When magic takes hold, there's no bluffing the heart.
Cannon Pack, Book 4
Mari Thornton, professional gambler, prides herself on playing high-stakes poker the old-fashioned way: with skill, charm and luck, and without using her magic. She’s determined to win the Las Vegas Poker Extravaganza’s gold bracelet and million-dollar prize, but Tucker Manning’s raw, sexual appeal is throwing her concentration off. Way off.
An up-and-coming poker whiz, Tucker plans to enjoy every second of this tournament, especially when he feels Mari’s magic brush up against his werewolf power. With luck, he’ll win and win big, taking both the tournament and the green-eyed beauty whose magic oozes out of her hot body like honey. Proving that last year’s winner is a cheat will make the victory all that much sweeter.
When she senses Bryson Bascomb’s dark, supernatural influence over his opponents, Mari agrees to Tucker’s proposal to help expose the vampire’s trickery. But Bascomb isn’t going down without a fight. And the fallout leaves Mari wondering if she can trust Tucker with her life. Or if in the end, he’ll throw in his hand…and throw her under the bus.
Product WarningsMix in hot glamour, wild fangs and sexy incantations, and you get a no-holds ride of sex and winner-take-all thrills. And maybe, if you’re lucky…true love.
Copyright © 2012 Beverly Rae
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Mari pulled the door open a crack and peeked out. Seeing no one lingering in the hall, she let out a pent-up breath and stepped into the hallway.
Even now she couldn’t understand her reaction to Tucker. Sure, he was hot, but she’d been around handsome men. Plenty of them. None had affected her like Tucker had.
Although he’d done nothing to her, said nothing to her, she’d still reacted like a trapped victim under the unblinking stare of a predator. Hell, she’d taken off as fast as a frightened bunny. Then he’d rushed after her and rattled her even more.
She frowned, irritated by the way she’d handled the situation. She’d sensed something different about him, and it had unsettled her, but to respond the way she had? So not cool. She prided herself on keeping her emotions in check during a tournament, and when she’d lost her composure, she’d had no option except to get away from him.
But why had he chased her? She nibbled at her lower lip, then forced herself to stop, rubbing her lip as though to rid herself of the nervous tell once and for all.
She paused, needing a couple of deep breaths before she dared to head down the hallway. If she was lucky—and she was always very lucky—he’d given up and gone back to the tables. Mari listened to the quiet, straining her ears to pick up any sound, but heard nothing. The coast was clear, and she was through acting like a silly girl. Taking a steadying breath, she strode forward, her game face firmly in place, determined to be ready the next time she saw him. Smiling with a confidence she didn’t quite command, she turned the corner and ran into a wall of testosterone.
Mari jumped away from Tucker but recovered quickly and tried to step past him. “Excuse me, but—”
“Not so fast.” He sidestepped and blocked her path, causing her to bump into him again.
“Holy hell.” Shaken, Mari shuffled back a foot, lifted her gaze to his mesmerizing blue eyes, then struggled to look away.
“Hang on a sec, will ya?” He took her by the arms, steadying her, and pulled her closer.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Mari pushed away from him, but he held on to her. An intoxicating scent of aftershave and a unique masculinity drifted to her, sending an unfamiliar but oh-so-wonderful feeling through her entire body. Tingling from her head to her toes, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, for a moment unconcerned that he’d cornered her.
“I just want to introduce myself.”
She opened her eyes to find him scrutinizing her. His eyes reminded her of the eyes of a Siberian husky, soft yet mesmerizing. Her breathing grew shallow, her throat constricting.
Relax. Poker players studied each other all the time, in and out of the game. This was no different. In the same second she’d had the thought, she knew she was fooling herself. The way he studied her was different. Deeper. More intense. Sexual.
“Okay. Fine. Do it, but let me go.” She cast a pointed look at the hand still clutching her arm.
“Sorry.” He released her but didn’t step away. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Did he mean in the ballroom, when he’d chased her down the hallway, or when she’d slammed into him?Probably when she’d slammed into his big, strong, masculine, virile… Stop!
“You didn’t startle me.”
The flash in his eyes told her he recognized her lie.
When the time is right, go all in. Heeding another of Tommy’s lessons, she stuck out her hand. “I’m Mari Thornton.”
Unlike a lot of the male poker players who often tried to intimidate her with an overly strong handshake, Tucker took her palm in his and gently but firmly squeezed her hand.
“Hi, darlin’.” He gave her a crooked smile and out came the adorable dimples again. “I’m Tucker Manning.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Tucker.” Damn, why was her voice trembling? “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back.”
Again he stepped in front of her, but this time he knew better than to grab her. She glanced at his hands, strangely irritated that he hadn’t.
“So do I, but I need to do something else first.”
Although she was intrigued, she kept her curiosity hidden. At least she hoped she did. Instead, she arched an eyebrow and adopted an irritated expression. “Fine, then do it. Just let me pass first, then you can do whatever it is you need to do.” Darting to his right, she attempted to hurry past him and once again failed.
He grabbed her, then crushed his mouth against hers. She gasped, struggled to push him away for a moment, then drew in his breath, her mind reeling. He wrapped his arms around her, tugging her closer until nothing separated their bodies.
Fight! Scream! Call for help! Kick him in the balls! But, suddenly, kicking was the last thing she wanted to do to his balls.
Instead, she kissed him back and tugged on his shoulders, needing him, wanting him like an ice-cold drink on a blistering desert day.