The Gambler - Raquel Belle
This book has been a labor of love in the truest sense. In many ways, I feel like this is the best work I’ve ever done. I want to thank my amazing editor for calling me out when I was lazy, unfocussed…or not giving it everything I had. You inspired me to do better.
I also want to thank our advanced readers for their support and positivity…it made all the difference. You guys told me what I was doing wrong and I listened.
Finally, thank you to Naughty Bird for the opportunity.
If this ends up being the last book I get to write, I’ll be going out on top.
Ka-ching. If there's one sound that sums up Las Vegas, that's it. It's a Friday night in Fortuna, one of the city's most famous hotels and casinos. I’m engulfed in an exciting frenzy of flashing lights, jangling slot machines, and crowds of people. It’s bright. It’s loud. And it’s a little bit crazy. I watch an overweight Elvis impersonator go by in a skintight white jumpsuit, hand-in-hand with a busty Marilyn Monroe. I choke on my vodka-cranberry and cough furiously. Okay, it’s a lot crazy.
“All good?” Deanna turns away briefly from the slot machine she’s playing to clap me on the back—hard. Her hazel eyes, shoulder-length brunette hair, and heart-shaped face mirror my own. My twin sister even shares my sprinkling of light freckles across the nose and cheeks.
I nod, blinking back tears. She cocks an eyebrow and gives me a grin before turning back to the slot machine. She jabs at the multi-colored screen in front of her. It beeps and whirrs, playing a melody while the five boxes on the screen rapidly zip through a series of cartoon images. A king’s crown. A small pile of gold. A treasure chest. A four-leafed clover... The whirring slows. I watch as Deanna anxiously chews on her lip. In one hand, she’s got a rum and coke, in the other she holds a cigarette that is dangerously in need of an ashtray.
“Uh, Deanna, your cigarette.” I nudge her.
“YES!” She shrieks and pumps her fist in the air, sending a sprinkling of ash down onto the carpeted floor. The screen in front of her is blinking furiously, with colored lights illuminating her face. The whirring has stopped and the screen now displays three identical images of a king’s crown. Jackpot. My heart thumps. Ka-ching. I’m not a gambler but even I can’t suppress the adrenaline rush that the moment brings.
“Lilly, you are my lucky charm!” Deanna gives me a hug and a sloppy kiss on the cheek. “I knew this was the perfect way to celebrate our 25th birthday.”
“You are having a good run,” I acknowledge cautiously. I don’t want to encourage Deanna too much. We’ve been playing the slots for only an hour and she’s already on her third drink.
“Deanna, you crazy bitch! You hit another jackpot?!” Brian saunters over, cool and calm in comparison to Deanna’s frantic excitement. He looks like a celebrity, with his slight scruff, lean build, leather jacket, and sunglasses that never come off. Actually, he looks like the lead singer in a band. Like somebody whose picture I would have stuck on my wall as a teenager.
“Yeah, you’re seriously on a roll!” Stacy—another one of Deanna’s Las Vegas friends—chirps. She unselfconsciously adjusts her tube top as she peers at Deanna’s screen. The scrap of fabric barely contains her voluminous breasts. She’s paired it with jean-shorts and platform heels, showing off her curves from top to bottom.
“Uh, Stacy, I think you’re about to have a wardrobe malfunction,” I feel compelled to point out. Las Vegas casinos seem to be pretty relaxed when it comes to the dress code but I’m not sure if Stacy flashing a nipple is a good idea. One of the security guys on the floor has circled a few times already, casting a keen eye at our small but rambunctious group.
“Oh, thanks doll.” She tugs the top up ever so slightly while giving me a wink. The blue glitter on her eyelids matches the glitter on her top. “Deanna, why didn’t you tell us your sister was such a sweetheart?”
“She’s the best,” Deanna says emphatically. Her eyes don’t leave the screen of the slot machine.
“There’s no point telling Stacy her tits are about to bust out,” Brian drawls casually as he slowly reaches for the cigarette behind his ear and lights it. His eyes bore into mine as he says, “She loves it when guys stare at