Excerpt from the novel, 24/7*

by Susan DiPlacido

*Available January 2005,
  Zumaya Publications

Synopsis: Romantic sparks fly when a sharp card counter falls for a charming casino dealer. But when the dealer's past surfaces to haunt him, and threaten her, she's forced to make a dangerous choice. In a city built on luck, it'll take all her brains to figure out if she should gamble on her heart.


I drop some cash into the safe and grab a fresh pack of smokes and head downstairs. Vince sets me up with a drink before I sit down. Asking, "You get lucky?"

"Not yet, but maybe," I tell him.

"We talking gambling here? Blackjack?"

"Hot craps dealer."

He gets a sly smile as it dawns on him. "Oh yeah? He treat you right?"

"Hopefully. I'll let you know tomorrow," I wink at him.

"Where's he at?" He scopes around the casino.

"Still working right now. He said he'd come over here when he was done. I doubt he will though."

Looking past me, he says, "He'll show up. What's he look like?"

"Uhm, he's hot. Dark hair, dark eyes, medium tall."

Still looking past me, Vince says, "He's here."


"There's a guy coming this way, he was looking around and he saw you and he's coming over - right about...now."

I turn around, and there he is.

"Yo," Miguel says as he slides into a seat next to me.

"Hi," I say. "That was quick."

"Yeah, I asked for an early out an' got it, it's not all that busy there tonight."

"What can I get you, buddy?" Vince asks him.

"Uh, Bud's fine, an' somethin' for her too, man," Miguel nods at me.

Vince looks at me as he cracks the bill. Miguel pulls out a few bills and hands him the cash. Taking a large swallow, he looks around. Says, "So this is Caesars, not bad, man, not bad."

I nod and check him out for the first time away from the dice table. He's nervous, I can tell that. He's as jittery as a butterfly with hiccups right now. I noticed before that he's always in some kind of motion, I imagine taming him is like pinning down mercury.

It's actually quite charming. I can't figure out why he'd be nervous around me, so I take it as a compliment. I try to ease him and get him to relax. Saying, "It's very cool of you to come over here. I'd think you'd want to get done with work and just get off the strip."

"Nah, it's cool, you know, it's cool. It's nice to grab a beer an' chill out a little bit."

"But you've never come over here before?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, I been in here a few times, not too much though. When I first came out here I walked around in here once or twice."

"Where do you like to hang out?"

He shrugs. "Not too many of the big casinos, you know, more off the strip little joints. I like some of 'em though. Hard Rock, that's cool, I go there sometimes."

"I love the Hard Rock. It's where I go when I can't take the bubble-gum music anymore."

"Yeah," he grins, "I hear you, I'm like that too. I hardly even notice it anymore at work though."

"Good thing, cause this place is full of shitty music. Hey, you want a shot or something? It sounds better with a buzz on."

"Yeah I'll do a shot," he agrees.

"Vince, line 'em up, baby," I say.

"What do you want, lemon drops?" Vince asks.

"Ask him," I nod to Miguel, "I'll do whatever he wants."

Miguel says one word, "Cuervo."

I nod. "One Cuervo for him, lemon drop for me."

Vince laughs and starts pouring.

"Won't do the tequila, huh?" Miguel asks.

"Can't stand it. It makes me mean."

"I can't picture you being mean," he says and swigs at his beer. Meanwhile, Vince cracks up at that comment. "So you know him?" Miguel asks, nodding to Vince.

"Yeah, sort of."

"Yo man, what's your name? Vince?"

Dropping off my shot, and setting up Miguel's to pour, Vince holds out his hand. "Yeah, Vince."

"Miguel," he says as they shake. The handshake amuses me, they both hold hard, I can see Vince looking Miguel dead in the eye, almost challenging him, no hint of a smile. Miguel takes it well though, doesn't back down or seem the least bit annoyed. "So you know her?"

Vince answers him, "Yeah. I know her."

"You think she can be mean?"

"I don't know, I've never seen her drink tequila," he says as he pours the shot. "You need lime and salt?"

"Nah, I'm good, thanks." He turns his attention back to me. "Ready for all this?"

"Absolutely," I answer him.

He barely grimaces as he shoots his, I gulp a few times to get mine down, see him watching me as I lick the sugar from the glass. He swallows hard, says, "Thanks for the shot."

"Thanks for the drink," I answer.

"Thanks for having me over here."

"Thanks for meeting me over here."

"So how come you let me come over here and hang out with you?" he asks me.

"I don't know, how come you came over?"

He laughs and avoids. "You givin me a hard time?"

"Not really. Just fuckin' with you a little bit."

"I see that. How come?"

"Because you take it well, you're really cute when you're a little flustered."

He cocks a brow and smiles, turns his gaze directly on me for the first time since sitting. "Oh, flustered is it? You think I'm flustered?"

"I think you're a little nervous, yeah."

"But you think I'm cute too."

"Oh come on, you know you’re a fox."

"I wanna know what you think," he says.

"I just told you that."

On the other side of the bar, Vince throws down his bar rag and grabs his smokes. "I'm going on break," he announces to everyone.

As he walks away, Miguel watches him, then leans closer to me. "I don't think your friend likes me much."

"Don't worry about him, he just looks out for me, that's all."

"I think he likes you a little, that's what I think."

"Yeah? I'd rather know what you think of me."

"I came over here, didn't I?" he raises a brow.

"I thought you wanted to see Caesars," I challenge him.

"I've already seen Caesars," he answers. Speaking low, leaning closer, "I wanted to see you."

"Oh. Thanks. Here I am."

"Yeah, I see that. Now who's all flustered?"

"I’m not flustered." I laugh. I totally am.

"Yeah, ok. Well, there you are. Here I am."

"Yep," I nod.

"So, you ready for all this?" he asks.

"Absolutely," I say.

We both take long slugs off our drinks. I light up a smoke and he does the same. I wish I could tell what he's thinking as he sits there smoking. I wish I knew, because I'm not even thinking, I'm just absorbing. I'm taking sidelong glances at him and trying to note, log and detail every nuance of him.

He's wearing all black; black shoes, black pants, black T-shirt. It fits his coloring well. There’s a tiny flash of gold around the back of his neck, but it’s not a thick chain, and he keeps the front tucked under his shirt, so it's not really ghetto. He's not as animated as when he sat down; either the Cuervo took the edge off, or he's getting more comfortable with me. But he's still in constant, fluid motion. His forearm is sinewy, every tendon moves as he flicks his ashes from his cigarette. His shirt hugs him a little tight in the sleeves, not in an exaggerated International Male kind of way, but I can see that vein, that one glorious vein that travels up the front of his biceps, protruding. Oh Madone, he might be utterly ripped under that shirt.

But even more appealing than all that is the crooked grin on his face. It's not smug. Smug would piss me off. It seems genuine, almost sort of sweet. Almost sort of surprised. Crushing out his smoke, he turns to me and says, "Ready to gamble?"

"Always," I say.

"Alright, c'mon, then." He stands up, grabs my hand, finishes off his beer and says, "Let's do it. I wanna see just how lucky you are."

"Ah no, you're the lucky one, not me," I answer him. My head rushes a bit as I stand, thanks not only to the shot, but also to the heat of his hand on mine.

"I am the lucky one, you know, trust me, I know that." He gives me a sideways glance to make sure I catch the meaning, and I do, and I think it's corny, but it also melts me. And all I can think is either this guy is fucking with me for sport, or he's a total freaking moron for not knowing how hot he is.

He stops at a bank of slots, pulls a wad of bills out of his pocket and tells me to pick the lucky one. "Alright, show me how this is done at Caesars."

"I don't wanna play your money and lose it."

"Yo, no pressure, amiga, no pressure, let's just take a chance, alright?"

But I put my hand out to him, he forks over a Jackson, watches me slide it in a machine and press the button a few times until three sevens pop up, instantly making him 120 bucks richer. Well, if that ain't a way to start a night off right, I think as he lights a smoke and watches me pile silvery coins into a cup. Clutching the full container to my stomach, I turn to him and say, "Well, where now?"

Miguel pulls more green from his pocket, flags down a waitress and orders, then he passes me another twenty and tells me to try again at the machine in front of me.

"Not a good one," I tell him.

He smirks, leans his shoulder against the machine and crosses one foot over the other. All jitters gone, he's relaxed and in control. "Yeah? You can tell, huh?"

"I can tell."

"Well we gotta wait for these drinks, find one that is."

So I do. The machine doesn't hit right away, and it doesn't hit big, it just keeps chipping up little by little, losing a few bucks, then winning a few more. By the time the waitress returns with our drinks, it's up to a hundred bucks. I click the cash out button and the cascade of heavy coins clinks and clacks into the tray beneath. As I'm scooping them into the plastic cup, Miguel leans into me, asking, "How come you quit?"

I shrug, "I think it was about done, no point in being greedy."

He laughs. "This is Vegas, baby, everybody's greedy out here."

He's smiling at me, and I know I'm a little buzzed because everything is humming around me, and he looks so charming, and he's acting so charmed and it's all just so irresistible. There's really only thing left to make it near perfect, so I do it. I lean in close and kiss him.

It's not a big one, nothing salacious. Just a little more than a peck, mostly on the corner of his mouth. But his lips are soft and warm and I know as soon as I pull away that I'm going to want to do it again. Soon.

"I’m having a good time," I tell him.

"Yeah? Me too," he grins and lets me look directly in his eyes. I believe him.

"I've kind of had a crush on you for a little while," I admit.

"Yeah? Me too."

"You've had a crush on yourself for awhile?"

"You're fuckin with me again," he blushes, finally dropping his gaze.

We wander, then stop at a roulette table, watching the action, so European, such blind luck.

Miguel pulls out his winnings, over two hundred bucks now, and tells me to play them.

"Are you freaking nuts?" I ask.

"Nah, go ahead. Go ahead. We're winnin an' shit."

"Dude, you're winning, that's your cash. YOU bet, I don't know what to pick."

"I don't know dick, man," he laughs. "I wanna see if you're like, as lucky as I think. 'Sides, you won all this, not me."

A little drunk and actually feeling lucky, I drop the bills, slide the chips onto red.

"You sure?" Miguel asks. I nod once. Reaching in his pocket, he pulls out a few more Bennys, changes them and puts his chips on red next to the ones I'd put there.

"What the hell are you doing?" I ask and reach for them. Tense. It's making me tense all of a sudden. Dry-mouth, stomach-tight, bubble-blooded Tense. Gambling and losing my money is one thing. But losing someone else's money, someone I really sort of want to like me, is entirely another.

He pulls my hand back. "Relax chica. I'm bettin with you. On red."

"You sure you wanna do that?"

He nods once. Then he watches as the dealer drops and spins the ball. Tongue set on the corner of his mouth, as I nibble on my bottom lip, as the white marble moves around the wheel.

18. Red.

I jump. Hot DAMN, we really do have it going on tonight, I think as he nods and looks pretty damn impressed too. I'm never this lucky, so I know it has to be HIS luck driving all this good fortune, which just makes me feel even luckier to be with him.

We cash out and sit back down at Vince's bar and Miguel asks him for drinks and a couple shots of Cuervo. I don't argue cause I'm liking this. All of it. I'm not sure if it just feels good to be OUT after being cooped up in a plane all day, if it's from all the drinks, if it's from Miguel being so contagiously fun, or if I just really like winning that much. But I also don't really care.

I'm relaxed.

Looking over at him as he raises his beer and takes a slug, all my niggling little insecurities just seem to vanish. It's all left behind somewhere on the casino floor, maybe between a slot machine and a roulette wheel. Either way, for now at least, gone.


He nudges me. "How you doin'?"

"I'm doing just fine," I answer.

He squints at me, "You come here a lot? How come I never seen you before?"

"I don't go to Bellagio too much, I guess."

He laughs, "Cause we ain't nice to you like they are here?"

"Yeah, I think Bellagio sent YOU over here as a customer relations thing is all."

"Yeah, I'm a spy. Tell you what," he nudges me again. Then he turns and peers directly at me. His eyes flash serious for a second, then soften as he says, "I haven't seen everything here yet. I'd kinda like to see what the rooms are like."

"Oh...well," it takes me a minute to get what he's saying. But now I do. "OH! OH! Ooh, ok, um, well.."

"Nah, I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"No, it's ok, it's cool, I um, you just surprised me."

"Well, to be honest then, I DID mean..."

"Oh, I know what you meant. I just mean, that well..."

"It's ok, really, forget it. Forget it, you know, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."

"No no no," I interrupt him. "You should have. Here's the thing, I'm not alone."

"Yo, you got a man?"

"No," I laugh. "I'm here with a friend, and she's upstairs, sleeping. I can't go up there and wake her up."

"Oh. Well, you know, you showed me around. How 'bout I show you around?"

"Um," I hesitate, weighing how much I trust him against the potential for danger. "Ok."

"Yeah?" He sounds surprised.

"Yeah. I mean, if you want. If you're tired or something, and you wanna go home, that's ok, I understand."

"Actually," he meets my gaze and holds it, "I was thinking o' there, my place. Thought maybe you'd wanna see how real people out here live."


He nods and slugs the rest of his beer, asking, "You ready to go?"

"Yeah," I nod.

I grab my smokes, finish my drink and as I stand up, he takes my hand and pulls me along next to him. I hope I haven't made a dumb choice. Hands woven together, his thumb rubs the top of my hand as he pushes through the big glass doors out into the night. I think I made a good choice.

When he drops my hand to reach in his pocket for the valet ticket, I shiver in the cool night air, reflexively crossing my arms. It's early spring, and even though the day was warm and the lights are bright and pulsing, bouncing and ricocheting reflected neon off the pavement and concrete all up and down the strip, they don't give off enough heat to fight off the rippling breeze. Handing the ticket to the valet, he slides his arm across my shoulders and brings me close to him. Pressed close, I can feel he's warm through the T-shirt, and I turn into him more, but resist putting my arms around his waist. I'm pretty sure I made the right choice.

Dipping his head, he puts his other arm around my waist and grazes his lips across my mouth. I tilt my face to meet his and he goes for it. He's tentative at first, just a soft, light kiss, but I close my eyes and gently respond. Then he takes another kiss just like that first soft one, then another. He shifts and moves the other way, kissing the other side of my mouth, still keeping his touch light, but before backing away from that one, he gives the smallest flick of his tongue. He backs off and hovers for a second, then he moves back in and really lays one on me.

His arms close around me, pulling me tight against his body. He goes hard and deep, working my upper lip, lower lip, then slipping me some tongue, making my blood sing. I kiss back because suddenly I can't get enough; head dizzy, legs weak, I take hold of his sides and now I'm tugging at his waist, sliding my arms further around his back so I can press up against him. He's spectacular at it. Salty, and tangy from the booze, and bitter from the smokes and he's kissing and biting and sucking and licking all at once. I back off and break it before I start melting right on the sidewalk out there. He catches my bottom lip between his teeth as I pull back. Now I know I made the right choice.

His eyes flutter open, heavy lidded now, long lashes moving up slowly, and he cracks a grin. "Huh. Hmm," is all he says, still looking at me. His eyes gleam, no mistaking what emotions they're conveying right now.

"Mm. Mmmhmm," is all I can say.

The valet pulls up and Miguel nods, "This is us."

"You ok to drive?" I ask him.

"Yeah, I'm fine, it's not far."

I look at what the valet drove up, it's a liquid black Cadillac El Dorado. "This is your car?"

"Yeah, you don't like it?"

"Are you kidding me? This car rocks!"

"Think so?" He opens the door for me

"Oh, you know it does," I say as I slide into the cushioned seat.

"I know it does, I was just wondering what you think." He goes around and gets in the other side.

"I have a Jeep," I tell him. "I love it, but it's nothing like this. This rocks." The seat is like sitting on a buttery leather cloud, the inside is black with soft glowing green lights. As he pulls forward, I don't even feel the faux cobblestone road beneath us. The car just absorbs the bumps and it feels like we're riding on a cushion of air.

"Kinda cold out tonight," he says. "C'mere and keep me warm."

I slide over next to him, he clicks something on his steering wheel and the radio comes on. It starts playing the Chili Peppers REALLY loud, so he clicks it down a few notches, then he rests his arm around my shoulders again, pulls me against him.

"You wanna listen to somethin else?" he asks.

"No, this is good. So, do you like living here, in Vegas?"

"Yeah, it's cool, I guess. I been here awhile now, six years, so it's not all that exciting, you know? Like, when I first moved out here it was all new." He pulls onto the strip with its glittering lights and constant motion and beckoning signs and promises of riches and dreams come true. "Now, though, I dunno, it's sorta 'been there, done that'."

"So you're bored?"

"Yeah, and no. I like it. I fuckin hated winters, man. I like boxing, there's always good fights goin on out here. I even got to fight out here."

"You're a boxer?"

Nodding as he steers, "Uh huh."

"And you've had a fight out here? Championship?"

"Fuck no," he laughs. "No, I ain't all that. It was an undercard though," he says, a little proud.

"No shit. That is really cool. What weight class?"

"Super middle."

"Like Roy Jones Jr.?"

"Nah, he's a light heavyweight. You know 'bout boxing?"

"I know a little. Not a lot."

"You know Roy Jones," he says, smirking.

"He's always on HBO. Anyhow, I’m just saying. It's very cool. That's exciting."

"Yeah, it was cool. I mean, I like it here, it's just not as exciting as it was at first, that's all."

"Because you've done everything?"


"You haven't done me."

He stops at a red light and kisses me again. It's great. It lights me up brighter than any neon sign in sight. I open my eyes during the kiss to see him looking back at me, watching my reactions, then I close them again, trusting he'll do the same. Reaching over, I slide my hand across his chest, kiss him hard, move my hand down to his stomach, rub across it a few times, then slide it lower.

Between his legs.

Breaking the kiss, I ask him, "Have you done this before?" Then I bite his neck.

Cars behind us honk, I check the light, it's green. I glance at his face, watch him snap out of it and remember where he is, get the car in motion again.

On the stereo, Frusciante sets down a few slow bended blue notes, and it puts the devil in me and I go for it. I rub him harder, feeling him rise beneath the fly of his pants. I trace the line of his jugular with my tongue, lick along his jawline as I fumble with his belt. He's wordless next me, staring straight out at the road, but he likes it, I can tell. He loves it, I'm sure. He's strung tight as piano-wire, white-knuckled around the steering wheel, breath coming shorter already.

I get his belt un-hitched by the next stoplight, and he turns to kiss my mouth again, really hard and deep, plenty of tongue, much hotter, full-court-press kissing. He starts making noises into my mouth as I fiddle with the zipper. They're short "mm"s and "ahhh"s until I get the zipper all way down and reach inside, over his boxers, beneath his jeans. He growls, a libidinous guttural sound, long, drawn out and stuttering.

The light turns green, so I tell him to drive. Licking his lips, he hits the pedal and we go forward as Anthony Keidis unleashes a high-pitched wail. Dipping under his boxers, I grab hold of him, he's hard as can be already. Satisfied, I ask him again, "You ever done this before?"

Breathing harder, chest rising and falling exaggeratedly, he stutters, concentrating on the road. "Uh, huh-uh. No."

I debate about a half-second before deciding he's earned this. He made me feel spectacular, so, well, reciprocity and all.

I release him to dig into my pocket and pull out the little square. Quickly, I rip it open with my teeth, spitting the little piece of foily paper on the floor with a decidedly unsexy "pfoot" sound as Flea plucks away pizzicato on his bass. I take the condom out and toss the wrapper onto the floorboard. Miguel doesn't seem to mind the littering.

At another the red light, I take hold of him, stroke lightly while he's still bare-skinned and ask, "You ready for this?"

He nods quickly, meets my gaze, says, "Absolutely."

I get him covered, then I hold him firmly and wait a few seconds.

The light switches green, Smith hits a downbeat, I lean over, Miguel hits the gas, and I take him in my mouth.

"Yesss," he hisses above me.

I’m not squished against the steering wheel, the latex taste isn't too distracting, and the seat is soft and comfy. He's obviously loving this, not choking me at all, fully hard and responding already. So I go at him the best I know how. I figure if I'm gonna give it, I'm giving good. I go in time with the music, letting its rhythm set mine.

He strokes his hand across my back, tangles it in my hair. His legs shift, the car slows and we glide to a stop again. I go at him really good then, wanting him to keep making those noises. And he does. He keeps encouraging me with yesses and moans, slightly grinding his hips back into the seat further, then up into me, nearly squirming. Considerately, he brushes the hair from my face, gathers it in his free hand and says, "Your hair, uuhhhh, it's fuckin gorgeous, UUUHHH!"

I love that, so as he hits the gas and we're in motion again, I go really deep. Thumping bass lines pulse around us, he writhes beneath me, groans really loud, "Fuck, that's good!"

I have to back off a little before I start to choke, so I lick, add some tongue. As I do, he mumbles in Spanish and picks his hips up pretty high. That turns me on so much I nearly squirm and I start sucking, picking up the pace again.

We're still moving, he's still "ahhhhhh"ing, the lights keep twinkling around us, and I start going harder and faster.

He's panting above me, gets even hotter in my mouth, and I can feel our steady movement picking up smooth speed. I know he's close, really close when his hand tightens in my hair and he presses up into me even harder. So I take him as deep as I can, as hard as I can, all the way, and clutch at his thigh with my hand.

Above me, "Ahh... Ohhh...Shiiiiiit!" He jerks, hisses some more, and I stay on him as he comes. Easing up, still working him for every last bit, every aftershock, I swear I feel the car pulling, swerving to one side. He's still moaning, "Oooh, shiiiit."

Just as I pull off him, the car jacks violently over a bump. CA-CHUNK! A big one. Head still in his lap, I can't see, but I feel it. Hear it.

THUD! Then him: "Ahh, SHIT!" His thigh beneath my hand moves quickly. Slowing, turning, the car jerks again. A loud screech of the tires, a horrible, teeth-jarring metallic scape -- *SCRIIIITCH *---

Then him: "AW, SHIT!"

We slam to a stop.

Raising up, I look around. "Oooh, shit." We're on the sidewalk. The fucking walkway in front of the Riviera. The Crazy Girls statue is to my right and behind us.

He hit it. He hit the Crazy Girls statue. I smirk inwardly. Possibly outwardly. He jumped the curb, went on the sidewalk, and nailed one of the most famous and luckiest statues on the strip. The Crazy Girls.


Good for me. Good for him. Good for me for making him do that. Good for him for liking it so much he did that.

"OH, SHIT!" He says again and looks around.

Luckily, miraculously, no one is really close. He didn't hit anyone, the statue looks pretty much ok. He couldn't have been going that fast. And, given the timing, he's pretty lucky that I had just lifted my head up instead of biting down when I felt that crash.

"What the fuck? What the fuck do I do?" he asks.

I scan the area, oh, there's a few people around. It's never empty, is it? It just can't be completely desolate. Well. What are they gonna do? They aren't that close. They noticed though, they're staring gape-mouthed at the black Caddy on the sidewalk.

"Go," I say.

"Go? I should go?"

"Do you want to explain this to cops?"

He throws it back in gear and hits the gas, checks the traffic, then pulls out onto the street, letting the car thump back down over the curb. Turns down the first side street, and keeps going.

A couple blocks later, still fighting off the smirk, I say, "I am really so sorry."

"Nah, don't be, it's cool," he says, but his jaw clenches, his eyes are steely hard. He reaches down and peels off the used condom, carelessly tossing it out the window.

"Guy, you hit that thing, didn't you? That's what I heard, right?"

"Yeah, I fuckin hit it."

"You wanna see if the car's ok?"

He pulls into a 7-11, tucks in, zips up, and gets out. Walks around to my side of the car and peers at it. His jaw clenches again, and I swear I can see a throb in his temple. Bending down, he takes a close inspection, then stands up and sighs.

I'm a little scared, concerned he's going to go off on me pretty good now. And I'll have to slink down and take it because it is my fault. I’m fairly clumsy and bad luck in general when it comes to shit like this.

Miguel's jaw clenches again, now he glances in the window at me. Looking in at me, he smirks. "Oooh, shit," he says with a laugh.

I get out and look. My heart sinks. There's two large gashes in the door that extend to long scrapes all the way to the back end of the car. "Miguel, I'm so sorry, I don't, I don't know what to say. This is all my fault."

Still smirking, he grabs my hand and pulls me next to him. "Yo, 'salright, serious. Don't feel bad."

"Your car, your beautiful car. This is...I'm so sorry. I'll pay for it, I'll..."

"Yo, relax, baby," he wraps his arm around my shoulders again. "It was worth it, you know. Wasn't your fault, I just sorta got, like, distracted."

"But that was my fault, I shouldn't have done...THAT."

"Yeah, well, THAT was great. I'm glad you did that."

"Was it something new?"

Hugging me close, he laughs again. "That was definitely new. That was...intense, is what that was."

"So you're not pissed off at me?"

"Fuck no! I'm a little jacked at myself, I guess I closed my eyes or somethin. I don't know, I just sorta got, well, you know, it was intense. I don't know what I did to deserve that, but I'll take it."

"No one deserves that," I tell him. "You earned it."

"C'mere," he says and leans down to kiss me.

I pull back just a bit, but he swoops in anyhow, holds me tight, gives me a pretty good one. Convinces me he's not pissed at me at all. His hands start roving up and down my back and he gets more into it.

Gently, I back him off as I scan the sky. The dark isn't as inky thick anymore, stars are fading out. "I really ought to get back to the hotel," I tell him.

"Huh? You don't wanna come home with me no more?"

"No, I want to, I just don't think I should, it's really late, and I should be there when my friend gets up."

He slits his eyes at me, "You're friend ain't a guy, is he?"

"No, she's a girl, I told you, I don't have a man like that."

"Yo, I see what's up here. You make me fuck up my car, you know, then cause you don't like the sneak preview, you're skippin out before the movie."

"You're fucking with me, aren't you?"

"Yeah, little bit. You sure you wanna go back?"

"I know I don't want to go back, but I really should."

He kisses me again, a little longer one, makes my knees weaken. Softly, he says, "Cause I really liked that preview, I'd love to see the whole movie."

The sky above lightens even more, dawn is close. It made me pretty hot, hearing him moan and groan and come so easily for me. But I suck it up and say, "I'd love it, I know I would, I just don't know if I want to get back in a car with you driving again."

"Ooooh, that's harsh," he grins.

I want to climb right inside his T-shirt and feel his bare skin against mine. I want to kiss him all over, taste the curve of every muscle. But -- "I should go," I say instead.

"I just feel bad, you know, like," he nuzzles my ear, whispers to me. "I got everything, what about you? I'd like to do something for you. I wanna thank you."

"You're welcome. I had a good time, really."


"Yeah," I reassure him. "Very good. Did you have a good time?"

"I had a fuckin great time, you kiddin me?"

"Then I really should go."

"'K, I'll take you back, if you trust me to, that is."

"Thank you."

"Can I have another kiss?" He asks.

I lean in and give him a good one, full tongue, hint of teeth. He's a rare one -- he's just as good at getting kissed, easing back and accepting it as he is at giving kisses, moving in and working me. "Mmmmm," he sighs as I pull away and climb back in the car. He slides in and turns the ignition over, shuts the stereo off. "C'mere," he motions for me to slide next to him again, so I do.

Cuddling into his side, I'm struck by that. He still wants me close to him even after he got what he wanted.

All the lights on the strip are still on, but in the fading darkness they don't seem as bright. Pulling up in front of Caesars, he lets go of me to take the Caddy out of gear. "Want me park it and walk you in?" he offers.

"No, I'm fine, thanks though."

"So, um, what're you doing tonight? Later? I gotta work again, but, I don't know, can I call you or somethin?"

"You want to see me again?"

He kisses me as his answer, so I give him my room number, open the door and climb out. As I'm shutting the door, I take a long look at him. He's still, no leg shaking, no head nodding, no snapping of his fingers. He's just leaned back in his seat, gazing at me, completely at ease. Calm. His dark eyes meet mine and even in the growing daylight and with a fading buzz, they still seem brilliant.


Susan DiPlacido has two novels forthcoming. The first, 24/7, will be available in January 2005, and the second will follow shortly after. She can be found online at www.susandiplacido.com.

Excerpt from 24/7 © 2004 by Susan DiPlacido.
All rights reserved.





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