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Vegas Magic: Stacking the Deck
Cobblestone Press
ISBN: 978-1-60088-055-1

Attending the Hell's Ball with her friends was just supposed to be about having a good time. Samantha didn't plan on meeting the man of her dreams or to give him a crash course in magic to keep his power under control.

Alec Zimm is a stage name. Doing card tricks pays the bills. He's caught off-guard by his reaction to Samantha and the sudden revelation that the magic he's been performing is real. When a rogue werewolf threatens the Halloween party atmosphere, Alec must learn to trust his teacher and save the woman of his dreams.

Never again. Alec would never do a party gig again, no matter who offered. It should have been easy money. That's what his agent said when he called and asked if the job was legit. He'd be working without a contract, turning in no percentage, but the agent said to go for it. Have fun for a night. Blow off a little steam.

He'd blown it, all right. Lost control in front of the audience. With any luck, they'd forget his name. If he ever got a show on the strip, he could hope they wouldn't remember the cheap magician who'd played Fifty-Two Pickup as his finishing move.

He'd saved it. Tried to save it. His fingers and his scalp and his face were tingling, but he'd still taken a bow. The audience clapped. So it wasn't a standing ovation. At least they hadn't booed.

Alec had seen a lot of pretty girls in Vegas. Gorgeous women. Heart-stopping beauties. Looks were all but a requirement in this city, but none of them had made him lose control like that. None of them made him feel as if his heart had stopped for a second. As if he stood on a high voltage wire and the last thing he'd ever see was her face. None of them were standing beside his stage.

None of them but her.

Alec did a double-take and stopped gathering cards. He stopped doing everything but staring. What did you say to the woman who made the rest of the world disappear?

"Hey."

"So, I wanted to apologize." She spoke at the same time, laughed, and ducked her head.

He watched color climb upward from her collarbones. Not broken and blotchy, but a warm, creeping glow. Alec wanted her to look up so he could see if it had reached her cheeks.

She lifted her head. Rosy cheeks indeed.

"I wanted to apologize," she repeated and offered a hand. "Samantha Parrish. Sam."

He took her hand a little less than confidently. There was no telling what would happen if eye contact could shock him from across the room. But there was no jolt, no crack of static electricity. Only a very pleasant hum that spread like the warmth from being out in the sun, filtering through his body beneath the skin.

"Alec," he remembered to tell her. "Alec Szymanski."

Her eyebrows rose, and she looked over his head, amusement prompting a smile. "Not Zimm?" She nodded toward the thing that had caught her eye.

Alec twisted to see it, too. "Oh. Right." A banner proclaiming his name hung over the stage. He turned and offered a sheepish smile in return. "Stage name. You caught me. My agent said Zimm was catchy. It stands out more. It's also easier to spell."

Sam watched him, dark eyes all but dancing. He wasn't an eye man, didn't usually notice a color beyond the basic blue or brown or green, but hers were something else—dark at the edges and almost cat's-eye amber at the pupil. He couldn't help but notice.

He quit staring and forced his attention to the scattered cards. Get cleaned up, get out of here, and stop making a fool of yourself. "So," he began conversationally, he hoped. "Are you a fan of magic shows?"

She reached for the four of clubs that lay face up by his knee. She had long fingers, which made for the flourish she pulled off, weaving the card between them before she offered it to him. "I might have seen a couple," she allowed.

Alec laughed. "A ringer." He took the card. Their fingers didn't brush but they might as well have held hands. The hum increased. His pulse spiked. "I should have known you were a pro."

Sam's smile warmed. "I might have done some magic here and there, but that..." she said, pointing at the card, "was pure Vegas flash. I'm a dealer at the Lucky Seven." She shrugged cheerfully. "Sorry to disappoint."

"Are you kidding? I'm not disappointed." He gestured at himself. "This is relief. A mess-up like that in front of someone in the biz would all but guarantee I'd never work in Vegas again."

"I doubt that," she said and turned to sit on the edge of the stage.

Alec caught a whiff of her perfume as she moved. It smelled smoky and a little sweet. Maybe vanilla. It didn't matter. It smelled good, and he leaned closer to get another breath.

"You covered it well," she went on, brushing her hair over her shoulder. "They clapped. And I apologize."

His mind drifted, lost somewhere in golden waves and wondering how deft her fingers really were. He needed help. He had a proposition on the tip of his tongue and had already nearly blurted it out twice. Something was definitely wrong with his head. "Apologize for what?"

"For ruining your show." She didn't hesitate, but instead reached out and brushed his cheek. A hot blaze of heat followed the passage of her thumb. "We connected. I didn't mean to throw you off."

He heard himself say, "I don't mind." His eyes were sliding shut against his will. Whoa. He flinched, out of easy caressing range. "I mean, it's okay. It happens." Not to him. Not ever before. "You don't have to apologize."

She leaned forward, closing the distance between them. Her lips were right there, practically begging to be kissed. She had a spray of freckles across the swell of the top of her breasts, and he had an up-close view. "Can I apologize if I want to?" Her eyes were dancing. "Let me buy you a drink."

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"Sara Dennis has a flair for descriptive language. The ease with which mystical creatures interacted in Stacking the Deck was creative and interesting as well as fun. … This is one action-packed, romance-filled, sexily-erotic read!"

– 4.5 Lips, Two Lips Reviews

 

"When it comes to Stacking The Deck, reading this book is like randomly pulling out a card from a stack and finding that it's an ace. I don't know what I will expect when I begin reading but at the end of the book I'm craving for more."

- 88, Mrs. Giggles

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