Count on Love [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Melinda Curtis
eBook Category: Mainstream
eBook Description: It took guts for Annie Raye to come home to Vegas. With a cardsharp for a father and a convicted embezzler for an ex, she's already got two strikes against her. The last thing the struggling single mother needs is some private investigator deep-sixing her chance to go straight! Annie, a former gambling protégé, isn't going to pull the wool over this ex-soldier's eyes--even if Sam Knight is finding the woman and her daughter impossible to resist. She certainly has an uncanny knack for counting cards, but Sam can read people. And everything about Annie tells him she wants the same things he only wishes he could have: a family and a love you can rely on...
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Superromance
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2007
2 Reader Ratings:
IT WAS LIKE SOME small-town parade back home. Men, children, women carrying babies—everyone was smiling and singing as they passed the young American soldiers on a pitted street in Baghdad.
Trying to find relief in the shade of the awning above the bank entrance, Sam found himself humming along to their tune. Anything to distract himself from the oppressive heat.
"Gun! Shooter!" It was Vince. Clearly panicked.
Sam lifted his M16 and—
Sat bolt upright in bed. In Las Vegas. Drenched in sweat.
He peeled off his T-shirt as his cell phone rang. Sam checked the caller ID before answering. The call originated from the Sicilian Casino. Assuming it must be Vince, he answered, "Knight, here," while he pressed his palm to his damp forehead, hoping to ease the ache behind his eyes.
"Hungover again?" Aldo Patrizio's cold voice penetrated through his headache.
Half a beer could only account for the bad taste in his mouth, but Sam didn't correct his friend's grandfather. The call itself was unusual enough. "You wanted something?"
"I've got a job for you. There's a group of card counters becoming more bothersome at small places up and down the Strip. I need you to find them."
Cardsharps, or counters, kept track of the cards played in blackjack and increased their odds of winning by calculating the odds of cards coming into play. Casino managers considered playing by a system cheating. Sam thought being smart was fair, but who was he to judge when there was a paycheck involved? If only it wasn't Vince's grandfather asking.
"And don't tell me you already have work. You could do those background checks in your sleep," Patrizio added.
So much for that excuse. "Mr. Patrizio—"
"If you provide me with their names I'll make it worth your while." The older man named an attractive figure that would boost Sam's sagging bank account. It was a fee nearly triple what Sam might have charged. There was more going on here than a request for services.
His jaw tensed. "Why me?"
Aldo's laughter grated on Sam's nerves. "If you're anything like your father, you're good at locating people. Call Sabatinni to confirm it's them and I'll take care of the rest."
Rick Sabatinni was a retired cardsharp who consulted with the casinos. Sam had done some surveillance on Sabatinni's wife—now ex—last winter, and still had his number. Of course, a man like Aldo Patrizio would know about that. The old man knew just about everything that went down in Vegas.
"Vince isn't going to like this." Sam was still toying with the idea of turning the casino owner down. Vince Patrizio wasn't exactly on the best of terms with his grandfather and, having served with Vince in Iraq, Sam was protective of the younger man.
"He'll like it a lot better than if I had hired you to follow him. Having family hire someone to investigate you is low, don't you think?" Mr. Patrizio disconnected.
So the old man knew Vince had hired Sam to look into his activities…This did not bode well. Sam stumbled the few feet from his bed to his kitchen and swallowed more than the recommended dose of aspirin. At a rumbling beneath him, he squinted out the window, to see Vince backing his spanking-new black Porsche out of the garage.
Sam measured coffee, poured water and leaned against the counter while he waited for his first cup, waiting to feel the peace his Spartan garage apartment, uncluttered by reminders of his past, usually provided. Nada. Getting out of the job would be next to impossible. The trouble was Mr. Patrizio was setting Sam up.
His cell phone rang again, but it was his sister, and Sam let it go to voice mail. Restless, he paced the twenty steps from the kitchen to the front door, only pausing when his phone beeped to indicate there was a new message. One of several from his sister Sam wouldn't pick up.
The stack of job applicants for Slotto Gaming Machines sat next to his computer on a round kitchen table, waiting for Sam's approval. He really should get them done today so he could get paid. Plus it was the perfect excuse not to troll the casinos for Mr. Patrizio's card counters. He opened the first folder.
Annie Raye. The name conjured up innocence and sunshine. Sam disliked her already. He sat at the table and logged on to his computer. Raye was her maiden name, but apparently she'd ping-ponged from Ms. Raye to Mrs. Jones and back to Ms. Raye.
Her driving record and credit history were clean. It would be a waste of time to check for a criminal record, but Sam did it anyway. While the computer chugged through several databases, he got himself a cup of coffee. He should just rubber stamp Annie Raye's application so she could get that exciting finance director job at Slotto's. Conducting a complete search was a waste of his time. He'd been doing background checks for Slotto's for months and he'd never found information to recommend not hiring anyone.
Sam sat back down, looked at the search results and nearly dropped his coffee mug.
* * *
ANNIE TURNED EAST AND headed toward the apartment complex her dad said he was living in now. Located near the airport, it wasn't the nicest area, but Annie and her daughter needed a place to stay until her first paycheck came in.
"One, two, three green traffic lights ahead." Maddy crooned softly from the backseat. "One, two, three, four red cars. Why are there so many red cars?"
Because it was Sin City—the desert metropolis where dreams were made and broken—and red cars symbolized the flashiness of risk and stupidity. Annie's knuckles whitened on the cracked steering wheel as traffic slowed to a halt, leaving her stranded midintersection two blocks from her destination. Horns honked as the green light turned yellow, then red. The jaywalkers jogged out of the way and Annie pressed on the accelerator.
Copyright © 2007 by Melinda Wooten.