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Played by the Master

By:Opal Carew

Played by the Master

Opal Carew

Jacqueline adjusted the straps on her snug black dress, ensuring they hiked up her ample bosom, then stared at herself critically in the large mirror in the ladies’ room off the posh hotel lobby.

She was here on a mission and she’d pulled out all the stops. Low cut black dress that hugged every curve of her body. Shockingly high stilettos that made her legs look even longer than they were, and accentuated her rounded butt. She turned in the mirror and glanced at her backside. Her cheeks flushed at the sight of herself in the short, tight black dress, all her assets blatantly on display, but it was important she succeed and she needed to use everything she had going for her. She had even pulled her long, chestnut hair up and clipped it neatly behind her head to stop it from obscuring her cleavage.

She turned back to face the mirror, her gaze dropping to the glittery star pendant grazing the tops of her pushed-up-thrust-forward breasts. Her sister, Ella, had given it to her and it was a constant reminder of how Ella had always taken care of her, and believed in her. Elle had told her she’d be a star in whatever she did.

Three women entered the washroom, chatting. Jacqueline reapplied her deep red lipstick, then dropped the tube in her evening bag and walked back into the lobby.

The hotel was lavishly elegant. Crystal chandeliers glittered from the ceiling as she walked along the marble floor, her heels clacking on the surface. She walked to the concierge desk and opened her small, sequined bag and pulled out a black and red poker chip with the Danner insignia on it.

He glanced at it and nodded.

“Go to room 2403.”

She smiled as she turned and walked to the elevator. Room 2403 was where she would find Mr. Danner. Billionaire owner of Danner Industries. She had to see him and convince him to drop the charges against Ella’s husband. Ella was six months pregnant, and with two young children already—Jacqueline couldn’t stand the thought of Ella having to contend with taking care of them alone while her careless husband rotted in jail.

She’d tried calling Danner’s secretary to arrange to see him in his office so she could plead her case, but he was harder to get an appointment with than the President. She was desperate to help Ella, though, so she’d talked to a friend of hers who knew that Danner ran a high-stakes poker game two or three times a month. No one knew where it was until the day, and it was extremely exclusive. Danner didn’t worry about the details of deciding who could play. He had staff to check out potentials, but Jacqueline’s friend had an in and had obtained one of the poker chips that would allow her in the door.

Every player had to commit at least two hundred fifty thousand dollars they were prepared to lose, which she didn’t have. She steeled herself as she walked onto the elevator and pushed the button.

But she didn’t intend to lose.

* * *

Race Danner stared out the window of the luxury hotel room over the lights of the city reflected in the lake below as he poured himself a drink. The other players were continuing the game behind him, but he’d stopped to take a break. He sipped the seventy-five year old scotch and sighed.

Even these poker games, that he’d arranged to break up the boredom he’d been suffering from over the past year, had stopped giving him the excitement he was seeking.

Travel, women, extreme sports. None of it gave him exactly what he was looking for.

He turned back to the game, watching the intensity in the eyes of the card players at the table.

The problem was, he didn’t know exactly what he was looking for.

But he had a feeling he’d know when he saw it.

A knock sounded at the door and Renaldo, one of the hotel serving staff overseeing the game, answered it. Race heard a young woman’s voice, then Renaldo opened the door and she walked inside.

His breath held as he stared at her.

The little black dress—and he did mean little—and the fuck-me shoes she wore showcased her stunning body, but he could tell she wasn’t used to wearing such a revealing outfit. She carried herself with confidence, but he could read people and could sense a hesitation in her. She glanced around, as if wondering if anyone was gazing at her, but not in a look-at-me way.

Her hair was swept up and held in place by a glittery butterfly clip, which meant it was long. He liked long hair. He smiled to himself, deciding that before the night was over, he’d see her hair hanging loose and free. And he’d ensure he soon got the chance to coil her tresses around his hand and hold tight.

Renaldo was talking to her, and Race knew the man would hustle her out, since she was not one of the people on the invitation list for tonight.

Race would not let her slip through his fingers, however. He walked toward them and she glanced at him as he approached.

“Problem, Renaldo?” Race asked.

* * *

Jacqueline had watched the tuxedoed man approach while trying to convince the gatekeeper that she was allowed in. Wow, the new man was beyond gorgeous. And with an air of elegance that took her breath away.

He filled out the tux with broad shoulders and a slim waist that made her wonder what he looked like without it. Thoughts of a muscular, naked body filled her mind, no matter how much she tried to push them away. He brushed back his wavy, dark brown hair, and his deep blue eyes turned to her. She almost sucked in a breath as their gazes met, and his full, sexy mouth turned up in a smile.

“No, Mr. Danner. I was just explaining to the young woman that this game is by invitation only.”

So this was Mr. Danner. Butterflies fluttered through her stomach. He was the man she’d come to see.

“And I was explaining to him,” she said in a respectful but insistent tone, “that I was invited.” She held up the poker chip with the Danner logo.

“It’s alright, Renaldo. I’ll handle this.”

The man named Renaldo hesitated, but then said, “Of course, Mr. Danner.”

“You’re here for the game?” he asked.


“I’m afraid, Miss…” He gazed at her expectantly.

“Jacqueline Bell. But you can call me Jacquie.”

He nodded. “Miss Bell, I’m afraid the game is full this evening.”

Her eyes widened a little and she glanced at the table. “But I really wanted to join.” She held up the chip again for him to see. “Does me having this change anything?”

He took it from her, his fingers brushing hers, sending electricity shimmering up her arm, and examined the black and red chip.

He laughed. “Only that I’ll have to see about firing Raymond.”

Her gut clenched. Raymond was the one who’d helped her.


“Miss Bell, although I leave it to my assistant to make up the list of whom to invite, and to make the arrangements through Raymond, I ensure I know exactly who is invited.” His midnight blue gaze locked on her, sending a shiver through her. “And you were not.”

God, she’d been found out. Now she’d lost Raymond his job and she was about to be thrown out on her butt.

“Please, Mr. Danner. Don’t fire Raymond. He was just doing me a favor and I badgered him into it.”

Danner’s eyebrow arched. “Raymond is your boyfriend?”

“No, he’s a good friend of my brother-in-law’s. Please, I just wanted to meet you.”

His gaze turned to one of curiosity. “And why is that?”

“I… have something I want to talk to you about. Do you think you could give me a moment now?” She knew she was being wildly bold, but if she was about to be tossed out, she really had nothing to lose.

“I’m sorry. This is my poker time.”

“But I won’t take long.”

“No, but I would be willing to play with you.”

Heat wafted through her and her cheeks flushed. “Play with me?”

He smiled, as if reading her dirty little thoughts. “Poker.”

She glanced back at the table with tuxedoed men and for the first time realized she was the only woman here.

“I thought you said the game was full.”

“It is. What I’m proposing is a private game. Just you and me.”

She hesitated. Private game? The very thought of it sent images of him shedding his clothes and her climbing atop his perfect body and riding him to heaven.

But that’s not what this was about and… surely that’s not what he actually had in mind. The man could have any woman he wanted. Did he really want her?

And if he did, would she actually give herself to him?

Excitement quivered through her at the thought of having an illicit one night stand with this billionaire playboy—and it could only help her convince him to drop the charges against Ella’s husband—but she didn’t know if she could. The man was a total stranger.

While she’d hesitated, he’d pulled out his cell phone and tapped away at it. Now he dropped it back in his pocket.

He offered his arm. “Come with me.”

She glanced at him, then his arm, and reluctantly placed her hand on the fine wool. Her plan had always been to bluff her way into the game, then see if she could charm Mr. Danner away from the table long enough to talk. That part had worked perfectly, but now he expected a one-on-one game with her. How could she bluff her way out of that?

He guided her to the door. The man named Renaldo opened it for them, then Mr. Danner escorted her down the hallway. A staff member stood at the elevator, holding the door open for them. Had Danner arranged that? They stepped inside and Mr. Danner swiped a key card in a special slot on the elevator. It started to move.