I am Lara Adams as I enter the casino later that night and stand beside Andrew Kane at the dice table. I'm still a redhead, with a soft southern accent and a prim and proper smile. The name is not new to me. I used it to enroll at Mayfair High in Oregon, where I met Ray and Seymour. It's hard to believe that was less than two months ago. How life can change when you're a vampire on the run.
Andy glances over at me and smiles. He has the dice in his hands. He has been in the casino five minutes but already he's had a couple of drinks.
"Do you want to place a bet?" he asks.
I smile. "Do you feel hot?"
He shakes the dice in his palm. "I am hot."
I remove a stack of black hundred-dollar chips from my bag and place one on the pass line, his favorite bet--seven or eleven. Andy rolls the dice. They dance over the green felt. Coming to a halt, the numbers four and three smile up at us.
"Lucky seven," the croupier says and pays off our bets. Andy flashes me another smile.
"You must be good luck," he says.
I double my bet. "I have a feeling this is my night," I say.
By the time the dice come to me, Andy and I have lost a combined total of eight hundred dollars. That is about to change. With my supernatural balance and reflexes, with practice, I can roll any number I desire. I have been practicing in my suite since I returned from the compound. Carefully I set the dice upright in my left palm in the configuration: five and six. In a blur, I toss them out. They bounce happily, seemingly ran?domly to human eyes. But they come to a halt in the same position they started out. Andy and I each win a hundred dollars on the number eleven. Since I threw a pass, I am invited to throw another--which I do. The people at the table like me. Most bet on the pass line.
I throw ten passes in a row before I let the dice go. We mustn't get greedy. Andy appreciates my style.
"What's your name?" he asks.
"Lara Adams. What's yours?"
"Andrew Kane. Are you here alone?"
I pout. "I did come with a friend. But it seems I'll be going home alone."
Andy chuckles. "Not necessarily. The night's still young."
"It's five in the morning," I remind him.
He nods at the glass of water I sip. "Can I get you something stronger?"
I lean against the table. "I think I need something stronger."
We continue to play craps, winning better than honest wages when I am throwing the dice. The people at the table don't want me to surrender the designated high roller position, but I am careful not to appear superhuman, just damn lucky. Andy bets heavily and wins back all the money he lost the night before, and then some. We both drink too much. I have four margaritas, Andy five Scotches and water, on top of what he had drunk before I entered. The alcohol has no effect on me. My liver neutralizes it almost the instant it enters my system. I can take in all kinds of poisons and remain undisturbed. Andy, however, is now drunk, just the way the casinos like people. He is betting five hundred dollars a roll when I pull him away from the table.
"What's the matter?" he protests. "We're winning."
"You can be winning and courting disaster at the same time. Come on, let's have some coffee. I'm buying."
He stumbles as he walks beside me. "I've been at work all night. I'd like a steak."
""You shall have whatever you want."
The Mirage coffee shop is open twenty-four hours a day. The menu is flexible--Andy is able to get his steak. He orders it medium rare with a baked potato. He wants a beer, but I insist he have a glass of milk. "You're going to destroy your stomach," I say as we wait for our food. I do have favorite foods, besides blood. I have ordered roast chicken with rice and vegetable. Surprisingly, for a vampire, I eat plenty of vegetables. Nothing is as good for the body as those fresh greens, except, perhaps, those dripping reds. Sitting with Andy, I become thirsty for blood as well. Before I rest, I will grab some male tourist off the streets, show him a good time. That is, if I don't spend the night--the day--sleeping beside Andy. His eyes shine as he looks me over.
"I can always have it removed," he replies.
"Why not just drink less?"
"I'm on vacation."
"Where are you from?"
He chuckles. "Here!" He is serious for a moment "You know you are one beautiful young woman. But I suppose you know that."
"It's always nice to hear,"
"Where are you from?"
"The South--Florida. I came with a boyfriend for a few days, but he got angry with me."
"I told him I wanted to break up." I add, "He's got a nasty temper." I sip my milk, wishing I could squeeze our waitress's veins into it, add a little flavor. "What about you? What do you do?"
"I'm a mad scientist."
"Really? What are you mad about?"
"You mean, what kind of scientist am I?"
"Yes. And do you work around here?" His voice takes on a guarded note, even though he is still quite drunk. "I'm a genetic engineer. I work for the government. They have a lab--in town." I mock him playfully. "Is it a top-secret lab?" He sits back and shrugs. "They would like to keep it that way. They don't feel comfortable unless we're working outside the reach of mainstream scientists." "Do I detect a note of resentment in your tone?" "Not resentment--that's too strong a word. I love my job. It has provided me opportunities I couldn't get in the normal business world. I think what you sense is frustration. The opportunities presented in our lab are not being fully exploited. We need people of many disciplines involved, from all over the world."
"You would like the lab to be more open?"
"Precisely. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the need for security." He pauses. "Especially as of late."
"Interesting things are happening?" He looks away and chuckles, but there is a note of sorrow in his voice. "Very interesting things." He turns back to me. "May I ask you a personal question, Lara?"
"By all means."
"How old are you?"
I flirt "How old do you think I am?"
He is genuinely puzzled. "I don't know. When we were at the table, you seemed about thirty. But now that we're alone together you seem much younger."
I have designed my makeup and dress to appear older. My longish white dress is conservative; I have a strand of pearls around my neck. My lipstick is glossy, overdone. I wear a red scarf to match my red wig.
"I'm twenty-nine," I say, which is the age on my new driver's license and passport. "I appreciate your compliment, however. I take care of myself." I pause. "How old are you?"
He laughs, picking up his glass of milk. "Let's just say my liver would be a lot younger if this was all I drank."
"Milk does a body good." He sets the glass down and stares into it. "So do other things."
He shakes his head. "Just something that's going on at work. I can't talk about it. It would bore you anyway." He changes the subject. "Where did you learn to throw dice like that?" "Like what?"
"Come on. You always throw them the same way, resting the number you want to come up on your open palm. How do you do it? I've never seen anyone who could control the bounce of the dice."
I realize I went too far. He is a smart man, I remind myself. His powers of observation are keen, even when he is intoxicated. Yet, at the same time I don't mind that he sees something special in me. I have no time to cultivate his interest slowly. I must have him under my thumb by tomorrow night. It is then I plan to rescue Joel.
I answer his question carefully. "I have had many interesting teachers. Perhaps I could tell you about them sometime."
"How about now, tonight?"
"Tonight? The sun will be up in an hour."
"I don't have to be at work until it goes down." He reaches across the table and takes my hand. "I like you, Lara. I mean that." He pauses. "I feel like I've met you before."
I shake my head, wondering if he senses the similar?ities between Joel and myself. "We have never met," I tell him.
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