Chapter 1 High Stakes

Chicago: This is my home - the one place in my entire life I have ever felt a true connection. I was born here, grew up somewhere else, but this place has always been where my heart is. As I looked through the tented glass of the town car, I couldn't help but bask in the city skyline coming into view. I loved everything about this place, the smells, the sounds, everything about this city made my heart ache a little less.

A Few Days Before:

"Danie, wake up we're going to be late!" I heard the shouts from my roommate coming from down the hall. I looked over to my phone sitting on my nightstand - 7:26. Shit, I had four minutes to get ready and head out the door.

I outstretched my arms and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. My room wasn't huge or anything, but it was mine. It was covered with teal accents throughout to break up the boring white of the walls and carpet.

I rushed out of bed in a hurry looking for my uniform. I was bubbling around the room putting on my uniform, brushing my hair and half brushing my Teeth. I met Addy in the living room. "How did we both sleep through our alarms?" I asked with a mouth full of toothpaste, spitting it into the sink. I turned on the faucet and rinsed out the rest of the toothpaste form my mouth.

"Girl I don't know, we must have had a power surge or something last night, my alarm clock is blinking random numbers. I'm pretty sure its fried." She buttoned up the last few buttons on her uniform and looked over to me, " You ready to go?"

I rand my hands through my hair, smoothing the bed head and zipped up my shoes. "As ready as I can be this late." I looked down at my phone - 7.33, "If we skip coffee we should be able to make it."

With that being said we both grabbed our bags and sprinted to the car. Addy drove a cute little VW Beatle. It was canary yellow with a black convertible top. During our days off we would ride around with the top down and let the wind blow through our hair. It wasn't much, but it was freeing.

This morning's traffic was a nightmare, but living here as long as Addy has, she knew the back streets to get around it, well some of it anyway. Addy had been living here since she was 13, her parents divorced and her mom came out here to get away. She looks a lot like her mom, they both have long chocolate brown hair, green eyes and curves for days. Addy always jokes that her mom looks more like her twin sister, than her mom. Some people did mistake them for siblings when we would all go out, her mom just went with it. She refused to admit her real age, but when you still look like you're twenty something, you might as well roll with it while it lasts.

We ran through the lobby of the Casino and into the Employee locker room with 5 mins till 8. "That was a close one.." I said as I shut my locker. We worked at one of the busiest hotels and Casino's in Vegas, The Donovan Hotel and Casino. It was on the strip and attracted more high end clientele, than tourists.

"Yeah it was, I don't think Natalie would have been pleased if we were late on the day of the big boss being here, we would have been in huge trouble, no doubt." Addy said as we made our way onto the casino floor. The slot machines were buzzing and clacking. The sound of a jackpot spilling out in the distance and people clapping could be heard over the noise. I really had to thank Addy for getting me a job here, it was the best job I had ever had.

I put my hand on my head, not realizing that was today. "Man, he's here today?! I completely forgot."

"Yes he's here today and we are already in a crisis!" A loud and angry voice beckoned from the right of us. It was Natalie, the assistant manager. Natalie was a head strong nightmare of a boss. She always had a scowl on her face, I was pretty sure it was embedded into her features. Her hair was short and highlighted wit bright blonds and soft chestnut colors. She was average height and super skinny, like border line not healthy skinny.

We both turned our heads nervously in her direction. Did she know we were running late, did we not clock in on time. Crap. Crap. My heart was pounding. I took a nervous glance over to Addy, she had the same look.

"D what sections are you working today?" Natalie reared her angry head my way. Her eyes were fuming mad. I swear you could see the smoke coming out of her nostrils and ears, like a cartoon character.

"I uh work the high tables today in the VIP lounge, why? What's going on?" My palms were sweating I was so nervous. I worked as a server and bartender on most nights. It was good money and the tips were usually pretty decent depending on the clientele. I had only been working here for a little over a year, Addy had gotten me hired when I had to quit my last job.

Natalie paused for a second, considering something. "Chels quit today, and she was suppose to be the hostess up there." Chelsea was a horrid rotten human being. Think of the most hated mean girl you knew from school and times that by 5, that was Chelsea. She thought that she walked on water and hated anyone who tried to tell her otherwise. Her parents had let her get a boob and butt job for her graduation and she's been using those assets to her advantage ever since.

"Oh no that's too bad, do you have anyone to fill in up stairs?" Oh hell yes! Chelsea was nightmare of a person, and now she's gone. WHOO! I mentally gave my self a high five, keeping my face composed. Inner me was doing a full on dance though.

"I could do it, I already had to be up there anyway to serve drinks, I could do both." I said in my most professional voice, this was my chance for a raise and I wouldn't have to wear this ridiculous outfit anymore.

Our outfits consisted of a white lace tank collard blouse, skimpy grey shorts over stockings, with suspenders and thigh high black heeled boots. The customers had no complaints but this wasn't exactly a practical outfit to say the least.

Natalie's face broke out in a smile. Wasn't aware that was possible for her, "Would you really be willing to do that? It would help out greatly!" She was beaming. Her voice took on a higher pitch and she was smiling sweetly at me.

I smiled back, "If I get paid the hostess salary, and I get to keep 55% of the tips." I said crossing my arms.

"Make it 50% and we have a deal. Now go downstairs and grab something from one of the shops and meat me in my office in an hour, we have a lot to go over D." And she waked away, less angry and a little bit of a pep in her step. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone or something, she was wayyyy to happy.

I was excited to say the least, no more hoochy mama thigh high boots and weird ruffled shirt or suspenders. I was dancing slightly to myself, I completely forgot Addy was standing next to me.

"You go girl, you get that promotion, now if you'll excuse me the bar is awaiting their best bartender." She said with a laugh.

"Thanks Addy, I'll see you after our shift." I made my way down to the shops on the first floor. This is great, I need something that screams sophisticated and classy. Hmm. Everything here was usually way too gaudy for my taste, I hated things wit a bunch of bling, a little is fine, just not head to toes sparkles. I walked by one of the less popular shops and stopped, there in the window was the outfit I was looking for. A red hour glass dress with elegant v neck and small cut outs on the side, It was paired with a small black leather jacket and gold necklace and bracelets.

This was it the outfit that would change my career, in more ways than I thought possible.

After buying the dress and leather jacket, along with the accessories, I picked out a pair of black stilettos that pulled the whole look together. I ditched my uniform in my locker and headed to Natalie's office to go over todays High stakes poker game.

See the thing was that whole casino was in a buzz, all because the owner was here playing in today's game. He rarely ever made an actual appearance let alone gambled. Mr. Donovan had other better things to be doing I suppose, but his reputation made it known that you don't question his ways and you don't fall out of line or go against the Casino. It was his way or the highway, I'm pretty sure that's why Natalie was always so Harsh, she was running a tight ship.

Like I said I hadn't worked here that long, so I had never met the elusive Mr. Donovan, but the story's everyone told, paint a vivid picture. From what Addy has explained you don't cross him and you don't say no to the guy. In my opinion he sounded like a pompous asshat, but that's just me.

When I got to the third floor, I could hear Natalie talking on the phone, so I waited outside the door for a few minutes, "Yes Sir. No Sir, I understand. Yes. Yes I got it taken care of. No she no longer works here. Yes, her replacement is one our best, she can handle this responsibility, I guarantee it. Good bye." The loud clack of her phone hitting the receiver made me jump.

"Danie, get in here." I walked into her office and sat down at one of the leather chairs in her office. I hadn't been in here since the day she did my interview, nothing had changed. It was still decked out and furnished with expensive leather and gold accents. Her window overlooking the casino floor.

"Okay so as you know the owner is here today playing in the VIP lounge. I have been talking you up for the last half hour with him, do not make me regret this. I am giving you one chance to wow me. Make it through the day and we can make this a more permanent position." She we went on and on about what it meant to be a hostess and how to act around the players, she also reminded me that I wouldn't have a server up there, since it was originally my job to do it to begin with. I would be in charge of drinks as well as making sure the players weren't counting cards or trying to hide cards or cheat in anyway. They would be watching cameras as well, but I was the first line in making sure the game ran smoothly. It was basically my job to keep the players in line and provide them with anything they wanted that the hotel could offer. Chelsea took this to heart sometimes and would do anything to make a customer happy, or get a great tip. I guess her antics finally caught up to her.

Natalie wanted me to be familiar with all the camera angels and what to look for. She went over all the rules and what to look out for. I basically got a crash course training session for a job that took weeks to fully accomplish. I was only given a few hours to get ready.

I took a deep breath and gathered my nerves. It was 10 o'clock, time to get this game started. "Good evening gentlemen, I will be your host this evening, you can call me Danie. You all know what rules are for today's game, so let's get this going shall we." I lead them through the VIP lounge and to the table in the back next to the bar. I looked over hoping it was Addy working, but it wasn't. Would have been nice to have a friendly face around.

The lounge was incredible. It was filled with leather and red suede lounge chairs. The tables were the highest quality you could buy and the bar was stocked with everything imaginable. He had all the high end name brands of every liquor you could think of and more. I loved the smell of the rich leather, I took a deep breath and plastered a smile on my face.

The men all looked over 50, and wearing gaudy expensive suits and cologne. The smell alone gave me a headache, but pair that with the crazy designs on the suits and I knew I'd have a migraine by the end of the day. Seriously, just because they could make these designs, does not mean they should have. All these men were business men and had a tendency to hold themselves to higher authority and all gave me creepy sinister smiles, great a whole day with these Ancient, perverts. I had had my fair share of dealings with men like this for a large portion of my life and it didn't get less disgusting.

I was mentally groaning when He walked in. Dressed in a designer crisp black suit and red satin tie. He looked like something straight from Greece, who had been chiseled out of marble and brought to life. His hair was the same color as his suit and it highlighted the ice blue color of his eyes, every cell in my body was suddenly alive and kicking. I could barely take my eyes off of him. He towered over everyone else, he had to be 6 foot something easily. His wide shoulders filling out the jacket of his suit so well, I wondered if moved too quickly if it would rip right off of him. Who was this man?

Mmmm now there's a thought.

"Good evening everyone, I hope I am not too terribly late." He said as he reached his seat, his voice like velvet filling the room. His eyes caught mine and I felt a surge of electricity run though my veins. He had a very commanding presence about him. Everyone stood and gave him all their respect and attention at once.

What the hell was that. I shook my head to clear it.

One of the ancient ones stood up and shook his hands, "Not at all Mr. Donovan, you are just in time, this lovely lady was just about to take our drink orders." His yellow stained teeth smiling in my direction, I cringed at the old guy.

Mr. Donovan, as in the Mr. Donovan of Donovan Casino and Hotel. He was the owner of this casino, and tonight's guest of honor. Damn, I was in some hot water now. Got to keep a calm and sophisticated composer D, just treat him like all the other high rollers, smile and make sure his glass is never empty. I could do this..couldn't I? I've dealt with lots worse, of course I could.

After getting the table's drink orders placed, the cards were dealt and the game began. I walked over to the bar and made sure the drinks were done to the exact specifications that tonight's guests wanted, and took them back to the table setting them down. I made my way around the table and put Mr. Donovan's drink down in front of him. He paused looking up from his cards, and for a brief second I thought I caught a glimpse of a smile break out across his otherwise still face. Or maybe I was seeing things.

I made my way to my podium and took a sip of my Coffee. After a few hours into the game, they paused to eat lunch that was catered. I took my plate and sat down next to one of the large windows, looking out over the city landscape, it was only afternoon, but the city still looked alive as it did when all the neon was light up at night.

I was so busy starring out the window I almost didn't notice someone walking up besides me. "It's a gorgeous view isn't it?" I looked to see who had pulled me out of my day dream, it was one of the gaudy suits. He had a thick accent, which was no surprise we get a lot of out of Country big wigs in here. "Yea, it's even better at night." I replied offering a half smile. Regretting it instantly. He inched closer to me with the same sinister yellow toothed smile from earlier.

As if every hair in my body stood up at once, I could feel His presence near, "That's one of the reason's I built the lounge this high up, so you could look out over the city scape." He walked up beside the other suit.

"Well, that was a very smart decision, as well as hiring these fine specimens." He replied giving me a sly grin. I felt like I was going to hurl. Mr. Donovan must have noticed my discomfort and put is arm around the suit and walked him towards the bar. "Yes, well lets get you a drink Charles."

Thank god, I could finish my meal in peace. Though I was sad to see Mr. Donovan walk the other direction, I was also glad I could take a deep breath as well. He made my body react in ways I didn't know capable. Who was this man?

After our lunch break I started to notice a pattern with how the game was going. Out of the four players that were at the table only 2 of them were actually playing the game fairly. I called it into Nat, and she told me to not worry about it. I was curious after lecturing me about cheating and counting cards for an hour I thought she would have more of a worried tone about her. I just kept making notes down at my podium between drink and food orders. I had quite a lengthy report going.

There were only a few players so the game didn't last too terribly long into the night. Mr. Donovan and the suit known as Charles were the last two left at the table around 7pm. They took a small break to order dinners and chat before finishing up the game. Charles had a sneaky grin on his face, had the guy not heard of a poker face? He laid down his cards with glee all over him. He thought he had one. However, Mr. Donovan had different plans. Without even breaking a sweat or showing any emotion, he laid his cards down. "Aces over Queens, Mr. Donovan wins, congratulations Sir." The dealer took Charles' chips and moved them over to Mr. Donovan.

Ha, that's what you get you cheeky bastard.

"What, this is an outrage! This isn't fair!" He screamed at the top of his lungs. I had called security hours ago for standby, I had an inkling this was going to happen. I motioned for them to escort him out, while I began cleaning up for the night.

Mr. Donovan gathered his chips and proceeded to walk over to one of the players, I was curious as to what he was doing. Then he handed him a chunk of the chips to him, "Thanks for playing fairly Mr. Jun I look forward to playing with you in the future." Mr. Jun smiled and bowed his head, taking the chips to be cashed.

Charles who looked like his head was about to explode was still yelling at the top of his lungs as security escorted him out of the lounge. Mr. Donovan smiled my way and nodded before following the screaming gaudy man out.

Weird. I gathered my things and helped clean up the empty glasses and plates. It was a little after 12:30 and my body was exhausted. I kicked off my heels in an effort to be a little more comfortable. After the lounge looked spotless I stepped into the elevator, heels in hand and went to hit the first floor.

Only I was greeted by large guard, one of Mr. Donovan's men I presumed. He hit the button for top floor - the pent house, "The boss wants to talk with you." That was all he said the entire ride up to the pent house. His voice was echoing in my head, had I not caught the cheating quick enough, had I somehow insulted Mr. Donovan? The questions were rolling around in my brain, what did I do? Why did he want to talk to me. With a sigh I put my heels back on and slipped my coat on as well.

After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator doors opened with a ping. The guard motioned for me to walk forward. My heels made a echoing click clack against the marble floor. I had never been up to the pent house before, this place was huge and magnificent looking. The floors were white and black swirled marble. The place was furnished with red swayed and dark leather. There was a large mahogany coffee table that adorned the living area. And the whole back wall was made up of windows over looking the city, with all its neon glory. This place was a palace.

I walked over to the wall of windows and just stared out over the city I had called home for a few years now. So much different than the small town I was from. That place felt like an eternity away.

"Ah Danie there you are, come with me." Natalie walked into the living room and pointed down the back hall. I started walking and she followed me, "The door on the right." It was open and I could see a few other guards as well as some of the security detail we have watching cameras in the room, and there he was sitting like a god on his thrown behind a beautiful dark stained desk, it looked antique but it suited him well.

Mr. Donovan stood as he saw me and Natalie enter the room. "Good evening Miss Smith, have a seat would you. Guys thank you, you can leave now." My body was in a trance as I glided across the room and sat down opposite of him. Natalie stood to the right of me next to the desk with a proud smile on her face. I wondered if she was having a stroke. She never smiles, and to do it twice in one day, impossible.

She took a deep breath, " I am proud of you Danie, you did incredibly well today. You not only caught two high rollers cheating the game, but informed us without them knowing, all while maintaining a smooth and comfortable atmosphere in the lounge. You took orders quickly and efficiently, and kept your cool while being verbally harassed by some of the players. I would say that you have earned this promotion outright, however Mr. Donovan here has a different idea." She turned towards the Greek god like man sitting across from me.

He grinned at me, his pearly whites all perfect like off a dentist commercial. "I agree with everything Natalie has said up to this point, even more so since I found your note sheet. I couldn't believe when Natalie told me this morning she was offering the VIP lounge to a first time hostess, but she made the right call. I knew that some of the players were known for cheating at some of the other high roller games we host here as well as other casinos, I wanted to see first hand what exactly they were doing, it wasn't easy catching onto their habits and playing styles, but when I did you had already called it into Natalie. Fantastic."

Was I hearing this right? I caught them cheating before the boss did? "So if you agree with Natalie on how well I did today, why do you not want me to have the promotion if you don't mind me asking?"

"Because Miss Smith, I would like to offer you a better one." He slid a piece of paper across the desk to me. On it was one of the most stunning buildings I had ever seen, it was old architecture with a modern touch. The warm glow of the overall building looked inviting and intriguing.

I was in awe, "What is this place, it's beautiful."

He smiled again, god I could watch him do that forever, "I'm glad you think so, this is my restaurant in New York, It has a lounge for private parties and gambling events as well."

I looked down at the gorgeous building again, "What does this have to do with me?" I asked still confused by the entirety of what was happening.

I looked up noticing him still staring at me. "Well I would like you to come work for me there, in New York. I could use someone who can handle themselves around high rollers and be able to be professional and trustworthy, which are hard traits to come by now a days."

"I can offer you a place to stay and reasonable sized salary with benefits, so what do you say Miss Smith?" His face was a hard to read, no emotion hidden in his soft features, hmm.

"New York huh, I say, When do we leave?" I couldn't contain the smile that broke out on my face. A chance to go to NY and live and work, hell yeah count me in. I had always wanted to go, but I never had the money to make the trip out there. Now was my chance.

Then He giggled, Mr. Donovan smiled and giggled at my excitement, which only made me go hot from head to toe. I hope I get the chance to hear more of that luxurious laugh of his. "We leave tomorrow, I'll have my driver pick you up at 8."

"See you then, and thank you Mr. Donovan. Also sorry Natalie I'm going to have to turn down the promotion, I hope you understand." I said with a smile.

"I will have to say it will be sad to see you go, but I understand completely."

Half an hour later I had made it down to the floor and found Addy, just as her shift was ending. "Hey girl ready to go?"

"Yes please get me out of here!" She laughed, "Also you look stunning in that outfit, holey cow!"

"Why thank you, but trust me you think your mind blown over this outfit, wait till I tell you what happened today."

The ride home was full of laughter and awe as I told her the events of the day. She was happy that I finally get to go see the city of my dreams, but sad to see me go as well.

"I love that you are going but, I am going to miss my roomie! Whose gonna help me pick out ridiculous outfits and go drinking with me? Ugh I am going to miss you so much!" She was giddy and sad all in one, and so was I.

"Though I can see why you would say yes so quickly." Her smirk was light by the dash of the car.

"Oh and why do you say that?" I responded

"Because Have You Seen How GORGEOUS That Man Is." She fanned herself playfully laughing.

I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous she was being. But she was right, he was definitely something .

When the plane landed I closed my laptop and started to gather my things. I hated when I had to travel for business, but at least having my own jet was nice. I could come and go as quickly as I needed.

I had heard about a business associate of mine who was taking advantage of the accommodations at my Casino and had been cheating me out of thousands of dollars as well. It was time I paid him and his helper a little visit, thus my flight to Vegas.

I stepped out on to the tarmac and regretted my choice of outfit for the day. Damn Nevada was hot, too hot for my liking. I could already feel the sweat dripping down my back. How could anyone live her full time was beyond me.

After weaving through traffic we finally arrived at my business, The Donovan Casino and Hotel. Maybe naming the place after myself was a bit selfish, but oh well. I went up to the penthouse suit and put my things down. I changed my shirt and called Natalie, my assistant manager for the place to meet me in my office as soon as she could.

I sat down at my desk and pulled up camera footage of all the accounts I wanted her to see first hand. Up until a week ago we couldn't figure out how Charles kept winning, we knew had to have been cheating somehow, we just weren't sure how. I was here to see if I could catch him first hand.

Natalie made her way into my office and sat down. "Good morning Mr. Donovan, I hope your flight went well."

I nodded as a response and turned the computer monitor towards her. "I am going to play in today's game and we are going to catch this son of a bitch, no one and I mean no one steals form me."

Natalie looked nervously at the computer and then at me, "Yes sir, I understand. "

"Now I need you to fire or force Chelsea to quit, I don't want her working her anymore. I have a feeling she's been helping him and I don't' want her here anymore. Now go."

With that she jumped out of the chair and fled down the hall.

I finished getting ready, pulling my suit jacket on. I called down to Natalie's office to see if she had a replacement for Chelsea yet. The conversation was short and too the point, she talked up one of her Employee's Danie and assured me that she was more than capable to do this. I was a little worried about having a newbie there today, however I trusted Natalie's judgment and went with it.

I went into the living room and glanced out the windows of the suit. I loved the view this place had of the strip, it was one of my favorite things about this place. I loved the city light at night, it was calming sensation in a crazy messed up world.

I was so lost in thought, when I looked down at my watch it read 9:58. Damn I needed to head down to the lounge. I rode the private elevator down and found the small group of my associates already sitting down at the table.

I walked towards the small group and apologized for my tardiness. Charles then turned my attention towards Her. So this was the girl Natalie picked as a replacement for today, I would have to remember to give her my thanks. Danie was so beautiful. Her hair fell down around her face, framing it perfectly with golden locks. Her eyes were a mysterious shade of blue, grey. Her lips looked so soft and plump, I had to fight every cell in my body not to walk up and just kiss her. I peeled my eyes away from her long enough to give my drink order and begin the game.

However, when she came by a few minutes later and set down said drink in front of me I couldn't help but smile at her. God what is wrong with me I need to focus on this game.

Thankfully she sat behind me most of the game and it was easier not to get distracted, but she was constantly coming up to the table to refill drinks and I had to concentrate so hard not to look up at her every time she passed me.

After a few hours of playing we took a break for lunch. I was talking to a representative form Japan about opening up a partnership in Tokyo, when I noticed Danie standing by the windows. I took the opportunity to really observe her, she carried herself well, her confidence radiating off in waves. Though she wasn't cocky with it either, which is a fine line to balance, especially in young females I find. They are either too full of themselves or have no idea who they are.

I tried to focus back on the conversation at hand, but when I saw Charles walk up to her, I could instantly see how uncomfortable he was making her. To anyone else though, it looked like she was engaging in a polite conversation.

I excused myself and made my way across the room, standing next to Charles.

"Yea, it's even better at night." Danie said just as I walked up.

"That's one of the reason's I built the lounge this high up, so you could look out over the city scape." I responded, getting Charles attention away from the girl.

I hated the way he talked to the girls, he treated them like objects. "Well, that was a very smart decision, as well as hiring these fine specimens." He replied giving Danie a sly grin.

My jaw tensed at the outright indecency of him. Sensing her discomfort I put my arm around Charles and led him far away from her. "Yes, well lets get you a drink Charles." I dug my fingers into his shoulder causing him to wince in pain. "Talk to my employee like that again Charles and I will make sure that you don't set foot in any Casino worth a damn, got it!" I seethed into his ear as we made our way to the bar.

"Yes Mr. Donovan, I'm sorry." He trembled back. Eyes darting around the room, sorry buddy you have no help here, this is my domain.

She's my domain.

After a few more round it was down to me and Charles. Fantastic. I had noticed Danie scribbling something on a napkin throughout the night and called her over for another refill. She had a look like she knew what was going on. I had just now caught on to Charles' antics, I was impressed she had already figured it out.

We finished the game and Charles was escorted out by security who had been on standby for the last few hours. I smiled at my victory over the sleaze ball. I handed a few chips to my Japanese associates and headed down towards my office. I had Charles band from all the casinos in Vegas and any of my establishments in the states of overseas, no one cheats me and gets away with it. I could have him arrested or make him disappear if I wanted too, but watching him loose the one thing he loved doing was far more rewarding. If he wanted to gamble he would have to go to some crummy no good backwoods place form now on.

I am very big on respect and if you don't have any, then I have nothing to do with you. As far as I'm concerned people who can't show respect are the scum of the Earth.

That's why I offered Danie a position at my new restaurant in New York. I knew she could handle dealing with those types of people on her own, and she really did have a keen eye for details.

Though there was another part of me if I was being honest that just couldn't stand to leave Vegas without her. I don't know what it was about her, but ever since I saw her I couldn't get my mind off her.