Love Takes All (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #378)

Love Takes All (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #378)

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by J.M. Jeffries

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The cards are dealt. Now let the game of passion begin… 

Architect Hunter Russell's grandmother just won a Reno casino in a high-stakes poker game! And she wants Hunter to help renovate it. It's a crazy idea, and he is just about to tell her so—until he meets the stunning young woman who is his grandmother's new business partner

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The cards are dealt. Now let the game of passion begin… 

Architect Hunter Russell's grandmother just won a Reno casino in a high-stakes poker game! And she wants Hunter to help renovate it. It's a crazy idea, and he is just about to tell her so—until he meets the stunning young woman who is his grandmother's new business partner. Suddenly Hunter is tempted to say yes. 

Lydia Montgomery has lived the life of a trophy wife. Now she's a trophy widow, with a young daughter to support, longing for independence and purpose. The last thing she needs is another strong-willed man in her life. But Hunter's surprisingly sensual touch, an intoxicating mix of desire and tenderness, is making her reconsider. 

Can a man who has always been alone, and a woman who has never stood on her own, take the biggest gamble of all…together?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Schuster's characters are well developed and enjoyable."
-RT Book Reviews on WAY TO HER HEART

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Passion's Gamble Series
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Hunter Russell woke and tried to figure out what was ringing. Darkness outside the windows of his apartment told him it was still night. A quick glance at the clock told him it was just after three a.m. A few sleepy moments passed before he realized the ringing sound was his phone. He grabbed the device, feeling a surge of worry when he saw his grandmother's number on the display. His heart started racing as panic engulfed him.

"Miss E," he said, "what's wrong? Are you okay?" Dire thoughts rushed through him.

She laughed. "I'm fine, Hunter. Just fine. Nothing is wrong."

In his experience, phone calls at three a.m. were never good. "Then why are you calling?" He sat up, struggling to push sleep away. If nothing was wrong, why was his seventy-eight-year-old grandmother calling at three in the morning?

"Pack your bags, Hunter, I need you in Reno. Immediately."

Lingering drowsiness finally cleared. "Are you sure you're okay? Are you sure you're not ill?"

"Trust me. Everything is fabulous," she said, still laughing. "I just won a casino in a poker game."

"You what?"

She repeated her statement, pausing between each word. "I. just…won…a…casino. In a poker game."

He shook his head. Had he heard her right? "Did you just say you won a casino?"

"Twice, Hunter. Wake up."

That wasn't what he expected to hear. "Miss E., are you insane? Are you drunk?"

"Grandson," she said sharply, "do you think I can't reach through this phone and slap you upside the head?"

Hunter tried not to flinch. He did think that. His grandmother was capable of anything. "I'm sorry, Miss E. Just start from the beginning and talk really slow."

She sighed. "I had an opportunity to win a casino in a poker game. Lydia Montgomery and Reed Watson staked me and I won that baby on an inside straight that no one saw coming because I'm an old lady." She giggled.

When he'd been a child, she tried to keep what she did on the down low. Hunter and his siblings all knew she'd send them off to school in the morning and be home again when they returned. In between she played poker-cutthroat poker. They all knew she supported them by playing cards at various casinos in Las Vegas, but no one really talked about it. After all, she'd inherited four boisterous children when their parents had died in an automobile accident and she had to be respectable.

"I'll be there in four or maybe five hours," he said, unable to stop himself from talking. He just had to know how she had the nerve to bet her life savings for a shot at winning a casino.

"See you soon. I'll be at the Casa deMariposa. It's easy to find." She disconnected.

Hunter set his phone down on the nightstand, his head spinning. What had his grandmother gotten into now? The first thing he did was call the airport, but since he couldn't get a flight until morning, he might as well drive. The arrival time would be the same. Next, he called his two brothers and sister to put them on standby. After a quick shower, he packed for a week and walked out the door of his South Beach apartment while sending text messages to his personal assistant to reschedule his appointments. Later he would let her know how far ahead she needed to reschedule.

He opened the door to the underground garage and walked to his Mercedes. A few moments later he pulled out into the thick, foggy morning air of San Francisco and headed toward the freeway.

Hunter couldn't believe his eyes. He stood in the parking lot, staring up at the elegant stately hotel that rose twelve stories up. Morning sun had already chased the desert night chill away, replacing it with rising heat. A temperature gauge on a bank across the street flashed an eighty-eight in between showing the time.

"What do you think?" Miss E. stood next to him on the sidewalk as he studied the rows of balconies that studded the side of the hotel with his inner architect eye.

The Spanish architecture was beautifully done. Painted in a glowing golden pink, the stucco façade was fancifully decorated with brightly colored mosaic trim around the doors and window, with elaborate gothic arches over the entrance to the hotel. The architectural style was a bit of a mishmash of Spanish Colonial, Moorish influence and a touch of Gothic, yet it was still pleasantly attractive and easy on the eyes.

Though he was in awe, he couldn't stop himself from scolding his grandmother. Actually, he wanted to shake her, but he was afraid she'd hurt him, so he let that notion go. "What were you thinking? Gambling your entire life savings away on a chance, a small, miniscule chance of winning a casino?" Hunter asked.

Her lips turned down in that disapproving smile that had haunted his childhood, but amusement lurked in her eyes. "I told you retirement just isn't for me. I've never been so bored in my whole life."

He leaned back on his heels, studying the façade. The hotel was on his left and the casino, contained in a three-story building, was to his right. The parking lot flanked the structure and wound around the sides. "What do you want me to do with it?" Other than some cosmetic needs, the structure looked good, though he would know better after a look at the blueprints and a more careful, detailed inspection.

Miss E. grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him down to her eye level. "You don't need to do anything with this part. What I want you to do is design and oversee the building of a spa. Hot springs on the rear of the property are just going to waste. Jasper Biggins, he's the original owner, planned to build a spa, but never quite got around to it. I need you to do it."

The front doors opened at their approach and a blast of cold air flooded over them. Hunter glanced around the reception area with a knowledgeable eye.

"You need some work done in here, too." Though he had to admit the hotel was in pretty good shape. He guessed it had been built in the mid-seventies. "Just a little touch-up, a good cleaning and some professional restoration work. That's just my first impression. I have to see blueprints, do a thorough inspection, but I can find you someone good who can do that."

"I don't want someone good." Miss E. shook her head. "I want you."

They walked through the reception area after a quick glance at the casino and out the back to the pool sparkling in the morning sun. The pool was roughly L-shaped. Lounge chairs bordered the edges. A small cabana showed stacks of white towels. Already half the chairs were filled with lounging customers smearing tanning lotion on their skin. Children played in the shallow end.

The hotel curved to his right around the pool and the casino curved to the left. Beyond that, he saw nothing but desert rising into hills.

His gaze traveled up over the balconies jutting out over the pool. A couple kids stood on one, looking down. If his brother Donovan had been there, he would have already calculated the distance from the balcony to the pool and considered trying a swan dive. Donovan had always been the daredevil. Hard to believe he was now a chef in Paris. His brother Scott had always been Donovan's co-conspirator, leaving Hunter to partner with their only sister, Ken-zie. If only Kenzie were here. She'd always been able to handle Miss E., unlike Hunter and his brothers, who always seemed to be in conflict with her.

"I have a business in San Francisco." The hotel/casino was a grand old dame, just like his grandmother.

"And you have a partner who can take up the slack. I want you," Miss E. repeated more forcefully.

Hunter gulped. "Yes, ma'am." No one argued with Miss E. He'd always been a tall man. Even at ten, when he first came to live with his grandmother, he'd been taller than her. He'd used his size to intimidate his two brothers and sister. The one time he'd tried to intimidate his grandmother, he'd learned the hard way that no one crossed her and lived to tell about it. He was thirty-two years old and his grandmother could still make him feel as if he was ten. Miss E. played poker with a lot of unsavory people and didn't intimidate easily.

"Who's financing this?" Hunter wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead. "You don't have that kind of money." But then again she could, and no one would ever know about it unless she wanted them to.

His grandmother waved at the top floor of the hotel. "You'll meet Miss Montgomery later. She's getting settled in one of the penthouse suites. And Reed will be along when his family emergency is taken care of."

Another thought occurred to him. Private poker games like the one his grandmother participated had a high buy-in. "How did you manage the entry fee for the game?"

"Reed and Lydia put up the buy-in money and I brought the expertise. We each own a third."

Hunter stepped back and looked up. From what he could see the structure, the bones seemed solid, though he'd know more when he started crawling around inside. They walked back into the reception area.

"This place looks frozen in time." Hunter watched a middle-aged couple step through the front doors and out into the dry July heat.

The interior was dark, heavy with wood furniture despite the most beautiful mosaic floor he'd ever seen. The long check-in counter was painted a dull brown and a woman standing behind it wore a dark brown business suit with the logo of the hotel embroidered on the pocket of her blazer. She glanced up and smiled at Miss E., then went back to whatever task she'd been doing.

The check-in area opened onto a large airy courtyard, with a pond that meandered toward the casino. The pond was a nice touch. About six feet wide and made to look like a stream, the pond bisected the approach to the casino. Small footbridges crossed over it. On one bridge a young woman stood looking down. A flash of fish caught his eye and he bent over the edge of the pond to see koi the size of his foot.

Women dressed in short flamenco skirts and ruffled blouses along with men dressed as matadors wandered the casino floor with trays, balanced on their hands, filled with various sized drinks.

The casino was really old school with slot machines that chimed out the winners along with the dings of coins into the collection bowls. The more modern casinos switched everything to digital, which were quieter and took prepaid cards instead of money.

"The hotel has four hundred twelve rooms," Miss E. said as they walked through the check-in area. "There are two restaurants, one café and a lounge. There's a small stage in the lounge for live entertainment, a couple of novelty shops at the other end of the casino and a small amphitheater for the big name acts."

Hunter sighed. "Where does the spa fit in?"

"Behind the pool is the hot springs. To take advantage of the hot springs, I think the spa needs to go there."

He would have to take a look at the area. Miss E. led him toward the bar at the edge of the casino area.

"Good morning, Miss E.," the bartender called cheerfully.

Miss E. waved at him, a happy smile on her face. "That's Roy. He's been here for years and knows where all the bodies are buried."

Hunter shook his head, still trying to process the fact his grandmother owned a casino. He wondered if his grandmother had gone insane to risk everything she had for this. "One question."

"Only one?"

He had about a million, but they'd have to wait. "What do you know about running a hotel and casino?"

She shrugged her elegant shoulders. "I know how to play poker."

So did he, because she'd taught him to play the game. "That does not make for experience in hotel management."

"I have Jasper," she said.

As if that gave him any reassurance that this wasn't a still a crazy idea. "And he is?"

"He's the previous owner and I've hired him to stay on as a consultant. I know what you're thinking, Hunter."

"No, you don't." Hunter hated when she told him exactly what he was thinking. Why couldn't she have been a bank clerk? Bank clerks didn't need to read people.

"You're wondering if I've lost my mind."

Damn, he thought. "Okay, you do know what I'm thinking. Have you lost your mind?"

She punched him on the arm. "Stop thinking that."

"What am I supposed to think?"

"That this is an incredible opportunity too good to pass up" she replied tartly.

"An incredible opportunity for what?" Poverty, starvation or homelessness?

"To be a financially independent woman, a chance to call the shots," she said.

"I'm already financially independent, and if you're worried about money, I'll take care of you."

"I don't want nor do I need you taking care of me. I can take of myself," she said, a glimmer of anger in the set line of her mouth. "I've been doing it for a few years now."

"Then why did I need to rush over here?" Hunter ran a hand over his face. He never did win an argument with her.

"Because I want my grandchildren to be a part of this."

A restaurant opened off the casino and Hunter glanced inside. "So what do you want me to do to be a part of this?"

Hunter asked. Maybe what he needed to do was to treat her like a client instead of his grandmother.

"Old world elegance brought into the twenty-first century."

"It could use a bit of toning down but without losing the elegance or class."

"Lydia will handle that." She patted him on the hand. "I just need you to come up with ideas for the spa that compliments what we're going to do on the inside."

They passed through the casino, back into the lobby and to a bank of elevators. The stream-like pond stopped thirty feet from the elevators and Hunter was surprised to see two white swans floating majestically on the water. The former owner had really understood how to create a mood. Who didn't like swans? He could have a lot of fun playing here.

An elevator opened and Miss E. led the way inside, where they were lifted steadily upward, albeit a bit slow. The inside of the elevator was more functional than elegant. Boring, Hunter thought. Whoever the previous designer had been hadn't considered how the elevators should look.

The elevator stopped on the top floor and the doors slid smoothly open. Miss E. stepped out and led the way down the hall. Only six doors opened to the hall, three on either side. They had reached the penthouse floor.

"The previous owner lived in the hotel," Miss E. explained as she stopped in front of one of the doors. "This floor has what he said were family suites." She knocked on the nearest door.

When the door opened, Hunter nearly fell to his knees. One of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen smiled at him. She was slim with a fragile, almost ethereal air to her in a Zoe Saldana way with a heart-shaped face and wide brown eyes. Shoulder-length black hair hung in long silky waves about her shoulders. Skin the color of his favorite mocha coffee looked as smooth as satin. A cream-and-black dress skimmed her body. He could tell the dress was a designer label and probably tailored to fit her. Her hands were long and slender, the nails lacquered a pale, iridescent pink to match the barely there lipstick on her pouty lips. She was so tiny a strong wind would probably blow her away. She certainly took his breath away. The longer he stood mute, the more strained her smile became until it began to falter. He was probably creeping her out.

"Oh, for heaven's sake." Miss E. pushed him into the tiled entry. "Close your mouth, Hunter. Hunter, this is Lydia. And this is Maya."

A young girl, maybe eight or nine, ran across the tiled floor and flung her arms around Miss E. Maya's resemblance to Lydia told Hunter the child was her daughter. She wore a yellow flowered sundress that showed off her light brown skin. Her long hair was woven into two thick braids that bounced against her shoulders as she ran. Instead of dark brown eyes like her mother, Maya's eyes were light amber.

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Love Takes All 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually purchased the book based on the description, which is for a totally different book. The story was actually good! Enjoyed it and hope this is the beginning of a new series featuring Mrs. E's grandchildren.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased one story but when I open book it is another story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book thinking its another story from another series. The description at the back of the book is totally different from the story inside. This needs to be fixed.