Chapter Three | Running Gun

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The office was brighter than the lounge had been. Warm filament bulbs, ensconced in paper globes, diffused into a comforting softness less abrasive than the neon Cash had just left behind. The metal of the stairwell gave way to lush red carpet, so thick Cash felt like she sank into it with every step. The room was covered in wallpaper, a tasteful floral pattern that ended abruptly at the back wall, which was lined, wall to ceiling, with carb copy, honest to goodness, books. More books than Cash had ever seen in her life. Reading had always been Boss's primary pleasure.

"Hello, Huckleberry."

Boss's smooth tones brought Cash back to the present. She swallowed thickly before turning her gaze to the center of the room. A large and imposing desk occupied most of the space. It was a monolithic and gothic looking thing that stood out from the rest of the tasteful furnishings. The edges were rounded, lined with polished brass, and the mahogany faux-wood of its sides looked as close to the real thing as Cash had ever seen. Four carved lions' feet held up the base, the top a gleaming white rock made to look like marble.

Behind it, sat Boss. If Cash had been less stunned by her beauty, she might have thought the juxtaposition of the petite woman behind the statuesque desk made for a comical sight. It might have been, save for the fact that Boss exuded the kind of energy that made everyone around her demur, out of admiration, desire, or fear.

Juri excused himself from the room with a tip of his white bowler hat.

"Hey, Boss," Cash said softly, having finally found her voice.

Boss's hazel eyes stared back at her, glowing like fireflies beneath a thick border of lashes.

"Been awhile," Boss crooned, standing and moving around the desk to lean on it.

"That it has." Cash realized she was still holding her hat in her hands, she pinched the brim tightly between anxious fingers. "You done well for yourself," she pointed out limply.

"So have you, it seems." Boss crossed her arms and observed Cash with a hooded gaze.

Cash cleared her throat, dropping one hand to her side, where it teased the metal pistol as if to transfer her some of its fortitude.

"So, you want me to drop all my other contracts and sell only to you, huh?" Cash made her way toward the liquor cabinet in the corner and selected a soybean whiskey, inspecting the label on the bottle. "Must be desperate if you're stocking this swill." She tossed Boss a playfully guarded glance.

Boss's face twisted into a rueful smile. "A little cocky, aren't we, Cash?" she purred.

"You never much minded that," Cash said back, setting her hat upon the top of an overstuffed chair and pouring a glass.

She could see in the warped reflection that her deep brown skin was peppered with the red dust of the road. She set down the drink and drew a handkerchief from her pocket, wiping at her cheeks with hurried motions.

"Never minded you dirty, either," Boss observed.

Cash's cheeks warmed with a blush, and she quickly lifted the booze to her lips, taking a deep swallow.

"How'd you get yourself set up like this?" she asked, sinking down into the chair with a sigh. Boss sauntered over and occupied the chaise across from Cash. "And where did you find that Juri kid?" Cash added slyly.

"Juri is a good boy, don't tease him." Boss crossed one leg over the other, her stockings showing as her dress fell to either side of her thighs. Cash took a long swig. "As to how I came to be the owner of this Casino..." Boss layered her hands delicately on top of her knees. "My late husband was the founder of First Northfield Credit Union. Upon his death, I gained ownership of his shares and used my inheritance to open Sweetwater."

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