Read fallen william epub format

Authors: Tiffany Aaron

fallen william

Dedication

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

About the Author:

 

Fallen: William

Tiffany Aaron

(c) 2004

Fallen: William

Tiffany Aaron

Published 2004

ISBN 1-59578-071-8

Published by Liquid Silver Books,
imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis,
Indiana 46235. Copyright © 2004, Tiffany Aaron. All rights reserved. No part of
this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or
otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Manufactured in the United States
of America

Liquid Silver Books

http://lsbooks.com

Email:

[email protected]

Cover Art

by Fabiano Fabris

This is
a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of
the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance
to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Dedication

Chris, my dreams would be
nightmares without you.

Bill and Kelly, you raised a
wonderful son and I thank you for him.

Doug
and Jamie, thank you for repopulating the world so we don’t have to.

Wendy
and Shane, may your new life be filled with occasional storm clouds so you
appreciate the sun more.

Char,
again you managed to clean up my act. Thank you.

Sandy,
thanks for those lunchtime walks and helping me think my way through an idea.

And
finally to the man with the pipe and the trash bag I see every day while I go
to work. Every day you break my heart and every day you make me smile with your
determination.

CHAPTER ONE

William
Bradford took a peek at the two cards the dealer gave him. Damn, the queen of
hearts and the two of spades. Studying his opponents, he wondered if he should
try to bluff his way into the pot or just cut his losses. Maybe if he checked,
he would get the chance to catch something on the flop.

He knew
he could cheat and read their minds to see what kind of hands they had.
Shuddering, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do that. There was no way of telling
what kind of slime lurked in their brains and just because he could read minds
didn’t mean he should. There had to be a rule somewhere in the Enforcer code
stating “Thou Shalt Not Cheat.” Sometimes being a fallen angel didn’t live up
to the hype. One of the men raised the pot. He threw his hand in with disgust,
pushed back his chair and climbed to his feet.

“I’m
calling it a night, guys.” He smiled at the other men around the table as he
gathered his chips.

“The
night is still young. You usually don’t quit until the sun comes up,” one of
them said, even though William knew they were thrilled to see him leave.

“I flew
in early this morning and came right to the tables. I haven’t seen my own bed
in a week and I’d like to reacquaint myself with it.” He nodded as he left.

Strolling
through the Golden Phoenix casino in Reno, William wondered what kind of
desperation drove these mortals to gamble away their money and their lives.
What flaw in them made them long to bet everything on the roll of the dice or
the turn of a card? He had seen that moment happen so many times—the moment
when the addictive haze cleared and horrified guilt took its place for a while.
He had seen grown men weeping on street corners with no money and no way to get
home.

He used
to give them money to help them out and then he realized they would go and
gamble it away again. Now he did nothing for them. Maybe as an angel, although
a fallen one, he should comfort the most beloved of God’s creatures. Mortals
might be God’s favorites, but he hadn’t seen much proof of their willingness to
accept comfort from Him.

Heading
to the bar, he wished he could drown his thoughts; unfortunately whiskey didn’t
have any effect on him. The bartender recognized him and had his drink ready
for him by the time he sat down.

“Cards
not falling your way, Mr. Bradford?” the bartender asked.

William
laughed because except for that last hand, the cards always fell his way, which
explained why he chose to make his living as a poker player. “I’m just tired.
I’ve been busy for the last week and need to catch up on my sleep.”

Burt
looked slightly surprised and he realized those two sentences were the most he
had ever spoken to the man. He shrugged. He didn’t like talking to people. The
only person he had ever felt the need to spend time with was Celeste, but now
that she was attached to that arrogant mortal, Adam Montgomery, she didn’t need
him anymore. Burt seemed to be a good listener, but then wasn’t being a good
listener a requirement to be a bartender? Burt set another whiskey on the
counter.

“I’m
not done with my first,” William pointed out.

“It’s
not for you.” Burt nodded towards the door.

He
swung around and felt his lungs deflate as he took in the woman walking towards
him.

She was
petite with an hourglass figure he would love to get his hands on. Her amber
hair sparked with burgundy highlights and was the color he had always
envisioned hell fire would be. A black and white bandana kept her hair off a
face meant to break a man’s heart. Her eyes were wide, reminding him of the
richest Swiss chocolate. Her creamy skin was flushed and he could feel the
anger rolling off her.

A green
t-shirt filled with lush breasts he knew would be featured in his dreams bared
her stomach and he caught a hint of glitter at her belly button. Jeans hugged
her hips with loving accuracy and delicate toes painted a blood red peeked from
black high-heeled sandals. As he ran his eyes down her legs, he imagined them
wrapped around his waist as he thrust into her. Sweat beaded on his forehead.

Flinging
herself down on the stool next to him, she grabbed the whiskey and slammed it
back. Burt had another shot ready when she set the glass down.

“Slow
up a little, Abby,” Burt said as the redhead slammed the second one back just
as fast as the first.

“I
swear if the pay wasn’t so good, I’d blow this fucking job.” She ignored
William.

“Thompson
do it again?”

“Yeah,
he grabbed my ass. He can’t believe I’d turn him down. What is it about you gamblers?”
Her brown eyes shot knives into William.

He
didn’t think she was looking for an answer so he kept quiet. Obviously some guy
had groped her and it pissed her off. Standing, he reached into his pocket to
pay his tab.

Abby
reached out and grabbed his arm although she wasn’t sure why she was talking to
the man. His bloodshot blue eyes said he hadn’t slept for days. He had all the
markings of a professional gambler and was just the kind of man she had always
sworn never to get involved with. The hard muscle flexed under her hand as she
met his glare.

“I
asked you a question.”

Burt
shook his head and moved down the bar. The stranger raised an eyebrow.

“You
did? I thought you were stating a fact. I’m sure you weren’t looking for my
opinion.” His voice came out smooth and lit a fire in her stomach.

It’s
just the whiskey, she thought. “You’re a professional, always on the lookout
for the next game. Do you know the meaning of the word no? Do you force your
attentions on women?”

“Darling,
no woman I’ve ever wanted has turned me down.” He gave her a slow bone-melting
grin.

No,
I’m sure they haven’t
.
Giving him the once over, Abby found she liked what she saw. By the way he
towered over her he had to be around six-four. A wrinkled blue t-shirt covered
bulging chest muscles. His faded jeans were sinfully tight, letting her know
that it wasn’t just his muscles that were bulging. Scuffed cowboy boots completed
the package.

Almost
everything about his face shouted angelic perfection until she met his eyes.
Even though they sparkled with blue fire because of her thorough inspection,
their cynical darkness held a hint of pain. The man beside her had been to hell
and was still haunted by his visit there.

Angry
at her thoughts, she jerked her hand away. “Damn arrogant men. Why do you think
that if a woman works in a casino, she must be a whore?”

“I
never thought they were.” His quiet statement cooled her anger.

She sighed. “I’m sorry. I
shouldn’t have lit into you like that. It wasn’t fair.”

“No,
you shouldn’t have. Just as all women aren’t whores, neither are all gamblers
arrogant ass pinchers.” He threw a bill on the bar and left.

“Great
job,” she muttered. “Insult the best looking guy you’ve seen in forever.” Burt
came by to grab the money. She saw it was a hundred-dollar bill. “Big tipper
tonight. He must have come out ahead.”

Burt
laughed. “Bradford always comes out ahead, girl.”

“Bradford?
You mean I managed to insult the infamous William Bradford?”

At his
nod, she groaned. She was in for it now. If that jerk Thompson didn’t report
her for slapping him, Bradford surely would for taking an attitude with him.
There were few things people knew about William Bradford, but one was that he
didn’t suffer fools and she had acted like an ass in front of him. Damn her red
hair and loose mouth. Someday she might figure out how to keep them from
destroying her life.

“This
might be my last night here. Especially if Bradford is as pissed as he
sounded.”

“Pissed?
Bradford wasn’t pissed. You’re thinking too highly of yourself if you think
that a man like that will remember or care about anything you’ve said to him.”
He chuckled as he pocketed his tip.

CHAPTER TWO

William
sighed as he flipped on his back for the fifth time. He had gotten home two
hours ago certain he was going to fall asleep the minute his head hit the
pillow. His bedroom was dark with no hint of the glaring Reno sun. His suitcase
was flung into one corner and his clothes and boots balanced precariously on
the edge of the trunk resting at the foot of his bed. The images flashing
behind his eyelids were becoming twisted nightmares featuring the woman from
the bar. He couldn’t take it anymore when an image of Abby lying in a pool of
blood exploded in his mind.

“Damn,
is this a fucking test or something?” He launched out of bed and grabbed his
jeans on the way into the living room.

“You
really do need to watch your mouth.” A melancholy voice came out of the
darkness.

He
didn’t turn to see the man join him. He knew Mika’il would take a seat on the
couch he had placed in front of the fireplace and that the archangel would be
dressed in a pair of tan khakis and a linen dress shirt. He knew all this
because it was how Mika’il always dressed when he came to see him. He looked
down at his bare chest and barely zipped jeans. Hell, who cared what the prick
thought? He didn’t feel like impressing anyone tonight.

“What
the hell do you want, Sir?” His voice was sarcastic with a hint of respect. It
didn’t pay to piss off the Father’s top man.

“What
seems to be your problem?” Mika’il leaned back and crossed his legs.

“Un-fucking-believable!
I’m not even back a full day and you’re hounding me. I need to rest, Mika’il.
You know what punishing a fallen does to me.” He scrubbed his hands through his
hair leaving locks sticking out.

“Sit
down. I don’t need you pacing.”

He
flung himself into the nearest chair. He knew he was behaving like a petulant
child, but for once, he would have liked to enjoy a night’s sleep instead of
being tormented by the dreams Mika’il sent him. He reluctantly asked, “What do
you want?”

“The
woman you met tonight. You seemed quite intrigued by her.” Mika’il was going to
take his own sweet time getting to the point and he knew there were times when
the angel enjoyed pushing his buttons.

“Who
wouldn’t be? With all that sparkling hair and shining spirit, she’s a man’s wet
dream come to life.” He could feel himself growing hard just thinking about
her.

“However
true that may be, you aren’t a man, so get your head out of your crotch and
listen to me. There’s something going on around this town and your wet dream is
right in the middle of it. I haven’t been able to figure out what’s happening,
but I know you’ll need to stick close to her.”

He
grinned at the thought of sticking close to Abby.

“Not
that close. She’s a means to an end, not your next fling.” Mika’il’s face
showed his frustration.

He
didn’t care how Mika’il felt. He was tired of doing the archangel’s bidding every
time he turned around. He was plain tired of his life and the world around him.
At times, he wondered whether there was even a reason for him to keeping going.
Maybe his hell was the endless monotony of centuries of living a life that
never changed without hope of redeeming himself.

“You
knew the consequences when you chose to rebel. Quit wallowing in your self-pity
and listen to me.” Frustration laced Mika’il’s voice.

He
grinned. “I happen to enjoy wallowing in my self-pity. Why do you think I do it
so often?”

“Sometimes
I think you do it just to annoy me.”

He
turned away to hide his smile. “I have so few things worth living for. Maybe
annoying you makes my life a little easier to bear.”

“You
should know by now that annoying me is not making your life easier. Sometimes
it ends up making it harder. Now about Abby.”

“I’ll
find a way to stick close to her. She’s a dealer at one of the casinos in the
city. Do you think it might be fallens causing the trouble?”

“This
whole city reeks of greed and corruption. I’m surprised you can’t smell it.”

“After
living with it for so long, you become immune to it. Reno could be considered a
smaller Sin City, so why wouldn’t the fallen find their way here?”

“You’re
right. I think they might have something cooking around here but until I find
out for sure I need you in place to protect her.”

“As far
as I can tell, she can protect herself.” He remembered the anger burning in her
eyes.

“Everyone
can use someone else looking out for them.” Mika’il disappeared.

He checked the clock and sighed.
He could try to sleep for a couple more hours or he could go and work out. The
way he was feeling working out sounded like the best thing to do. He threw on
his workout clothes and headed for the gym, trying to figure out how he could
get close to Abby without her thinking he was stalking her.

*
* * *

Wiping
the sweat from his forehead, William ignored the come hither looks of the rail
thin blonde running on the treadmill. He had spent an hour punishing his body
and he still hadn’t come up with a good excuse to hang around Abby. The most
obvious reason was that he was attracted to her and while he couldn’t deny it
even to himself, somehow he knew that admitting the attraction to her would
make her run screaming in the opposite direction. It would certainly be a blow
to his ego if that happened, so he decided the only thing he could do was just
hang close to her and hope to be there if and when something happened.

He was
walking out of the gym when his cell phone rang. “Bradford,” he barked into the
phone.

“Hello,
Bradford, I’m Dominic LaFontaine. I believe you might have need of my
services.”

“LaFontaine
… from New Orleans, right?”

“Yes.”
LaFontaine’s accent was pure Cajun and he found himself wondering how long the
fallen had been in New Orleans. Most of the fallen angels didn’t have any kind
of accent because they had moved around so much during the centuries.

“Mika’il
drop in on you?”

“Yes.”

William
smiled at the exasperation in the Cajun’s voice. “I know the feeling, my
friend. Where are you at?”

“I just
checked into Circus Circus. I’ll never know what possessed my secretary to book
a room for me here.”

“Maybe
she’s trying to tell you something. Meet me at Limerick’s Pub in the Fitzgerald
casino in an hour.”

“See
you then.” LaFontaine hung up.

He headed home to change and take
a shower. He didn’t know whether he should be angry or happy that Mika’il had
sent reinforcements. He had never worked with the Cajun Enforcer before, but
rumor had it the fallen had a rather
laissez-faire
outlook on the world
of mortals. As long as his little corner of the world was free of those fallen
that preyed on mortals, LaFontaine subscribed to the theory, “Let the good
times roll.”

*
* * *

He
walked into Limerick’s an hour later. He didn’t have to ask for LaFontaine. The
angel was standing amidst a crowd of women. He caught his attention and
gestured to a table. LaFontaine nodded. The women groaned as he said good-bye
to them. The Cajun sat down, his bourbon in his hand. Dominic LaFontaine owned
one of the hottest nightclubs in New Orleans, The Fallen Angel. His tan linen
slacks, red silk shirt and expensive Rolex watch screamed success.

“You
are a mugger’s dream, LaFontaine.” William laughed.

“Do you
really think anyone would be dumb enough to rob me?”

“There
are mortals dumb enough to do anything, my friend, so it wouldn’t surprise me.
Are you going to do some gambling while you’re in Reno?”

“Why
throw money away needlessly? If I want to gamble I will open a new restaurant.
What sort of trouble are you having here?”

He
settled in and started telling LaFontaine the story.

Dominic
leaned back. He rubbed his chin as he stared at William. “Why is Mika’il so
worried about this woman?”

“I
don’t know. I asked, but you know Mika’il. He won’t tell any of us anything.
It’s like a game to him. He pops in, orders us around then leaves like nothing
happened. He drives me crazy most of the time.”

“You
don’t help matters when you treat him like he is worthless. He is the head of
the Host of Heaven. He could destroy us and the Father wouldn’t do a thing to
stop him.”

“I
don’t respect much. It is obvious from the fact that I am here on earth rather
than in Heaven.”

“That’s
the truth, I’m afraid. We all must not have respected Him to let Lucifer talk
us into a stupid stunt like that.”

“I’ll
know better than to let anyone talk me into something like that again. What do
we do to keep Abby safe?”

“I’ll
see what I can find out about Thompson. Maybe there is some information we can
use to blackmail him. With guys like him, it will always come down to money. If
we hit him in his checkbook, I’m sure we can make him see the error of his
ways.”

“Do
that. I’ll try and keep an eye on her tonight.” He paid the bill as they walked
out of the restaurant.

CHAPTER THREE

The
door shut with a satisfying thud and Abby leaned against it with a sigh. It had
been another long night of trying to keep Thompson’s hands from her ass.
Sometimes she wished she wasn’t so good at her job. As a blackjack dealer, the
high rollers who came to Reno to gamble requested her often. She enjoyed it
most of the time; it was only when men like Thompson thought she’d sleep with
them as well as deal for them that she hated it. A picture of William Bradford
popped into her mind and she couldn’t help comparing the groping octopus to
him.

Now
there was a man to make a girl sweat. His attitude said he didn’t care what
others thought of him. She had a feeling if he asked her out and she said no,
he wouldn’t hound her for a date. He could have any woman he wanted so he
wouldn’t waste his time on one who didn’t want him.

Didn’t
want him? She smiled. She wasn’t fooling herself. She had wanted him the minute
her eyes had run over that luscious body of his. She had spent last night
tossing and turning, dreaming of him kissing her all over. She had dreamt of
his mouth on her nipples and his cock inside her pussy. He did seem perfect,
even down to the haunted look in his eyes that no woman could resist.

She had
seen him at the high stakes poker table that night. He was perfect except for
his gambling. She had seen a hundred men like him come and go while she dealt
the cards. These men had the fever crying out for the next turn of cards or the
next roll of the dice. For her father it was the next super horse that was
going to win a ton of money if he only got the right trip around the track. It
didn’t pay to love a gambling man.

The
ringing of the phone was a shrill wake up call from her daydreams. She stared
at the instrument and wondered if, for once, she wouldn’t answer it. The
insistent ringing carried her back for a moment to the childhood she never had.
It would start with the phone ringing. Her mother wouldn’t answer it and then a
few days later, they would move again. She wasn’t that strong. She lunged for
the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hello,
Abigail. How are you tonight, darling?” Thompson’s oily voice dripped over the
telephone.

“How
did you get my number?” She was horrified.

“Money
talks and I’m willing to spend a lot on convincing you to go out with me.”

“I’ve
told you no a hundred times, Mr. Thompson. Why can’t you accept the fact that I
don’t want to date you?” Her voice held a hint of desperation.

“I know
it’s only a matter of time before you quit playing this game. You’re playing
hard to get and I like that. I’m so used to women throwing their bodies at me
because of my money that it’s refreshing to have you present a challenge.” He
sounded so smug she almost gagged.

“Leave
me the hell alone.” Slamming down the receiver, she quickly unplugged the phone
from the wall before he could call back.

Her
hands were trembling as she sank onto her couch. She had gone to the police and
her boss about Thompson’s constant touching at the casino but neither believed
her. Money certainly covered a multitude of sins.

Getting
up, she moved slowly into the bathroom. She stripped and stepped under the
steaming water. She felt so dirty just from talking to him that all she wanted
to do was clean up and crawl under the covers. Maybe she would have great
dreams to make up for the horrid real world she lived in.

*
* * *

“You
have to get closer to Abby.” Mika’il appeared in William’s living room.

“God
damn it!” William dropped his glass.

“William,”
Mika’il warned.

“If
you’d stop appearing out of the blue, maybe I wouldn’t take His name in vain.”
He got some paper towels from the kitchen. “What the hell’s wrong now?”

“You’re
not staying close to Abby. I told you she needs protection.”

He
rocked back on his heels and looked up at the archangel. “Thompson grabbed her
before I could do anything. I wasn’t close enough. There’s a fine line between
protection and stalking. I only met the lady three days ago and on that
occasion she insulted me. Now I’m supposed to be her best friend. I have a
certain reputation in Reno, Mika’il, and being friendly with everyone isn’t
part of it.”

“Get
her to deal for you.”

He
stood and went to pour another drink. “I don’t play blackjack. She doesn’t deal
poker.”

“Oh,
for heaven’s sake. You can win at any stupid card game you play. Why worry
about what game it is?”

“If I
show up at her table, she’ll think I’m stalking her. She’s already going
through that experience with one rich s.o.b. Why wouldn’t she assume the same
thing with me? I can guarantee that’s not the way to win her confidence.”

“Figure
something out. Things have gotten more dangerous. Thompson called her tonight
and it’ll only be a matter of time before he gets her address. You need to be
with her before that happens.”

“Are
you going to tell me why this one redhead is so special?”

“You
don’t need to know. She’s worried. You can help her.”

He didn’t acknowledge the
archangel. He stared out at the lights of Reno. Helping mortals was what he had
done for centuries, but none of them had affected him like she did. One meeting
and he was already dreaming of her. He would wake up sweating and hard. His
cock was aching to be inside her, but he knew Mika’il wouldn’t approve of him
seducing her. He grinned. When had the head of His Host ever approved of any of
the fallen angels? He rubbed his chest where the scar had been burned into his
flesh. Maybe he should pay a little visit to her house.

*
* * *

William
stared down at Abby as she lay curled up in the center of her bed. Her glorious
hair was spread over her pillows and he reached out and touched a lock softly.
She must have sensed his presence because her eyes popped open and she stared
at him in surprise. He waited for the panic and fear to surface but she studied
him calmly.

“I was
dreaming of you.” She smiled.

“Maybe
you still are. I heard you had another run in with Thompson.” He didn’t move closer.
Her light rose scent was making his cock harden and he wanted to bury himself
between her thighs.

Sighing,
she rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. “Yeah. Someone sold
him my phone number.”

“I
heard about the call as well. How are you feeling about that?” William winced.
He sounded like a damn psychologist, but his conversation skills were a little
rusty. He didn’t normally engage in conversation while in a woman’s bedroom. He
devoured her with his eyes. A light cotton sheet covered her from the breasts
down, but he knew she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Her breathing had sped up
while he stared at her causing her hard nipples to push against the sheet.

“I was
a little shaky. Why do you care?”

William
wondered what she would look like in the throes of passion. Would she be quiet
or noisy? Would she eagerly participate or would he have to encourage her? “I
guess you can consider me a guardian angel of sorts.” He laughed. He never
would have thought a fallen would become a guardian.

“An angel?
Like Michael or Gabriel?” Her voice held a touch of skepticism.

“Hell
no. Not anything like them. I might have been close at one time, but since I
fell, I’m just trying to help out when I can.” William eased down to sit on the
bed.

“Fell?
As in Lucifer and all that?”

“Yes.
I’m one of those idiots who decided to rebel with Lucifer. All that got me was
banishment from Heaven and an eternity on earth.”

“Right.”

“Don’t
you believe in angels?”

“I’m
not sure I believe in God, much less angels.”

“It has
always amazed me that mortals question His existence. What you believe doesn’t
matter. He believes in you and that’s what counts.”

He
didn’t give her time to react to the phrase “mortal. “ He reached out and
rubbed his thumb over her soft lips. Her tongue snuck out and tasted him.
Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to hers and a soft gasp opened her lips
allowing his tongue entrance. He made sure not to touch her anywhere else. He
stroked her tongue again imitating the far more intimate act he longed to perform
with her. Several minutes later, he pulled away. Her eyes opened and she gazed
at him. Passion and a hint of disbelief hid in the brown pools.

“This
will all be a lovely dream for you tomorrow.” He stood up and melted into the
shadows around her bed.

CHAPTER FOUR

The
bouquet of two dozen roses arrived the next day. Abby didn’t even have to read
the card to know who sent them. When she refused them, the deliveryman looked
shocked. She was sure not many women refused that kind of overblown display.
She couldn’t risk accepting them because it would send the wrong message to
Thompson. She shut the door in the man’s face.

As she
got ready for work, she thought about the vivid dream she had the night before.
She swore her lips were still tingling from William’s kiss. It had been a long
time since any guy had turned her on that much even in a dream. Abby wasn’t
happy that the first guy she was dreaming about in years gambled. She had made
it a point to listen to the gossip the last couple of days ever since her run
in with him. Burt was right when he has said William Bradford didn’t care what
she thought. An incredible poker player, he won far more tournaments than he
lost. The Nevada Gaming Commission had investigated him but couldn’t find any
proof that he was cheating. People whispered he had the devil’s luck with
cards.

He
didn’t have a steady girlfriend even though several gorgeous women had been
seen with him. Tall, thin model types, she figured, without a brain among them.
Of course, he struck her as someone who appreciated beauty for beauty’s sake,
so maybe he didn’t need a smart date. He would never be interested in a small,
overly curvy redhead who couldn’t keep her mouth under control.

She shook her head. Get him out
of your thoughts, girl, she reprimanded herself. He’s way out of your league.
But it never hurt to dream, a small voice whispered inside her heart.

*
* * *

Abby’s
good mood disappeared as Thompson took a seat at her table. Her temper was
rising. She didn’t acknowledge him because the man didn’t need any
encouragement from her. A tap on her shoulder turned her around. One of the
casino’s couriers handed her a note. Taking a moment, she unfolded it.

“Please
join me for a drink at Burt’s bar after your shift.” It was signed William
Bradford. She felt a pair of eyes on her and she knew they weren’t Thompson’s
because she didn’t feel slimy. Looking over her shoulder, she saw William
standing across the room. Without thinking, she nodded and turned back to deal
the first hand. When she had a chance to look again, he was gone.

The
next time she checked her watch, her shift was over. “Gentlemen, have a good
day.”

Her
replacement showed up as she gathered her stuff to head for the staff locker
room. Thompson followed her and grabbed her arm before she could get to the
door. She grimaced as she swung around to face him.

“Did
you get my flowers?” Thompson inquired.

“I
refused them.”

His
face got red. “You refused them?”

“I
don’t want them. I’ve told you no. Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

He
yanked her closer. She smelled the liquor on his breath. “Listen, bitch. I will
have you. Don’t fight me on this. You’ll regret it.”

“Oh
excuse me.” A well-dressed man dumped his drink down the front of Thompson’s
suit.

Thompson
shoved her away. He swore as he brushed the man’s hands away. “Damn, man. Pay
attention to where you’re walking.”

“I
was.” The man’s accented voice was quiet, but she caught his words.

She met
the man’s blue eyes. A look of annoyance flared in the man’s eyes as a feeling
of safety flowed through her. He moved his head in a slight nod and she
realized he had run into Thompson on purpose. While Thompson continued
complaining, the man gestured to the door leading to the staff hallway.

“I
believe you have an appointment.”

“Thank
you.”

“Thank
Bradford.” The man blocked Thompson’s grab for her arm. He grinned cruelly down
at the smaller man. “Mr. Thompson, I have a proposition for you.”

She rushed to change her clothes.
Even though her arm was aching, she found herself eager to see William.

* * * *

“She’ll
be here soon.”

William
turned to see Dominic walking towards him.

“I got
her away from him. Why didn’t you do something yourself?” Dominic signaled Burt
for bourbon.

“I
can’t. The dealers are told not to get involved with the guests. Their
integrity can be in question. Also, I’m known around here.”

“Known?
In what way?”

“I have
phenomenal luck with cards. They aren’t sure how I do it, so they keep a close
eye on me. If she’s seen with me, they might think she’s helping me to cheat
them out of their money. I don’t want the gossips to talk about Abby and me.”
William sipped his whiskey. He savored the slight burning as it slid down his
throat.

“I
never knew you to worry about what people said or thought.”

“I
don’t, but the man bothering her would see any interest from me as a challenge
to him. I don’t want to give him any more reasons to bother her.”

“Your
woman’s here. If you need me again give me a call.” Dominic slapped his
shoulder. He smiled at Abby as he walked past her.

William
waved for Burt to bring a drink for her. She sat next to him with a sigh. Her
elusive scent filled his nostrils and his cock was ready to go. He ran his eyes
over her body and her lush breasts made his mouth water. How he wanted to take
them in his hands and taste her pert nipples. He forced his hands not to move.
He wouldn’t touch her. Ah hell, he thought as he reached out to place his hand
on her firm thigh. Denying his urges had never been something he was good at.
He gave her a slight squeeze and started to pull away, but she grabbed his hand
in hers. Her beautiful eyes met his.

“Thank
you, Mr. Bradford.”

He knew
what she was thanking him for. “I would have loved to have been the one to save
you, but Thompson knows me. He already sees me as a rival at the tables and I
don’t think it would be good for him to see me with you.”

She
nodded. “I understand. I wish he would just leave me alone. Why does he want
me?”

William
stared at her in surprise. “Don’t you own a mirror?”

Her
cheeks flushed. “Yes, I do. I don’t see anything special when I look in it.
Just me.”

Cupping
her chin, he lifted her face to his. His warm breath caressed her lips. “I know
a lot of men who would love to have ‘just you’ in their bed.”

He
wondered if a man could come just from feeling a woman’s breath on his face. He
felt a warm rush of heat pool in his groin. Holy cow, this woman was dangerous.
He managed to swallow a groan of disappointment when he pulled back without
kissing her.

“Someday,”
he whispered. “I won’t pull away. Will you be ready for it?”

“I’m already
dreaming of you. Why wouldn’t I be ready for it?”

“A
dream is safe. In the real world, things can get out of hand very quickly and
you don’t strike me as someone who wants to lose control.”

She
focused on the amber liquid in her glass. “I didn’t have a lot of control in
the way I was raised. We moved from town to town one step ahead of my dad’s
bookies and others who wanted a piece of him.” Her eyes held a hint of the
shame and pain she had felt while she was growing up.

“Why be
a dealer if you hate gambling and gamblers that much?”

“Why
not? It’s the one thing I’m good at. My dad made sure of that. I was dealing
for his games when I was eight. He taught me everything he knew and he knew
almost every possible way to cheat. You see, I was his ace in the hole and none
of the men playing thought an eight-year-old would cheat. So I ensured my dad
won those games. It’s too bad he didn’t stick with the games I dealt. I deal
because I can spot cheaters in seconds.” Her brown eyes caught his. “I also
know how to spot a man who will gamble everything he owns away.”

He knew
she thought he was that type of player and at one time he had been. Several
years ago when a mortal woman he loved had died, he had lost a part of himself
for a while. He had thrown money away and made stupid bets while trying to
drown himself in alcohol and drugs. Fortunately for him, they had no effect on
him except to make him sick. Finally Celeste had found him and had taken him
away to help him deal with his grief. Even though he gambled every night, he
didn’t have a driving urge any more. He knew he could walk away from the table
whenever he chose. To humor her, he asked, “How can you know? What kind of
signal does he give off?”

“There’s
a fever in his eyes and it burns brighter the closer he gets to the tables. His
smile has a hint of desperation in it and there is a restless energy in him
when he’s not at the table. He would rather hold cards in his hands than hold
his child’s hand and unless his child can play poker or blackjack, he doesn’t
know she’s around.” Abby’s eyes had unfocused and he knew she was looking into
her past.

“You’re
tarring every man with the same brush. Your father was an asshole and you work
around some of the weakest people in the world. No wonder you don’t have a high
opinion of someone who bets a little money.”

“A
little money? The people I deal for don’t bet a little money. They bet entire
fortunes. I’ve watched multi-millionaires lose their millions on one turn of
the card. I’ve watched families become destitute because of the gambling
disease.” Standing, she glared at him. “Yes, these people are weak and I
despise them for their weakness.”

He let
her move away from him. Turning to watch her leave, he asked, “Do you see me as
weak, Abby?”

“You
gamble, don’t you?” She walked out of the bar.

He paid
the bill and followed her out to her car. He stood in the shadows and watched
her climb in. His Harley was parked next to her, but he didn’t want her to know
that he knew what kind of car she drove. She pulled out and headed home, so he
strolled to his bike. As he was pulling his helmet on, he heard Dominic.

She
has us pegged, my friend.

Pegged?
How?

We
are weak.

Speak
for yourself. I have never been weak.
He flung his leg over the bike.