Prologue 1

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Authors Note 4/28/2016: If you're rereading this, I've changed some small things. Like Katie's last name. Also - I am writing, but I won't be updating until the story is done. Thanks for hanging in. -IReen

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More Ferarum: In the manner of beasts...

I used to love casinos.

The way they smell. Filtered smoke and canned air. Stale water and spilled alcohol.

The way they sound. Mechanized chiming, zinging, the false jingling of computerized coins. The chaotic carpet designs—the way they blur under tired, intoxicated vision. The lights, the ceilings, the stairways. Escalators and mirrored elevators. Up and down. Looking at yourself.

Down.

Up.

And the people.

Old Asian ladies curled into themselves, smoking endless cigarettes while slowly tapping the slot machine screens with gentle, gnarled hands. Young studs playing Swingers. Their fingers wrapped around rocks glasses containing weak, watery martinis.

Young girls in jeans and tanks, their skin covered in Vegas glitter, their eyes full of it—full of promise, full of the wacky ways of Vegas.

The porn, the acrobats, the shops, the shows, the drive-through weddings.

That was me once—stumbling towards the bank of elevators, one hand clutching a water bottle full of vodka, the other, my bridesmaid.

That was then.

This is now.

I got married here, I got stuck here.

And right now I'm slouched against the bar while Jared fills my tray with drinks for delivery out to penny slots, dollar slots, high roller tables and video poker. My outfit is cutting tight—too tight—over my bosom, just like his gaze as he wedges a handful of napkins onto my tray.

Wedged between the Miller High Life and the Cuervo straight up.

God, I hate this job.

My eyes burn at the end of the night. My lungs ache, prickly from breathing smoke and recycled, temperature-controlled air. My feet after I pull my stockings off, sore and swollen after a long night in heels.

Coming home from a place that went from magic to monotony. All it took was marriage.

I'm still technically married. I still technically wear my wedding ring. It's on a chain around my neck. With his. He still won't sign the divorce papers.

I still don't want him to.

Even though it's been almost two years.

I see him sometimes—only online, logged into Facebook. I'm afraid to ping him. I'm afraid to open that can of worms.

It used to be he made me brave. He made me adventurous. He made me wild and hungry. I think I did the same for him. I think.

We were alive. Once.

Vodka-tonic, Heineken, whiskey sours, rum and cokes. Water bottles. Tiny ones.

Three good swallows and they're empty.

"Can I getcha something?" The guy hunched over the video poker machine looks like he's been up for three days straight. His shirt's wrinkled, hands swollen, flesh squishing around a big class ring with a gaudy purple stone. It matches his lower lip, a pendulous discolored flab, wobbling wetly when he responds.

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