Cowboy Jackpot Series, Book 2
A fortuitous spin of a Las Vegas roulette wheel links New York accountant Kira Morrow and rodeo bareback rider Dallas Burns. The heat that has flared between them since their first meeting threatens to burn out of control as they share sinful nights and hot days. As their mutual distrust resurfaces, the flames are quickly smothered. Only when Kira walks out of his life forever does Dallas realize he needs to stop letting past hurts prevent him from opening his heart to love. Is it too late to repair the damage he’s done and reclaim the heart of the woman he’s fallen for?
Dallas Burns shifted on the plush chair in the high-stakes area of the Old West Casino in Las Vegas. He tipped his black cowboy hat back on his head and glanced around the red velvet-lined room.
Hell, he hoped his buddies didn’t see him playing roulette. Not that it was a woman’s game or anything, but rodeo men only talked about poker. The way they liked to tease each other, this would be a tough one to live down.
“Twenty-four black.” The dealer set five more chips on Dallas’s bet on Black, and five on his Even bet.
He scooped up his winnings and stacked them in front of him. He’d been fascinated with the game since he was a kid watching an old cowboy movie. Tonight, he was having the best luck of his life. He did a quick count. He had over six thousand dollars in chips and he’d started with three hundred.
He set five chips on First Twelve, and five on Odd. Mixing it up had been working for him tonight. The table was busy. Seven other people stood or sat around the board and placed bets that were quite a bit larger than his. A few wrists flashed diamond-studded watches as they set down their chips.
He glanced around the room and caught a very familiar green gaze.
Kira Morrow. Her eyes opened wide and she leaned toward the strawberry blonde next to her, pointed at him, and said something he knew couldn’t be good.
Kira wore a soft-looking blue sleeveless dress and low-heeled white sandals that matched the little purse hanging on her shoulder. It was nearly noon, had they been out on the strip? Her bright red hair hung loose and shimmery halfway down her back. He’d loved running his fingers through it two months ago at Christmas. The day his buddy Boone had met his fiancée, Gigi, right here in this same casino.
Dallas, Boone, and his brother Jayden, had been competing in a rodeo put on for local charities. They’d driven down from Reno for a few days, and had run into Gigi and Kira, who they’d mistaken for buckle bunnies.
Dallas looked back at the table, hoping she would keep walking. He and Kira had gotten into a nasty dust-up on Christmas Day. She’d stormed off and flown back to New York before he’d had a chance to cool down and apologize.
Her unmistakable floral scent threaded through his nostrils and into his brain, making his body remember how he’d wanted her crazily back then. He turned his head. “Kira.”
“Dallas.” She stood right next to him, too close for safety.
She looked better than ever, her long body slim and graceful, her beautiful breasts large and round.
“Stop staring at my tits.”
A couple people at the table laughed.
He met her gaze. “Then get them the heck out of my face.”
She lifted a brow. “As charming as ever, I see.” She gestured to his other side. “This is my cousin Stormie.”
He turned and started to rise.
“Oh, don’t get up.” Stormie pressed her hand on his shoulder, keeping him down. She was strong. Her denim shorts showed toned legs ending in flip flops, and her white tank top displayed some noticeable but feminine arm muscles.
He held out his hand to her. “My condolences for being attached by blood to this…sweet lady.”
Stormie giggled and shook his hand, then leaned closer to Dallas. “She’s always been mean, but now I’m big enough to fight back.”
He took a closer look at her. Green eyes like Kira’s, pale skin with cute freckles. Much too young for him, but he liked her spunk. “Are you here for the bachelorette party?”
“Dallas?” Kira interrupted. “Can I play a chip?”
He turned his head. “Sure.” He could afford to lose one chip to get Kira less irritated with him. He needed to work on accomplishing that before they had to walk down the aisle together in New York next week, at Boone and Gigi’s wedding.
“I am going to the bachelorette thing.” Stormie drew his attention. “I hadn’t planned on it so Kira and I were just out shopping. I’m here with my parents for the stock show. When I heard Kira would be here too, we arranged to meet. We had drinks with Gigi last night and she invited me to the party tonight.”
Dallas nodded. She worked with stock, probably rode a horse. That’s where her well-shaped curves came from.
“What kind of stock do you raise?”
“Horses, mostly, and we’ve diversified into bucking broncs.”
“I’ve met a few of those.” He cracked his neck, relieving the tightness from an old injury.
“Oh right, now it clicks. You’re a bronc rider.” Stormie grimaced. “When Kira saw you, and told me your name, I didn’t place you right away.”
More than likely because Kira had been saying something insulting about him.
The dealer spun the wheel and set the ball rolling. “No more bets,” he called. “No more bets.”
Dallas glanced at the table. All his chips were gone. “What the fuck?”
The chips stood in a tall stack on one spot on the roulette table.
“Kira.” His heart palpitated and sweat broke out on his forehead. “Why?”
She smirked. “I put them all on double zero, ’cause you’re a big old crusty double zero in my opinion.”
Curses rained through his head, followed by a vision of grabbing her long, pale neck and choking the life out of her. Then he felt the need for tears. “Damn it to hell, woman.” He grabbed her wrist. “Do you know how much that was?”
She rolled her eyes and tugged her arm free. “You big baby. What was it? Fifty bucks? I’ll pay you back.” She huffed out a breath and opened her purse.
“More like six thousand.”
She froze and her eyes widened. “Say that again.” Her cheeks flushed a peach color as she tipped her head.
“Double zero.” The dealer’s voice called. “Double zero’s the winner.”
Dallas was so focused on Kira and his lost money, it didn’t register right away.
“You won!” Stormie jumped up and down. “Dallas, you won!” She squealed like a little girl.
Cheers and applause boomed around the table.
Dallas sat staring. “I won?”
The pit boss came over with a small computer and typed. The dealer counted Dallas’s chips, then the two men stared at the computer.
The pit boss looked at Kira. “Congratulations. You’ve won one hundred ninety six thousand dollars.”
Dallas opened his mouth but nothing came out.
Kira pointed to him. “They’re his chips.”
“My chips,” he repeated, his brain still dazed.
“Sir.” He looked at Dallas. “Did you authorize her to bet your chips?”
“I did, but I didn’t think she’d—”
The pit boss nodded. “She placed the chips. The jackpot is hers.”
Dallas stood so fast his chair fell backward. “What?” His voice echoed through the room. He turned to Kira.
She gave him a malicious smile, looked back at the pit boss, and asked, “Can I get that wired right into my checking account?”
Dallas shook his head. The woman was beautiful, sexy, frustrating, and asking for trouble. “Kira.”
Kira let the smile fall from her face. The disappointment in his voice ruined all her fun.
Stormie grabbed her arm. “You’re not going to take his money, are you?”
Kira looked into Dallas’s black eyes. “I don’t know.” She didn’t need the money. Stormie knew her parents were wealthy, but no one knew that Kira had inherited when she’d turned twenty-three. Inherited a lot. She just wanted to keep him close for a while. Get to know who he really was behind that rough surface. “I’m willing to discuss it with you.” She lifted her brows and gave him a grin.
Dallas visibly unclenched his jaw as someone picked up his overturned chair. “What do you mean discuss it?” His hands fisted.
She hoped to spend time with him, not make him so angry he’d…hit her? She shook her head.
Last Christmas, when Kira had her family attorney’s private investigator do background checks on him, Boone, and Boone’s brother Jayden, she’d found out Dallas had been accused of assault. Just last month, the investigator let her know that he’d been found not guilty. Did that really mean he was innocent, though?
“Kira?” He leaned closer. “Tell me what you’re planning.”
The look he gave her sent up warning signals in her brain, but she wanted to give him a chance. At Christmas, he was as amazing a person as she’d ever met. Serious and intelligent, quietly sensual. At least, that’s how he’d been before things got ugly between them.
“The casino says the money is mine. You think it should be yours, right?”
His eyes narrowed and he nodded. “Rightfully.”
“Legally, it’s mine, which trumps your ‘rightfully,’ doesn’t it?” She shook her head. She shouldn’t tease him any longer. “But I agree with you. You have a right to it.”
He just stared, but he unfisted his hands.
“Hi, I’m Michelle, your casino host.” A petite woman in a dark suit stepped up to them. “Congratulations on your win.”
A cork popped. “Champagne, compliments of the Old West Casino.” Glasses were filled and handed to the three of them as well as to the other players.
“Free champagne.” Stormie grinned. “This is so cool.”
Dallas glanced at her then back at Kira. “Is she old enough to drink?”
“I’m twenty-two.” She tapped her glass to Kira’s, then to Dallas’s. “Congratulations to whichever one of you wins this battle.”
The casino host gestured to someone behind her. “We’d like to take a few photos, then we’ll get you settled in the manager’s office to fill out your paperwork.”
A photographer stepped closer, the casino host arranged them in front of the roulette table, and said, “Smile.”
Turning toward the camera, Dallas’s lips curved slightly upward. Evidently his version of happiness.
Kira grinned and turned on every watt of charm she had. Leaning into Dallas, the firm, hot muscles of his arm burned into her through his fancy western-cut shirt. The dark blue pattern hit her as extra macho as it lay against his tan skin, and the tuft of dark hair showing at his chest made her gooey inside. The photographer snapped away as Kira remembered those biceps from Christmas. He had moved in for a kiss and she’d grabbed him to push herself away.
Half blinded by the flashes, her memories of his sexy face drawing closer to her sent warm rushes of desire into her belly. She rubbed a little closer to him and her hand brushed where his dark jeans covered his sexy ass.
He put his hand on her lower back. “Don’t even think you can seduce me out of all that money, woman.”
Sucking in a breath, she let her body tingle with the excitement of his touch. She turned to him. “You’d better play by my rules, Dallas, or you’re not going to see a penny of it.”
His head swiveled to face her. “A man has his pride, Kira. You push me too far…”
“And?” Was he threatening her?
“And I’ll tell Gigi what you’re up to.” He tried to fight back a smile.
Relief flowed through her. “That’s not even fair,” she teased.
“I have a suite for you two.” The casino host’s smile looked a little unsure.
Kira wiggled closer to Dallas. “Are you telling us to get a room?”
The woman blushed and winked. “I sure am.” She gestured. “Come with me and we’ll get you all set up.”
Kira turned to Stormie, who was having her champagne flute refilled by a handsome casino employee. “Meet me in the Roundup Bar? And would you call Gigi and see if she can be pried away from her fiancé long enough to have a drink with us?”
Stormie nodded. “I’ll see you there. Wait…” She pulled Kira aside and her face turned serious. “Dallas seems like a nice guy, under all the teasing. You’re not going to screw him out of his money, are you?”
Her cousin, the church-going, all-American, Oklahoma cowgirl. Always everyone’s conscience. One of the things Kira loved about her. “No. I’m just making him sweat a little. Call it…payback.”
With a smile, Stormie waved her off. “Don’t push too hard, or you may find him gone.”
Kira took the words to heart as they left the table followed by another chorus of congratulations.
Dallas kept his hand on her lower back and the contact spread warmth through her. She liked him, and had thought of him much too often as she’d finished her master’s degree in New York, and prepared to move into a position at her family’s accounting firm. A job she’d accepted only because she didn’t know what she really wanted to do with her life.
“You are lucky.” The casino host used her keycard to unlock a discreet door that led to a bright hallway. “I’ve never seen that large a win on roulette.” A security guard sat on a tall stool inside the door.
“Stupid luck.” Dallas ushered Kira in ahead of him.
Her heels clicked on the tile floor, echoing on the walls and ceiling.
Smiling at them, the woman asked, “Why stupid?”
He looked at Kira. “What should have been the end, wound up being just the beginning.”
Kira drifted deep into the intensity of his dark eyes. His words swirled like sweet chocolate through her brain. Just the beginning.
He took her arm. “Kira, wait.”
She stopped and glanced up at him.
Dallas half-smiled at the casino host. “Could we have just a few minutes?”
The woman looked at her for confirmation. When Kira nodded, the host gestured down the hallway. “I’ll just be at the end and to the left. Take your time.”
Watching her go, Dallas drew Kira further from the guard before releasing her arm. “Let’s settle this right now.” The space between his eyebrows wrinkled. “Are you going to take the jackpot?”
An ache formed behind her heart. “Do you really think I’m that much of a bitch?”
He shook his head and his eyes softened. “No, you’re not a bitch. But I know you’re riled at me, and have been since Christmas.” He huffed out a breath. “I looked for you after we had that disagreement in the lobby bar, but you were already gone.”
“Why were you looking for me?” The ache turned to hope.
He looked down and scuffed one cowboy boot on the floor. “I owe you an apology.” His head came up. “I overreacted, and I’m sorry.”
A burst of delight surprised her. “I owe you an apology right back, cowboy.” She moved closer. “Not for doing a background check, because that was something I did for Gigi. What I’m sorry for is accusing you of looking like you wanted to…hit me.” The words she’d flung at him still burned her throat.
His lips curved into a frown. “I was angry. I’ll admit that was a rough time in my life, but that’s no excuse for me to frighten anyone. You.” He took her hand. “I didn’t mean for you to feel threatened, and I apologize for that, too.”
She wanted to tell him she knew he’d been found not guilty, but it would sound like she’d been keeping track of him, and that would fire off another round of pissed-off.
Tipping her head, she sighed. “We didn’t do too well at Christmas. Maybe Valentine’s Day will be luckier for us?”
He lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. His eyes, shadowed under his hat, carried heat that sizzled through her bloodstream. “It’s started out pretty damn lucky, don’t you think?”
She nodded. “And speaking of luck, how about splitting the jackpot?”
He smiled, the first real one she’d seen from him today. “Exactly what I was thinking. I provided the stake, you provided the luck. Fifty-fifty?”
She nodded. Was it luck, though? By moving all his chips to double zero, she’d been trying to taunt him into revealing his true nature. He’d been angry, but he hadn’t reacted physically, besides lightly gripping her wrist.
If it wasn’t luck, was it fate giving her another chance at Dallas?
“Fifty-fifty.” She said as his phone rang.
He slid it from his pocket. “It’s Jayden. Okay if I take it?”
“Of course. I’ll go find—”
Still holding her hand, he tugged her back to him and wrapped an arm around her shoulders and started walking with her as he answered the phone. “Hey.” He grinned. “Yep, you heard right.” He raised an eyebrow at whatever Jayden said. “We’re doing the paperwork now. We just went through a hidden door near the gift shop and are heading to meet with the money guy.” He listened for a minute. “Yep, or meet us in the Roundup in fifteen minutes or so.” He disconnected.
“Thanks for doing this, Kira.”
“For sharing what is rightfully yours?”
“Rightfully, not legally. Big difference.”
She laughed. Maybe he was the man she’d hoped he was.
The meeting with the manager went quickly. He agreed that they could split the jackpot, and he had them fill out some paperwork. He explained that the Gaming Commission needed to verify the jackpot before the money could be released. That would probably take until morning. He gave Kira and Dallas his business card and asked them to call him any time after nine a.m. He’d meet them in the casino and bring them to his office to finalize the payments.
Kira and Dallas walked back along the bright hallway carrying keycards to the Wrangler Suite. The cards were loaded with a total of five hundred dollars in casino credit for the bars, restaurants, and room service.
Kira wanted to get him alone for a while, locked in the suite together so they could get reacquainted, rewind to that point when they were wild about each other, and hungry for more.
An idea formed, a way to show him who she really was, how sincere she was in her apology, and how interested she was in…a future? She stopped and looked at him. How was she imagining a future with a bronc rider from Reno, when her life was mapped out for her in New York?
“What’s wrong?” Dallas stopped next to her.
“I forgot something. My…pen.” She smiled at the security guard. “In the office. It’ll just take a second.” She walked backward a few steps.
The guard nodded.
She looked at Dallas. “I’ll be right back.” She turned and quick-stepped back the way they’d come. A future? Oh God, what was she doing?