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.Women had always been drawn to Marshall.As a young, impressionable teenager, Amber had been one of them.How could she not have a crush on her father’s top protégé?Sam Brenner had been a gambler extroaordinaire, a man Amber had been in awe of.He was everything Vegas—big and large, dynamic and exciting.He’d adored his daughter and he’d seen to it she had everything she’d ever needed.Since he was often traveling the gambling circuit, leaving Amber with his parents, she’d extended her awe and love to her dashing father to her hometown, Vegas.She reveled in the glitz and glamour that emanated from it in waves.The shine had long since come off Marshall, though, and these days she saw her soon-to-be ex-partner for the man he really was.A middle-aged con who made his living by gambling and cheating, simply because he could.Amber’s reasons for getting into the life had been less self-serving, yet she couldn’t deny they shared a mutual investment in their partnership.“Hey, beautiful.” Marshall stepped up beside her and pressed a cool kiss to her cheek.“How are you this morning?” he asked, interrupting her introspection.“I’m just fine.” She pressed her fingers together to keep from fidgeting or tipping her hand before she was ready.“Can I get you a drink?” Marshall asked.She frowned at his question.“Isn’t noon a little early for cocktails?”“Come on, babe, relax.It’s Friday.The start of the weekend.” He flagged down a waitress.“Johnnie Walker Black for me.And a chardonnay for the lady.”Chardonnay was Amber’s drink of choice when she and Marshall were acting the part of gambler and his bimbo.Amber didn’t want anything to do with the charade now.She waved her hand in the air.“Nothing for me.”With a nod, the cocktail waitress turned and walked away.Marshall immediately cocked his head to one side.“Something wrong?” he asked Amber.She shook her head.“No, it’s just that it’s awfully early in the day.” Even for a Friday.He pinned her with his astute stare.“What’s your problem? You usually don’t give a damn what I drink or when as long as we have a gig planned that’ll bring in some cash.And I already told you we’re set for tomorrow night.Relax.” He reached out a hand to smooth her long curls.She forced herself to release a calming breath.He was right.She’d never questioned him about his drinking before.From the moment she’d asked him to join her in her mission to raise big money by revisiting the tricks her father had taught her in her youth, she’d always let him do his own thing.Amber didn’t want him drinking now because the more alcohol he downed, the more volatile he could become when he heard her news.She might as well get it over with.“About tomorrow’s game.” Amber clenched and unclenched her fists.Her palms were damp and she resisted the urge to wipe them on her dark dress.His wary gaze turned his irises coal-black, but Amber wasn’t afraid.He usually possessed enough charm to cover his explosive temper.Usually.“What’s wrong?” he asked again.“I won’t be there.”“That’s a bad joke.” He frowned, the scowl marring his features.“You know I can’t win without that photographic memory of yours.What could be more important than the game?”How to explain honesty, morality and guilt to a man who didn’t worry about those things? Amber bit the inside of her cheek, wondering how to phrase things so he’d understand.She met Marshall’s unnerving gaze.“I’m not coming tomorrow because I’m finished with card counting.With this life.”She’d always loved the highs and challenges that high-stakes gambling offered, but she also needed to like the person she viewed in the mirror each morning.And she had, until she was forced to leave the career she loved to look after her father.As a concierge in Beverly Hills, Amber had had a legitimate job that offered her enough challenge to satisfy her reckless streak.She’d found the best in life and she wanted it back.And since she’d saved enough money to take time and find another way to pay for her father’s care, she intended to do just that.“Finished? Come on, baby.Be real.” Marshall laughed from deep in his chest as his eyes wandered over her.“Like I just said, we’re a team, you and I.”“Not anymore.” At twenty-four years old, she’d learned that she preferred to come by her excitement honestly.“Oh, really?” He folded his arms across his chest, his body language telling her he wasn’t buying one word.“Where else are you going to get the tax-free cash to pay for that fancy place your old man is in?” He leaned in closer as he spoke.The suddenly too-strong scent of his distinctive cologne assaulted her senses and she pulled back.“That’s my problem, not yours.I’m just telling you our days as partners are over.I’m out.”“The hell you are.” He grabbed her arm tight.She shook him off and shot him a deadly look.“Do not touch me like that again.Ever.” She rubbed her sore arm.“I’ve made my decision and nothing you say…or do is going to change my mind.”“Sorry, babe.I have too much riding on tomorrow night to indulge you,” he said through gritted teeth.He took a step toward her, clearly intending to scare her into changing her mind.No sooner had he wrapped his hand around her forearm again than someone stepped beside them.“Is something wrong here?”Amber jerked toward the sound of the sexy male voice and was literally blown away.Good-looking was too mild a word to describe the dark-haired stranger whose gaze bore into hers with genuine concern.“Everything’s fine.” Amber didn’t want this man to get into an argument with Marshall, who seemed primed for a fight.As long as they were in public, her ex-partner wouldn’t do more than make a show of manhandling her.“Doesn’t look fine to me.” The stranger deliberately stared at Marshall’s hand on her arm.Amber would have shoved Marshall away, but she knew she’d only set him off and cause more trouble for the stranger who seemed determined to play white knight [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]