Deal with the Devil: About This Book
“You can put that man in a suit, but he’ll never be tame.”
One look at Jericho Forge and I knew the rumors were true. He was a predator, and he had set his sights on me.
I knew better than to bet more than I could afford to lose that night. I knew better than to bet myself. But desperation leads to bad decisions, and I thought there was no way I could lose.
I was wrong.
Now I have no choice but to make a deal with the devil.
Deal with the Devil is the first book in the Forge Trilogy and can be preordered by clicking here.
When a billionaire walks into a room, you feel it. Especially if you’re the billionaire.
I didn’t intend to be here tonight, but heads turn as I stride across the casino floor and try to block out the scent of tropical-perfumed air Jean Phillippe pumps into his jewel, La Reina de Ibiza.
They know my name. Know my profile. They think they know everything about me, but they don’t.
No one does.
They don’t know I’d rather be on the deck of one of my ships, at the mercy of the open ocean, instead of surrounded by flashing lights and grating chimes indicating someone just won or lost a fortune.
They’re here to gamble, and I’m here . . . I don’t know why the fuck I’m here. Call it curiosity. Call it a sixth sense. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I don’t like it when someone tries to hide something from me.
Like this high-stakes game tonight.
Regardless of whether I’m in residence on my island, less than a mile away from Ibiza, Jean Phillippe sends me an invite to the private games. Always. He never misses an opportunity to bring more money into the casino’s bank. So why, of all the games played at these tables, would my old acquaintance neglect to invite me to this particular one?
Because somebody doesn’t want me here.
It won’t be the first time I’ve shown up where I wasn’t wanted. Luckily, I don’t give a fuck what people want.
Jean Phillippe isn’t stupid, and he knows he’s risking more than my money at his casino if he’s deliberately hiding something from me. My displeasure has made more than one man wish he were dead.
Ahead of me, the door to the private poker room closes an inch at a time. Once it’s closed, no more players can join the game.
I pick up my pace and the crowd parts, making way for me. I walk without seeing any of them. They’re merely a blur of dark suit jackets and snowy-white shirts, interspersed with splashes of color from the women and more daring men.
The slice of light spilling from the doorway narrows, and I clock the exact moment Jean Phillippe sees me. His grip tightens on the knob as his dark eyebrows shoot up toward his silvering hairline.
In a moment, he recovers his composure, pulling his shoulders back and stepping around the door. It continues inching closed behind him as he pastes a smile on his face like he’s happy to see the biggest whale ever to step foot in this casino.
The smile’s a lie, and we both know it.
“My friend! I didn’t think you were in town tonight. I would’ve—”
“Bullshit. You don’t want me here, and that tells me I need to be here. Don’t even think about closing that door.”
Jean Phillippe’s movements still, but he can’t control the emotions playing out across his features. His brown eyes widen as he drops the French accent he intensifies around new marks. “It’s not like that, Forge. You know I wouldn’t—”
“I’m playing tonight whether you want me here or not.”
Jean Phillippe inhales sharply, and then exhales like a terminal patient accepting his fate. “This game isn’t one you—”
“Move, or I’ll move you myself.”
His chin drops toward his chest. “It wasn’t personal, mon ami,” he says as he steps away from the opening.
I walk through the doorway and stop dead.
What the fuck is he doing here?
Bastien de Vere. The entitled trust-fund prick who got away with murder. Literally.
The hot burn of rage blazes from the pit of my gut until I shut it down. Stone cold. That’s the only way I can keep myself from killing him with my bare hands.
Death by a thousand cuts. That’s how I’ve made him suffer for fifteen years, and I’ll do it until the day I finally end him. That day is coming, I promise myself. The de Veres’ money and influence won’t last forever. I’m draining it away one penny at a time.
When de Vere catches sight of me at the door, his shoulders brace, and his mouth flattens into a hard line. “Invitation-only game, Forge. And you weren’t invited.”
The blonde next to him stiffens as de Vere says my name. Even with her head down and no glimpse of her face, she’s stunning. Honey-gold curls lay over her bare, tanned shoulders, leading a man right to her generous tits.
She can’t be one of de Vere’s regulars, or I would have already stolen her from him. Unless . . . no, he couldn’t have managed to hide a piece that fine. He’d be showing her off right and left. That means she has to be a new conquest. Maybe someone he’s trying to impress at the table . . .
Which gives me one more reason to stay and take every penny of his trust fund he’s willing to wager tonight.
“I don’t need an invitation.” I look to Jean Phillippe. “Do I?”
“No. No, sir. Of course not. You’re always welcome at La Reina’s tables.”
“That’s what I thought.”
De Vere glares at me, and I look away from him to scan the rest of the players standing in the room, giving them each a nod. What I see tells me my gut instinct was 100 percent right.
Something big is going down here.
Sheikh Ahmed Al Jabal, the oil billionaire whose superyacht I’ve docked next to in Monte Carlo before, nods back at me. He’s a decent enough player, but one with more money than skill, which makes him my favorite kind.
“Mr. Forge, I hope you brought the money of mine you took in Monaco.”
“All that and more, sir.”
I shift my attention to the next man—Alejandro Cruz, the American tech billionaire who fancies himself a poker player of the highest order, but mostly just bluffs because he knows more about coding than he does about cards.
Cruz sits straighter in his chair. “It’s been a while, Forge. Thought you’d decided never to come back to land.”
“The company is better out to sea.”
Cruz guffaws. “I wouldn’t doubt that. Good to see you, and it’ll be even better to win some of your money.”
“Jericho Forge. My old . . . what to call you? Not a friend,” says Dmitri Belevich, a Russian whose ties to the Bratva keep the police from asking too many questions about his luxe playboy lifestyle on Ibiza.
“Always a pleasure, Belevich.”
The net worth of these men would add up to more than the GDP of a few small countries combined, which means that my failure to get an invitation to this game is entirely by design. De Vere’s design.
I’m happy to ruin his plans for the night.
“I trust there are no objections to me joining the game, gentlemen.” It’s a statement, not a question.
“I have no problem taking your money, Forge.” This comes from Belevich.
Cruz and the sheikh both shake their heads, which brings my attention back to de Vere and the woman. He moves in front of her as if trying to shield her from me.
And he should. Because when it comes to Bastien de Vere, I have no qualms about taking everything he cares about. But who the hell is she? If she were just arm candy, she wouldn’t be allowed a seat at the table, and the stack of chips in front of her says she’s here to play.
She could be a party favor he planned to use to distract the other men to give himself an advantage. He wouldn’t be the first to employ such a basic tactic.
“I ob—” de Vere tries to speak, but I cut him off.
“No one gives a shit what you want, de Vere, especially me.” I step around him to get a better look at the woman.
I stop beside Cruz, who stands behind the seat next to her. Finally, she looks up, and her vivid purple-blue eyes deliver a punch to my gut—along with a tidal wave of recognition.
India Baptiste. The former darling of the poker circuit, and the woman who is almost as famous for her royal flush over full house win as she is for telling Bastien de Vere to go fuck himself in front of a roomful of poker royalty.
When I heard the story, I was amused and intrigued, but not enough to care beyond the entertainment value of de Vere being humiliated. After seeing her in the flesh? Intrigued is only the beginning.
I nod at the chair in front of Cruz. “You don’t mind sitting on the other side of the table, do you?”
The dark-haired man smirks. “You want to sit next to Queen Midas? Go right ahead. I’ll probably play better if I don’t.”
Queen Midas. An apt nickname for a woman who turns her seemingly shitty poker hands to gold with almost legendary regularity.
A ruthless smile tugs at my lips, but I quash it in favor of studying her the way I would anything else I plan to acquire—like it’s already mine.
Her gold dress wraps around curves that make a man want to revert to the days when pirates pillaged enemy ships and took what and who they wanted. Because I would definitely fucking take her. Lock her in my cabin. Eradicate every single thought of Bastien de Vere from her brain. She’ll be another trophy I will take from him. Just like I’ve taken everything else that matters to him, one piece at a time.
“Unless you have an objection, Ms. Baptiste, I’m joining the game.”
Her indigo eyes flash with heat at my dare, and the fire behind her sharp stare intensifies.
As a rule, women don’t challenge me. Ever. My billion-dollar portfolio wipes away all pretense of playing hard to get. India Baptiste’s refusal to look away while she considers how to respond will be her downfall.
Tonight just got a hell of a lot more interesting, and I know exactly how it’s going to end. With the woman Bastien de Vere wants in my bed.
No. No. No. This can’t be happening. He can’t be here.
As I stare into Forge’s endless dark gaze, I want to squeeze my eyes shut or at least look away, but I can’t. Instead, I plaster a bored smile on my face as I take a measured breath that’s supposed to be steadying, pretending to consider whether I want him in the game, let alone sitting beside me.
Instead of calming me, the cloying sweet-scented air of La Reina casino nauseates me. Or maybe that’s because it’s taking everything I have to keep my composure, and I’m already on the verge of losing my shit. I can’t let anyone see how much effort it takes for me to keep myself together, especially Forge.
I’m the professional here. The only professional here.
With that reminder, I take another slow breath as I study the man who could ruin all my carefully orchestrated plans.
“I don’t believe we’ve been introduced, Mr. . . .” I trail off, pretending I don’t know his name. Total bullshit, and a ploy to take him down a peg. It probably won’t work, but at least it buys me a few moments of time.
Unless he knows I’m already bluffing. There can’t be many people in Ibiza who don’t know exactly who Jericho Forge is, which is exactly why I didn’t want him here.
I’ve watched him play before. Actually, I’m pretty sure everyone on the poker circuit has, because although he’s not a professional card player, he’s a professional victor. I’ve seen him strip every chip from the stacks in front of men at the table with him like a vulture picking clean the bones of a carcass alongside the road.
Not tonight, though. That’s my job.
“Jericho Forge,” he says as he holds out a hand. Next to me, I feel Bastien stiffen with fury as I reach to take it. “It’s a pleasure.”
Bastien’s animosity escalates to rage as Forge lifts my hand to his lips. But he doesn’t kiss it. Instead, he turns my hand over to glance at my palm.
Shivers emanate from every shred of contact, to the point where my arm threatens to tremble in his hold. My lungs burn with the breath I’m holding, waiting for him to release me.
“I don’t see any magic here. How do you manage to turn everything to gold?”
I tug my fingers out of his grip, desperate to escape his charged touch, and retract my arm. Discreetly, I exhale and roll my eyes.
“I see my reputation precedes me.” I keep my tone even.
One of his dark eyebrows quirks up. “And I don’t believe mine doesn’t.”
A cold knot tightens into my gut, but I don’t let a single flicker of emotion cross my face.
He’s already calling me on a bluff, and we haven’t even started playing the game.
This is why I didn’t want him here. People have claimed Forge has an uncanny ability for sensing the truth, an ability that borders on eerie. I didn’t believe them until now.
Doesn’t matter. I have to play. Have to win.
I promised myself I’d never gamble out of desperation again. Which means I lied to myself. Again. Never before has a poker game been more important. Never before have I had more on the line.
Ten million dollars in ten days.
That’s the ultimatum I was given three days ago, and if I don’t meet the terms . . . That knot in my stomach twists at the horrific consequences.
I will win. I have to. I don’t have a choice.
Normally, I steer clear of Bastien in the same way I steer clear of every entitled British douchebag on this island, but I needed him to use his connections to assemble the players I personally handpicked. Men with deep pockets. Men who won’t think twice about throwing down the cash I need. Men whose playing I’ve studied for hours, learning their tells and exactly how to beat them.
And then Jericho Forge shows up like a goddamned wild card, blowing up all my perfectly laid plans.
Because of Bastien.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Forge. Apparently, your reputation isn’t as pervasive as you thought.”
“No disappointment, Ms. Baptiste. If anything, it makes you even more intriguing.”
Great. Just what I don’t want to hear.
“I have no problem with you joining the game, sir, but I am ready to start. Take your seat if you’re playing.” As I sit, I nod at the chair Cruz vacated for him, in an attempt to kill the conversation.
To my right, Bastien’s hand grazes my knee, and I brush him off. The last thing I need is for these two sworn enemies to be tugging at me like well-dressed junkyard dogs fighting over a bone.
No one in Ibiza could possibly be unaware of their bad blood, although the cause of it is only whispered about in hushed tones and the story constantly changes. It’s become something of an urban legend on this island. Because I’ve done my best to avoid Bastien and everything related to him after the first time he made a fool of me, I didn’t listen very closely.
From the way Jericho Forge stares at me as he decides how to reply, I wish I had.
I’m used to the looks I get from men, especially when I put on a dress like this—formfitting, shiny, and 100 percent designed to distract them from their cards and wagers. But that’s not the kind of look I get from Forge. It’s like he doesn’t even see the gold dress. His ruthless stare strips me bare. Like he knows all my secrets and everything I have on the line tonight, which is impossible. No one can know how desperate I am.
Confidence is my most valuable asset, and I won’t let him take that from me. I won’t let anyone take that from me.
“Indeed, let’s get started. I’m more than ready.”
The rumble of his voice ripples through me like an aftershock of an earthquake.
I can’t let him affect me like this. I can’t let him affect me at all.
But still, I can’t help but think of the stories I’ve heard about how ruthless he is at the negotiating table, and even more so on the deck of one of his legion of cargo ships. More pirate than CEO. That’s how people describe him, and he looks the part. His shiny black hair brushes his white collar, and a thick gold hoop pierces one of his ears.
I turn my attention away from Forge, but I still feel the intensity of his examination as he pulls out the chair and lowers his broad-shouldered form into it. Heat radiates through the fabric of his perfectly-tailored suit jacket, like he’s more beast than man.
I swing my hair over my left shoulder as if it’s going to create some kind of buffer. A girl can hope. Maybe looking away from a predator isn’t the smartest thing I could do, but right now, I have no choice. I have to center myself and prepare for the game ahead.
I’m not here to play. I’m here to win.
“Million-dollar buy-in, Forge. But that’s pocket change to you, right?” Bastien’s drawl has a mocking edge to it as he reaches out to rest his arm along the back of my chair.
I keep my shoulders straight, trying not to make it obvious that I’m avoiding his touch, but Forge misses nothing.
“Mummy and Daddy give you a big enough allowance to cover yours, de Vere?” Forge asks, his deep voice turning into a growl.
The other men at the table chuckle at the jab, no doubt sending Bastien’s temper into dangerous territory.
“Excellent! We shall begin.” Jean Phillippe, who I’m pretty sure has been holding his breath this whole time, claps and waves the dealer over to the table.
Before she can sit, Forge waves her off. “Fernando or Armand. Your choice, but the game doesn’t happen without one of them dealing.”
“Not your call, Forge,” Bastien snaps.
I lean back in my chair, wishing I could move to any other seat at the table, because I feel like a stupid fish caught between the snapping jaws of two sharks.
Forge looks around the table. “Any objections, gentlemen?” His flinty gaze finally lands on me. “Ms. Baptiste?” The edge in his voice challenges someone to contradict him, but no one, not even the sheikh, dares.
Anka was my choice for dealer, because she’s one of the few I can be assured won’t get flustered by the men in the room and somehow screw up the cards.
Pick your battles, Indy. Just focus on taking his money.
Jean Phillippe motions for Anka to leave the room. “Get Armand. He’s at table twelve.”
Forge leans back into the chair beside me, his broad shoulders covering every inch of it. At first, I thought it was a show of dominance to have Cruz move, but now I think it’s because he wanted a clear view of the door rather than having his back to it.
Habit? Afraid someone’s going to slide a stiletto between his shoulder blades? Probably a viable threat, although I can’t imagine anyone having the audacity to try.
Armand enters the room moments later with sealed decks of cards and holds them out for inspection. Everyone at the table nods, but Armand’s attention is solely on the pirate of a man beside me.
Forge doesn’t have to say a single thing to own the room. He’s already taken control of it, and every man within these walls looks to him for direction.
My confident mask threatens to slip in the face of his commanding presence, but I force it back into place.
I give all of them a dazzling smile. A smile that has come before relieving plenty of other men of their fortunes.
Which is exactly what I’m going to do tonight. Including Jericho Forge’s.
I have no other choice.
Except, I should have known this game wouldn’t be like any other I’ve ever played.
India Baptiste can wrap that decadent body in gold, but she’s not as good at hiding her desperation as she wants to be. Or maybe she can from every other man in the room, but not from me—and not from Bastien de Vere.
He senses it, and that’s why he’s finally gotten up the balls to go in for the kill. She doesn’t realize it, though. She thinks she’s playing him just like she’s playing all the men at this table who can’t stop staring at her tits.
De Vere’s downfall? As always—me.
If he wants her, I’m taking her. That’s the way we operate. That’s the only reason he didn’t want me here tonight. He knew I’d see through him and revel in ripping her straight from his clutches.
One mystery solved. One more way to make him suffer.
He may never fully know the intense pain of loss like he inflicted on me, but I won’t stop until I’ve exhausted every possible avenue for making his life miserable.
And now he’s introduced a new variable to the table. It’s unfortunate for India Baptiste, but she should have known better than to keep company with a murderer.
I shut down my thoughts about de Vere as Jean Phillippe sets a tray of chips in front of me. It takes me only a few seconds to count them and nod at him.
Cruz claps his hands. “Let’s do this.”
The sheikh and Cruz ante up as Armand shuffles and deals the cards. I watch his movements carefully, even though he’s one of the two dealers I trust in this place. Then again, no one is completely trustworthy.
He slides each of us two cards across the green baize, and the atmosphere of the room charges as everyone surveys their hand. “Bets please.”
Cruz glances at me, but I keep my head lowered. From the way his gaze darts around the table, he’s already nervous. Perfect.
One by one, we all throw our chips in. The woman beside me plays smart, and everything I’ve heard about her skills tells me that she’s not using even a quarter of them yet, despite her single-minded intensity.
Did de Vere organize the game for her? It would make sense. I don’t believe for a moment that she didn’t know who I am. Which makes me wonder if she was the one who didn’t want me here.
As if on my command, India looks up, taking stock of the rest of the table, but her blue eyes don’t make it all the way to me. She cuts back to her cards like I don’t exist.
I watch her through the flop, the turn, and the river.
She’s not easy to read, but then again, I wouldn’t expect a pro to have tells you can spot from the minute play begins.
We all show our cards, and I win the first hand. Only then does she meet my gaze.
“Congratulations, Mr. Forge.” Her tone is cool and even, and you’d think she was the dealer and had no skin in the game.
What an excellent little actress. I file the information away as we venture into the next few rounds.
De Vere rakes a small pot on the second hand, and India takes the third and fourth, winning just enough to lead the other men into deeper play out of sheer competitive natures. She loses the fifth to de Vere and leans forward on her elbows, finally using that dress and her tits to distract.
Cruz and the sheikh are fucked. It’s like they haven’t seen a woman in a decade. The Russian isn’t immune either. His pale blue eyes keep shifting to her when he should be paying attention to the other men.
Two hours pass like minutes, and she’s flexing her wings, playing the men at the table like the well-skilled competitor she is.
She doesn’t look at me anymore, purposely staying out of the hands I play. She also doesn’t direct my way any of her flirty banter that she wields like a weapon. If she’s purposely trying to ignore me, she’s doing an excellent job.
It won’t last long.
Her disinterest only piques my curiosity further. She should know better, but then again, she doesn’t know me.
No one knows me. No one ever will.
That’s how I like it.
“You’re on quite the streak, aren’t you, Ms. Baptiste?”
Her chin tilts in my direction as de Vere glares at me for daring to address her.
Did you really think she’d stay yours after you brought her here tonight, de Vere? I don’t voice the question aloud, because I already know the answer.
He planned out exactly how he thought this night would go, but he didn’t plan on me. You’d think he’d learn. But then again, it makes my mission easier when he continues to underestimate me due to my lack of blue-blooded pedigree.
“I’m enjoying the game, Mr. Forge. Just like everyone else at the table,” India replies with an emotionless smile.
“I’m not sure everyone’s enjoying it quite so much as you.” I nod to the stack of chips growing in front of her, trying to unsettle her again. I’ve been looking for her tell since the first hand, but I’ve yet to spot it.
She leans back in her chair, a confident mask settling over her features. She’s managed to blunt the desperation from earlier, and I can only assume it’s because she’s gaining ground.
She has to have a tell. Digging into my memories, I vaguely recall someone saying she almost won the World Series of Poker, but someone outbluffed her. That someone had to have figured her out.
The play turns even deeper. Piles of chips rise and fall around the green baize table, most of them finding a home in front of either me or her. Cruz salivates over India, even as she takes his chips from him, stack by stack. She has to be up a few million by now.
She leans back in her chair again, and this time, her lips purse as she watches the sheikh place his bet. As soon as he does, her mouth firms into a thin line.
“Two million,” de Vere says, pushing his stacks of chips into the middle of the table, and once again, Indy’s pursed lips flatten.
Belevich drags his gaze from her tits to his cards and she stills, schooling her expression.
“I’m out,” he says with a shake of his head, and her pout relaxes.
It can’t be that easy.
The sheikh and Cruz follow suit, tossing in their cards as I keep my posture rigid, not letting on what I’ve just discovered about our resident cardsharp.
The sheikh rises from his seat. “I’ve lost enough tonight. I’ll leave you to finish your game.” He nods to Jean Phillippe. “Thank you for your hospitality. I think it’s time I return to tables that don’t drain my resources so effectively.”
India watches him leave, and a brief flash of panic skates across her expression. She needed his money. But why? It’s a mystery I’ll solve sooner rather than later.
De Vere isn’t watching me as I eye my chips. He’s not watching anyone but India. He wants her with almost as much desperation as she wants to win. It’s going to make taking her from him all the sweeter.
“I’m calling your bluff, Bastien,” she says as she pushes her stacks of chips into the center of the table.
Bastien’s gaze narrows on his cards and his fingers flex.
India’s right. He’s bluffing.
And I know exactly how this game is going to end.
I’m almost there. The chips are on the table in front of me, and with this last pot, I’ll have a solid portion of what I need.
Only two men stand in my way, and Bastien is full of shit. Which leaves Forge, the only one I can’t read.
He has the power to destroy everything, and I’m praying to anyone who will listen that he doesn’t. It’s a naive thought at best, and a stupid one at worst. But right now, all I have are hopes and prayers to help me bring this home.
I purposely slow my breathing, trying to keep myself focused and calm. I’m so close.
“Action is to you, Mr. Forge,” Armand says, and I keep those prayers rolling.
I need this money more than any of them. It’s the only way I can save her. Please, please don’t let me fail.
I should have known better than to think any divine power would listen.
Forge looks at the chips in front of me, and I swear I see the glimmer of victory reflected in his gaze before he goes in for the kill, pushing every stack of chips in front of him to the center of the table.
No. No. No.
My heart tumbles in my chest as my stomach drops to the floor.
“Ms. Baptiste, back to you.”
I flatten my cards out on the table and look to the corner where Jean Phillippe sits.
“Jean Phillippe, a word?”
He rises and comes toward me. “Yes, Ms. Baptiste?”
“I seem to need a line of credit this evening,” I say, my voice low.
“We’re only playing what’s on the table tonight, Indy,” Bastien says, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. “You made the rule.”
Goddamn you, Bastien, I curse silently. You’re going to cost me everything, all because I refuse to sleep with you.
My chin dips. I do another mental tally of my chips, but it’s pointless. I don’t have enough, and the side pot won’t even come close to what I need to win.
“Then I guess that means . . .” My heart clogs my throat, and I can barely get out the words I need to speak. The words of defeat.
“You’re not done yet,” Forge says.
After an entire night of purposely avoiding the man, I turn to face him. “What do you mean?”
“We’re not playing by casino rules . . . only our own, correct?”
I have no idea what the hell Forge is getting at, but I can’t imagine it’s going to help me.
“Correct,” I reply, caution underlying my tone.
His gaze drops to the space in front of me. “Then you can play whatever’s on the table.”
I look down to see the condensation dripping from my untouched champagne flute . . . and the keycard beside it. The keycard for the suite Jean Phillippe comped me for tonight.
Oh, fuck no. Just no.
Silently, I meet Forge’s dark gaze without blinking. He doesn’t even bother to try to hide the hunger in it. There’s no question what he wants.
“You can’t be serious,” I say, but we both know it’s a waste of breath. Forge has probably never joked in his entire life. And now he wants to put a monetary value on my room key and have me toss it in the pot?
“You fucking bastard,” Bastien says with hatred practically incinerating his words.
Forge’s attention cuts to Bastien, and the triumph in his gaze tells me exactly what his goal has been all night. Destroy Bastien through any means necessary, including taking away the one thing he wants more in this room than money—me.
“I’m not a whore.” I force out the words from between clenched teeth.
Forge’s gaze shifts to me. “Whores don’t get millions for a night with me.”
Chills shoot down my spine, and they have nothing to do with the air-conditioning being on full blast. No, they have everything to do with my all-too-vivid imagination conjuring images of a night with the untamable Jericho Forge. Him slipping this dress off my body. Gripping my hair. Taking my lips. Sliding between my legs. Moving over me as I dig my nails into his shoulders.
My nipples peak, and I slam my eyes shut. It doesn’t help. The scene plays like a movie in my head.
I knew when he walked in the room that he was dangerous on every level, and I wasn’t wrong. Everything about Jericho Forge screams to me to run in the other direction.
I shouldn’t be affected by him. But there’s no arguing the truth.
I open my eyes and stare the man down before making the only real choice I have left. I lift my hand from the edge of the table, and like I’m moving through quicksand, my fingers hover over the keycard.
There’s no going back if I do this.
I have to win.
I don’t have to look down at my cards to see the full house I’m holding. I haven’t been bluffing.
I will win.
As soon as her pink-tipped finger touches the keycard, a surge of something primal charges through my veins.
Victory. Need. Possession.
I’m an unapologetically acquisitive man. If India Baptiste had stayed off my radar, I never would have known I wanted her. But she didn’t, and now she’s going to be mine.
I can already feel her smooth skin under my fingertips. Taste the salt from the sea air as my tongue traces the thundering pulse at her neck. Hear her voice break as she begs me for more . . .
With every bit of self-control I have, I push those thoughts from my mind.
I watch for the tell as she pushes the card into the center of the table.
“Fine. I call.”
She’s not bluffing.
The three of us turn over our cards.
De Vere chokes as he leans forward, his jaw practically hitting the space in front of him.
“No fucking way,” Cruz says softly.
The Russian chuckles.
But I don’t give a single fuck about any of them. I’m waiting for her response. That’s the only thing that matters right now.
A shocked exhalation escapes India’s lips. “No. No. That can’t be possible.”
I rise from the table where my straight flush crushes India’s full house.
“Jean Phillippe, collect my chips. I have more important things to worry about for the rest of the evening.”
I retrieve the keycard from the center of the table and step toward the door, then hold out my arm.
“Ms. Baptiste. After you.”
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