Home > Poker Face - An Italian Billionaire Romance(3)

Poker Face - An Italian Billionaire Romance(3)
Author: Holly Rayner


 

“I’m growing rather tired of drinking at the bar. What do you say, Aimee? Do you want to get your hands dirty?” Enrico’s dark eyebrows rose high, and he cocked his head, egging her on.

 

“Play the tables?” she asked.

 

But Enrico had already stood from his stool and begun his march toward the nearest blackjack table. The crowd seemed to part like the Red Sea before him, sensing his presence. And Aimee, his girl of the night, followed him demurely, conscious of the eyes upon her. She swept her shoulders back, attempting to maintain her hard-earned confidence. But inwardly, she felt befuddled, filled with anxiety and lust for this strange, handsome man.

 

Enrico gestured toward the seat beside him at the table, alerting Aimee that it was hers to take. She sat, fluffing her hair and flitting her eyes toward the dealer. The 40-something man had dark brown hair, round cheeks, and a jaded expression. His tie cinched too tight at his neck, squeezing his skin, and his eyes glazed across Aimee’s for only a moment before dismissing her.

 

“This is where it all happens, Aimee,” Enrico said, his voice animated. He rubbed his palms together as the dealer snapped the first card face-down on the table. Around them, a small crowd had formed, an excited hum buzzing from their lips. Watching the casino owner play his own tables was a real treat—a reason to extend their time at Le Joueur.

 

Aimee turned her eyes toward the dealer’s fast fingers as he snapped another card, face-up, above the first card. The appearance of hers, a nine, fizzled her brain with confusion. Her thoughts of the next steps felt scattered. She didn’t like to play the tables— she deemed them a risky way to spend her wages, and now, they were the very reason her life was sweeping down the drain, per her father’s lack of foresight.

 

She turned her gaze toward Enrico’s card. The jolting appearance of his, an ace, caused the crowd to gasp, aching with the sense that they were small fry in the shadow of this great, illustrious man.

 

“How do you do it?” Aimee whispered, a flirty smile flickering across her face. Her eyes danced as she searched his, but Enrico’s concentration never shifted from his cards, from the dealer. He lifted his hand and then smacked his palm on the table, which elicited another gasp from the crowd.

 

“Another, sir?”

 

“Hit me,” Enrico said cockily.

 

The dealer flipped the card over, then, revealing an eight. He turned toward Aimee, who frowned, weighing her options. She flung her fingers through the air, hopeful that the man beside her had gone over 21, and told the dealer she was finished. Kaput. At least, that’s what it seemed she should do.

 

“Let’s see what I have,” she said, grinning. She bit her lip, her eyes wavering downward, away from the crowd that burned holes in her confidence with their intent, anxious gaze.

 

The dealer shrugged slightly, his thick shoulders creeping toward his earlobes. He flipped her facedown card upward, revealing a Jack.

 

Aimee exhaled comically, giving Enrico a saucy expression. “What do you think of that?” she said, tossing her head back. “Eighteen. Not so bad, for a novice, eh?” She fluttered her eyelashes, secretly glad the game was finished.

 

Enrico bowed his head. “Your abilities are not to be messed with, Miss Delacroix,” he said warmly.

 

“Let’s see what Enrico has!” someone from the crowd yelled, causing the others to cheer. “Let’s see her beat!”

 

Aimee gestured toward the ace, the eight, and the facedown card, tossing her hair. “I can’t imagine you didn’t go over,” she teased. “I’ve been around the tables enough to know.”

 

“Oh, have you, Aimee?” Enrico countered. Was he mocking her?

 

He rapped a knuckle on the table, and a rush of excited chatter swept through the crowd. The towering dealer pushed his hand forward and flipped over the facedown card, revealing an incredible, unrealistic three of hearts, bringing the total to 21.

 

The crowd gasped, their cries echoing around them. The dealer turned toward Aimee, his pupils twinkling as if to say: “That’s how it’s done.”

 

But Enrico just shrugged his shoulders and tipped his whiskey back, gulping it down in one. He wrapped his left arm around Aimee’s waist, tipping his fingers into her skin slightly. She felt a jolt of electricity and turned her nose toward him, inhaling the musky scent of him, feeling passion course through her veins. She swallowed and closed her eyes, feeling Enrico’s nose inch closer toward her, their lips an inch away from colliding. But, in a split second, he yanked back, jolting from her.

 

Aimee’s eyes flew open. She sensed she was being played with, toyed with. She stuck her finger up, catching the eye of the bartender, who pushed another whiskey toward her. She was edging toward drunk, bleeding with the pleasure of forgetting her name, of forgetting that she was a humble receptionist on the brink of being jobless, and not the Enrico-clinger she was currently playing. As Enrico turned his lips toward her ears, she shivered, hearing his words:

 

“What do you say we find a more private table? I’m tired of playing.”

 

“You are?” she whispered, her eyes dancing, taking in every feature of his perfect face.

 

“Just of blackjack. Not with you,” he said, smiling at her like she was the only person in the world.

 

He led her toward the back corner of Le Joueur, grasping her fingers with his large hand. Aimee righted her posture, sauntering confidently on her heels, as she sensed the whispers following them. Enrico had just won over 10,000 euros in a single round at his own blackjack table, and yet he allowed for no pomp and circumstance. This was just another roll of the dice, another hour, another moment in the chaotic, sun-drenched life of a billionaire. And, for some reason, Aimee found herself wanting to go along for the ride.

 

 

TWO

 

 

As they sat in the back of the casino, Enrico snapped his fingers for one round of whiskeys after another, turning his eyes toward Aimee’s face and leaning inward, as if they were exchanging secrets beneath the loud pulse of the DJ’s beat.

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