Summary: As world famous con artists, Bella and Edward are professional rivals. Sparks fly when they are forced to join forces, but are the stakes too high? Can they escape with their lives – and their hearts?
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the Twilight Universe. My beta, Shaina (aka Snarkerella), owns me.
Let's Go to Vegas
The dealer winked at me as he placed another card on the table. My face fell when I spied the face card he'd dealt me.
"The queen of hearts is always your best bet," the gentleman to my right whispered in my ear. It took great effort, but I somehow resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
The millionaire is quoting The Eagles? Really?
Instead, I smiled in his direction, and I had the satisfaction of watching his eyes glaze over as I very deliberately moistened my lip with the tip of my tongue.
His name was Marcus Hendricks. A graduate of Yale, Marcus was forty years old and a married father of three. He was handsome enough – if you're into tall, dark, and muscular men who just happened to own the most successful mortgage company in North America.
It was the last part that I found most attractive about Mr. Hendricks.
Normally, I wouldn't participate in such theatrics, but I was bored. My Vegas weekend had been a total bust thanks to the "eye-in-the-sky" cams that had just been installed in my favorite casino. I'd nearly wept when I saw the little blackened globes descending from the ceiling of the Viper Casino because I knew that tucked inside of each plastic dome was a surveillance camera. Because of this unfortunate progress in casino security, I had been forced to play by the rules all weekend.
Don't get me wrong. I can hold my own in a casino. I had just been expecting a more challenging – not to mention profitable – weekend, and that's why I was now sitting next to one of the richest men in the country, batting my eyelashes and hiking my skirt just a little higher.
Modern technology was such a pain in the ass.
"So…" Marcus leaned closer to me as the game came to an end. The dealer looked at me, and his eyes flashed with pity because it was obvious that I was about to be propositioned. "I have a suite. Why don't you join me for a nightcap?"
"I don't think so." I giggled shyly as I smoothed my hands down my thighs. Of course, his eyes watched as I tugged at the hem of my skirt. "I have an early meeting in the morning."
"Just one drink?" Marcus attempted a sexy smirk. "How else can I apologize for beating you at Blackjack?"
The only reason you won is because I let you.
I pretended to give his proposal some serious thought before shrugging. With a graceful descent, I slid down the stool and allowed myself to accidentally rub against him as my stilettos balanced on the floor.
"Sounds great," I smiled sexily.
"I'm Marcus Hendricks," he announced, offering me his arm. I hooked my arm through his as he led me through the crowded casino and toward the elevators. Only when the doors closed did I offer him my name.
"My name is Alice."
Did I mention that I was a thief and a liar?
I was also a walking pharmacy, because an hour later, I was whispering an apology to the sleeping millionaire as I quickly scanned his wallet with my handheld credit card scanner (now that is a fabulous use of modern technology). The idiot had a few thousand in his wallet, so I took that as well. Seriously, who carries that much cash?
Slipping out of his suite and rushing towards the elevators, I was feeling pretty good about the end of the weekend until the elevator doors opened. Standing there, leaning against the stainless steel wall with a grin on his face, was the one person I really didn't want to see tonight.
I groaned miserably as I made my way inside. I furiously stabbed at the buttons as the elevator doors closed.
"Are you following me, Cullen?"
"I'd follow your ass dimples anywhere, Swan."
Edward Cullen was infuriatingly charming and handsome – both of which had proven to be very beneficial to his career and detrimental to mine.
"Well, these ass dimples just conned Marcus Hendricks out of his credit card numbers."
"Impressive," Cullen acknowledged with a nod. "Although one might argue that a more superior con artist would be capable of such a feat without showing a little skin. I'm disappointed, Swan."
"Yeah well, it's been a crappy weekend, and I was desperate." I glared in his direction before realization dawned. "Wait. Were you watching me?"
"Every heterosexual male in the casino was watching your little performance. Nice legs, by the way."
"That's not good," I muttered.
"No, but I enjoyed it."
He grinned as the elevator doors opened. I didn't protest when he grabbed my elbow and led me toward an exit near the rear of the casino. It wasn't brightly lit, but there was a very nice bouncer that Cullen greeted by name who allowed us to walk right out the door.
"Why are you helping me?" I whispered when we finally made it through the darkened tunnel and out into the Vegas heat. Despite my fondness for the city, I really hated the dry heat of the desert.
"Swan, you just drugged a millionaire and stole his credit card information. I think it's best we get you out of town."
It didn't really answer my question, but I couldn't argue with his logic.
"I stole some cash from his wallet, too."
"That fool had cash on him?"
"I know, right?"
"What a moron," Cullen mumbled before leading me to a black SUV with tinted windows. The headlights flickered as he opened the passenger side door and ushered me inside.
I smirked. "Such a gentleman."
He shot me a panty-dropping grin and quickly slammed the door. He had the sexiest smile. It was really too bad I hated his guts.
Edward Cullen and I had crossed paths many times throughout the past two years. It was inevitable considering we were two of the finest criminal minds in the world. That statement isn't arrogance on my part. That's what Anderson Cooper called us, and you never argue with the silver fox. To hear my name uttered by the handsome CNN anchor meant I'd finally arrived as a world-class thief. Even my father had been impressed to see my name scrolling across the ticker on his big screen television – a birthday gift from his one and only daughter.
That was the great thing about Charlie. We had a strict "don't ask-don't tell" policy that benefited us both.
"Let me guess," Cullen said as he pulled the SUV out onto the highway. "Rohypnol?"
I rolled my eyes. "I'm a thief, not a sexual predator."
"Well, you obviously slipped him something…"
He hummed his disapproval as he maneuvered the vehicle through the traffic of the city.
"I know, I know," I moaned irritably. Slipping Hendricks a sleeping pill was so…amateur. "But it wasn't my fault. Did you see the domes in the ceiling? When the hell did those get installed?"
"They're hosting the U.S. Poker Championship in six weeks," Cullen explained as he steered the SUV onto the interstate. "The dome cams were a requirement."
"Well, that's just super."
"So if you knew about the dome cams, what were you doing in the casino?"
I watched his hands tighten around the steering wheel before answering. "Let's just say I had a feeling you didn't know about the cameras and that you might need my help."
"So you've been talking to Alice."
He didn't answer, and I studied his profile as he kept his eyes trained on the freeway. He had a mop of wild, bronze hair and deep green eyes surrounded by long eyelashes. It really was a shame that he was such a nuisance to my professional life.
Maybe if I tied his legs together so that he couldn't beat me to my next con…
"Like what you see?" Cullen smirked sexily at me.
Nope. Not even then.
"You're an ass."
"Someday, you're going to stop fighting this attraction between us. I'm really looking forward to that."
"There is no attraction," I muttered stubbornly as I folded my arms across my chest and stared blankly at the window. Truthfully? There was something there. Even Alice had noticed it, but I preferred to dismiss it as intense hatred because admitting that I was attracted to my biggest rival would be absolutely mortifying.
I decided a change of subject was in order.
"So what are you doing in Vegas?"
"I'm just here visiting a friend," Cullen said.
Suddenly, the SUV exited the interstate and we were traveling on a two-lane highway.
"You don't have any friends."
"I have one."
"So you have been talking to Alice," I said accusingly.
"No, I've been talking to Jasper."
"Essentially," he agreed.
"So that's how you found me."
"Jazz mentioned that you might find yourself in a predicament at the Viper," Cullen admitted.
"So you decided to ride in with your black SUV and save me? I'm touched, Cullen, really."
"I owed you one."
It was true. About three months ago, I'd saved his sorry ass from what could have been a particularly embarrassing art heist in New York. The idiot had made plans to break into my mother's Manhattan gallery – completely unaware of the vibration sensors that her security team had just placed on her original Picassos. A frantic call from Alice had alerted me to the potential heist, and I had been willing to let the nameless thief go to jail until I'd realized the crook was none other than my biggest rival.
"Thanks again for not letting me go to prison."
"I regret it everyday," I mumbled.
Twinkling lights of a tiny airport littered the right side of the highway, and I gasped with surprise and excitement.
"Wow, you really are getting me out of town."
"Of course." He grinned as he drove us closer to the hangar. We abruptly stopped just yards away from a small plane. We climbed out of the vehicle and were immediately welcomed by a man named Felix.
"Felix will take you anywhere you want to go," Cullen explained.
"This way, Miss Swan." The pilot smiled warmly and ushered me toward the airplane.
It wasn't a fancy plane by any stretch of the imagination, but as long as it got me the hell out of Nevada, I would be grateful. I climbed onboard and Cullen even helped me with my seatbelt. His long, graceful hands so close to my lap sent my imagination into overdrive. Perhaps I'd misjudged Edward Cullen. He had absolutely no reason to help me, and yet here was, plotting my escape and tightening my seatbelt.
"Sorry," he smiled sheepishly. "I just want you to be very secure. Felix is carrying precious cargo tonight. I'd be very disappointed if you were harmed in any way."
"That's…kind of sweet."
"I keep telling you I'm a sweet guy. Anyway, this should hold you. Have a safe flight."
"Wait! You aren't coming?"
Cullen shook his head.
His hands tightened my seatbelt just a little more.
"Well, Jazz and I have plans."
I was immediately suspicious.
"Yes," he smiled mischievously. "It seems that there's another casino on the strip that has yet to embrace the wonder of the dome cams. There's a tournament being played there tonight. High rollers…high stakes. I knew you wouldn't be interested."
"Damn you!" I struggled against the restraint, but the roar of the airplane was drowning me out. "Let me out of this seat!"
"Take good care of her, Felix!" Cullen shouted toward the pilot. He then brought his hand to my face and gently ghosted his fingertips across my cheek. His next sentence was just a whisper…just for me. "My world wouldn't be nearly as much fun without her in it."
Cullen shot me one last crooked smile before slamming the door in my face.