strip to The Liege without hearing speculation I was either a showgirl or a hooker. I gave total props to those who worked in either profession, but I didn't and I got sick to hell of the assumptions—and the lewd looks that were often accompanied by propositions of the open-legged variety.
The balding guy next to me—who was obviously going through a midlife crisis, from his orange rapper-style jacket and enough bling around his neck and on his fingers to get him taken out in the seedier sections of Vegas—pulled his gaze from the football game playing on the jumbo f lat-screen television on the wall behind the dealer to send me one of those lewd looks. Since I wasn't about to make a scene in my place of employment by telling him I'd rather screw the seventy-year-old dealer than do his slimy ass, I feigned an oblivious smile, slid my bills to the dealer to cash in for chips and glanced down the table.
Jack's gaze met mine and I swear his blue-green eyes f lashed a look as predatory as the one he'd given me four months ago, when he'd been buried cock-deep and screwing me to nirvana. Then again, since Jack and I had barely talked since that night, it was probably the cigar smoke messing with my head. That didn't stop moisture from gathering in my panties and my heartbeat from kicking up.
Hank had never been able to stir either reaction with a mere look. For all our deal had been based on sex alone, Hank had hardly known the right places to touch to make me climax. Chalk it up to over two decades of friendship and, up until four months ago, frankness on our sex lives, but Jack knew all the right spots. Knew I liked my loving fast and hard, then slow and easy. Knew I was greedy enough to expect to climax twice before my lover came. The lone night we'd been together, he'd doubled that rate by delivering four of the most stunning orgasms of my life.
Jack nodded at me. "Carinna."
Stacking my chips on the table in front of me, I shivered with the deep timbre of his voice. So cool. So classy. That was Jack. Till he got his hands on your body and then he was hotter than a four-alarm fire. Fitting, since he put out fires for a living.
Was there anything sexier than a man in a uniform? Given, a man out of a uniform, but other than that? Hank for damned sure wasn't as sexy as Jack, and he had a history of modeling. Mostly sock commercials, but even Jack's feet were hotter than Hank's.
For Jack, I might just walk down the aisle.
I bit my tongue over the thought as I slid the big blind chip into the center of the table. If I walked down the aisle with any man, it would be under the inf luence of something narcotic and illegal.
Ignoring the thunder of my hormones and the hungry pulsing of my pussy, I smiled. "Jack. Good to see you."
I might have imagined the predatory look, but there was no mistaking the surprise that f lickered in his eyes. I'd been convinced he blamed me for propositioning him with sex that, just as he'd forewarned, had led to the decline of our friendship. Maybe I'd been wrong. Maybe he still thought I was pissed at him. So he'd ditched my bed in the middle of the night without so much as a goodbye note. I knew he had a job to do and he did it with pride. He'd waited three days to call and explain it was indeed a fire that had pulled him away, but so what? I'd never wanted anything more from him that night than a comforting shoulder and a good, long fuck. I'd gotten both.
Now, all I wanted was our friendship back.
After checking my hold cards, a deuce of spades and a seven of hearts, I folded with a silent snicker. I did want our friendship back, but with the addition of fringe benefits of the sexual kind.
Hank was history. Looking at Jack, registering the heart-slamming, panty-wetting way he got to me, I knew no other man would do for my next lover. Before this night was over, I was going to erase the biggest mistake of my life, by regaining my friendship with Jack and, in the meantime, getting laid by a guy who understood no-strings sex as completely as I did.
A half-dozen more junk hands came my way and I was seriously considering quitting the table, despite the mouth-watering view three seats away, when I checked my hold cards to discover pocket queens. I'd never had the desire to play cards at The Liege until tonight, but I'd played a shitload of poker in my time. Back before I'd gotten sloshed on martinis and given in to my Jack craving, I used to play Texas Hold 'Em with him and his younger brother, Ryan, every Wednesday night. Jack took almost as much pride in his poker skills as he did in his firefighting ones.
Not about to scare off the competition, I made a small bet, which half the table called, and I waited for the f lop. The eight and nine of spades and the queen of hearts. Three lucky ladies in my favor.
Anticipation kindled as an idea formed. I put in a moderate bet this time; the two players between me and Jack called it. Jack hesitated a few seconds, then raised my bet. Thankful he had a hand, or at least the urge to bullshit me, I eagerly called him, the balding slimeball to my left and the forty-something family man next to Jack following my lead. The turn showed a fourth queen for my hand, spades this time, and my pussy gushed with liquid excitement.
Only four hands could beat me and the odds of anyone having them were slim. I was going to have Jack back, as a friend and a lover.
Struggling to hold in my grin, I pushed my chips into the growing pot. "All in."
Slimeball and the guy next to Jack folded. Jack tapped a finger against his hold cards. My belly tightened. If he folded now, I was screwed. But no, I wasn't. In order to be screwed, he had to call me one last time, then agree to a side bet of the high-stakes sexual kind.
Five seconds passed. Ten seconds. Fifteen.
His voice deeper than ever, Jack uttered, "I'll call you."
My heart slammed against my ribs as he pushed in all but two ten-high stacks of red chips, matching my bet. Before I could speak the next words, the ones that would land him in my bed, he said them: "Interested in a side bet?"
The sudden, raw heat in his eyes said he wasn't talking about chips. He was on the same page as I was. I practically quivered with excitement. Outwardly, I didn't dare allow such an obvious tell. Inwardly, my pussy thrummed with anticipation for the long night of loving ahead.
Giving him a dirty-girl smile, I challenged him. "Name the stakes."
I couldn't believe my luck. First a nut f lush draw that had become a straight f lush on the turn, then Carinna's agreeing to my every fantasy. True, she hadn't agreed yet, but she would. With the cards showing on the table, she couldn't beat me, and that meant I was as good as fucked in all the best ways.
I'd been convinced she hated me after the way I'd walked out on her four months ago. The lame excuse I'd given about responding to a fire had obviously been enough to pacify her. But it had been an excuse. The only fire I'd gone up against that night had been the one burning in my gut with the realization I'd fallen hard for Carinna. I'd always known I loved her, but until that night I hadn't realized how far beyond friendship it went.
I'd lost my father to fast-burning f lames and had seen too many others lose their loved ones the same way to consider a relationship while working full-time as a firefighter, so I'd bolted from her bed. And paid the price of knowing she'd been screwing some other guy for the past few months. A guy that my brother, Ryan, had informed me Carinna had kicked to the curbside just this morning.
I couldn't have asked for better timing.
A lucky run of cards had recently allowed me to turn my poker hobby into something more serious. Tonight I was playing for fun. Every day for the past week and a half, I'd gone up against some of the biggest names in the game. With four days left to go in the tournament, I was third in the chips lead. If I could hang on to a top-five position, I'd finish high enough in the money to turn my career focus onto starting up the classic car restoration garage I'd dreamed of for years and my personal focus on making Carinna mine permanently.
My cock had been hard since Carinna had joined the table and sent me her sultry smile. It gave an anxious twitch now, over the thought of having her again. And again and again. All that stood in the way of losing myself in her lush body tonight was a futile river card; all that stood in the way of making her mine in the long run was her cast-iron commitment issue.
Pulling my mind above my belt, I concentrated on the unfolding hand.
The aging dealer was looking at us like we were a couple of half-wits. He spoke slowly. "You can't make a side bet when you're the only two playing, or with a player who has all of their chips in play."
I glanced back at Carinna and gave her a quick perusal of her ample cleavage, hugged to testosterone-tormenting perfection in a navel-baring tank top. Lifting my attention to her face, I found she still held on to the remnants of the X-rated smile she'd f lashed me moments ago. Out of respect for her job with The Liege, I relied on a naughty smile of my own to convey that we'd work out the finer points of the side bet later.
I nodded at the dealer. "Sorry. I was joking about the side bet."
The old guy continued as if I hadn't spoken. "Now, you both need to turn your cards over."
I almost snorted over the way he was babying us, probably two of the most skilled players in the room. Instead, I looked back down the table at Carinna. Her grin covered the lower half of her face, her full, sensual lips tinted with pink. She slipped her tongue out, moistening the soft f lesh and my cock throbbed with the memory of my own tongue lapping at another area of her body that was just as soft and moist and pink.
The thought of her warm pussy sucking at my tongue had me returning to that fateful night four months ago. I wished it hadn't taken her father's passing to bring us together and show me our intertwined destiny, but, hell, her old man owed her for the way he'd messed with her head about relationships being the devil's handiwork, so maybe in a twisted way his death bringing us together was a latent form of justice.
With Carinna's husky laughter, I returned to the present to see she'd uncovered pocket queens. She f lashed a cocky grin. "Sorry, Jack. But you can't win 'em all."
I let out a low whistle, almost feeling sorry for her. Almost. I couldn't feel too bad for a woman I planned to spend the night providing with ecstasy. "Four ladies. Nice. But you're right. You can't win them all." I turned my hold cards over, revealing the ten and jack of spades. "But you put up an admirable fight."
Her cocky grin faded to an appreciative smile, as the dealer turned the river card: the seven of diamonds. "Still got the touch, Dempsey."
While the rest of the players at the table congratulated me and shared their sympathies with her, I shot Carinna a wicked grin that said she would find out before the night was through just how good my touch still was. My hunger for her ref lected in my voice as I said, "What can I say? Some things never die."
"They just get better with time." The sap who was sitting next to her, weighted down by ten pounds of gold jewelry, intruded on our conversation.
Carinna gave the guy another of the fake-as-hell smiles I'd seen her aim his way earlier. Raking in my chips, I didn't bother with a smile but gave him a look of displeasure.
I played three more hands of cards, so as not to piss off the rest of the players by winning and running, then changed in my small chips for a short rack of fifties and hundreds. Carinna had stayed to watch the last few hands. I took that as a good sign. Grabbing the chip rack, I stood from my seat and moved behind hers.
Past the stench of cigar smoke, her scent hit me, a vanilla musk undercoated with something sweet and sexual that had my already stiff-as-stone cock ready to burst from behind the zipper of my jeans. "I'm taking off. Want to join me for a drink in the bar?"
"And spend time in my favorite place on my day off ?" She pushed back her chair and stood. At five foot nine, she was a handful of inches shorter than me and right now her lips were so close it took almost more willpower than I had to resist their lure.
I lifted my gaz...
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