Excerpt from Hayden and Luciana's story...coming soon
Hayden makes a noise next to me. It's subtle yet loud enough I pick up on it. I gasp at the sight of his brown contact-in-place eyes, bright and brimming with desire. A flash of interest, enough to give me hope. I haven't misread this thing between us. He is interested in, whether he's ready for me or not.
Catching himself, he turns away. "Deal," he snaps at the man at the head of the table who is holding the cards.
For the next hour, he avoids eye contact.
Not a quick look when my thigh unintentionally brushes up against his.
Not a brief glance when I polish off my third sangria and become slightly more animated in my victories.
Not even when the fleecing begins and his men begin to applaud my efforts.
No, he won't look at me but I can't seem to take my eyes off of him. He blends in well with the other men, with his messy ink black hair and brown contacts the color of damp adobe. A green-eyed Italian, posing as a Mexican...why on earth would he do such a thing?
He's as muscular as the rest of his men but I get the feeling he'd come out the winner in any fight. He plays each hand with careful calculation. A strategist, a seasoned opponent.
I shift in my seat and our thighs touch. His body is warm beneath the thin material of his trousers. Does he have a passionate nature, like Diego? Like myself? Do I stroke that flame and find out?
With a long sigh, I remind myself there's a time and place for everything. He's a gang leader with men hovering about at his beck and call. It's a wonder he's allowed me inside and into his game.
Why has he done so?
"You're up, darling," the man across from me says, even though I'm well aware it's my turn. I've been holding a killer hand, after all.
Hayden senses it, too because he's glowering at the man who just addressed me.
It's only after I win this hand that he relaxes back into his seat and drinks deeply from his beer bottle.
Three of us remain in the game, the dealer, Hayden and me.
The perfect time to make him sit up and take notice.
I pluck a hundred dollar bill off my pile and wave it in the air. "Payback," I say loudly, gaining everyone's attention. I place it on the neatly piled stack before him, followed by a second one. "With interest," I add, saucily. To say I'm thoroughly enjoying myself is an understatement, the combination of my winnings and the potency of the sangria heightening my excitement. "You're going to need it," I throw down my challenge.
The room erupts with laughter.
I cock my head as his gaze narrows on me. Slowly, ever so slowly, he leans into me.
"Maybe there needs to be more at stake than money?" he whispers in my ear. My pulse races at his nearness, and at the challenge in his tone.
"Maybe there does," I quickly reply. Swallowing hard, I turn into him and careful so no one overhears, and whisper back, "A kiss. If I win, you kiss me."
A few heartbeats pass, like he's considering my proposal.
Or not. "Jesus, I've indulged you enough. No good can come of you being here." He slouches back into his seat, before loudly declaring, "If I win, you leave without
The dealer, predictably, folds in the next round. Leaving Hayden and me. He sips his beer, and I finish off the last of my sangria. The sweet buzz I'm feeling will hopefully give me the courage to follow through on my win.
"Last round. Winner take half of the other's winnings," Hayden states.
I shrug. Right now, the promise of a kiss...us acting on this undeniable connection
that's blossomed with each winning hand, is undoubtedly the sweeter deal.
A murmur crosses over the men assembled around us.
Cards are dealt.
I've a horrible hand, not even a pair. And Hayden's expression is indecipherable as ever. I place two cards on the table and draw two more. A disappointing hand. My luck has run out.
I toss my hair absently over my shoulder and roll my bottom lip beneath my teeth.
His eyes track my movements and the air between us ignites.
"If you weren't so young, so damn beautiful, I'd let you win," he murmurs. He lays his cards face up on the table. Three jokers and a king. Goodbye, Luciana," he softly whispers.
With that, he rises from the table, and barks out an order.
"See that she makes it home safely."