Check out the Prologue
Six Years Later
Eli felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and pulled it out to see a text from the front desk. He didn’t like his name paged through the building. That was tacky in his eyes. His casino might be on a small island, but you were getting luxury once inside. And luxury to him meant discreet.
He called the front desk. “Yes, Kaitlin.” He knew his staff well. He had hundreds and didn’t care. He tried to learn everything he could about them and make them feel like a family. It was how he was raised and how his father and others in his family ran their businesses too.
“There is a woman at the front desk asking for you. She won’t give her name but says it’s important.”
“No name, huh?” he asked with a grin. It was not the first time someone had done that. “Is Griffin around?”
Griffin Zale was his head of security that normally could be seen by his side at night when he was in the casino. During the day, they weren’t together nonstop like most thought they were.
“I haven’t seen him yet this morning,” Kaitlin said. “Should I try to contact him first?”
“No,” he said. “That’s fine. I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
The last thing he needed was shit from his best friend that he couldn’t handle a woman.
He was in his office going through correspondence that built up way too fast. He had a lot of great employees he could delegate to, but nothing was done without his knowledge either. That meant spending mornings behind a desk when he’d rather be on the floor mingling.
Once he finished up with the email he’d been writing, he got up and walked out of his office in the back of the casino on the first floor. “Nancy, I’m going up front. You know how to find me if you need me.”
“Will do,” Nancy said.
She’d been with him for the five years that Bond Casino had been up and running. She’d worked for his father for years and was steady, stable, and reliable. She could crack the whip on anyone that tried to bug him too much and she kept him in line too. Probably came from knowing him since he was a toddler when she first started as his father’s assistant.
He turned the corner to the lobby and saw the back of a woman with long blonde hair, soft and flowing over a petite frame, standing at the front desk off to the side just looking around.
“Eli,” Kaitlin said to him. “Thanks for coming up.”
The blonde turned, the punch to the gut followed, and he knew right away who he was looking at. How could he forget? “Bella. Is that really you?”
“Hi, Eli,” she said. “Sorry about not giving my name. Um, is there somewhere private we can talk?”
“Sure,” he said. “Thanks, Kaitlin.” The first thing he noticed was her French accent was missing.
“Did you want me to reach out to Griffin?” Kaitlin asked.
“No. I’ll see him shortly.”
“Griffin?” Bella asked. “The guy from my uncle’s casino?”
He laughed. He’d never forget the night he met his best friend and head of his security. “One and the same,” he said.
“I hadn’t realized you were friends. You said you didn’t know each other back then.”
“We didn’t back then.” He wasn’t going to get into a conversation about his history with Griffin. He’d stayed at Bella’s uncle’s casino for a total of two weeks. He’d wanted to hightail it out of there, but to prove who he was and what he was doing, he decided to stay that extra week after the incident.
They were moving back through the lobby. He swiped a card to enter the door to the back, then two more to get to his offices.
“It’s pretty secure here,” she said.
“Very,” he agreed. “I learned that the hard way. Or I should say through experience.”
She laughed. A nervous sound. Just like that night he was dragged into the security pen. “Sorry about that. I explained it all to my uncle.”
“I know you did. It helped. We worked it out.” Not as fast as he would have liked, but hey, he learned a ton from Oliver Dubois.”
“I know you’re busy and I appreciate you taking the time to see me.”
“Never a problem,” he said. After six years she no longer looked like the fresh-out-of-college girl but more like a woman. He might have been attracted to her but wasn’t about to make a move back then. Not after just talking to her got security on him.
Besides, he’d only been there a week afterward and she was by no means the vacation fling type. He knew. He’d come across enough during his travels.
He passed by Nancy, grinned at her raised eyebrow and then shut the door to his office and gestured with his hand for Bella to have a seat. “Thanks,” she said. “I’m sure you’re curious why I’m here.”
“I am. Of course you could be on vacation and wanted to say hi, but that wouldn’t explain your reason for not giving your name to the front desk.”
“No,” she said. “I’m staying in a hotel in Boston. Or I did last night and took the ferry over this morning. I need your help. Or rather my uncle needs your help. No, it’s more about me.”
“Really?” he asked. “I find that hard to believe.”
Oliver Dubois was easily one of the top billionaires in the world. He didn’t own just the one casino in Monte Carlo that Eli was in, but more in Monaco and all over Europe. It was Eli’s luck Oliver had been in town that week. If he weren’t and Eli hadn’t been able to talk to Oliver personally, he might still be sitting in the holding cells.
“This letter should explain things better,” she said, pulling it out of her purse. “I found it in my room a few days ago along with a plane ticket to Boston and hotel reservations made under my grandmother’s maiden name.”
Interesting. He reached his hand out to take the envelope. “Do you know what this says?” he asked, noticing it was sealed.
“No. I had another letter that stated he had to leave the country and needed me to do so also. He’s private and I never ask questions, but he’s never done this before. His head of security is gone too. I sought out his second in command who took me to the airport in the middle of the night for a private flight to get me out of Monte Carlo.”
Eli opened the envelope and silently read:
Eli, I need you to watch after my niece for some time. If anyone can it’s you and Griffin on your small island. People are looking for me and it’s not safe for Bella to stay here. She needs to be protected from her past while she is there and doesn’t need to be concerned with the trouble that I am currently going through. I will be forever in your debt if you could keep Bella safe. I’ll be in touch. Don’t try to reach out. It will draw attention to you or Bella. You will be compensated for all your troubles and expenses when I return if you would allow Bella to live the life she is used to in my absence.
He read the letter over twice. He’d had no idea that Oliver was aware Griffin was with him.
“You don’t know anything that is in this letter?” he asked.
“No. Can you tell me?”
The letter didn’t say he couldn’t, but he was going to be vague. “Just that your uncle needs some time away. He’d rather you are looked after somewhere remote where no one can connect you to him.”
“Oh,” she said. “I know he’s always been private, but I’m scared for him. He’s the only family I know. He didn’t say anything else?” she asked, her eyes filling with tears.
Man, he was going to be toast in a second seeing that. He was such a sucker for tears.
“He mentioned that you needed to be guarded against your past while you are here. He felt that Griffin and I could do that. Can you explain that much to me?”
He figured saying that much was better than mentioning the current issues since she seemed in the dark. “So he knew that Griffin was with you?”
“Obviously,” he asked. “What do I need to know about you? Why are you in danger? Or aren’t you? I’m going to assume you are to start before I can go any further.”
“I don’t think I’m in any danger,” she said. “Not from my past at least. However, my father and mother died when I was a teen and Uncle Oliver became my guardian. He’s always protected me due to my father’s career. He believed there might have been danger, but I don’t remember that ever being the case.”
“Let’s start with the facts then,” he said.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I know you’re a busy man.”
He laughed. “I might be busy, but your uncle is asking a huge favor of me and he must know I wouldn’t turn you away. I can’t do what needs to be done if I don’t know what is going on. I get the impression you’d rather tell me first, but I can get Griffin.”
“No. You’re right. I’d rather tell you first.”