All or Nothing(4)

By: Catherine Mann

The colonel lifted his Scotch in toast. “Someone’s in over his head.”

Conrad sat on the bar stool next to the colonel in the private corner, not even bothering to deny Salvatore’s implication. “Jayne could have seen you there.”

And if the colonel was here, there had to be a work reason. The past three years in particular, Conrad had embraced the sporadic missions with Interpol to fill his empty life, but not now.

“Then she would think your old headmaster came to say hello since I’d already come to see another former student’s concert at the Côte d’Azur.” Salvatore wore his standard gray suit, red tie and total calm like a uniform.

“This is not a good time.” Having Jayne show up unannounced had turned his world upside down.

“I’m just hand delivering some cleanup paperwork—” he passed over a disc, no doubt encrypted “—from our recent...endeavor.”

Endeavor: aka the Zhutov counterfeit currency case, which had concluded a month ago.

If Conrad had been thinking with his brain instead of his Johnson, he would have realized the colonel would never risk bringing him into another operation this soon. Already, Jayne was messing with his head, and she hadn’t even been back in his life for an hour.

“Everybody wants to give me documents today.” He patted the tux jacket and the papers crackled a reminder that his marriage was a signature away from being over.

“You’re a popular gentleman tonight.”

“I’m sarcastic and arrogant.” According to Jayne anyway, and Jayne was a smart woman.

“And incredibly self-aware.” Colonel Salvatore finished off his drink, his intense eyes always scanning the room. “You always were, even at the academy. Most of the boys arrived in denial or with delusions about their own importance. You knew your strengths right from the start.”

Thinking about those teenage years made Conrad uncomfortable, itchy, reminding him of the toxic time in his life when his father had toppled far and hard off the pedestal Conrad had placed him upon. “Are we reminiscing for the hell of it, sir, or is there a point here?”

“You knew your strengths, but you didn’t know your weakness.” He nudged aside the cut crystal glass and stood. “Jayne is your Achilles’ heel, and you need to recognize that or you’re going to self-destruct.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.” The bitter truth of the whole Achilles’ heel notion stung like hell since he’d told his buddy Troy much the same thing when the guy had fallen head over ass in love.

“You’re definitely as stubborn as ever.” Salvatore clapped Conrad on the shoulder. “I’ll be in town for the weekend. So let’s say we meet again for lunch, day after tomorrow, to wrap up Zhutov. Good night, Conrad.”

The colonel tossed down a tip on the bar and tucked into the crowd, blending in, out of sight before Conrad could finish processing what the old guy had said. Although Salvatore was rarely wrong, and he’d been right about Jayne’s effect.

But as far as having a good night?

A good night was highly unlikely. But he had hopes. Because the evening wasn’t over by a long shot—as Jayne would soon discover when she went to her suite and found her luggage had been moved to their penthouse. All the more reason for him to turn over control of the casino to his second in command and hotfoot it back to the penthouse. Jayne would be fired up.

A magnificent sight not to be missed.

* * *

Steamed as hell over Conrad’s latest arrogant move, Jayne rode the elevator to the penthouse level, her old home. The front-desk personnel had given her a key card without hesitation or questions. Conrad had no doubt told them to expect her since he’d moved her clothes from the room she’d chosen.

Damn him.

Coming here was tough enough, and she’d planned to give herself a little distance by staying in a different suite. In addition to the penthouse, the casino had limited quarters for the most elite guests. Conrad had built a larger hotel situated farther up the hillside. It wasn’t like she’d snubbed him by staying at that other hotel. Besides, their separation wasn’t a secret.

She curled her toes to crack out the tension and focused on finding Conrad.

And her clothes.

The gilded doors slid open to a cavernous entryway. She steeled herself for the familiar sight of the Louis VXI reproduction chairs and hall table she’d selected with such care only to find...

Conrad had changed everything. She hadn’t expected the place to stay completely the same since she’d left—okay, maybe she had—but she couldn’t possibly have anticipated such a radical overhaul.