The Lucky Lady was a swanky casino and sports bar in Victoryville, a town that had seen better days. There used to be a racetrack associated with it, but the venue shut down years ago. When the owners had the course demolished, they expanded the site and added a hotel.
People came from all over the Tri-City area to soak up the atmosphere. Anyone who wanted to be seen—politicians, local celebrities, and wannabes—hung out at the bar. Of course, the party scene attracted the criminals in the region too. They tended to keep to the perimeter, waiting for unsuspecting patrons stumbling home.
Josh and I arrived, looking like a couple out on the town. He wore a tailored black suit with a black shirt while I donned a short black sequined dress and stilettos. Just in case, I carried my weapon in my handbag. Josh had a gun tucked into his holster.
As we entered, I took note of the high-arched ceilings spotted with dome security cameras. Players sat on stools either drinking or playing slots. Others gathered around the various tables while uniformed workers and servers strolled the patterned carpet. Plainclothesmen stood throughout the room.
I always wondered how anyone managed to concentrate in a casino. Between the constant bells and whistles from machines, loud chatter, and cheers, it was too much for me. Even the smells—a mixture of cheap cologne, aftershave, sweat, and food—was nauseating.
I shivered from the too-cool air-conditioning before Josh led me over to the extremely long counter. A female bartender with a pixie haircut came over and placed napkins in front of us. “What’ll it be tonight?”
“I’ll have a Sauvignon blanc,” I said.
Josh leaned against the bar. “Bourbon, neat.”
The woman quickly retrieved our beverages, and Josh paid. He lifted his glass, looking over the rim, and asked, “Do you see him?”
“No. Why don’t we walk around for a bit? Soak up a little ambience?”
He placed his free hand on my lower back and steered me toward the blackjack tables. Leaning down, he said, “Play it cool. Act like we’re here to gamble, like everyone else.”
I smiled easily and glanced around the room. “Not seeing anything of interest.”
“Let’s walk toward the roulette tables.”
As we stood watching people try their luck, I saw Joe. He was wearing black and moving toward a back staircase. Wanting to cause a scene, I let my glass tip until the contents spilled onto Josh’s shirt.
“Whoa!” He jumped as I soaked him in wine.
“Oh, babe. I’m so sorry. I guess I had my fill,” I exclaimed. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
An employee pointed to the restrooms—the same direction Joe was headed. We dropped off our glasses on a table. Then, we quickly walked toward the hall. I quickly glanced over my shoulder before we ducked into the stairwell. I gestured to Josh, stopped, and removed my shoes.
“Good thinking,” he said.
With my shoes in hand, we continued our descent. Before we cleared the stairwell, however, voices floated toward us.
“Did you hear about Mikey?” Joe said.
“Yes,” a woman said. “My lawyer is on his way to the precinct. You do know what has to be done, right?”
Joe whined, “But Mikey didn’t say anything.”
“It doesn’t matter. We can’t have any loose ends. Besides, King is still alive and in charge of the company.” That had to be the mayor.
Josh glanced at me. I tried not to read anything into his expression. Instead, I concentrated on the conversation. When nothing more was said, I motioned for us to go up the stairs. We moved as quickly and as quietly as we could, but I swung my arm and my shoe hit the banister.
“Did you hear that?” Mayor Simpson said.
“What?” Joe asked in a sharp tone.
“Go!” she shouted. “You’ve been followed!”
We ran faster, but there was no way we’d make it to the parking lot before Joe climbed the steps. So I did the next best thing. I grabbed Josh and yanked him into the women’s restroom. A few ladies were powdering their noses at a wall-length mirror.
One of them side-glanced and said, “Ah, now, somebody’s about to get lucky.”
Josh smiled and said, “Ladies, can we have the room.”
They laughed as they exited. Somebody said something extremely rude, which I didn’t want to think about.
Just before the door closed, I saw Joe. He was heading for the restroom.
Tugging on Josh’s hand, I dragged him into a stall and locked the door. “Play along.”
It was bad timing on my behalf, but I saw no other way around our predicament. I wrapped my arms around Josh’s neck and locked lips with his. Under different circumstances, I might have enjoyed the moment. After all, he was doing a lot more than playing along. Josh cupped my head and slanted his mouth, deepening the kiss.
Damn, that man could smooch.
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