SLEIGHT OF HAND

(Redemption Club series, Book 2)

(ISBN: 9780990314561)



Chapter One




The hairs on Emily’s arms stood at attention, the first sign that trouble had just walked through the door. She placed a beer in front of a customer as her gaze traveled across Legacy Lounge, searching for the source of her apprehension.

She rounded the long bar and walked among the clusters of comfy chairs and intimate cocktail tables that formed a semi-circle around the stage, where a band was setting up for the Saturday evening entertainment.

Fingers curled around her hip and she whirled on the owner of the wandering hands.

“Hey, baby,” he said, looking up at her with a lopsided, obviously inebriated grin. His hand slid around to cup her ass.

She gently removed his appendage from her rear and placed it back on his beer bottle. “Keep your hands on what you purchased.”

His gaze swept over her. “How much?”

“More than you could afford.”

The two friends at his side guffawed and slapped him on the back, defusing the tension and giving her a chance to slip away.

The feeling of being watched stuck with her, but it wasn’t coming from the amorous drunk. The cause of her unease was something bigger. Dangerous.

She reached the wall opposite the stage. Here, tall booths afforded privacy. A woman flagged her down, while simultaneously laughing at something her date whispered in her ear. His eyes, however, were on the woman’s other assets. Her clinging red dress gaped at her bosom, just short of indecent exposure, revealing a black lace bra. There was a cunning edge to her gaze that put Emily on alert as she stopped at their table.

“Another drink for me and my friend,” the lady in red said.

Emily spied her cocktail waitress taking orders at the other end of the lounge, and then eyed their empty wineglasses. “The same?”

“How about it, sugar?” The man’s eyes had taken on a glaze of lust and alcohol that would doubly impair his judgment. “More of the same, or should we go for something different?”

“How about champagne?” the woman purred.

“Whatever you want.” The man’s wedding band caught the light as he reached out to toy with the ends of the woman’s long brown hair. His fingers casually brushed the sides of her breasts. Her ringless hand slid farther up his thigh, squeezing lightly and distracting him as her other hand shifted to the man’s pocket. She had a light touch and had made a wise selection. He was an easy mark, and wouldn’t make a fuss if the woman took advantage of him, lifting his wallet. Filing charges would require admitting that, though a married man, he’d been here with an escort. He’d risk everything.

It’s none of my business what they want to do in a dark corner. But it was her bar—at least, she was the manager. Someday she’d have her own place. Still, she took pride in keeping her patrons happy. If the woman started causing trouble, Emily would get rid of her. In the meantime, maybe the man would come to his senses.

She turned to fill their order.

“And don’t try to fool us with the cheap stuff,” the woman called after her.

The barb to Emily’s pride was the final straw. She swung back to their table. “May I speak with you a moment?” she asked the woman.

The woman didn’t spare her a look. “I’m a little busy.”

“Trying to make a living—the illegal way.”

That got the woman’s attention, and her hand stilled on her mark’s crotch, but her other hand slid into her purse—with his wallet, no doubt. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m quite sure you do.” Emily leaned over the table, getting in the woman’s face but keeping her voice low so as to not disturb the other patrons. “Get out of here and don’t ever come back.”

“Hey!” The man seemed to finally realize his fun was about to end, with no clue that Emily was helping him dodge a bullet.

“If you’re still here in—” Emily glanced at the clock behind the bar, “—thirty seconds, I’m calling Security. The next call I make will be the police.”

The lady in red looked at Emily with a boatload of irritation and a modicum of respect, and disengaged herself from the man.

“What the hell?” The man’s glare turned to confusion as his escort slid out of the booth, pulling the strap of her purse over her shoulder.

Emily stopped her with a hand on her arm. “I’d better not see you in Legacy Lounge again.”

Without a word, the woman sashayed through the archway that led from the lounge into the enormous, glass-domed rotunda that formed the hub of the sprawling Legacy Hotel and Casino complex. The man rose as if he’d go after her, but stopped when Emily tossed his wallet on the table.

“I believe this is yours,” she said. While distracting the woman with a hand on one arm, Emily’s other hand had been busy retrieving the wallet from her purse. Distraction was the key.

The man gaped, scooped up his wallet and mumbled a thank you before taking off.

Emily smiled with satisfaction. As manager and head bartender at Legacy Lounge, troubleshooting of this variety came with the territory. Especially when the bar was an offshoot of a hotel and casino, where people’s inhibitions were already loosened, inspiring them to take all kinds of chances. Then again, this was Las Vegas, and risking everything was not only encouraged, but expected.

The perfect environment for a conman—or conwoman—to thrive.

But dispensing with the lady in red and returning to her post behind the bar didn’t dispel the feeling of trouble waiting in the wings, watching. The prickles of sensation ricocheted along her skin as if a lightning storm was about to hit. Her gaze resumed its perusal…and landed on a cowboy hat that lay at the far end of the bar.

Apprehension tightened her chest. She had an unnatural weakness for a man in a black Stetson—one man, in particular. It can’t be his.

Almost reluctantly, her gaze moved from the hat to the long tan fingers clasped together beside it. Her attention continued in an upward trajectory, past a broad chest and wide shoulders clad in a black T-shirt. Those shoulders had often held the weight of the world. A coil tightened in her abdomen as memories flooded her.

Crap. She knew that grin—a sinner’s smile that didn’t belong on a supposed saint. His dark eyes twinkled as her gaze met his.

Adam Wilde. Trouble. That explained her gooseflesh, and the sense of impending danger. It had been eight years since she’d last seen him in physical form, but he’d taken over her dreams since she was eighteen.



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Copyright © 2009-2016 by Anne Marie Becker. All Rights Reserved.

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