Home > Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)(8)

Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)(8)
Author: Linsey Hall

“They’re clean,” one of the guards murmured to the other.

One of the guards nodded. “You’re done.”

“Thank you.” I took Carrow’s hand again and tucked it into my arm.

We left the men behind, strolling into the main part of the casino. As we entered the enormous space, Carrow gasped. “Wow.”

“I suppose it does make quite an impression.” A lofty, vaulted ceiling was hung with even larger crystal chandeliers than the lobby. They were the size of cars, in fact. The gambling tables were gilt-edged, along with everything else in the godforsaken place.

“You really don’t like it here, do you?” Carrow asked.

“No. It’s an obscene use of wealth. And beyond that, in poor taste. Too much gold, too fussy, too ornate.”

“Yes, I can see how you might not like that.”

I looked down at her. “Know me so well, do you?”

She shrugged. “A bit.”

I found I wanted her to know me better. I shouldn’t want that now—our bond was broken. But I did.

A server in a small black cocktail dress approached, a tray of champagne glasses carefully balanced near her head. She smiled at us. “Drink?”

I took two. “Thank you.”

She nodded and disappeared into the crowd. I handed one glass to Carrow. “Don’t drink.”

“No?”

I shook my head. “We need to see them made to be sure they haven’t been spiked with something. But we want to carry one, so we blend.”

Even now, I could see two crime bosses that I recognized—one from the Chicago Dens and another from New York. Either would like to have me incapacitated and willing to spill my secrets.

“They aren’t just meant to make us gamble more?” she asked.

“That’s their purpose, yes. But they could be spiked. Either with something to lower our inhibitions or something worse.”

She grimaced.

“Come.” I drew her toward the bar. “We need a drink in hand so that people will lower their guards around us.”

I was aware of her every movement as we walked toward the bar. The crowd parted easily to let us pass, and I stopped at an open spot at the long expanse of gleaming wood. At the far end, Mac appeared briefly, speaking to someone who looked like the manager. She blended perfectly, her hair darker and her face slightly different, thanks to Eve’s potion. When she found her mark, she’d transform entirely to look like them.

Carrow and I both made a point not to look at her.

I leaned down and spoke at Carrow’s ear, unable to help getting closer. It was unwise, but such a small thing could surely be forgiven by fate.

“What can I get you?” I asked.

“Sparkling water with a lime. In a rocks glass.”

“Clever.” It would look like a vodka soda or gin and tonic when served that way. I couldn’t get away with anything less than an amber colored Scotch—Anton knew my preferences too well—but one drink would hardly affect me.

I withdrew a hundred-pound note from my pocket and made eye contact with the nearest server.

The small, pale man hurried over, a polite smile in his eyes. “May I help you?”

“I have a tab—Devil of Darkvale. My usual and a sparkling water with lime for the lady.” I passed him the hundred-pound note, a not-so-subtle bribe that would encourage him to follow the notations on the valued client drinks list.

He took the note and nodded, hurrying off to the middle of the bar, where he retrieved a small black notebook.

Carrow nodded at him. “What’s all that about?”

“They keep track of the preferences of the wealthiest visitors. I don’t come here to gamble often, but I do come for meetings.”

She raised her brows. “Crime lord meetings?”

I nodded. She winced, reminding me just how different our lives and values were.

Which was good. It would help us keep our distance when it was so vital that we do so.

I watched the bartender with a keen eye as he cracked open a fresh bottle of my preferred Scotch. I didn’t want anything that could be tampered with, and I was satisfied to see the small poof of blue magic that indicated a fresh, un-enchanted bottle. He poured a glass, then fetched a fresh bottle of Perrier and decanted it into a glass for Carrow.

When he’d returned with our drinks, we took them and turned to the room.

The space bustled with movement as people flowed between the tables, stopping to sit or stand at a game of chance.

“Any idea where Anton is?” Carrow asked.

I searched the floor, not spotting him in any of his preferred places. “He’s either at a private table in the back or at the theater on the next floor.”

A server strolled by, a tray of champagne raised high. I caught her gaze as she passed, and she stopped.

“Pardon me.” I kept my voice low. “Where is Anton? I quite fancy a game.”

She smiled widely. “Then it’s your night. He’s in the back. Good luck getting there.”

I nodded. “Thank you.”

She hurried on, and Carrow leaned up to speak close to my ear. “What does she mean about getting there?”

“It’s a meritocracy at the back table. You need to earn your way there by winning out here.”

“What game?”

“Poker.”

Carrow grinned. “I’m good at poker.”

“Are you now?”

“Very. Even without my gift.”

“Then I’ll stake you.”

Her brows rose. “Really?”

“Really. I play, but not expertly. I’ve never had much interest. It will help our chances if both of us play.”

“What if we lose?”

“Then we get clever and sneak in.”

“I thought you said that was deadly.”

“Exactly. So we should win.”

She grimaced. “Well, we have a good plan, and I’m good at poker. Better when I can use my magic, but still good.”

“That’s where this comes in.” I removed one of two small charms from my pocket and palmed it, then held her hand as if we were on a date. A streak of heat ran up my arm, and I couldn’t imagine never touching her again.

Her hand tightened, closing around the sphere.

“Keep it out of sight,” I murmured near her ear. “When you need to use your power, hold it to the underside of the table. It will adhere and break the spell that prevents you from using your magic.”

She nodded. “Thanks.”

“Come on, I’ll get us chips and a seat at a table.”

She tucked her hand into my arm, and we walked across the casino. It was impossible not to feel the eyes of envious men—she was the most gorgeous woman in the room.

For tonight—and tonight only—she was mine. It might be just an illusion now that our bond was broken, but I didn’t care.

6

Carrow

As Grey led me across the casino floor, the crowds parted to let us pass. I briefly allowed myself to imagine what it would be like if we were a couple.

A frisson of anxiety shot up my spine.

It was such a strange thought. Our bond was broken, and though I still felt something for him, without the bond to tie us together, it felt crazy. I’d known him such a short time, and he was such a bad idea.

He was a literal magical crime boss, the most feared man in Guild City and, also, the most dangerous. Everything about him should drive me away. A lot of things about him scared me, and without the bond to dull those feelings and draw me to him, I was able to actually feel that fright.

And yet, I still wanted him.

How could I not, when he acted and looked the way he did? Not only did he look like a fallen angel recently thawed from an icy sleep, he was always putting himself between me and danger.

I shook the thoughts away and focused on scouting out the casino. The exits were well-marked but also well-guarded. If there was a fire, we could all get out. Short of that, it looked like the bouncers would stop anyone from leaving without permission. They stood with their arms crossed and scowls on their faces, big bodies blocking the doors.

It didn’t take long for Grey to arrange for chips and a spot at one of the top tables. The amount he’d requested made my head spin.

He handed me the chips and murmured, “My status might not get us an invite into Anton’s meritocracy room, but we’ve got a seat at the next best thing. If we win enough at this table and, therefore, prove our skill, we’ll be invited to Anton’s private game next.”

I took the stack of chips. “I’ve got this.”

He smiled and nodded. “I believe it.”

Grey and I joined the four other players at the table, and I carefully sized up my opponents. The skills I’d learned in interrogation training came in handy when playing poker. The many hours I’d spent playing with my colleagues were even more useful.

Everyone at the table—two women and two men—looked cool and collected. They were all dressed in exorbitantly expensive clothing, sipping champagne and whiskey while studying their cards. Though they had their signatures fairly well suppressed, I smelled magic on all of them. They could have been any species though—I still didn’t have the skill to determine which.

The dealer was a stone-faced woman with smooth hands and a calming demeanor. She also wore her magic like a badge, and she was one tough cookie. I didn’t know what she could do, but her power felt like a punch to the gut.

She leveled Grey and me with a serious gaze. “Five Card Stud. Twenty thousand dollar buy in.”

The number nearly took my breath away, just as I’d gone a bit faint when Grey had requested half a million dollars in chips. It was an unimaginable amount of money.

But I kept my expression composed and pushed my chips toward the center of the table.

Grey did the same, and I was painfully aware of his every movement. It was almost like breaking our bond made me more aware of him, as if that were possible. It was the sense of the unknown, maybe, even though I knew I was supposed to avoid him.

   
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