Home > Poker Face - An Italian Billionaire Romance(2)

Poker Face - An Italian Billionaire Romance(2)
Author: Holly Rayner


Aimee blinked rapidly, her blood swimming with alcohol, realizing she’d emptied the glass. She arced her hand upward, alerting Franc that she was ready for another. She’d dive into the depths that night, if only to escape this revving, internal pain. And the next day, once she shook off her hangover, she’d find a way to survive the rest of her life.


Franc bowed his head, giving her a conspiratorial look, his eyes twinkling. “Actually, Aimee, your next drink has been paid for.” He winked and directed her gaze.


At that, Aimee whipped her head around, her blond hair gleaming in the bar candlelight. She discovered a tall, handsome man standing behind her, his dark eyes centered upon her, the cut of his jaw stark, attractive, and his dark hair and olive skin hinting at Italian ancestry. Aimee tilted her head, her eyes connecting with his for only a moment before the intensity of it caused her to search elsewhere. She swallowed, nervousness coursing through her.


The man standing behind her was Enrico Fonti, the owner of Le Joueur, and a man she’d only seen from afar, sauntering through Monte Carlo with an unearthly air of self-assurance. He’d been the talk of the town for the last year or so, since he’d opened Le Joueur, the brightest, most successful new casino in Monaco. He was only 32 years old, a self-made billionaire who’d made much of his fortune as a banker in London. He’d been whispered to be an intense, enviable poker player, and Aimee had seen him in action just once—when he’d won a world tournament that had taken place at Le Joueur itself. Her father had been thrust from his seat rather early, she remembered, losing the best part of a million dollars in the process. And he wondered why bankruptcy rapped at his door.


Aimee turned large eyes up toward Enrico, sliding her fingers through her hair. “Hello, there,” she said, her voice sure, steady. She worked in hospitality, and not much could shake her—be it situations or people. Not even this striking man who appeared to only have eyes for her.


“You’re drinking whiskey,” Enrico said, his voice suave and slightly accented. “I like a woman who can handle her liquor.” His eyes flashed.


Aimee raised a single eyebrow, lowering her shoulders slightly. Candlelight flickered on her collarbone, above her low-cut black dress. “After the day I’ve had, I don’t suppose I could handle anything else.”


Franc set two glasses of whiskey on the bar before them, and Aimee watched, her heart jolting in her chest, as Enrico took the stool beside her. His posture was strong, sure, and his muscles pulsed beneath his immaculate suit. She’d seen him at the bar at Le Joueur before—usually with flimsy, vacant-looking women, one on each arm. He traded the women out each night, playing into his status as the ‘Playboy of Monte Carlo.’


Aimee hated womanizers and detested that the type was so pervasive across Monte Carlo, but something within her seemed to buzz with excitement at the mere scent of him.


“So. What brings you to the bar this evening—”


“Enrico,” he said, finishing her sentence and bringing his hand forward and shaking hers, letting his fingers linger for a long moment. He gave her a confident grin that showed off his perfect teeth. His lips were soft, kissable, and his five o’clock shadow gave him a rugged look—one straight from the pages of a magazine. Everything about him was planned, perfected—and yet, in spite of herself, Aimee found herself brimming with lust.


“Aimee,” she murmured, sensing she was losing her confidence. “Aimee Delacroix.”


“Ah,” Enrico said, his dark eyebrows jolting high. “Not of the Max Delacroix name?”


“The very one,” Aimee replied, sipping her whiskey, feeling the burn jolt down her throat. “He’s my father, actually.” She forced her face not to give away her disgust with the man who was currently tossing his, her, and several dozen employees’ jobs down the tube.


“A good man. A good man. If not a great poker player, if you don’t mind me saying,” Enrico said, winking. “Although, that doesn’t measure the greatness of a man.”


“I suppose not,” Aimee said, shrugging playfully. When Enrico smiled, a single dimple appeared on his left cheek. Her stomach jostled with nerves. She sipped her drink again, her mind racing for things to say. “But it might help his temper to be just a bit better at it.”


Enrico laughed, passing a hand through his wavy dark hair. “We can all say that. My temper turns with the table. I wish I could say I had control over it, but I am Italian, after all. We live and die by our emotions. And what, exactly, is your heritage?”


Aimee shifted slightly as his gaze passed over her body. She watched his eyes turn toward her curves, and she yearned for him to touch her, to wrap his fingers around her waist. She cleared her throat. “I’m half French, half American. My mother is from Seattle, and my father—well. He’s from here. But they’re no longer together.”


“Your mother returned to America?”


“That’s correct.”


“What made you stay here?”


Aimee half-smiled, nudging him slightly with her right elbow. “Why would anyone leave this sort of paradise?”


He leaned toward her, then. She could feel the heat of his breath upon her cheeks. His eyes were penetrating as he whispered toward her. It seemed that the entire room had halted its breathing, that the music had come to an abrupt stop in her ears. She swallowed.


“I felt just the same when I came here from London, nearly six years ago. I bought a yacht that day and gazed out across the sea, the sunshine warming my cheeks. I had no wish in my mind beyond making this vacation last the rest of my life.”


“And you did it,” Aimee whispered, biting her lip. “You opened this casino, and you never left. You make a mockery of dreamers. You live their dream, all the time.”


“As do you, Aimee. Don’t forget that,” Enrico said. After a pause, he knocked the rest of his whiskey down and rapped his knuckles against the bar, alerting Franc to his empty glass. Franc scurried, rat-like, and poured whiskey into both of their glasses. He looked frazzled, without the sure confidence Aimee was used to seeing in him when his boss wasn’t around.

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