Authors: Jules Barnard
Copyright © Jules Barnard 2014
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All Rights Are Reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form is forbidden without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this book.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover design by Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations
Cover photograph ©mediaphotos/iStockphoto
Formatting by Polgarus Studio
We fear the thing we want the most.
—Dr. Robert Anthony
I yank up the bustier that shows more boob than I’ve ever revealed in my life as my best friend Cali and I make our way into the employee basement. God, this uniform sucks. After graduation, Cali found us summer jobs through her mom’s connections at Blue Casino. We plan to save up as much money as possible before graduate school begins in the fall. Cali says she didn’t know what the uniforms looked like, but she knew. She grew up near the Lake Tahoe casinos. She could have warned me and I’d have chosen a different position, like, say, dealer. Instead, I became a cocktail waitress, convinced it would be less center-of-attention.
Given that my nipples are an inch from greeting the world, I’m thinking, not so incognito.
Cali planned this. I found out before graduation that the safe boyfriend I’d chosen was cheating on me with a girl from his hometown. Cali’s been trying to get me back out there since the breakup. I thought she meant emotionally, but Jesus, this is
“What?” Cali peers innocently from across the aisle of the Blue locker room. “You look really good in that uniform. You should be thanking me.” She jerks her thumb to the left. “You’ve seen the Harrah’s cocktail outfits.” Harrah’s is to the right of Blue, but Cali’s sense of direction is inconceivably terrible.
She’s the smartest person I know—borderline genius—but the simple stuff befuddles her. She can, however, break down quantum entanglement like she’s describing how to toast bread. It’s bizarre, but I accept this about her.
Waitresses and female dealers swarm the lockers, stripping and pulling on freshly laundered uniforms allocated by the seamstress counter around the corner. It’s the end of the swing shift, so while some prepare to take to the casino floor, others are finished for the day and dressing for home.
The woman next to me shimmies into a gold lamé skinny dress and stilettos. Clearly, some people have bigger plans than me tonight. I tug on my jeans and slip on black flats.
“Heads up,” Cali calls.
Just in time, I see the Milestone Pod that tracks my running distance lobbed into the air. Cali had a two-second hankering for exercise this week. She ran a quarter of a mile and gave up. Apparently, she decided now was a good time to use her nonathletic skills to return my device.
The Milestone Pod veers several feet to the right. I lunge and flatten my stomach to the bench, catching it with my fingertips before it crashes to the ground.
I look up, exasperated. “Jesus, Cali, you’re like two feet away. Were you even aiming for me?”
“What? I’m making sure your reflexes are in working order.” She shuts her locker and swings a low-slung purse over her shoulder. “How was your night?”
I grab a few more items and close my locker as well. “They started calling me Snow White this evening.”
No need to elaborate on who “they” are. While Cali lived the high life of a dealer, training the first several days before her toes even grace the casino floor, I’ve been slaving away, slinging drinks in three-inch heels and trying to keep up with the veteran waitresses. For some reason, they’ve picked me, out of the dozen new seasonal waitresses, for hazing.
Cali gazes up, her mouth twisting as if she’s actually considering the nickname. I look around and drop my voice as we pass some workers on our way up the basement stairs to the casino floor. “I do
look like Snow White.”
She pinches her thumb and forefinger together, indicating a little bit. “But with a huge rack.”
I shift my shoulders in irritation and raise my voice to be heard above the clanging and buzzing of slots as we open the door to the floor. The sound is only slightly below deafening levels at this time of night. “I’m sporty. Athletes can’t have big boobs.”
She looks at me skeptically. “Girls would kill to have your boobs. You need to be proud. Like me—” She grins and sticks out her Victoria’s Secret-enhanced breasts.
There’s a chance I inherited my rack, as Cali puts it, from my mother, who does in fact have impressive boobs. I might also have inherited her looks, only her hair is a few shades lighter than my nearly black locks and she has true green eyes. Mine are hazel, less obvious. I like my eyes.
I’m sure the nickname has something to do with my dark hair and pale coloring. I’m equally certain the veteran waitresses think I’m young and naïve and not tough enough. I only deliver ten drinks at a time to their twenty, because I can’t freakin’ find my customers. I lose several a night because they move around the floor like they’re pollinating the slot machines. I’m spatially oriented; if people aren’t where I left them, I can’t find them. So yes, some of the hazing is warranted. But if they think I’m naïve, they don’t know me very well.
No one raised by Chantell Dubois could remain innocent—the woman changed her name to something that sounds like a French bordello, for Christ’s sake. I’m Genevieve, or Gen as my friends call me, but in spite of my mom’s fetish for anything French, I’ve kept her maiden name of Tierney—a 100 percent Irish surname. As much as my mom wishes it, there are no Frenchmen in our bloodline.
Technically, I could be French on my father’s side, but since I have no idea who he is, the point is moot.
What I haven’t mentioned to Cali, because it seems like a shitty thing to say to someone who’s struggling with money, is that my mother offered to pay my way through graduate school. I don’t technically need this job.
My mom doesn’t work, nor do we have rich relatives. I assume she gets by with the help of the wealthy men that have flittered in and out of our lives for as far back as I can remember, which is why I’m determined to earn my way through graduate school and create a healthy distance from it all.
Cali takes in the look on my face. “It’s lame they’re calling you names, even if you do look like Snow White.” I frown, which she ignores. “Tell them to back the eff off. Better yet, I’ll do it for you.” She cranes her head and glances around. “Which waitress started it?”
Ah, shit, now I’ve done it.
say anything.” She would too; Cali’s great like that. But sometimes Cali’s eagerness to help me gets me in trouble. “The one who started it is my supervisor. You’ll make it worse.”
She shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
We pass the last bank of slots before the sports bar. A waitress I met yesterday and chitchatted with throughout my shift tonight sees me and smiles this large, wide smile I’m beginning to associate with her. At about five foot three inches—the extra three courtesy of black pumps to match our midnight satin hot pants and electric-blue sequined bustiers—Nessa is petite. Compared to her, I’m like an Amazon at five foot ten—over six feet in my work heels.
I wave as we make our way past.
“Who’s that?” Cali asks curiously.
“Nessa. She’s really sweet. She’s the one who invited us to the dinner party tonight. Tacos. It’s casual.”
I’m not entirely comfortable around strangers, and meeting guys of any sort after my ex isn’t high on my agenda, but it would be nice to have another friend in town.
“Can’t go, remember?” Cali says. “Skype date with Eric.”
Oh God, I forgot. Even more reason to be out of the house. The cottage we rented for the summer has thin walls. I’d rather not be around for the Sex-Skyping that will ensue. And Cali’s boyfriend is on my shit list. He hit on me a couple of weeks ago, which transferred him from absentminded, annoying-boyfriend-of-my-best-friend to a creeper.
If I go to this dinner party with Nessa, it’ll kill two birds with one stone. Cali will think I’m recovering from my ex, dubbed the A-hole, and I won’t have to plug my ears at the moans vibrating through the walls. Win-win.
I park my dented Camry in the Al Tahoe neighborhood. The houses here sit away from the street with a sprinkling of manicured lawns mixed with yards of pine cones and bristly shrubs. Like most Lake Tahoe homes, many on this street have rounded eaves and shutters with tree-shaped cutouts—the knockoff Swiss Alps look.
The single-level house of Nessa’s friend has a V-shaped porch roof that extends to the ground. I lift my hand to knock on the front door, claustrophobically aware of the roof framing inches from my face—
The door swings open while my arm is still suspended to knock. Nessa grins, her straight black hair draped over one shoulder, black, almond-shaped eyes smiling happily at me. “I saw you through the window.”
Shouts erupt behind her and I peer over her head, because she’s short and I can. My gaze lands on a guy with a baseball hat turned backward who’s pounding his fist on a table, a pretty brunette beside him. The scent of chiles and grease smacks me in the face, making my mouth water like Pavlov’s dog.
I walk inside and Nessa closes the door, taking my coat and purse and quickly walking down a hall. “What can I get you to drink?” she asks when she returns. “Zach has Coronas in the fridge and I made a batch of margaritas.”
“Water would be great.” Nessa fills me a glass from the kitchen sink near the food simmering on the stove. We make our way to the others.
The guy with the baseball hat lifts his hands in exasperation at the attractive girl sitting with him. “You call that a drink?
Mira. That’s like a baby bird sip. Quit being a girl and gulp it like a man.”
A few coins glimmer on the table; a shallow glass sits in the center.
My heart does a little hop of glee. Quarters is one of my favorite drinking games.
I’ve been drinking since I was twelve. My mother thought it would make me worldlier to have wine with dinner—something to do with her French fetish. As a result, my tolerance for alcohol is high. Add good hand-eye coordination that
come from her—her precision is as good as Cali’s, which is to say nonexistent—and I pretty much dominate at Quarters.
“Zach,” Nessa says. The guy with the baseball hat looks up from the drink he’s refilling with a pitcher and smiles at Nessa. Wow, kind of an adoring smile if I’m reading it correctly, though Nessa never mentioned a boyfriend. “This is the friend I told you about. Gen is a cocktail waitress at Blue for the summer.”
I recognize Zach as one of the dealers Cali works with in the blackjack pit. “The food smells great.”
“Glad you could make it tonight,” he says. “This is Mira.”
The girl beside him gives me a weak smile.
“Mira is one of Zach’s Washoe friends,” Nessa adds. “They go way back. Their families have known each other for like a hundred generations.”
Zach adjusts his hat and scratches his forehead, his thick brown hair peeking through the hole of his backward ball cap. “Why do you always refer to us as
“Duh, it’s interesting.” Nessa shoves him in the shoulder and heads back into the kitchen.
He shakes his head. “Join us, Gen. We’re playing Quarters.”
“I’m driving; you mind that I’m not drinking?”
“Nope. You can help me get Mira toasted. She isn’t nice until she’s had a few.” His comment receives a scowl from Mira that resembles a runway pout, because the girl’s face is stunning.
Zach slides a quarter my way, and I sit in one of his granny-style wooden dining chairs. Grabbing the quarter and holding it between my thumb and forefinger, I angle for best approach. I slam the side of my palm onto the high-gloss wooden surface and let the quarter fly. It sinks into the empty juice glass.
“Nice.” Zach smirks in Mira’s direction. “We have a ringer.”
In college, we used a wide-rimmed cup to catch as many quarters as possible—hence, getting people drunk quickly. The respectable juice glass in the center of the table is so sophisticated. I feel very grown-up.
I glance at Zach and prepare my next shot. “So, Washoe? You’re Native American?” I dunk the quarter and gesture to Mira. The look she shoots me burns my corneas. For someone so pretty, she has a hell of an evil eye. I hope Zach is right about her demeanor improving with liquor.