All or Nothing(2)

By: Catherine Mann


“Jayne,” he rumbled right back, still clasping until the ring cut into her skin. Shifting, he tucked alongside her. “This is hardly the place for our reunion      .”

He started walking and since he still held her hand, she had no choice but to go along, past the murmuring patrons and thick carved pillars. Familiar faces broke up the mass of vacationers, but she couldn’t pause to make idle chitchat, pretending to be happy around old friends and employees.

Her husband’s casino provided a gathering place for the elite, even royalty. At last count, he owned a half dozen around the world, but the Casino de la Méditerranée had always been his favorite, as well as his primary residence. The old-world flair included antique machines and tables, even though their internal mechanisms were upgraded to state of the art.

People vacationed here to cling to tradition, dressed to the nines in Savile Row tuxedos and Christian Dior evening gowns. Diamonds and other jewels glittered, no doubt original settings from Cartier to Bvlgari. Her five-carat ring was impressive, no question, but nothing out of the ordinary at the Casino de la Méditerranée.

Her high heels clicked faster and faster against the marble tiles, her black metallic bag slipping down to her elbow in her haste. “Stop. It. Now.”

“No. Thanks.” He stopped in front of the gilded elevator, his private elevator, and thumbed the button.

“God, you’re still such a sarcastic ass.” She sighed under her breath.

“Well, damn.” He hooked an arm around her shoulders. “I’ve never heard that before. Thanks for enlightening me. I’ll take it under advisement.”

Jayne shrugged off his arm and planted her heels. “I am not going up to your suite.”

“Our penthouse apartment.” He plucked the ring from her hand and dropped it into her black bag hanging from her shoulder. “Our home.”

A home? Hardly. But she refused to argue with him here in the lobby where anyone could listen. “Fine, I need to talk to you. Alone.”

The doors slid open. He waived the elevator attendant away and led her inside, sealing them in the mirrored cubicle. “Serving the papers won’t make me sign them.”

So she’d noticed, to her intense frustration. “You can’t really intend to stay married and live apart forever.”

“Maybe I just wanted you to have the guts to talk to me in person rather than through another emissary—” his deep brown eyes crinkled at the corners “—to tell me to my face that you’re prepared to spend the rest of your life never again sharing the same bed.”

Sharing a bed again?

Not a chance.

She couldn’t trust him, and after what happened with her father? She refused to let any man fool her the way her mother had been duped—or to break her heart the way her mother had been heartbroken. “You mean sharing the same bed whenever you happen to be in town after disappearing for weeks on end. We’ve been over this a million times. I can’t sleep with a man who keeps secrets.”

He stopped the elevator with a quick jab and faced her, the first signs of frustration stealing the smile from him. “I’ve never lied to you.”

“No. You just walk away when you don’t want to answer the question.”

He was a smart man. Too smart. He played with words as adeptly as he played with money. At only fifteen years old, he’d used his vast trust fund to manipulate the stock market. He’d put more than one crook out of business with short sales, and nearly landed himself in a juvenile detention center. His family’s influence worked the system. He’d been sentenced by a judge to attend a military reform school instead, where he hadn’t reformed in the least, only fine-tuned his ability to get his way.

God help her, she still wasn’t immune to him, a large part of why she’d kept her distance and tried to instigate the divorce from overseas. The last straw in their relationship had come when she’d had a scare with a questionable mammogram. She’d desperately needed his support, but couldn’t locate him for nearly a week, the longest seven days of her life.

Her health concerns turned out to be benign, but her fears for her marriage? One hundred percent malignant. Out of respect for what they’d shared, she’d waited for Conrad to come home. She’d given him one last chance to be honest with her. He’d fed her the same old tired line about conducting business and how she should trust him.

She’d walked out that night with only a carry-on piece of luggage. If only she’d thought to leave her rings behind then.