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Playing for a night…or for keeps? 

Jewelry designer Tatiana Belikov may have matured enough to curb her impulsive nature, but wickedness is still her best accessory. When family troubles bring her to Las Vegas and face-to-face with the man who knows all her darkest desires, resisting temptation is futile. A night of no-holds-barred sin? Jackpot.

Once Wyatt Caine had nothing to offer Tatiana except his heart, but time has changed his fortunes. Now he’s the king of vice, and the king always gets what he wants. Especially when all he wants is her, all grown up and ready to play every dirty game he can devise.

They ignite like fireworks on the Strip, blazing hot enough to melt the best intentions. But their roll in the sheets turns into a roll of the dice, and when morning comes, Wyatt and Tatiana are left wondering whether to walk away…or go all in.

Game on.

Chapter One  

I want to keep you bound to my bed forever. Black leather ties encircling those dainty wrists, those slender ankles. Stretched wide for me. You’d never be able to escape.


Even if I make a fortune some day, it won’t compare to how rich I feel every time you open your thighs for me.


I love you. Always.


Tatiana Belikov snapped the manila folder in her hands shut, hiding the pile of old and tattered letters she’d made the mistake of skimming—though the words weren’t new to her—while waiting for the receptionist to finish her phone call. She was all too aware of the slight sheen of sweat on her upper lip. She stuffed the folder in her oversized bag as she rose to her feet, her trembling hands making the job more awkward. “Yes. Hi.”

The woman gave her a warm smile. Tatiana didn’t have a vast working knowledge of the hiring practices of rich and powerful men, but television had taught her the waiting area would be guarded by a sexy, slinky shark of a woman. Wyatt’s assistant looked like she should be playing bridge somewhere. “I’m so sorry about that. Now, what can I help you with?”

Your boss and I popped each other’s cherries years ago. Can you please tell him I’m here?  She cleared her throat. “I was hoping I could see Mr. Caine.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No, I don’t.”

The other woman—Esme Schmidt, her desk tag read—turned away from her computer, her frown genuinely regretful. “I apologize, dear. But Mr. Caine doesn’t see anyone without an appointment. If you’d like to leave a message, I can see that he receives it.”

The waiting room wasn’t packed—only one other person was present, a frowning, shifty-eyed baby boomer clutching two briefcases bulging with documents. Still, Tatiana couldn’t imagine how much work went into running an operation of this size. Showing up with no notice wasn’t the best tactic, but alas, she hadn’t really thought about it until it was too late to call off this crazy venture.

“Can you please give him my name? I know he’ll see me.” She didn’t know that he would listen to her, or even speak with her for very long. But curiosity alone should get her a couple of minutes. A couple of minutes was all she needed.

Maybe not all she wanted. But all she needed.

When the older woman hesitated, Tatiana pushed, injecting equal amounts of charm and confidence into her plea. “We’re friends. He’ll be so disappointed if he knows I left without seeing him. Please.” She clutched the strap of her bag, the letters weighing it down. “Tatiana Belikov.”

The older woman pursed her lips. As she reached for the phone, Tatiana heard her mutter something that sounded like, “It’s your funeral.”

“What now, Esme?”

The low, annoyed voice came through the receiver, too deep and booming to be contained by a small piece of plastic. A small chill ran down her spine. It had been roughly a decade since she’d heard that voice, and it still managed to make her sit up and take notice.

He sounded harder. Tougher. And not happy.

He was about to get even more unhappy.

“There’s a young lady here to see you.”

“Is she on my schedule?”

“No, sir.”

“Then she doesn’t exist.”

Esme cast her a reproachful glance, and Tatiana winced, mouthing, Sorry. She was sorry. She also wasn’t budging.

Esme continued. “She says to tell you her name is Tatiana Belikov.”

Tatiana didn’t know what she expected. A laugh. A guffaw. Or worst of all, a “Who?”

Instead, resounding silence greeted the announcement. Tatiana’s breath caught as she waited for…something. Anything.

A creak brought her gaze from the phone to the mahogany double doors leading to what was assuredly the lion’s den.

Back straight, head up. Oh, but her hands. What to do with her stupid, restless hands? Worry urged her to link them together. The stirring of her girlish heart had her longing to twirl her hair.

Her pride took over. She clenched those hands into militant fists.

The door opened wider, revealing a man she barely knew, yet at the same time, knew all too well. He was larger now, a full-grown male instead of the gangly youth she’d known. He wore a solid black suit, harsh against his very white shirt. His tie was bright red, a splash of color that should have been garish but instead added a dash of charm and whimsy to his otherwise stark appearance. He wore the suit well—but then, was there anything he wouldn’t wear well? He still had the physique of the common laborer he’d been, not the executive he was.

Had he been any other man, she would have accused him of posing for her. But he’d never had much vanity about his body, using it as other people did a tool. He moved, placing his large hands on his hips and pushing back his suit jacket, as if to display the trimness of his waist and stomach.

Dear eyeballs, anytime you want to stop eating this guy up with a spoon, that would be good. But it was so damn hard. The man had aged well, and she had never been immune to his appearance. As a bumbling, awkward freshman in high school, she’d drooled every time she’d looked at the hottest senior. Even when they’d broken up, she’d had to battle that tug of attraction.

He could have at least gotten a bald spot. But, no, he had a full head of hair. He’d worn it long when they’d been lovers, as suited a young rebel. Now, the coal-dark strands were cut short. She tightened her fists until her nails cut into the skin of her palms, the better to resist the temptation to see if he still liked a woman running her fingers through that cool silk.

His eyes were as dark as his hair, framed by a fringe of lashes so thick he’d been teased into more than one fistfight over whether he wore eyeliner. Those eyes were trained on her, piercing through her thin armor, right into her soul.

“Tatiana Belikov.” His voice was emotionless, as if they were acquaintances meeting at a dinner party, not standing face-to-face for the first time since the finale of their tumultuous relationship.

She raised her chin. She might look delicate, but she was no pansy. “Wyatt.”

He cocked his head. “What a…surprise.”

“Mr. Caine? The young lady said you were friends. Do I need to call someone?”

Her boss’s reaction was disturbing Esme. Tatiana wondered if women frequently had to be bodily removed from Wyatt’s office.

“That won’t be necessary, Esme. I do know her.” His smile was a flash of white in his swarthy skin. “And yes. We’re old friends.”

She shivered, though she wasn’t sure why. The lush, climate-controlled office wasn’t cold. “I apologize for barging in like this so unexpectedly.” He didn’t speak, didn’t rush to reassure her that she wasn’t barging in. She wasn’t sure she expected him to. “I need to speak with you about an important matter.”

Wyatt’s only reaction was a raised black eyebrow. His expression was closed, remote, sardonic. Déjà vu. He’d worn this same face countless times as a teenager. Wyatt had perfected the careless-rebel role back then, which she had sworn, in her dreamy, girlish way, she could see beneath to his squishy, warm heart.

Not that she was fooling herself into thinking she could see anything now. A lot of time had passed, and they were both different people.

“How curious. Of course. Far be it from me to deny a lady.”

Was she the only one who noticed the emphasis on that last word? Wyatt glanced idly around the waiting area, and she followed his gaze to the other occupant in the room. The man sitting on the sofa made no secret of his avid interest in their exchange. “Esme, reschedule this gentleman’s appointment to tomorrow.”

The man scowled, transferring his gaze to Wyatt. “What? No. I need to see you today!”

Wyatt gave him a cold look. “You’ll reschedule to tomorrow.”

A pang of guilt made Tatiana turn around and peer at the man. “I really am sorry—”

“Well I don’t care if you’re sorry—”

“I think you’re forgetting,” Wyatt cut him off cleanly, with the precision of a surgeon wielding a blade, “who’s here begging a favor from whom, hmm? You want to help dull the memory of how you screwed me over last time we did business? You’ll reschedule. To tomorrow.”

The man opened his mouth, but something he saw in Wyatt’s face made him shut up. Paling, he shook his head, muttering as he fished out a handkerchief and mopped his forehead.

“Come into my office,” Wyatt said to her, his voice smoother, lower.

Will you walk into my parlour? said the Spider to the Fly. She bit her lip. Nerves were making her belly jump.

At least, she hoped it was just nerves. A low-level buzz of caution around this particular shark was a good thing. It would keep her on her toes.  Lust would be far more troublesome.

Damn it, Wyatt. If not a bald spot, maybe some chub. Really, is a paunch too much to ask for?


Uttering her name should not make the fine hairs on her arm stand up and salute. It was the way he said it that was magic, all cool command and expectant.

Goddamn it. It wasn’t just nerves.

She resisted the urge to fan herself and took a step toward Wyatt.  He shifted and held the door open, waiting for her to precede him.

She walked inside the office, unable to stop herself from adding a twitch of attitude to her ass. A glance over her shoulder proved it was wasted—he was closing the door, his back to her. Her lips compressed. Fine. She would give him some other opportunity to slaver over her still-pert body.

He wasn’t the only one who had aged well. And any minute now, she would stop sounding so freakin’ defensive.

To occupy herself, she glanced around the luxurious office. The cherry desk was huge and uncluttered, save for a sheaf of papers piled on the surface. The chair was plush black leather, and its price tag alone could pay her bills for a month.  A wet bar graced one corner of the room; probably de rigueur for a man who owned a casino. The floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the fourth wall showcased a glorious view of Las Vegas.

The walls were a creamy off-white, and while a few tasteful paintings decorated them, there wasn’t a single picture of family or friends. Which made sense, since she knew his mother was dead, his father had barely been more than a sperm donor, and he’d had no other real family growing up. Her quick research of the low-key CEO of Quest Casino had turned up the news he had never married nor had children. According to Wikipedia, at least. A private detective she wasn’t.

“You have a nice office,” she said, in order to break the heavy silence. She turned to find him standing at the door, one hand on the wood as if he were barring others who might try to enter.

Or to keep her from leaving.

He dropped his hand. “Thank you.” Still expressionless.

“The whole place is nice.” Tatiana waved, to encompass the large building she stood in. She supposed, compared to the Mirage or Caesars, Quest was a small entity. However, what the hotel and casino lacked in size, it made up for in exclusivity and class. In the five years since it had been established, it had hosted politicians, heads of state, and millionaires—all of whom were guaranteed discretion and the opportunity to indulge their vices with no commoners about to carry tales. One article she’d read had written, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens at Quest…no, nothing ever happens at Quest.

Wikipedia was a freaking fountain of information.

“You’ve played here?”

The question was posed innocently enough, but she thought there was a bite of mockery in it. You have the means to play in my sandbox?

Her spine stiffened. “No. I’ve never been here before today. I meant it seems nice.”

“Thank you. You don’t live here, I take it.”

“I live in San Francisco now.”

“San Francisco? That’s far from New England.”

“So’s Las Vegas.”

His lip curled. “Touché. But I had no real ties to the East Coast. I’m surprised you were able to leave your beloved family behind.”

The knot between her shoulders seized up. “I see them on the holidays.”

“That’s enough for them? Hmm.”

The rush of defensive words beat in her head, dying to pour out of her mouth. The girl she’d been would have let them spew. The woman she was now had learned some semblance of self-control. “Yes. We miss each other, but I like living out here.” Plus, she had some newly discovered family within a day’s drive, or a short plane ride. Right here in Vegas, even. Coincidence, you’re a cruel bitch.

He stared at her, those black eyes unsettling. “You’re looking well.” His glance was a quick one, up and down her body. Her skin still felt seared.

“Thank you.” She fought the urge to fidget with her clothes. The simple grey sheath dress paired with a dark blazer was her go-to classy outfit for when she needed to disguise her normally artsy style and meet with a client or a gallery owner. She’d needed confidence, though, so she’d added one of her favorite necklaces, multiple strands of coiled, interconnected hammered gold that hung between her breasts. “You are as well. Have to say, I never saw you as a businessman. And running a casino, of all things.”

When they’d broken up, he’d been taking college classes part-time, so though he was three years older, academically he’d still been around her level. Every other spare minute he’d had had been spent working: a bookstore, so he could learn during his breaks; construction, so he could fall back on a trade; a waiter, for the free meals. Not to mention anything else he could get his hands on.

Her physicist parents hadn’t been able to stand that. Tatiana, you need a boy who will put his education first.

“You know how much I like to be unpredictable.”

“How did you get into it?”

He just looked at her.

She tucked her hair behind her ear. “If you don’t mind my asking.” She should probably get down to the purpose of her visit, but small talk wasn’t a bad thing. Plus…she was curious. Wildly curious.

Wyatt shrugged. “I came to Vegas with some guys and won a shitload of cash in a poker game.”

She raised her eyebrows, not expecting that.

He tapped the side of his head. “Turns out I have a knack for cards. Used the money to buy into bigger and bigger games. Ended up meeting some people who had more money than me and an interest in investing in a place here in town. It worked out.”

“Yeah, it did. What luck.” And what a deliberate downplay, she was certain, of the amount of work and energy Wyatt had poured into this venture.

“You make your own luck. This city is good for that sort of thing.”

She sure hoped so.

“And what is it you do?”

The question was no doubt a polite response to her own inquiry. Still, she perked up at his interest. “An artist. I design jewelry.”

He cocked his head. “Really? Last I heard you were a bio major. Big change.”

It had been a big change—and Wyatt knew very well she had only been a bio major to please her adoptive parents. “I dropped out of college during the last semester of my senior year,” she said, keeping her voice even. She refused to fall back into that need to prove him wrong about her so-called slavish devotion to her family.

Even if he had been right all those years ago. No nineteen- or twenty-year-old wanted to be told their parents controlled them.

He turned away from her and walked to the wet bar. He poured a glass of amber liquid and swallowed it back in a single gulp. He immediately helped himself to another serving. Well. Maybe he wasn’t quite as cool as he looked.

He faced her and raised the glass. “Sorry. Drink?”

“No. Thank you.”

Wyatt took another sip, slower this time. “My surprise over what you do for a living is surpassed by the fact that you’re here at all.”

“I know.” She hesitated before launching into the speech she’d carefully prepared on the plane ride over. “Thank you for seeing me. I know we didn’t part on the best of terms, but I want—”



He gestured to the brown leather sofas arranged on the far side of the room. “If you like. You can sit.”

“Yes. Okay.” So civilized. They were so very civilized. She crossed to the little seating arrangement and perched on the edge of the loveseat. He strode over, and she tried to not notice how the fabric of his pants clung to his thighs. Tried. And failed.

Hold steady, girl.

She breathed in and then out. The material of the couch was warm against the backs of her thighs. Her skirt had ridden up when she sat down. She shifted, wishing she could stand and adjust the fabric but not wanting to call attention to the length of bare leg that was exposed.

Too late. The attention had been garnered. His gaze dipped over her legs before gliding up over her chest.

She could easily clear her throat and put him in his place.

You wanted him to see you still had it…

So she didn’t.

He glanced up from his leisurely perusal. Not a trace of shame crossed his face when he realized he’d been caught ogling her. He sat back in his seat. “You were saying?”

What had she been saying?

“You want…” he prompted, his voice caressing the two words.

Yes. She wanted. A hazard of her fair complexion: blushes were too obvious. “I wanted to speak with you. I have a proposition for you.”

“Is that right?” A slow smile crossed his thin, slightly cruel lips. “That sounds…interesting.”

“Not that kind of proposition.”

The smirk spread. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Her, on her knees. Hands bound. Him, holding her head steady.

That kind of proposition.

She tried to banish the images—the memories—from her mind by focusing on something else. But all she could see was him. His wide shoulders, his powerful legs, the masculine beauty of his face.

“I found my birth family,” she blurted out in an effort to say something, anything that wasn’t Can I feel your biceps?

If the abrupt words startled him, he didn’t show it. His gaze turned to his glass. The ice in the drink clinked together.

“Did you now? Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“That must have been a big deal for you.” He rolled his glass between his hands. “You spoke of it a lot as a teenager.”

A lot was an understatement. Her parents, who had adopted her when she’d been a few days old, were as kind and loving as they were infuriating and meddling, but she’d always felt vaguely out of place with them. She was petite; they were sturdy and tall. She was a dreamy, impulsive artist; they were practical scientists. Discovering her roots had been a frequent fantasy.

“It happened recently. About a year ago. My brother—my biological half-brother—he was the one who found me.”

“What’s it like to be a sister?”

The easy conversation, too, was familiar. Tatiana’s stiff posture relaxed as she settled into the luscious couch.  “Weird. Normal.”

“That makes sense.”

She gave a half laugh and struggled to clarify her answer. “I’ve always been an only child. And then there’s someone in your life who looks like you and automatically cares about you on that basis alone, before they even know you.” Still bemused by it all, she shrugged. “He’s just…family. It was right. New, but right. Know what I mean?”

“Maybe. I’ve felt that way a time or two.” He studiously avoided looking at her.  “Never about blood relatives.”

Tatiana sobered. The place they’d grown up in was small enough to have a designated town drunk, and Wyatt’s father had been it. After his wife had died, he’d abused his son emotionally until the day Wyatt turned eighteen and moved into his own apartment.

Talk about his home life had been high on the list of taboo topics. Their fights over him not allowing her to meet or even talk about his dad? Epic.

All you could freak out about was your hurt over him not sharing. You barely gave a thought to why he would keep something like the pain he’d endured private. Ugh. Relationship hindsight was brutal.  Sympathy and regret made her voice scratchy. “Yeah.”

“So. No other new relatives?”

Her lips twisted. “None that matter. My brother was raised mostly by his father, which from what I understand was a good thing. His—our—mother lives in L.A. She…she wasn’t interested in meeting with me.” Or, really, even speaking to her. Her childish dreams of becoming biffles with her birth mom had died a swift and nasty death. She’d shaken it off, helped by her brother’s delight in getting to know her.

“I’m sorry.” Wyatt took a sip of his drink. The slight jiggle of his knee caught her attention, unusual for such a controlled guy.

Now that she thought about it, his shoulders did look tense. That was strange. She was the one who should be anxious.

She spoke a little faster, some of her ease vanishing. “It’s her loss. But my brother. He’s a sweet boy. He’s got a really big heart and a loving personality. He has a wife and a small baby, and they’ve invited me for Thanksgiving and driven to San Francisco to see me—” She shook her head, unable to express the wonder of this blessing that had unexpectedly come into her life. “They’ve been—are—wonderful.”

“That’s good. I’m happy for you.” He glanced at his watch. The move was discreet, but Tatiana caught it.

She needed to get to the point. The poor guy was probably wondering what, if anything, all her bleating had to do with him, and rightly so. Tatiana bit her lip. “Well, you see. It turns out that my little brother—and you’re going to laugh about what a small world this is—his name is Ronald West. I understand he used to work for you.”

Oh. His fingers tightening around the glass until the knuckles turned white was not a good sign. “Indeed.” His voice was soft. “He not only worked for me. He stole from me.”

“I know.” She licked her lips. “But if you only knew…his wife’s mother was sick, and they went into debt. He was desperate.” She didn’t understand the level of desperation it would require to commit embezzlement, but despair had been obvious in Caitlin’s voice when the younger woman had called her yesterday, hysterical. It’s all my fault, Tatiana. He did it for me. I don’t know what I’ll do if he goes to jail.

“I don’t know if you remember this, Tatiana, but I had a few desperate times in my past. Yet I never stole.”

Tatiana flinched. “I remember. I know. But you have to understand, Ronald’s not like you.” Ronald was actually frighteningly similar to her, with her tendency toward dreaminess and impulsiveness, but magnified about tenfold. Not for the first time, Tatiana was grateful she’d had her strong, pragmatic parents as role models. “He’s not a criminal, not at heart. He knows he made a mistake.” Or at least Tatiana assumed he knew that. It had been hard to understand what he was saying on the phone. His tears kept getting in the way.

Except his boss’s name. That had come through loud and clear. She’d been disbelieving at first, but a Google search had turned up the fact that yes, her Wyatt Caine was indeed the Wyatt Caine.

After her third glass of wine, she’d booked her flight to Vegas. Had it been two in the morning? Three? It was a little blurry.

“He sent you to plead his case.” Wyatt shook his head. “Hiding behind a woman’s skirts? That doesn’t convince me he’s a paragon.”

“He doesn’t know I’m here. Or that we knew each other.” She’d come straight from the airport to see the man Ron had stolen from. The man she oh so coincidentally had slept with once upon a time.

“So, what? He told you he was in trouble, so you decided you should use the fact that we’ve fucked before to your advantage—”

Sorry, had he said something past the word fucked? ’Cause if he had, she hadn’t processed it. The word sounded harsh and vulgar on his lips, the way it should be. The way she liked it.

Her hands fluttered, and she grasped them together, stilling their motion. “I was surprised to discover who you were. I didn’t know until yesterday.”

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“Neither was I,” Tatiana snapped, suddenly annoyed. “Yes, I may have come here instead of going through a lawyer because of our past relationship, but it’s not so crazy that this is the first time we’ve spoken after all these years. It’s not like you ever came looking for me after we broke up either.”

They froze, and Tatiana wished she could recall the words. Needy, grasping words, just lying between them. Wyatt captured her gaze, his black eyes boring into her soul. “I didn’t realize you wanted me to contact you.”

Her face felt stiff and frozen. “I didn’t. That is. I never thought about it.” She lifted her chin, determined to get through this. “And I know you never thought about me after we broke up. I moved on. You moved on.”

“Until now.”

“Yes. Until now.”

“So tell me. How exactly were you going to use my nostalgic memories of you to get me to drop the charges against your brother? Was I supposed to be overcome with lust at the sight of your body? Remember the way it felt to sink my cock inside your virgin cunt?”

She trembled. With outrage. It was totally outrage.

He leaned closer, placing his glass on the table between them. The clink was too loud, making her flinch. “I do remember that, sweetheart. You were so tight. Your eighteenth birthday, right? I don’t know how I waited that long.”

No. She wasn’t going to stand here mute while he ripped into her. “You waited that long because my father would have killed you for touching me before that.”

“It might have been worth it.” He inched forward, farther into her space. “So what’s in the script, Tatiana? Aren’t you supposed to be begging prettily for your brother’s life?”

She eyed him, trying to draw the tattered remnants of her cool around her. “I came here because I thought you might be reasonable. All I want to do is work out some sort of payment plan. I have savings. I can loan that to Ron, and he can repay his debt. If, in return, you agree to not press criminal charges.”

“He stole from me. I can’t abide thieves. And fifty thousand dollars is hardly chump change.”

Oh. My. God. Neither Caitlin nor Ron had gone into the details, beyond saying thousands. Perhaps naively, Tatiana had assumed they had meant, at the most, ten thousand. Ron was a blackjack dealer who would be hard-pressed to find any kind of job if word of this got out. Caitlin stayed at home with the baby. How could he have ever thought he could replace this kind of money? Did he honestly think no one would notice it?

Anger at her brother overwhelmed her, but she tried to focus. She’d rip the kid a new one later.

She looked Wyatt in the eye and reached into her bag. Her fingers brushed against those damn letters, but she dug past them to her checkbook. “Fine.” She pulled it out, slid her pen free, and looked up at him. “Give me the exact amount, and we’ll make this right.”

Oh, she loved the way he eyed her in that superior way. He named a figure, obviously expecting to call her bluff.

She briskly filled in the blanks, trying not to think of the fact that she’d never put so many zeros on a check. Years of living the life of a starving artist, unwilling to take a dime from her parents after she’d bucked them and left college, had made her appreciate her success when she had achieved it. She’d saved like a squirrel hiding nuts for a cold, hard winter.

Wintertime was here, she supposed. Family above all. Plus she would get it back, if slowly, from Ron. It was worth it to save her stupid, loveable brother from prison. She made a mental note to transfer the necessary funds from her savings account that evening.

Wyatt watched her tear the check off and lay it on the coffee table. “You don’t have that kind of money.”

She capped the pen, tucking it back into her checkbook. “What makes you say that?”

“Your dress and shoes. If they even came from a department store instead of a supercenter, I’d be surprised.” His gaze dipped to her neck. “The gold in your necklace is real, I’ll grant you, but it’s hardly a liquid asset you can tap into.”

“Since when did you get so good at women’s fashion?” He was good, too. She’d bought her dress and shoes at Target. On clearance.

Oh she loved shopping. But not for boring, conservative clothes like these. Floaty fabrics, slinky dresses, impractical shoes, unnecessary accessories. If she splurged, those were her weaknesses.

“Since my job consists of assessing the depth of my opponent’s pockets.”

“Is that how you see everyone playing downstairs? Your opponents?”

“They’re betting against the house, aren’t they? I am the house. And I always win.”

“Well, you’re wrong this time. The fact that I’m not wearing expensive clothes right now doesn’t mean I don’t have money.” She hooked the necklace in her finger and lifted it. “This is real. Wearable, precious art. And people pay dearly for my creations, Caine.”

His black eyes glinted with an avaricious gleam as he studied the necklace, as if he was cataloging its weight and price tag. “You’re talented.”

The small compliment smoothed some of her ruffled feathers. “I know.” She allowed the necklace to drop, to lay against her breasts. “I may not be as wealthy as you, but I’ve been as successful in my field as you’ve been in yours.”

His lashes dipped. “Apparently.”

She placed her fingers on the check and slid it across the table. “So I can afford to pay back my brother’s debt. I’ll speak with Ron. There’s no need to bring legal pressure against him.”

“This feels like hush money.”

“It’s not. It’s restitution.”

“And if I don’t take it? What then?”

She met his gaze evenly. “Then maybe I do beg prettily a little.”

He stilled. She didn’t know how long they were locked in a staring contest. Frankly, she didn’t care. Part of her, a frighteningly large part of her, was enjoying it too much.

She’d handed him everything, all the power, and he knew it. She could pull out those letters she had as well. Remind him of the things he’d said to her, in his own words. Really strip them both bare.

Wyatt leaned back on the sofa. “What if I said I would promise not to press charges against your brother…” he spread his legs slightly, putting his palms on his powerful thighs, “…if you spent a night in my bed?”