Chapter 1

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"What the hell is this place, bro? We can't even get through the damn door. This isn't your usual style of watering hole." Orrin Verga stopped at the crowded entrance to the unfamiliar bar and shot a disgusted look toward his older brother.

"Quit your whining, Orrin. You'll get your infusion soon enough," Alexios replied in a mild tone, pressing forward into the throng, his height allowing him to see over most everyone's heads.

Jimmy's Bar, where he and his brother were at this moment, was packed on a Thursday night, just like every other night Alexios had visited the past week. Since this was Las Vegas, that detail shouldn't have been a surprise. But the fact that Jimmy's was located nowhere near the Strip clanged bells in his head. It was a neighborhood pub, not some glitzy nightclub, yet there was standing room only. And Alexios wanted to know why. Needed to know why. His current lifestyle depended on that knowledge.

He pushed deeper into the crowd, eyes sweeping the environs in search of a table. His brother hated to stand and drink, and Alexios wasn't a fan of the practice, either. And for this reconnaissance mission he preferred comfort.

The tables surrounding the packed dancefloor were all taken, while the oldies music blaring from high, corner speakers had the dancers gyrating on the floor like Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. A roar from the rear of the place snagged Alexios's attention, but it was just a group of guys around a pool table congratulating each other on a shot well-taken. Near them stood a couple playing darts and swigging beer, while a woman in jeans and a tube top kept yanking on an old time, one-armed-bandit like it was giving the money away.

"Found one," Orrin announced, and Alexios turned to follow his younger brother to the round table he'd obtained near the dance floor. They both sank into the waiting chairs on twin groans.

A short, perky brunette waitress appeared at their sides almost immediately. Dressed in black pants and a black, button-down shirt opened to display a generous amount of cleavage, she slapped down two drink napkins. "Welcome to Jimmy's, boys. What can I get you two?" She'd pitched her voice over "Mustang Sally" as it blasted from the speakers.

Alexios smiled at her, glancing over the well-stocked bar behind the bulging-with-people counter. "A single malt scotch, neat." She raised her brows with a nod, then turned her attention to Orrin, who said, "A Guinness."

Alexios blinked. Since when did Orrin order a Guinness? His brother's taste ran to the more common, much to their mother's distress. While Alexios preferred to follow in his parents' footsteps throughout his life, Orrin, the more daring of the two of them, had been more apt to join the circus than a fraternity at Harvard. So, what was up with the specialty draught?

"Oh, she's gonna love you, darlin', 'specially with the crowd she's got hangin' around her right now," the chesty server said to Orrin with a grin. "Comin' right up." She turned and wove her way back to the bar, with stops at other tables along the way.

Alexios pinned his brother with a narrow-eyed look. "What's with the Guinness? You drink any shit beer available."

Orrin sat back with a satisfied grin. Oh, hell, Alexios thought. Here comes a rambling explanation for what should be a bullet-point answer.

"Well, bro. As I said earlier: you don't frequent these kinds of joints. If it doesn't have crystal chandeliers and a string quartet in the corner, you won't step your Brooks Brothers shoes into it. While I, on the other hand--"

"Yes, we all know you'd make friends with the Tattooed Man from the circus." Alexios tried like hell to cut Orrin's long-winded explanation off. His brother shrugged with a nod, seeing the truth in the statement. Then he sat forward, all humor wiped from his face.

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