Out of the Light, Into the Shadow

Read the Excerpt

Katie dealt the cards and watched the faces of the trio at her table tonight. It was a slow night. August wasn’t the peak season of tourism in Vegas and it was nine pm, when the live shows Vegas was famous for were in full swing. They would have an influx of fresh gamblers after midnight when the shows let out, but for now it was quiet. And she was bored. Fondling the necklace she had convinced Peter to let her keep, she tried to ignore the fact that it made the flesh beneath the chain itch as she did her job absently. She was scanning the room repeatedly, not even sure what she was looking for, but wishing for something else, something different, something more than the same old routine night after endless night. They had only been in Vegas a few months and it felt like an eternity. Not good considering she did actually have an eternity to live. “So how does a nice little girl like you fall into this kind of work?” the good looking guy in his thirties with the Southern accent asked her, sticking his cigar back in his mouth. And how did a man that young fall into such a cheesy pick up line? Katie gave him a shrug and a smile, amused at the fact that he probably had no idea he’d made her sound a bit like a prostitute. “Oh, you know how it is. Life throws curves at you.” “You’re not from here, are you? I hear some kind of accent.” Turning the cards, Katie efficiently collected them as the house won yet again. The man kept going over, yet he seemed in no hurry to leave or to change his strategy. He looked content to sit in his chair and lose money hand over fist. “I’m from Russia.” “Russia? Well, hell, that’s a long ways away. What made you come here?” Keeping her tone light and conversational, she said, “The current job market for Russian princesses sucks. So I gave up my tiara and headed to the States.” All true, in a round about sort of way. Katie had found that if she joked about the truth, no one believed her, and she didn’t have to deal with the discomfort of lying. No lies, no way to slip up either. It made everything easier. “A princess? You’re telling me you were a princess?” He cocked his head and gave her an amused stare, his dark eyes sparkling. “Alright, then. That sounds like quite a story. Story being the key word.” “Shocking, lurid, and true. Royalty to blackjack dealer. It happens to the best of us.” “You’re sassy,” he said. “I like that.” Ignoring the other two players, he continued. “Can I buy you a drink after work? You can tell me all about the path from princess to poker.” There it was. Part of the biggest problem in her life, and no doubt part of the reason she was feeling such malaise. Here she had an attractive and friendly male asking her out and she couldn’t work up one ounce of interest. Not one. She hadn’t been on a date since shoulder pads were in style, and she hadn’t had sex since the infamous summer of love, which practically didn’t count because everyone breathing had had sex that summer. Yet she had no desire to say yes to the man in front of her. Something was totally wrong with her that she was still ruined for other men when it had been a goddamn century since she’d had her heart broken. It was pathetic, lame, weird, and unnatural to be unable to move on from a failed relationship, and it felt somehow like if she stayed celibate and alone she was letting Michael win. So despite having more interest in watching people sweat and starve themselves on TV for prize money than going out with the good ole’ boy in front of her, Katie nodded. “Sure.” “Well, alright then.” He smiled at her. “What time do you get off of work, darling?” Katie dealt the cards to the players and said, “Four in the morning. I don’t know if you want to stick around that long.” “Why not? I’m on vacation. So I’ll meet you here at four, then. It’s a date.” “Actually, the lady has plans.” Katie froze, the timbre of that voice rolling over her like the soft caress of a lover’s touch, the sound so long unheard, but instantly recognizable. How many nights she had delighted in that voice, whispering endearments and declarations of love to her as she giggled and sighed and drowned in the passion and bliss of youthful love. The voice that had meant everything to her. The voice she would have defied her father and mother for. Gaze snapping up, Katie took in the sight of Michael, standing casually in front of her as if an entire century hadn’t passed, as if they weren’t half the world and a million lifetimes away from St. Petersburg. He was wearing jeans and a blue shirt, his caramel colored hair shorter than it had been, carelessly tousled, the air of the rich and privileged still securely around him. “Hello, Marie,” he said in French, the language of her youth, a small secret smile on his beautiful face. “I’ve missed you.” The voice, the face, the words, the man… all those she had loved, all those her heart still trembled at the thought of, let alone the reality. He was here, in the flesh, in front of her, using the name she’d been born with, and telling her that he missed her. It was everything she had dreamt of, longed for, prayed, and cried into her pillow over. So she took a deep breath, looked the man she had intended to marry straight in the eye and said, “Drop dead, Michael.”