King:Las Vegas Bad Boys(9)By: Frankie Love
“Thanks, Mom,” I say, pulling Sophia into my arms.
“I missed you, Mama,” she says, her little arms tight around my neck, her legs wrapped around my waist. In an instant, she is home.
“I’m here. And Gram took good care of you, didn’t she?”
“Course she did.” I feel Sophia’s smile against my neck as she nuzzles closer.
“Thanks for everything
Mom shuts off the light to my room and I kick off my heels, pulling the duvet over Sophia and me. We sink into our bed with me still in my pink chiffon bridesmaid dress. Ace and Emmy’s wedding, their life at the Spades Royalle, and my time in Landon’s suite all seem like a dream. It always seems like that when I go down to the strip to work—all bright lights and glamour and glitz.
I don’t want or need a South Pacific honeymoon and the fourteen-jillion-carat engagement ring on Emmy’s finger. I don’t need a diamond tycoon’s son or a Grammy-nominated lover. I just want something more.
And that makes me feel like a terrible mother and a terrible daughter. I like my life on the strip. And I like my life in this apartment. I just don’t know how to bring them together.
I wonder if my life will always be here and there. Disjointed. Disconnected. Detached.
I wonder if my life will ever feel whole.
Cradled in my arms, Sophia is able to drift into sleep, her fever already fading with the healing power of being in the arms of someone who makes everything feel safe.
I close my eyes, wishing someone held me who could make me feel that way, too.
And, strangely, feeling like I had been held that way, for a sliver of a moment, when Landon hovered on top of me, looking in my eyes, seeing me in a way I didn’t understand.
It’s been a solid two weeks since Ace’s wedding, and I haven’t seen Claire once. Not that I ever see her on the casino floor—her shifts are usually daytime, and I’m usually still sleeping at that hour.
Which is probably for the best. An awkward post-almost-rendezvous run-in isn’t something I necessarily want to have. I know once Ace and Emmy get back in town it will be inevitable, but what can I say? Avoiding confrontation is a fucking cornerstone of my goddamned existence.
I’ve just pulled up to the gym when the phone rings. My father.
“Hello?” I say into the now-parked car, Bluetooth activated.
“Landon, my boy, you sound exasperated. Surely you’re pleased to hear from your father.”
“Is everything alright?” I ask, not really interested in the never-ending small-talk-chatter my parents expertly engage in. Some English families are thrifty and sparse with conversation. My parents are not.
I don’t hold much against them, but their never-ending desire for me to join my brother Geoffrey as a productive member of English society, join in the cricket league in Hertfordshire, and stroll around in wellies with a bloody retriever fetching a ball before we break for a bit and shoot for sport makes me a bit ill. My father’s dream for me is a bit much.
Especially when I spend my nights in clubs until four a.m., sleep till mid-afternoon, and don’t even need to hire the strippers who dance for me ... let’s just say our life visions thus far haven’t quite intersected.
Geoffrey and Fiona should be enough for my parents, but they aren’t. Mum and Dad insist, constantly, on calling and asking me to join them in a wet weekend at home with them in England, sipping the nostalgic tea of my childhood.
“Well, listen, son—Geoffrey and I—”
“Dad, did you you really ring to tell me about your golden boy?”
“No, Landon, I called to invite you to an important family summit this weekend.”
“A summit?” I have no idea what he is talking about. “So we’ve graduated from annual family meetings, to full-on summits, have we? Is this a ploy to get me to join the family business?”
I don’t answer because I have no fucking clue what I’m supposed to say.
“Landon, you there?”
“Listen, I need you here next week. I am retiring. And I need to pass the family business on to one of my boys.”