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When dark desperation meets opportunity…

On a celebratory trip with his best friend, Ray “Razor” Chambers meets sultry Viktoriya Dubrovskaya and immediately recognizes the desperation in her eyes—a sight he remembers all too well. Permanently in survival mode, the destitute and broken Viktoriya makes him an offer—a proposition he immediately refuses. However, Razor’s counter-offer changes everything for her.

A ring.

A marriage.

A lifetime of opportunity.

But learning to live together as husband and wife is as foreign as interpreting Smoke Signals. And where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

VIKTORIYA

I’d only been on the casino floor for ten minutes when I found him.

He stood at a high-roller craps table with three other men. All four of them were big. Good-looking, dressed in expensive clothes. Each man had a drink in his hand. They were laughing, talking, gambling…

All but him.

He was watching me. That was how I knew he was the one.

He said something to the other men occasionally, and he laughed when they did, but his eyes followed my every move as I made my way around the room. Did he recognize me? That was a definite possibility. I’d been in several high-profile films lately, so more and more men knew my face. Technically they probably knew my tits or my ass, but that was beside the point.

My growing notoriety had been the issue, actually. It was the reason I was here now. And it might very well solve my most immediate problem, if my instincts were correct.

Whether this man recognized me or not, he hadn’t taken his gaze off me at all as I’d circled the floor, debating my options. Not that there’d been much to debate. Most of the men in the room were gathered around lower-limit tables, keeping close tabs on their chips and their wallets. A few had looked up at me and winked when I’d given them seductive smiles. None but him had maintained eye contact. They’d gone back to their games, pushing me from their minds.

All except for him.

When I’d first seen him, I’d caught his gaze and licked my lips before biting the lower one. That was my signature move, the one they had asked of me in every film I’d made over the last three years. My agent had insisted upon it being one of my biggest selling points, and the directors always said it made me look innocently arousing.

Whatever I could do to make myself appear more desirable, I would do. I had to.

I was out of options.

This man had raised a brow in response, so I’d crooked a finger at him, beckoning him toward me. But then he’d shrugged apologetically, waving a hand to indicate his friends. I’d shrugged, too, before continuing my canvass of the casino.

But now I’d made my way through the whole place, and no one else had seemed a likely target. He was still watching me, very much interested, as I slid up to his side, tucking my bag securely under one arm.

The dealer sorted the chips into the appropriate places based on the previous roll of the dice.

“Hi,” my target said next to my ear. His deep voice rumbled through me, despite its quiet nature.

I flickered my gaze up to him, startled by the clear blue of his eyes. I’d never seen a blue quite like this in a human, light and clear as ice. They pierced me, a sharp contrast to his dark, sleek hair.

Up close, I could see his nose was slightly bent, like it had been broken at some point, and he had a scar on his left cheek, a faint pink jagged line. Those two imperfections kept him from being too perfect, too good-looking, but just barely. He was even bigger than I’d originally thought, now that I was right up next to him. Even his forearms bore lined muscles, and a tattoo peeked out from beneath the sleeve of his designer shirt.

My heart thumped so hard I was sure he could hear it. Nerves. I always had an attack of nerves when it was time to perform, regardless of what type of performance it might be.

I’d expected him to reek of expensive cologne, but he didn’t. He smelled clean and fresh, and good enough to eat. That was another point in his favor. Another sign that he was the one.

My mouth went dry, and goose bumps popped up all along my arms. I couldn’t lose my courage now. It was just sex. Sex was nothing. Sex was my job, more so now than ever. I wet my lips again, fully aware of his gaze following the path of my tongue. “Hello,” I murmured.

His friends passed more chips around the table, placing the bets they were bound to lose. I was betting on the fact that my quarry and I would be leaving the table before I needed to place a monetary bet, and I had every intention of winning mine.

This was all I had left.

The corners of his lips curled up in the hint of a smile. “You look familiar to me.”

“Do I?” I batted my lashes, feigning innocence.

“I’d remember your voice, though. That accent. Not a chance I’d forget you.”

The accent was proving to work in my favor, much as I’d expected. That was one of the many reasons my agent, Rick, had been so eager to work with me, the reason he’d first sought me out. A fucking Russian ballerina with legs for miles? he’d said. Keep using that pretty little mouth like that, and you’ll have all the work you can handle and then some. I wasn’t sure, at the time, if he’d been talking about my thick Russian accent or the blowjob I was giving him so he could “sample the product.” Actually, I still wasn’t certain now. Either way, he’d held up his end of the bargain for as long as I’d been able to keep working in the porn industry. I couldn’t anymore, though. Once the directors of my dance school had learned how I’d been spending my weekends, I’d been kicked out of the program—and I’d lost my student visa in the process.

No visa meant I had to leave the country if I couldn’t figure out another way to stay. I couldn’t get a green card, and without that, no more porn jobs. At first, Rick had worked out deals for the filmmakers to pay me under the table. But now that my school had reported that I wasn’t eligible for a visa anymore, the porn guys weren’t willing to take a chance on keeping up our deal. They were sticklers for following the rules in that industry. Regular STD testing. Proper record keeping. Everything was above board.

Maybe not everything, but many things. Most things. The things people outside the industry knew about. Certain other aspects of that business were kept quiet, like my under-the-table pay. I’d earned less than the other girls, but it had allowed me to stay in the country after my father had died and there had been no more money coming from Russia.

I was trying to stay on the right side of the law now, at least as much as possible. If I ended up in jail, they’d have no problem deporting me right away, and I couldn’t go back.

That was why I’d come to Las Vegas. Prostitution was legal in Nevada, and I’d already been selling sex for so long it no longer made me blanch at the thought. Selling my body wouldn’t help me get my visa reinstated, but it could at least help me earn enough money to eat and sleep somewhere while I figured out what to do.

Fifteen days, they’d told me. I only had fifteen days to find a way I could stay in the US before they’d force me to fly back to St. Petersburg.

There was nothing for me there. I couldn’t let that happen, even if it meant losing the last pieces of myself to stay here. Selling sex was far better than what would be in store for me if I ever stepped foot in that country again.

No matter how nervous I might be about what I was attempting to do, I refused to back down. There was no Plan B. I had to move forward.

“I give you better reason to remember me,” I said slowly. Deliberately. I held his gaze, stomach churning, while I waited for him to take my bait.

The craps dealer tried to get my mark’s attention, indicating he needed to place his bet.

My target held my gaze, though, his eyes narrowed, studying me. Then he faced the dealer and shook his head. “I’m done, boys. Calling it a night. Here.” He shoved a pile of chips over to the man to his left. “Finish this off for me, Babs. I’ll see you all bright and early in the morning.”

“Not too fucking early,” one of the other men said.

“Too early for you,” the third added with a smirk.

“Everything’s too early for Koz,” the one called Babs said. The other guys laughed and nodded their agreement. Then he turned to my guy, checking me out briefly before giving him a questioning look. “You know what you’re doing?”

He chuckled and said something quietly to Babs, his voice muffled so I couldn’t make it out.

“All right. Just don’t be late tomorrow. You’ve got the rings, and Katie won’t hesitate to kill you if you fuck up her wedding. She might even make me help.”

“Katie loves me. She won’t kill me.” He put an arm around my waist, drawing me to his side. I kept my bag firmly against my body, not taking any chances with it. I’d noted the muscle in his arms, but feeling them up close and in person was something else entirely. It made my stomach lurch. Maybe I hadn’t thought this through well enough, after all. Maybe there was some other way…

“Maybe she won’t, but Webs will,” the guy they called Koz said, waggling his brows.

The four men traded a few more barbs, but then my guy backed away, tugging me with him. Once we were in the hotel lobby and we could hear each other better, he dropped his voice from the jocular tone he’d used with his friends. “So what’s your name, beautiful?”

“Viktoriya,” I said. I didn’t see any need to mention my surname, Dubrovskaya. I’d never used it in my work. It had only been relevant to my future in ballet, which was now nonexistent unless I stumbled into a miracle. When I’d started stripping, they had suggested I just go by my given name since the spelling was unique enough to be memorable in the States. Then when Rick found me, he’d said I should keep it, that I could be the Cher or Prince of the porn industry. Everyone would know me by my name and my accent, not to mention my signature lip-wetting and lip-biting move, and that would be enough.

The muscled man at my side let out a humming sound. He nodded for a hotel worker to call the elevator before looking down at me. “Viktoriya, huh? Pretty name. I’m Ray Chambers. No one but my mom calls me Ray, though. Everyone calls me Razor.” The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Razor led me onto it and pressed the button for the level just under the penthouse. Once the doors closed and we were alone, he moved in front of me, his body crowding mine back into the corner.

I was used to having men in my space, though. This was nothing new. I refused to let it faze me.

His eyes bored into mine, locking on to me like laser beams, with the sort of utter confidence men like him tended to carry. “So what do you want, Viktoriya? You looking for a good, hard fuck?”

I bit down on my tongue, taking my time before answering so I could be sure I didn’t say what I was really thinking. I pasted a provocative smile on my lips, keeping my eyes flirty and playful. “You fuck me, hard as you want…for price.”

He didn’t respond, though. He just kept staring at me. Through me. One thing was for sure—this man was intense.

My heart felt as if it would pound through my skin. I was about to laugh it off and tell him to never mind, it was a joke, I didn’t mean the part about him having to pay me but he could still fuck me if he wanted, when the elevator doors opened.

Razor took my hand and led me out into the hall. We walked to the end, and he stopped before reaching the door, edging me against the wall. I jerked my bag to my side. He leaned in toward me, one hand on either side of my head so I had no choice but to focus on him and only him.

“You know prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, don’t you, beautiful?” he finally said.

“No. Not illegal.” I shook my head. It couldn’t be. Rick had specifically told me that I could sell my body in Nevada if I wanted to, that I wouldn’t get busted by any cops for it. It would be safe for me to do here, that I’d only have to worry about STDs and pregnancy and crazy fuckers who might want something I wasn’t on board with. For the right price, I’d be on board with just about anything. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t already experienced most of it already, anyway, and that had been on camera.

“It is,” Razor said slowly. “It’s legal in the state, but not in every city in the state—and it’s illegal in Vegas.”

There was only one reason I could come up with for him telling me this. I bit down on my lip. “You’re policeman?”

“I’m not a fucking cop.”

“Then what you want?” Why was he doing this? Why wasn’t he taking me into his room and fucking me so I could take his money and go?

He didn’t answer. He just stared at me so hard I wished I could melt into the floor and disappear.

I couldn’t take this. If he wasn’t going to buy what I was selling, I needed to move on. Find someone else. I needed to make some quick money so I could buy myself some time before they deported me, and I didn’t know how long I would have. The administrators at school had told me I had fifteen days, but that wasn’t long, and three of those days had already passed. I needed money, and I needed it now, and I clearly wasn’t getting it from this Razor.

I tried to duck under his arm, but he reached down and took me by the elbow, stopping my progress.

“What you want?” I repeated, aggravated and embarrassed, and wanting nothing more than to get the hell out of there.

“I want you to come into my room and tell me why you’re doing this.”

I rolled my eyes. “No time for this. I need—”

“I’ll pay you for your time,” he interrupted. “Come on.” He dug out the key card for his room and swiped it over the lock to his door. It beeped, and he turned the handle, gently nudging me until I preceded him inside despite my better judgment.