Dark, dangerous Jordan Kyle lived life on his own terms, setting his own rules and playing for high stakes. He’d moved through this world alone, and was satisfied to have it that way—until he encountered Alyssa Chandler. By day Alyssa was a cool, controlled mathematical whiz, sorting through facts and figures. By night it was a different story. At night she became a creature of beauty and passion who was more than a match for Jordan. But were Jordan’s seductive caresses enough for Alyssa to take a chance on a future together? Only time would tell...
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Jayne Ann Krentz is the author of fifty New York Times bestsellers. She has written contemporary romantic suspense novels under that name, as well as futuristic and historical romance novels under the pseudonyms Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick, respectively. She lives in Seattle.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THE THIRD TIME THE QUIETLY DANGEROUS man with the eyes of antique gold materialized near a table where she was playing, Alyssa Chandler ruled out coincidence as an explanation. Statistically speaking, given the size of the casino in which she was gambling and the number of people swarming across its huge glittering floor, it just wasn't very likely that the same man would show up in her vicinity on three different occasions in a single hour.
The probability of three such events occurring randomly simply wasn't very high, and Alyssa knew all about probability theory. No, there had to be another explanation for the man's appearance, and none of the explanations Alyssa could think of sounded very pleasant. All, in fact, sounded rather dangerous; just like the man himself. It was time to move on.
Smiling at the professionally polite blackjack dealer, Alyssa scooped a hundred dollars' worth of chips into her soft, sequined evening clutch. Her carefully draped, off-the-shoulder gown of black jersey swirled gently around her ankles as she turned to slip into the crowd of pleasure seekers. A thin, liquid stream of silver edged the neckline, cuffs and rippling hemline of the dress, subtly reflecting the glow of the chandeliers as Alyssa made her way through the crowd.
The silver trim of the dress wasn't the only thing on her person that reflected the light. A rich fire buried in the depths of her thick auburn hair occasionally caught the elegant glow of the casino fixtures. Parted simply in the middle, the shoulder-length mass fell in a gentle curve on each side of her face, lightly brushing the smooth skin bared by the gown. The auburn hair framed an intelligent, if not beautiful face that was highlighted by a pair of eyes the color of the sea at dawn: not quite green, not quite gray. It was the shimmering awareness in those eyes, together with the charm of a mouth that curved readily into a smile, that made an onlooker forget that the face, as a whole, could not be labeled beautiful.
There was a certain charm to the secret smile that always lurked in her sea-green eyes, and that charm made people overlook the fact that they never knew quite why Alyssa was smiling so subtly. There was charm, too, in the smattering of freckles across her small nose, although tonight she had made a vain attempt to hide that unsophisticated feature. Tonight she was in Las Vegas, dressed in the most expensive gown she could afford, wearing a pair of black leather sandals trimmed at the heel in silver, and she had decided that freckles did not particularly go with the persona of elegant lady gambler that she had adopted.
If one ignored the freckles, however, it could be said that the rest of her fit rather well into the image she had constructed. Thanks to five feet, seven inches of height and a lot of swimming, the body, cloaked so sleekly in the black dress, was slender and graceful. There was a gentle invitation in the small curves of her high breasts and softly flaring hips; nothing blatant or voluptuous on the grand Las Vegas scale but something that would definitely be evident to the eyes of the discerning. Tonight, Alyssa had dressed to make the most of her figure in a discreet, sophisticated manner.
Knowing the image she was projecting, she would ordinarily have assumed that the man with the golden eyes was merely responding to that subtle, feminine magic. In the minds of the vast majority of the male population, the illusion of Las Vegas was woven not only with the promise of gambling but with the promise of easily available women.
But the man who had materialized near her three times during the course of the evening had not been focusing on the curve of bared shoulder or narrow waist. He had been watching her play blackjack, and the shuttered fascination in his eyes was far more dangerous to her than lust would have been.
Lust could be handled, firmly and coolly denied with the knowledge that the casino personnel would be only too quick to come to the aid of a patron in distress. For although she had dressed to suit her own fantasy this evening, the intelligent, sensible woman hidden in the black jersey gown had no intention of becoming some man"s fantasy. No, a man who might have decided to try his luck with her instead of the roulette wheel would have been no danger.
But a man who followed every move she made when she played blackjack was in another category altogether. Such a man might be very dangerous, indeed.
Was he on the casino's staff? Behind the dealers roamed a variety of personnel who kept an eye on operations: floormen, pit bosses, shift bosses and the casino manager. Most were easily identifiable and certainly made no effort to conceal themselves. But that didn't mean there might not be additional personnel who, like the shills, were supposed to blend in with the patrons.
Slipping through the crowd, Alyssa passed one kind of gambler after another. The traditional figure of the little old lady in tennis shoes stood amid a row of slot machines, industriously throwing away her social security check. A high-rolling, loudmouthed Oklahoma oilman threw his money away with a great deal more showmanship at the craps table. In between ranged every type of gambling human under the sun.
The soft glow of the chandeliers fell impartially on all, reflecting the warmth with which the casino welcomed each customer. That welcome was extended because the vast majority had one thing in common: ultimately, they would all be losers.
There was only one sort of client the casino did not welcome, and that was the very rare individual who won, not just occasionally but consistently, steadily, inevitably. And that was the sort of gambler Alyssa Chandler was. She won.
Oh, she was careful about it, never letting greed carry her away to the extent that the casino management would be alerted. She made it a point to lose periodically, and when she won, it was always in small amounts. But by the time she was ready to leave Las Vegas at the end of the weekend, she planned on being a thousand dollars ahead. There was no reason to think her plans would not be fulfilled. After all, she had made the same decision the weekend before and had gone back to California with precisely a thousand dollars in her purse, all of which had been won in small, discreet sums at several casinos.
Surely she hadn't won enough tonight or been so conspicuous as to attract the unwanted attention of the casino management. A small frown knitted her auburn eyebrows as she moved up the three steps that separated the huge gaming floor from the cocktail lounges and hotel facilities that ringed it. Still, it paid to be cautious. A suspicious casino could easily bar her from playing, and that was the last thing she wanted. Perhaps it was time to get into a cab and head for another establishment.
Debating her course of action as she walked to the lobby area of the hotel casino, Alyssa didn't see the golden-eyed man until he stepped away from the cluster of cheerful gamblers moving into the nearest of the cocktail lounges. Quite suddenly, he was blocking her path.
Alyssa caught her breath as she met his gaze directly for the first time. In that moment, she realized the futility of trying to avoid the confrontation.
"It's all right," he said quietly as if he could read her mind. "I don't work for the casino." The voice was rich, dark and infinitely disturbing.
Relief was Alyssa's first emotion, followed almost immediately by a host of new suspicions and questions. Or was he lying to her about not working for the management? "I can't see why that should be important to me one way or the other," she managed sweetly. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm on my way out."
He didn't move. "I'd like to buy you a drink." The tawny gold eyes held hers with an expressionless promise. Alyssa got the distinct impression that it would be risky to turn down his offer of a drink.
For a long moment, they stood in a tableau, assessing each other, playing a waiting game; then, without a word, Alyssa decided to capitulate and find out what he wanted. There was no point in running away. If she had been marked by the casino, she had been marked. Better to find out exactly what this man wanted. Ignorance was never really bliss; it could often be downright dangerous. With a faint inclination of her head, she turned and walked into the nearby lounge.
He followed, a dark, silent shadow at her heels, taking her arm just as she located an empty table and was about to sit down. His touch, warm through the fabric of her dress, surprised her, drawing her attention briefly to his hands as he took the seat across from her. Long, well-shaped fingers gave an impression of strength and exquisite sensitivity. In the next instant, Alyssa was shocked to find herself wondering what those fingers would feel like on a woman's naked skin. She banished the image with the single-minded skill of a professional statistician who knew how to focus on the big picture.
"Have you finished playing for the evening, or would you like to stick with the mineral water you've been drinking?" the stranger inquired very politely.
Alyssa winced. He had even noticed what she had been drinking! "I've finished for the evening," she told him coolly. "I'll have a Drambuie."
"With the glass warmed?"
"Please." His politeness was beginning to ruffle her nerves. Such polished civility, such courtesy, such an expression of urbane attention, had to be suspect in a man, any man.
While he gave their order to the pretty cocktail waitress, Alyssa made a quick, surreptitious survey of her accoster. A pelt of dark, Vandyke-brown hair was combed easily back from a broad forehead and worn long enough to brush the collar of his crisp white shirt. His eyes, the feature Alyssa had been most aware of for the past hour, were of a light amber brown that bore more than a passing resemblance to the color of old gold. Those eyes bothered Alyssa, primarily because she failed utterly to read any expression in them other tha...
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