Slave to Love(161)

By: Nikita Black

"You find the thought of being with me … unappealing?"

"No." Lord, no. "More like unwise."

A little smile broke through the masculine pique that had momentarily threatened his urbane facade. "Is there nothing I can do to change your mind?"

Unfortunately, she could think of any number of things. "No. Nothing," she said quickly.

He lit up another cheroot, considering her carefully. "All right. When would you like your rematch?"

"I'm not sure," she said, hedging. She needed to meet with him alone, just not quite as alone as he had in mind. "Where are you staying? I'll give you a call."

"Here, in this hotel."

"Fine. I'll talk to you tomorrow." Rising, she glanced at the door, steeling her nerves.

His brows shot up. "You can't really mean to leave dressed like that."

If she could pull this off, it might just convince him she was bold, daring, unafraid to take risks. That she'd be a worthy partner in his illegal activities. So she could spring her trap.

She shrugged, putting into the gesture all the sangfroid she wasn't at all feeling. "Why not?" Picking up her purse, she winked. "They'll just think I'm part of the show."

"Sorry to disillusion you," he said as he stood and walked behind her to the door, "but that outfit's much too classy to be mistaken for a showgirl's costume."

"Funny." She reached for the doorknob and suddenly his hand covered hers. The heat of his body whispered against her back. She could feel the edges of his jacket brush her hips through the film of silk that covered them. Instantly, the air crackled with electricity. Oh, no. Please, no.

"You don't have to do this. Take the dress," he murmured.

"I can't."

"Just put it on, Kit. No strings."

She turned and her breath caught at the look on his face. He regarded her with liquid, half-lidded eyes, his full lips poised in a sensual suggestion. It was all she could do to resist taking it. "If I do that, I'll have no excuse to see you tomorrow, will I?"

With that, she opened the door and swept through it.

She kept her chin high and her eyes straight ahead, walking the gauntlet of the casino as nonchalantly as she could, clad only in a few wisps of blue satin and black thigh-highs. Chanting "bikini"under her breath, she ignored the astonished looks she garnered along the way.

When she reached the middle of the room, she slowed to take a deep breath, casting a quick glance behind her. Leaning against the backroom door, Beau stood casually puffing on his cheroot, watching her exit. She nearly stumbled. She could still feel him grinning as she hurried into the lobby and ran right into Ricky.

"There you are. Thank God, I— Kit!" he gasped, his eyes nearly popping from his head.

"It's rude to stare, Ricky," she said, heading for the elevator bank, elated with the success of her night's work. "Toss me your jacket, would you?"

He peeled it off and handed it over, stammering the whole time. "Wha-what…? Whe-where's…? Kit, there's some—"

"Oh, man, it was great!" she said when they were alone in the elevator. There was nothing like the high of pulling off a tough job. "It went off without a hitch. Perfect! You should have seen this guy."

"Kit, I, uh…"

"His pictures really do not do him justice."

"No, I'm sure they don—"

"Too bad we have to put him away, though. I liked him."

"Actually, we—"

The elevator stopped at their floor and she shot out, Ricky hustling after her. "Good card player, too. For a while there, I thought he was on to me."

"Kit, listen. Did you lose the necklace?"

"That was the plan, wasn't it? I attract him with the necklace, lure him to steal more where that came from, then—bam!—we catch him in the act. Of course, I lost it."

"Aw, hell."

She dug into her purse for her room key. "The dress, too. Obviously."

Ricky groaned.

"Hey, don't worry. I'll get it back before the boss finds out. What's the big deal?"

"The big deal is the man you were playing with downstairs is not Remi Beaulieux."

She spun around in shock. "Ricky, that's not the least bit amusing."

His face was a portrait of misery.

Her heart plummeted. How could this have happened?" Tell me it's not true."

He shook his head, lifting his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "I'm sorry, Kit. We've stung the wrong guy."