Read an Excerpt
The Millionaire's Gamble
The Mad, Bad Hamiltons Series
By Sarah Ballance, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Sarah Balance
All rights reserved.
Seducing a notorious playboy shouldn't be this hard. But Kennedy Price felt none of the attraction she should for a man who was both smoking hot and filthy rich. It was a lethal combination by any other standards, but hers were set a little too high.
Because the playboy in question had left her sister pregnant and alone nearly three years ago.
Any minute now, Jagger Hamilton would walk onto the Lady Luck hotel casino floor. The place had the dubious honor of being one of Atlantic City's most run-down casinos — although it had a certain lovable, kitschy charm to it — but Jagger wanted to buy the hotel, which sat on a prime piece of beachfront real estate. So he'd been coming into town off and on to stay while he negotiated with the owner, a real estate mogul who owned several resort properties up and down the East Coast. Kennedy knew that, because she was said owner's personal assistant.
If Jagger's pattern held, he'd walk off the gaming floor with a one-night stand on his arm not long after he entered the casino. Fortunately for Kennedy, the Lady Luck was dead on a Monday night, which exponentially upped the chances that the woman on his arm might be her. But she wouldn't sleep with him. She just needed to get close enough to get a strand of hair with the root attached. With any luck, that would be enough for a DNA test to prove paternity of her nephew. If pretending she found Jagger intellectually, as well as physically, attractive was the price she had to pay, then she'd pay it. Gladly.
But the odds were against her.
She wasn't one of his usual knockout model types. The tabloids blasted photo after photo of him with blue-eyed blondes like her sister, while no one with Kennedy's boring brown hair and matching eyes was ever pictured by his side. Snagging his attention wouldn't be easy, but she'd done her research. She knew how to dress — tastefully revealing. Her black Dior mini sheath was worth a fortune, but it was on loan from one of those online rent-a-designer-dress places. She knew he had a tendency to prowl the blackjack tables when he couldn't sleep the night before a big business deal, so she'd spent weeks harassing her cousin Jim the casino dealer until he'd taught her to play — and play well. And she'd asked for a whiskey neat. That was a diversion from his usual type, but a well-calculated one. All of his model types drank frou-frou mixed drinks, according to the gossip site photos she'd scoured. She'd never pass for a model, so she might as well stand above. Since he himself preferred whiskey straight, she just had a gut feeling he'd respect her for feeling the same.
The jackass womanizer was about to meet his match.
Drink in hand, heart in throat, she wandered over to the gaming tables and took a spot at a near-dead game of blackjack. She had been surprised to learn Jagger seldom hit the high-roller tables — the ones secluded behind closed doors, where a single up of the ante would be enough to pay off her mortgage. Apparently, he liked to hit the tables on off-hours and act like a "regular" guy, as if the stupendously sexy multi-millionaire could ever pass for average.
God, every time she thought about coming face to face with him, tension threaded her limbs, and she had to fight the fantasy of throwing the drink in his face. She'd never get his attention like this. He'd come in there looking for a good time, and her vibe was anything but.
She eyed the whiskey. She normally avoided hard liquor, but she needed every advantage if she was going to pull this off. And she was so going to pull this off. Besides, however bad the drink tasted, it wouldn't be nearly as disgusting as Jagger. With that thought fueling her, she took a sip ... and nearly spit it out.
It was vile. How fitting that Hamilton favored it. She thought about setting it down, but she needed to own it as much as possible. Still, the next time she raised the glass to her lips, she only pretended to drink it as she watched a guy in a Hawaiian shirt ask for another card.
She slid into a vacant seat at the nearly empty table and waited for the dealer to deal her in.
Hawaiian shirt guy leered at her with a look that might have worked for him fifteen years and thirty pounds ago, but probably not anymore. "Come here often?" he said to her chest.
She rolled her eyes and tilted her body slightly away from him. "No," she said, putting all of her negative feelings about his pickup line, his ogling of her neckline, and his assumption that he still had any sort of game whatsoever into that one word. He shrugged and went back to his cards, muttering drunkenly to himself. She started when she heard a few of his insults directed at her, then began to have a fierce internal debate over the wisdom of giving him a piece of her mind versus ignoring him.
Then she caught a glimpse of him.
Standing less than a foot from her.
Holy shit, he was hot. No exaggeration, actual heat settled over her. It might have been the whiskey, but she doubted it. This kind of spontaneous combustion wouldn't be sold over a bar at a run-down casino in Atlantic City. Or, if it was, the place would have a line out the door. Instead they were practically alone, save for the folks at the blackjack table who hadn't even glanced their way, and she was impractically melting. In that one spectacularly disconcerting moment, Kennedy knew exactly why her sister had fallen for him. Square-jawed and gray-eyed, he wore the promise of sin like an expensive cologne, only he smelled enticingly of soap. Soap.
He took the seat next to her, his eyes on the table.
Time to go big or go home.
She split a pair of aces on the next hand, ending up with nineteen on one side and twenty-one on the other, winning twice against the dealer's seventeen. Hawaiian shirt guy busted hard with twenty-five and whined like a baby over it. She rolled her eyes and looked away, suddenly finding herself the center of Jagger's attention.
"Can't say I know many women who drink straight whiskey." His voice was rich with interest and perhaps a touch of admiration, and the smooth, husky tones lit fire to her everything. "You play well. Looks like you might be able to teach me a thing or two."
"Um." Instinct suggested she yank out a handful of his hair and hope she made it through the door before he notified security, but her fingers had gone numb along with the rest of her. So she just sat there, stupidly not wooing anyone. Unless um was some kind of turn-on in his world.
She doubted it.
She eased against her seat back, hoping oxygen would rush in. His eyes, the color of ice reflecting under a stormy sky, studied her with measured interest. The slightest upturn at the corner of his mouth incited a dimple, but it was his intensity that caught her. For a serial playboy, he didn't have much "play" in him. Just ... devastation. His suit looked like every stitch had been put there just for him, and with one hand resting on his thigh and the other on a drink that matched her own, he was deliciously casual. Not rumpled, but definitely bearing an invitation to go all places carnal. And God help her, she mentally did exactly that.
And then she did her best to reel it in. He got your sister pregnant and dumped her. Not exactly the buzzkill it should have been, but just because her body had a criminal response didn't mean she should throw herself on her back for him. That wasn't something she did for any man. That he tempted her at all was almost as disgusting as the amber liquid in her glass.
Upon learning Kennedy would be in Jagger's orbit, Jacie had begged her not to approach him. After being told of her pregnancy, Jagger had repeatedly refused to take responsibility and thereafter had denied her calls, she said, so there didn't seem to be much point in trying. Jacie just wanted to move on with her life.
But Jacie never really had been able to move on. Her sister, only nineteen at the time of her one-nighter with Jagger, worked full-time at a day care while trying to put herself through school and raise a son. His son. After tuition, her salary barely bought groceries, so Kennedy let them move in with her to help them out. But while she and Jacie struggled to support Owen, Jagger Hamilton of the über-wealthy New England political and shipping Hamilton dynasty had money to burn and a severe lack of personal responsibility. It was well past time for that to change.
She forced a smile that came a little easier now that the alcohol had dulled her defenses. She'd still love to jab him between the eyes with the force of her resentment, but that would come later. First she had to play his game ... and win. She had him hooked, so she left the table, shooting him a casual invitation to follow. Hawaiian shirt guy scowled. She felt like doing the same — at both of them — but she was this close, and the hard part was over. She could put up with Jagger for a few more minutes.
Predictably, he left the table with her. With a faint nod in the direction of the drink in her hand that had spurred him to comment, she said, "Why play around when you know what you want?" Let him take it any way he wanted. She wouldn't have to live it down. She'd never be in this situation again. Not. Ever.
A slow smile shaped utterly sensual lips. "A woman who knows what she wants. Just happens to be my favorite kind. What's your name?"
Cocky bastard. He probably assumed she knew his. But who didn't?
His gaze left goose bumps on her skin. She loathed her body's visceral reaction to the man who'd upended her sister's life. She hated the undeniable attraction, and the way her blood heated while he helped himself to a visual tour of her body. His attention lingered on her legs, then again on her breasts. They weren't big enough to spill out of her top like he probably wanted, so she'd had to make do with a push-up bra. It didn't matter. He wouldn't have to shoulder any disappointment. He'd never seduce her. She just needed to get close enough to get what she wanted.
"Your name, sweetheart?"
Though she casually lifted her gaze to meet his, panic iced her veins. He still had eyes only for her, but he was drawing whispers and garnering looks from a small group of women near the bar they'd walked toward. She needed to play ball, and fast.
To buy time, she dropped her gaze to the sensual, sexy line of his jaw and traversed the tanned, exposed skin of his throat before taking a lingering tour of his chest. For good measure, she dipped below the belt, then inched her way back up. Not him. Never him. It's just pretend.
When she again met his eyes, the hunger she saw there sent a terribly forbidden thrill through her. "Who wants to know?"
Surprise blanketed his expression but quickly faded. "Clearly we need to spend some time getting to know each other."
Like hell they did.
She had to fight the urge to retreat. She was supposed to be falling all over him, like most women would. Not resisting the urge to kick him and snatch out a handful of hair by the root. Only ... no one should smell so good. Pretty much everyone had soap. There was no reason he should smell so amazing. And absolutely no reason she should be swooning. To the contrary, there was one big reason she shouldn't. And if fathering her nephew wasn't reason enough, there was always that playboy reputation to fall back on. Kennedy may have had zero luck when it came to finding her one and only, but that didn't mean she was ready to join a lineup.
Hawaiian shirt blackjack guy let loose with a loud whoop. In the time it took her to glance in that direction, Jagger managed to put a hand on her arm and steer her away from the outburst. She was too stunned by the sparks flying from the point of contact to say anything, at least until she realized where they were headed. The dance floor situated at one corner of the casino was almost empty, but the music thudded as if the place were at capacity.
Jagger ditched his drink on the tray of a passing cocktail waitress without glancing once at what Kennedy had to admit was an awesome figure.
He let his fingertips linger on her hip, just enough contact to draw her in. More than enough space to flee.
So she tipped back her own glass and let the disgusting liquid fuel her. Tomorrow she'd blame the whiskey.
Tonight, she'd handle her shit.
She followed his lead and handed off the rest of the drink, then looped her arm around his neck. The anticipated revulsion didn't happen. He'd probably shot it all to hell by firming that feather-light touch on her hip into something a bit more demanding. In heels, her height nearly matched his, which left everything else perfectly, sinfully lined up. Through two layers of clothing, she became brutally aware of the most vitally thick and hard part of him. Or maybe he had a banana in his pocket. A phallic, steel-plated banana.
"We need to get to know each other? Is that your version of a pickup line?" she asked him, grinding lightly against him for context.
He cocked a brow, exhibiting a nuance of surprise. She suspected the thinly veiled come on didn't typically elicit resistance, although her words could just as easily be interpreted as coy. She hated playing that part, like he could reel her in so easily. "Would it work?" he asked.
"Is that the best you've got?"
Amusement teased his lips. They appeared ridiculously soft amid that hint of a five-o'clock shadow. He pressed his mouth to her ear and whispered, "I thought I'd be decent."
"That was your first mistake," she said. The first of many. Funny he'd try to sell decency, after giving up his drink to grope her with two hands, only the slightest pretense of dancing happening with slow moves to a much faster beat. She wondered if he knew he was failing so hard on decency. Making her want indecent.
His eyes darkened, making all kinds of promises he'd never have the chance to fulfill. "I don't make mistakes, sweetheart."
That explained a lot of his attitude toward her nephew. "How do you know you're not making one right now?" If he only knew.
He grinned, his gaze briefly skating to her cleavage, or what little she'd manage to summon on a push-up bra and a prayer. "Do your nipples beg like that for just anyone?"
Oh. God. So much for playing it cool, dignity intact. Her nipples were indeed begging. She and Jagger were as close as two people could be with clothes between them, but fluid. With one hand on her hip and the other cradling the small of her back, he wasn't doing anything to draw her in, but her body clamored anyway. It was all too easy to imagine this going horizontal, his sensual lips touching every forbidden place they could find. He was unmistakably dangerous, wickedly sexy, and she was in way too deep.
Time to get out.
In lieu of an answer, she wound her fingers through his hair and kissed him hard. Hard enough to distract from her attempt to steal his DNA. For a split second, she felt like she had regained control, but then he recovered from whatever shock she'd dealt him by dragging him into an openmouthed kiss, and he retaliated.
His touch was every bit as soft as she'd imagined, and tender. But commanding. He immediately took charge, and he annihilated her with a seductive dance she felt from her mouth to her toes.
It hit her, stupidly, belatedly, that by comparison, she'd never been kissed before him. Not like that. He devoured her, leaving her hungry and achy and ... distracted. Shit. She wound her fingers tighter, managing to isolate a few strands of hair despite her spinning head, and yanked.
The kiss halted. She'd expected as much, but the sudden shift left her dazed. She blinked, finding his slate-gray gaze full of questions.
"Sorry," she said, entirely too breathlessly. "Must have caught you with my ring. Thanks for the, uh, dance." Five more minutes and she would have been thanking him for an orgasm, right there on the dance floor. She took a few backward steps, nearly running into another waitress. She swiped a full glass from the tray and nodded her thanks, then turned and headed for the elevator. She realized belatedly that the creepy guy from the casino was standing nearby, watching. Hopefully he'd seen her with Jagger and would consider her taken.
Excerpted from The Millionaire's Gamble by Sarah Ballance, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2016 Sarah Balance. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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