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

By: Kresley Cole

Pete said, “It could be the badger that’s giving you trouble, since it’s your first and all.”

“You’re making me sound like a noob.” Sure, every grifter had a specialty—mine had been those pump-and-dump stock cons—but a skilled confidence artist was versatile.

“Until you get your footing, you should help out with Karin’s kid another night or two a week, so she can close more. Just till we settle the debt.”

I blinked in disbelief. “We’re in the middle of a crisis, and you want me to babysit?” Not to mention that Mom and Dad would cage-fight me if I tried to limit their grandbaby time.

Pete scrubbed a palm over his handsome face. “Nigel should’ve been . . . well, he should’ve been low-hanging fruit.” In a grudging tone, he broke it to me straight: “Karin could’ve run him in her sleep.”

Ouch. Though one could definitely tell we were sisters, I was like a short, less-endowed indie version of her. At twenty-eight, she was all long-legged grace, confidence, and effortless sex-appeal; around men, if I didn’t concentrate, I could come across as standoffish—a kiss of death for a honey trap.

Pete rushed to say, “You’re an ace at cards, and your grift sense is the most honed of anybody I know. Your instincts in those stock schemes kept the lights on for the entire family. But stocks are out forever.”

We’d conned the wrong people, and they wanted their money back—plus interest. “Our deadline is only twenty days away, and you’re benching me?” No wonder everyone had texted me encouragement tonight! Yet I’d failed to pluck the low-hanging fruit.

“It’s because the deadline’s on us.” He exhaled. “You’re wasting marks that Karin could close.” Over the last several weeks, she’d run a ton of lechers. She even had a two-timing congressman in the pipeline for tomorrow.

I hadn’t gotten a mark anywhere near our hidden-camera prop house.

Karin was my best friend, but sometimes I felt like screaming, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

In a softer tone, Pete said, “All you need is a little brushing up on your, you know, sexual manipulation skills, but we don’t have time right now.”

Sexual manipulation skills? Really? How did he think I got all those lowlifes to invest in our bogus stock deals?

By making sure they read my cleavage instead of the writing on the wall!

“When you’re not so exhausted, you’ll see where I’m coming from,” Pete said. “Why don’t you skip Dmitri and rest up?”

My eyes widened with realization. “You’ve already decided to cut the Sevastyans! My ‘assignment’ to dig . . . it’s busy work, isn’t it?” To make me feel better about Nigel!

After a moment, Pete raised his palms.

Busy work and babysitting. If he sidelined me, I’d go crazy in the next three weeks. How could I not be out fighting for my loved ones?

I burned to prove my value and contribute when they needed me most. My gaze darted up, landing on a beast’s lair. Words started leaving my mouth: “You know what? You’re not going to bench me. Because I’m gonna run game on the juiciest mark of them all—Dmitri Sevastyan.”


Pete laughed—until he saw I was serious. “Karin couldn’t get a word out of him.”

Last night, when Pete had heard the Sevastyans were heading down to the VIP lounge, he’d sent me home and called in the family’s MVP for a milk-cow con—one of the most difficult of the long cons.

In a milk-cow, a temptress would whip a mark into a sexual frenzy, teasingly withholding intercourse to maneuver him into buying jewelry, cars, even real estate.

“Not a single word.” Pete shook his head. “Even though Dmitri was dateless, and she was on.”

If Karin couldn’t get the Russian to engage, then he wasn’t engage-able. But I’d talked a big game. “Then I won’t be wasting a potential mark, will I?”

“Don’t be pissed.”

I handed Pete my purse. “Pissed? Me? Haven’t you heard?” I started toward the stairs, saying over my shoulder, “I’m cold as ice.”

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