In leaving Anna’s bed he’d given up the greatest pleasure he’d ever known. He’d even told her why he was leaving, but apparently she hadn’t believed him. Instead of being grateful, she’d been angry at his sacrifice.
He clenched his jaw. Hell, how could she have felt otherwise after what Lindsey had told her?
Furious, he rose from his desk and paced his office, crossing to the opposite wall of one-sided windows that overlooked the main casino floor. Leaning against the glass, he stared down at the wide expanse of elegant nineteenth-century Russian architecture, the soaring ceilings with high crystal chandeliers and gilded columns, packed in with slot machines, card tables and well-heeled gamblers.
He spotted Lindsey weaving through the crowds, rushing toward the employee elevator. She was carrying a bag from a high-end lingerie store in the Moskva Shopping Complex within the casino. Even after he’d ordered her to wait for him here at the office she’d taken time to go shopping. Unbelievable.
He missed Anna.
Anna, the perfect secretary. Anna, who’d read his mind. Anna, who’d solved problems before he’d even known they existed.
He’d first met her in New York, when Victor Sinistyn had pitched that ridiculous idea for an Elvis-themed hotel-casino called Girls Girls Girls. The meeting had been an utter waste of his time. With twenty boutique hotels around the world, Stavrakis Resorts were known for their elegance, not for their go-go dancers.
Nikos had noticed Sinistyn’s executive assistant, with her cool efficiency and aristocratic demeanor. He’d needed someone who could handle the complex details of running a billion-dollar business while still maintaining the image of his company. He’d needed someone with understanding and discretion, who wouldn’t let herself be bullied—not even by him.
Anna Rostoff had been everything he’d wanted and more. Hiring her away from Victor Sinistyn had caused him no end of grief, for the man had been a furious thorn in his side ever since. But Sinistyn’s enmity had been a small price to pay. For five years he and Anna had worked together, traveling around the world in his private jet, often working around the clock. She’d never complained. She’d never failed him. She’d never made a mistake. And he’d compensated her accordingly. When he’d found out she was sending most of her salary to support her mother and younger sister in New York, he’d given her a raise that had sent her salary skyrocketing deep into six figures.
He’d known by then that she was indispensable to his empire. Indispensable to him.
“I’m here.” Lindsey’s voice was panting as she leaned against the doorway. She’d stashed the lingerie bag somewhere en route, and now brought a hand to her heaving chest. “I was…um…”
“Stuck in traffic?” he said laconically.
“Right. Stuck in traffic.” She looked relieved. “You know Las Vegas Boulevard is a nightmare this time of day.”
“Don’t worry.” Standing over his desk, he leaned forward and gave her a lazy smile. “You’re just in time.”
“In time?” Her eyes lit up, and her hips swayed as she came toward him. Harsh afternoon sunlight hit her tanned face as she stretched a manicured hand to caress his cheek. “Past time, I’d say.”
He removed Lindsey’s hand.
“Stop it, Lindsey. It’s not going to happen.”
The desire for release was strong in him. The desire to forget, to bury himself in flesh and curves and the hot scent of woman. To pull her long hair back, exposing her throat for plunder, to possess her mouth and see the answering spark of desire in her eyes…
He wanted a woman. God, yes. Just not this one.
He wanted the woman who was at home right now, hating him.
Undeterred, Lindsey stroked his thigh. “Why do you think I took this stupid job? I know we’d be perfect together. I’ll make you wild. I’ll make you so hot and worked up that you’ll forget that tramp—”
He cut her off, his tone ruthlessly cold. “You told Anna that we were lovers. When she was pregnant and vulnerable you lied to her. I want to hear it from your mouth.”
“All right.” Lindsey dropped the seductive pose, and her young, pretty face took on the hard, calculating look of a hustler. “But, the way I see it, I was doing you a favor.”
He turned to his desk and pressed a button. Two guards appeared at his door.
“Please escort Miss Miller out of the casino,” he said coldly. “Her employment here is done.”
The color drained from her face, leaving her pale beneath her tan. “What?”
“A severance check will be waiting for you at the casino office downstairs. You’ll find I’ve been more generous than you deserve.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“For every minute you argue with me I’ll instruct Margaret to subtract a thousand dollars from your check.”
She sucked in her breath. “Fine!” She turned on her designer heel and stalked out, grabbing her shopping bag just outside the door. She stopped and glared at him.
“It’s not my fault she left, you know. She was having your kid and you still wouldn’t marry her. Pathetic.” She shook the lingerie bag at him. “And now you’ll never see me in this!”
He should have gotten rid of her a long time ago, he mused, his ears still ringing with the noise of the slammed door. It took him a moment to realize he was hearing the phone. Shaking his head, he picked up the receiver.
“You’re not going to like this, boss,” Cooper said.
“What’s wrong?” Nikos’s heart gave a weird thump. “Michael?”
“The baby’s fine. With his nanny. But Anna took off. I didn’t stop her, since she didn’t take the boy. I had her followed, like you said. She took the Maserati.”
Nikos nearly choked on his bourbon. Anna had snuck out? Leaving their son behind? When it was almost dusk? Driving his favorite car?
That was her idea of going under the radar?
“Where did she go?”
“That’s the part you’re not going to like.” Coop paused. “She walked into Victor Sinistyn’s club ten minutes ago.”
“And you waited ten minutes to tell me?” he said tersely.
“Wait, boss. You don’t want to go there alone—I’m getting some of the guys—”
“I can do this alone!”
Nikos slammed down the phone and headed for the door. He went straight to his private garage and jumped on his Ducati motorcycle. Swerving through the traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, he headed downtown.
Fremont Street was gritty, for all of its brilliant lights. This was where the hardcore gamblers came to play, far from the lavish themed hotels and the families with cameras and strollers. This was the original Las Vegas, and its hard-edged glamor showed its tarnish like an aging showgirl.
Victor Sinistyn had turned his failed casino concept into a dance club. Outside of Girls Girls Girls there was a long line of lithe, scantily-clad twenty-somethings, waiting to drink and dance.
Nikos leapt off his motorcycle, tossing his keys to a valet. The bouncer recognized Nikos as he strode arrogantly forward, bypassing the line.
“No bodyguards tonight, Mr. Stavrakis?”
“Where’s your boss?” Not waiting for an answer, Nikos pushed past him.
Inside the club, colored lights were pulsing through the darkness to the beat of the music. The place was a cavern, a rebuilt warehouse with an enormous high ceiling, and it shook with the rhythm of the dancing crowd. The air was steamy, hot, redolent of sex and skin.
And then he saw her, wearing a tiny halter top and low-slung jeans that made her look virtually naked.
Dancing with Victor Sinistyn.
The man smiled down at Anna as they danced, running his hands possessively down her bare skin. She gave him a strained smile as she stepped back from him, swaying her body, moving down to her knees before she rose again. She leaned back, arms over her head, and her full breasts strained the fabric, nearly popped out of her flesh-colored top. But apparently Sinistyn wasn’t satisfied with just looking.
Grabbing her shoulders, he pulled her bare belly against him and ground his body against hers, nuzzling her neck. Anna didn’t struggle, but Nikos had a glimpse of her pale face. She looked as if she were gasping for air. Why was Anna allowing him to manhandle her?
He saw the Russian’s hands move toward her breasts. With a savage growl, Nikos started to push roughly through the crowd. All he could think was that if Sinistyn kept touching her he’d kill the man in his own club.
“THERE, we’ve had our dance.” Anna panted, drawing away. “Please can we talk now?”
“The music’s not over yet,” Victor said, pulling her back close.
That was what she was afraid of—that this music would never end. Her skin crawled where he’d touched her. “But I need to ask you something important, Victor. A life-and-death favor.”