Chapter 1


Poker players were notorious for being superstitious, and I certainly wasn’t the exception. There were plenty of rituals I’d developed since I’d made poker my profession two years ago. One of my little quirks was the reason why I was bored out of my mind and trying to figure out how to pass the time until the tournament I was playing in kicked off in a few days. It was a constant issue for me since one of my pre-tournament habits was to fly into town days before it started.

You’d think I’d just spend those extra days playing poker since I was in Vegas at a five-star hotel with a world renowned casino. But nope—that was out of the question because my absolute worst tournament performance was when I came in second to last after I’d spent the days leading up to it in the casino. From that point on, I avoided poker tables like the plague unless I was sitting in a tournament or was at home gearing up for one. Unfortunately, it only took a few more trips to Vegas for me to hit up all the touristy hot spots, which left me in my current predicament.

Wandering through the casino on my way from the elevators to the little bakery café near the lobby, my attention was drawn to a blackjack table on my right. It had a fifty dollar minimum and there were three players seated at it. One of them hooted and hollered, presumably after a big win. It looked like a hot table, but that wasn’t what drew me over. The dealer did.

He was tall, with dark hair that was short on the sides and longer on top. The scruff on his face made me think he’d forgotten to shave for at least a few mornings. His skin was a couple of shades paler than mine, which was funny since he lived in the hot climate of Vegas while I only visited from my home base of Minneapolis several times a year. All of that combined together into a super attractive package, but it was the way his dark eyes twinkled as he joked with the gamblers at his table that had me joining them.

Blackjack was a completely different game from poker, so I figured it couldn’t hurt my luck in the tournament to play a few hands. And since a smart player has an almost even chance of winning against the house, odds were good that I’d be able to walk away without losing anything. Plus, sitting directly across from the dealer meant that the view while I was playing was sure to leave me in a good mood, at least.

As I slid ten, one-hundred dollar bills and my player’s card across the table, my gaze dropped to the name tag pinned to his black, button-down shirt. Becket. His name was just as appealing as the man.

“How do you want that broken down, sweetheart?”

“Fives, twenty-fives, and fifties please.”

“How come you haven’t been calling me ‘sweetheart’?” the guy to my right jokingly complained.

Becket’s dark gaze drifted over my face and what he could see of my body, and he winked at me as he answered, “Because your legs wouldn’t look nearly as good as hers do in the skirt and heels she’s wearing.”

“Fair enough,” the guy chuckled while nodding his head.

“That doesn’t explain why he didn’t use a cute nickname with me,” the woman on the other side of him grumbled.

“That’s because he knows you’re with me, darlin’.” The guy flung his arm over the woman’s shoulder and pulled her close. “And he’s a smart boy. He knows better than to flirt with my woman.”

I laughed lightly at the description because there wasn’t anything boyish about Becket. From what I’d seen so far, he was all man.

When he pushed my chips over to me, I untangled a lock of my long, light brown hair from one of my dangly earrings and tucked it behind my ear. He paused, his dark eyes locked on the pulse at the base of my neck, before he reminded me to place my bet. I dropped a fifty-dollar chip onto the betting circle in front of me, and watched while he dealt the cards.

He had great hands; big with long fingers that moved quickly and with great dexterity while he worked. I couldn’t help but wonder what else he could do with those fingers…to my body. As several ideas came to mind, my cheeks filled with heat. Feeling fidgety, I crossed and uncrossed my legs a few times before Becket’s attention returned to me after the two players to my right had waved him off.

Since I had a pair of Jacks, I split my cards and placed another fifty-dollar chip above my hand. When Becket dealt me an Ace and another Jack, everyone around me cheered. While he paid out my Blackjack, I split my Jacks again. With the nine and Queen he gave me going up against the eight showing for his hand, I stayed. The guy to my left signaled for a hit and busted when the eight he was dealt brought him to twenty-two. Becket flipped over his face down card, and I grinned at the eight he turned up.