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
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?
"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
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
"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
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."
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
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."