While the dealer shuffled, I leaned over and whispered in Mr. Drake’s ear. “Why was he so mad about losing twenty five dollars?”
“Twenty five thousand, Isa. The ante’s ten thousand per hand.”
He grinned wickedly at me as the blood drained out of my face.
“Oh,” I said, my voice no more than a squeak.
Everyone ante’d up again, and all of a sudden, I felt rather faint. I squeezed Mr. Drake’s arm and left his side, moving toward the bar with the other women. After a stiff shot of whiskey, one of the wives put her hand on mine.
I nodded, giving her a shaky smile.
“You’ll get used to it. Henry usually loses, but it’s never too bad. Usually no more than two hundred thousand. Try not to worry.”
I nodded again, lips shut tight, trying not to let my jaw drop to the floor.
“Besides, honey,” she said. “Chase usually cleans everyone out, anyway.”
After a few more hands, I felt like I’d stayed long enough, and worked my way back around to Mr. Drake’s side. I whispered to him that I was heading upstairs and he smiled and nodded.
“I’m going to take this last hand from Lex, and I’ll be up soon,” he said.
I looked up and saw Lex watching us, an inscrutable look in his eyes that made me nervous. I excused myself, and worked my way toward the elevator bank. All of the day’s drinking was catching up with me, and I concentrated hard on not falling off my high heels as I walked. When I reached the elevators, I rested my head against the cool marble above the buttons as I waited.
It seemed to take forever, but then I realized I hadn’t pressed the button after all. Maybe I’m more tipsy than I thought. Truthfully, my head was starting to spin. That last shot definitely wasn’t my best decision.
“Are you okay, Isabeau?”
I turned around just as the elevator chimed, the doors rolling open. Lex stood behind me, his brow furrowed.
“M’ good,” I said. “Going to bed.”
I stumbled over the threshold of the elevator, catching myself against the back wall. I could feel the blush creeping up my neck as Lex followed me in.
“Let me make sure you get to your room in one piece. You look a little worse for wear.”
I tried to protest, but he put his arm around me to steady me and hit the button for the top floor.
“No arguments. How much have you had to drink anyway?”
I noticed he seemed rock solid for someone who’d been keeping up with the investors all day, cocktail for cocktail. Then again, he probably did this a lot.
“Too much,” I said, putting my hand to my forehead. The world was starting to move around me in a very unpleasant fashion. I was definitely going to pay for this in the morning.
“You should be more careful,” he said.
I stared up at him, wondering exactly why he still had his arm around me, and tried to shy away.
“Don’t worry, Isabeau. I’ll take good care of you.”
We made it to the top floor, and he helped me out, then walked me in silence to the door of the penthouse at the end of the hall, watching with mocking eyes as I fumbled in my clutch for the key card.
When I finally had it, he snatched it out of my hand.
“Let me help you get into bed,” he said, his black eyes flashing. “You’re in no condition to take care of yourself.”
Something about the way he was eyeing me reminded me of a fox hunting a rabbit, but he swam in my vision, and I looked away.
“I don’t think so, Mr. Smith. I’ll take it from here.”
I tried to pry my card out of his hand, but he held it out of reach, making me move closer.
“Is that any way to thank me for helping you?” He made a tsking sound. “That’s not very polite.”
“C’mon, Lex. Don’t mess with me,” I said. My head was pounding, and I just wanted to lie down more than anything. “Thank you, okay?”
He put his finger to his chin, feigning deep thought. “I’m not sure if that’s good enough. How about a goodnight kiss for your hero?”
Somewhere down the hall, I heard the elevator ping.
I reached for the key, but he caught my wrist, pulling me close. Panic welled up inside of me as I struggled to free myself. I didn’t want to hurt one of Mr. Drake’s business associates, but so help me, I would knee him in the balls if I had to. He leaned down, and I cocked my knee back to take aim. I wobbled on my one leg, and that’s when Lex grabbed me. He pulled me to him and kissed me hard on the mouth, forcing his tongue past my lips.
For a moment, I was in total shock, but then my knee began it’s upward journey. I missed, my knee hitting nothing but tuxedo jacket. Fuck!
The sound of Mr. Drake’s voice sent a jolt of relief through me as Lex finally removed his lips from mine.
“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Mr. Drake stood a couple of feet away, staring at us in a way that made the relief fade as quickly as it had come. His mouth was open in a snarl, his eyes full of rage.
“Sorry you had to see that, Chase,” Lex said, still holding me tight. “We thought you’d be longer.”
I looked from Mr. Drake’s eyes to Lex’s and my heart sank. Just when I’d discovered why I was so special to him, why he was able to trust me, Lex Smith was trying to snatch it all away.
Chase Drake took a step forward and pointed at his partner, his finger stabbing the air.
“Let. Her. Go.”
“Please, Mr. Drake. It’s not what it looks like!”
My eyes begged him to understand, to hear me out, as Lex finally let me free from his grasp. But the look he returned told me everything I needed to know.
I’d blown it with the only man I’d ever loved.
To Be Continued…