The Player (The Game Maker #3)(2)

By: Kresley Cole

Grifter nicknames might be cliché, but Pete’s was spot-on. He was so good he could con you twice more, even if you caught him the first time. Also known as Re-Pete.

I’d gotten the nickname Vice as a baby. I’d earned my Cold-as-Ice designation from my family’s stock-investment schemes.

For years, we’d found men who wanted something for nothing, so we’d sold them nothing for something.

But those days were over. . . .

Pete smoothly said, “Sharon, you’re looking fabulous as ever.”

“Charmer.” She smoothed her hair, giving me a once-over. “Great dress, Vice. All classy.”

“Thanks, doll.” I’d made this white, one-shoulder drape a few months ago for a job. Tonight, my look was sexy good-girl, a change from my usual racy/alternative. My black nails were now nude, my glam makeup neutral. I’d exchanged my spike earrings for diamond—read cubic zirconia—studs and secured my long hair into an elegant knot. Instead of platform heels, I wore ankle-strap d’Orsay pumps.

Sharon sipped her flute. “You dress up for that Sebastian gull?” A gullible, anyone outside the grift.

“It’s actually with a V,” Pete said. “Suh-vast-yun.” Details were our job.

Sharon shrugged, her dress hanging on precariously. Her enhanced boobs dwarfed my 32Cs; she could legit carry drinks without a tray.

I always pictured her balancing martinis on her mammaries with circus music teed up. “No, not for him. I had a high roller on the line.” Wardrobe was critical in cons, and this look played to rich guys. My mark, Nigel, had approved. Until he’d inexplicably abandoned me in the Caly lobby a little while ago. “My con went south, so Pete invited me here.” To dig. These days, I wasn’t good for much else.

This honey trap might be stingerless.

“Looks like you’re having a shit week,” Sharon said. “I saw an eviction notice on your door.”

I lowered my voice to say, “I forgot my neck brace one freaking time.”

Pete’s blond brows rose. I hadn’t told him about my eviction, not with all my other recent failures.

“Happens to the best of us.” Sharon finished her champagne. “Two tears in a bucket; motherfuck it.”

I grinned. “I will never stop saying that saying.”

“How’d you hear about this party?” Pete asked her.

“Some crazy chick named Alicia or Jessica or something invited the entire Strip, telling everyone about a whale she’s trying to hook up. I came here to harpoon said whale. No dice. He actually told me, ‘I have a woman in mind for myself, and you are not her.’ Russians suck.”

Pete and I shared a look. We had a Russian KA, a known associate, who was like our grandfather.

“I’m gonna go find some real action. Ciao, babies.” Sharon blew air kisses as she rejoined her friends. Just before they headed inside, she yelled over her shoulder to Dmitri, “Go fuck yourself, Russki!”

When a tirade of Russian boomed out from above, I raised my brows at Pete. “Maybe he’s not interested in women. If Karin bombed with this guy . . .” Last night, he’d ignored my breathtaking sister as if she were invisible. “Maybe Dmitri’s gay.”

“I should be so lucky,” Pete said, a wistful note to his voice. “For a guy like that, I would turn honey trap in a heartbeat.”

“It’s not as easy as it looks, chief.” I would know. I was supposed to have run my first badger game tonight. In a badger, a honey trap would maneuver a married mark into a compromising position while an accomplice snapped photos and took video. Voilà, blackmail.

Nigel had been my ideal man—a hitched skirt-chaser with a cheating clause in his prenup, wandering hands, and a tan line on his ring finger. Tonight the older man’s watery gaze had beamed at the sight of me—right up until the moment he’d checked his phone, sputtered at whatever he’d read, then all but fled the casino.

My fifth busted con in a row. I was as superstitious as the next grifter and knew what this streak meant. “Pete, I’m pretty sure I’m jinxed.” And yet I would drag myself back to the VIP lounge tomorrow to troll for yet another sleazebag. It’d taken me three double-backs—sixteen-hour stints in stilettos—to scare up Nigel.

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