“Not my business.” I turn towards the stage, dismissing him, but he continues to stand next to me. It doesn't matter what it looks like. If anyone can handle themselves, it’s Samantha.
“I mean that. I would never try to hurt her.”
I turn back to him and look him up and down. He’s the same size as me, and I’m not a small man. He’s got tanned skin, which I assume is a product of being in the Vegas sun all the time. He wears his dark hair long, and has a short beard which is unusual for men who lives in such a hot climate.
“Like I said, it’s not my business, Leo.” He knows I see everything and take mental notes. I’m kind of famous for it. If something is happening in this town, I know about it, and I’ve heard rumors of him and Samantha. Not that they’ve ever been together, just that he won’t quit chasing her. “One day maybe she’ll end up on the chopping block.”
He follows my line of sight to the stage and shakes his head. “Not if I can help it.” He takes a deep breath as if to shake off a thought before turning back to me. “I hear you’re looking for something specific tonight. I think we’ve all been informed several times.”
He’s referring to Mandy, and I clench my fingers around my pitchfork. “Goodnight, Leo.”
“Always a pleasure, Charles. Perfect costume, by the way.”
When he finally departs, I loosen my grip and lean against the back wall. The tables are all set, and I’ve got one reserved up front. I won’t sit there until the auction starts, and I’ve still got a lot of time. Time to stand here and observe, and time to brood.
Samantha knows exactly what she’s doing. She called me the same night Mandy asked to be entered into an auction. I broke a few things before I was finally able to calm down enough to plan. I had to have a plan. And I only had a week to make it work. Fortunately, money makes things move as fast as you need them to.
My assistant, Cupid, was in my office that night, making arrangements. After his thirty days were up at the Cortez casino, he came back to the ‘den of sin’ as he liked to call the Snake Eyes. He said he enjoyed working for the brothers, but preferred the debauchery of the Snake Eyes. I can’t say I blame him. I do as well.
When I turned eighteen, my father, Howard Townsend, offered me my trust fund. He was a wealthy man, having opened and operated five casinos in Vegas by the time I was ten. I was a punk kid, but I knew one thing—I wanted to make it on my own. I signed my rights away to my inheritance and went to college to get my MBA. I ended up getting a PhD in business development, but most people don’t know that. I got a loan and opened my baby, the Snake Eyes casino the day I turned thirty. Five years later we are at nearly one hundred percent capacity every day of the year.
My casino isn’t affiliated with any other Townsend properties, and it’s important to me that it stays that way. I appreciate how hard my father worked to give me the life he never had, but that didn’t mean I wanted to leach off him. I wanted to make a life of my own, and if my name was on the building, I wanted to be able to do whatever the fuck I wanted to do.
I look down at my costume and think about how I’ve gotten where I am now. The only way anyone could be in this room was if they had a costume on. Samantha does have a flair for the dramatic. I grit my teeth, thinking again that there’s only one person I would ever do this for.
The first time I saw her, I was getting into a car outside Echo, having just finished a business dinner there. Cupid had the door open for me, and I looked over my shoulder and saw her. I literally stopped moving and just stared at her. She looked like a model with her slim body, long legs, and her hair pulled back from her face, but her features were soft and angelic. She was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and I was struck dumb by her soft beauty.
“That’s Mandy Burch, assistant to the Cortez brothers,” Cupid whispered without my even having to ask.
I started to walk over, but at that moment the brothers came out of the restaurant, each of them wrapping an arm around her. I could have breathed fire I was so angry at seeing them with her. I whirled around and got into the back of the car, letting Cupid get in after me. Once he shut the door, the driver pulled away. I chewed on my fingernail as I stared out the window, seething with jealousy. She belonged to them. I was angry with myself for having this reaction to a woman. It had never happened before. These emotions were hitting me all at once, and I felt like I was going to explode.
“She seems quite fond of the brothers, wouldn’t you agree?”
Cupid is trying to make me commit murder, I just know it.