“Is your dad sick, too?” Amber asked.

“He doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, he’s just…not all there.” He tapped his head, unsure of how else to describe the eccentric oddity who was his father. They weren’t close. Couldn’t be, considering his father was a man mired in the curse and the past. But Mike loved him, despite it all.

“Well, we have that in common. So do you like roller coasters?” she asked, obviously eager to change the subject. “They have the most amazing rides here. The Canyon Blaster goes fifty-five miles an hour with a full loop.” She circled her arm wide. “Or there’s the Sling Shot or Chaos…We could even get wet if we went on the Rim Runner,” she said, bursting with enthusiasm. “Which one will it be?”

He glanced in the direction of the huge rides and frowned. “None of them. I really don’t like roller coasters. In fact, I hate them.” He wasn’t comfortable admitting weakness, but better than having to get one of those contraptions held together by nuts and bolts.

“What do you mean you don’t like roller coasters?” She perched her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side, clearly shocked. “Everyone likes roller coasters!”

“No, they don’t.”

“What? Did you fall out of one when you were a kid or something?” she asked, nudging him playfully in the ribs.

“No, I just can’t take the sensation of having my stomach turned upside down and inside out.” The reality was that they reminded him too much of his childhood, the incredible highs and devastating lows.

Mike would ask Edward to come to his baseball games and too many times, he’d take the muttered maybe as a hopeful sign. He finally learned not to count on his dad. Now it was Mike who had to care for his father, even though it had never been the other way around.

“Oh, really?” Her eyes glittered in disbelief.


She raised her eyebrows and stepped closer. The perfume that had been getting to him all day caused his gut to clench again now.

“Well, I bet I can turn your stomach upside down and inside out and not only will you like it, you’ll be begging for more,” she said, her meaning deliberately, seductively clear.

He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her against him. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.” She rose onto her tiptoes and kissed him full on the lips.

He found her absolutely irresistible as she wove her web and pulled him in like no other woman ever had. He dated on occasion, but between his dangerous job and his unwillingness to bring anyone home to his father, Mike had never let anyone get close enough to become serious. He’d become somewhat of a loner himself, at least in the relationship department. Sex was fine, when the need arose. Anything else brought with it too many complications.

Now there was Amber. Desire pounded hard and fast inside him as she tangled her tongue with his and took him on that wild ride she’d promised. Fast and furious, better than any roller coaster could be.

She ended the kiss too soon and grabbed his hand.

“Where to now?” he asked.

“Well, I still can’t believe my big brave cop is afraid of roller coasters,” she said, teasing him. “But I’ll settle for the arcade.”

The next hour was spent mixing old-fashioned games and long, heated kisses, resulting in his losing a fair amount of money in an attempt to win her a ring with a big fake diamond. No matter how much he spent, no matter how many darts he threw, the ring remained elusively out of reach. Yet they couldn’t stop laughing and she didn’t stop touching him. It felt as if everything about their time together was right.

He got caught up in the sheer pleasure of the carnival-like atmosphere and he savored being with a woman who wanted to be with him, without the stigma of the Corwin curse hanging over his head. No expectations, no games, just plain fun. And though he knew nothing could come of this, he found himself wishing they had time for something more, some thing real and lasting.

They walked from stand to stand, always coming back to the dart game where Mike would once again attempt to win the ring. Amber cheered him on until her voice was hoarse. He bought them both cold beers and they laughed over the ugly bear he’d traded the smaller items in to win.

But the ring remained out of reach, frustrating him because he knew how much she wanted the small token of their afternoon together. And he wanted her to have it.

“Let’s head back to the Bellagio,” she suggested after a while.

“Are you ready to call it a night?” He turned to meet her gaze, wondering just how their time together would end. He knew what he wanted, but he wouldn’t pressure her.

“I’m ready to leave here.” She paused a beat. Ran her tongue over her glossed lips.

He never caught her reapplying makeup, but she’d kept that shimmer on her lips all day and night. The gloss had a hint of vanilla scent and each time he kissed her, he wanted to devour even more.

“Let’s take a cab.” He held on to her hand and started through the arcade in the direction of-he thought-the exit.

“Mike, wait.”

He turned.

“I don’t think I’m ready to leave you.”

He exhaled the breath he hadn’t been aware of holding. “The feeling’s mutual.” He squeezed her hand.

His body was strung tight and only one thing would alleviate the need pulsing inside him. But on the way to the taxi, they passed the dart game and Mike paused. He reached into his pocket and tossed his last five dollars in change on the counter.

“You are determined.” The guy running the game handed him five darts. “Tell you what. Three out of five and I’ll trade the bear for the ring,” he said, looking at Amber and winking.

Mike picked up the dart and eyed the balloons, sparsely placed to make it difficult to hit the target.

“No matter what, I just want to be alone with you,” she whispered.

He threw and missed.

She laughed, her breath warm in his ear. “No pressure. Really.”

He tossed again, popping one balloon.

Beside him, she squealed in excitement, patted his back and stepped away so she didn’t break his concentration.

A direct hit.

Another squeal.

He rolled his shoulders. Just one more…

“Relax,” she said as if reading his mind. “You have two more chances,” Amber said.

He shot her a warning glance. “Quiet.”

She grinned.

He picked up the fourth dart, aimed and tossed. The balloon popped easily and Amber cheered, rewarding him by wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him into a tight hug followed by a long, lingering kiss. One that gave a steamy hint of what was in store for him once they returned to his room.

“Here you go, buddy.” The guy behind the arcade stand handed him the ring with the large fake diamond.

Amber held out her hand. An eerie sensation-as if his wish for something more with her had magically come true-struck him as he slipped the too-big ring on her delicate hand.

Top heavy, it rolled to the side. “I’ll make it smaller with tape later,” she said, laughing.

“If you ask me, a pretty lady like you deserves a real diamond,” the arcade guy said.

If he and Amber were really involved, the man would be right. “Let’s go,” Mike said to her.

She nodded, a wide smile on her face.

“Wait. Since you seem to be on a lucky streak, take this.” The arcade guy handed him a silver dollar. “You never know what coin will strike it rich in those slots,” he said.

Mike shook his head. “Keep it,” he said to the guy. “I already struck it rich.”

Amber blushed.

He couldn’t wait for them to be alone.

AMBER HELD Mike’s hand as they wove their way through the arcade. They’d worked up a thirst and had

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