His hand brushed away a tendril from her forehead. Staring at the errand curl before lifting his knuckles to lift her chin up. Was he going to kiss her again? Did she want him to? Okay, fine, she did. But should she want him to? “And then what happens?” Her question floated on a whispered exhale.
“They put it down, every penny on the table. Roll the die and go for it. It’s absolutely insane until you get that one. One person in a million who fucking wins. Wins it all with one flick of the wrist. It’s crazy. But you have to respect that kind of guts. Go for it or go home. You’re going for it.”
“I shouldn’t go home? I thought you said it was crazy.”
“It was crazy and dangerous. More dangerous than you know.” His thumb dropped away, and her chin drooped. Bereft of the warmth. “But now you don’t have to take a risk. You put it all on the table and won.”
“So, you’re the prize?” The wicked curl of his lip sent a fiery tendril through her body, matching the heat flaring in his eyes. He nodded.
“Look, it’s simple. You’re selling, and I’m buying. In my country, we say; ‘a swap is not a swindle.’ It means we both get what we want from the deal.”
“And you don’t mind paying?”
“Men always pay. Everyone pays. Everybody is giving something to get something. I like knowing your price upfront. Usually, women hide these things. They say they only want a good time, but they really want a man to pay with his time, feelings, and sweet words.”
“Of course, money. They may not openly discuss a fee. But for a man in my position, they expect that a certain amount of money will be spent. Travel, jewelry, dresses, flowers. There is always an exchange.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
He shoved his fists into his trouser pockets, plunging deep until only his platinum watch with its diamond-crusted face remained in view.
“It did. Before I realized. When I thought feelings were real. When I believed people were who they say they were.”
“Ahh, I see..” She sighed. “There was a girl. Or a story.”
“That’s the other way women make you pay. They think they can snap into place with your secrets, all the little bits of your puzzle. But I don’t negotiate that anymore. I don’t pay with my heart or my soul.”
“I wasn’t asking for either.”
“So, we have an understanding?”
“We haven’t discussed the amount yet.”
His lip did that lift again. Sexy and frustrating. “Money isn’t a problem. Name your price.”
She threw out a figure wild enough to shake his sexy as hell over-confidence, but he didn’t blink. “That’s a lot for a one-night stand, even two nights. That’s a week at least.”
“So, you don’t want to quibble over the price, just the time.”
“Non-renewable resources, like time, are always more valuable. Economics 101.”
“Fine.” She slid the air out of her lungs through her slightly open lips. Trying to camouflage her crazy, ragged breathing. Oh God, what was she doing? Had she really just agreed? His hand reached out for hers. Beckoning like the dark hand of the devil tempting her to sin. Her hand rose like a puppet master, tugged on its marionette strings.
They shook on the deal. She wiped her sweaty palms down the side of her pants. His eyes lit, and his brows lifted in a coy little wink that let her know he missed nothing. He knew how damn nervous she was. She’d laid her cards and money on the table, and would she walk away with her winnings? Would she walk away with her soul?
Another deep inhale shattered her calm facade. “So, when, uh… when do we begin?”
His puppet master hands yanked her to his chest, scooping her up and across his forearms in one move. “Now.”
Long, heavy strides carried them across the room, blurring the Vegas skyline as he moved.
“Shouldn’t we wait?”
“How have you waited? We just agreed…”