Fifty years ago, Jeannie Williams made her way to Las Vegas seeking fame and fortune. Instead, she lost her soul and wound up performing nightly shows at the Arcana Royale. Every day, she straps on her feathers, her glitter, her stilettos, and she dances. Every day, it’s the same.
Until the day he walks in.
For six centuries, Malcolm Reynolds has been the go-to guy for anything his family needs: warrior, diplomat, wrangler, researcher, and now an attorney. He enters the Arcana Royale Casino, intent on negotiating the release of his cousin’s bad debt, but one look at the golden-skinned showgirl ignites a fire of need that he’s never experienced. When the fantasy come true sits at his table, words he never expected to hear come out of her lush mouth: “I need your help.”
Now he’s in for the toughest battle of his life, because the Overseers own both his cousin’s debt and her soul. And he’s not planning on leaving the Royale without either one.
This book has been previously published and has been revised and expanded from its original release.
Warning: Contains high-stakes games, sexy showgirls, and a powerful showdown between a vampire that can’t lose and the House that never does. Spells, slots, sirens and sex, oh my!
Enjoy the following excerpt for Into the Spotlight:
“Ladies! Five minutes. Move your asses!” Heidi swept through the room, slapping bare bottoms as she passed. “Into those costumes. Let’s go.”
Jeannie flicked a glance at the stage manager’s blonde reflection striding toward her in the mirror. It was just another night. Another endless night tagged onto the caboose of an endless string of endless nights.
She didn’t bother even keeping count anymore.
Tiny black lines, ticks counting down the days of her sentence, marked the mirror. Somewhere around one thousand, she’d added a second layer. After three thousand, she’d stopped counting.
What was one more night?
“How you doin’, chere?” Heidi leaned against the side of the mirror, her gaze critical, her mouth pinched and her forehead puckered with frown lines. Their dressmaker-slash-stage manager-slash-backstage mother hen nursed headaches more often than not. The pain rippled across her facial muscles, tightening them in spasms.
But Heidi never commented on them.
Jeannie had long since stopped asking.
“I’m fine. I know. Five minutes.” She painted a line of glitter around each eye. Her stage makeup was heavy, dense stuff, saturating every pore and bleeding away her color for the face of the Midnight Mystery Lounge.
The swathe of glitter, crystals and diamonds decorating her eyelashes reminded her that she wasn’t Jeannie.
She was Pandora.
She was the showstopper.
God, I am so bored.
“Just another set, chere.”
“I know, Heidi. Just another set.” She didn’t even bother to inject enthusiasm into the words. Heidi didn’t care. Jeannie didn’t care. They could not care together. It worked.
“Dearly beloved!” A voice boomed from behind them. Heidi snorted, but Jeannie kept painting lines of glitter on each of her features, thickening the lines around her eyes and her lips. She would sparkle in the smoky darkness.
At least that was the goal.
“Dearly beloved!” Three mirrors down, Roseâtre clapped her hands together over her head, her silver and gold bangles jingling together in musical accompaniment. The chatter in the dressing room died, and all eyes turned toward her. Roseâtre’s real name was Ruthie, but as with Jeannie, no one cared about real names at the Midnight Mystery Lounge, the Arcana Royale’s premier revue. Their audience would only know her as Roseâtre.
“Does she even remember her real name anymore?” Jeannie murmured and Heidi shrugged. Somewhere after a decade, the dancers forgot. Some forgot on purpose, deliberately blotting out memories of a past before the Arcana Royale and whatever mistake landed them in the revue. Others just faded, forgetting that life existed beyond the smoke and the glamour.
And some just stop caring altogether…
Jeannie sighed and set the glitter brush down. Heidi moved on cue to help her don the weighted headdress with its red and white foxtails and diamond beads. It weighed over thirty pounds, and her head and neck would be in brutal pain by the end of the third number.
But she would look spectacular.
“Everyone forgets,” Heidi whispered, as her fingers worked through the headdress. Behind them the girls bounced up, adjusting arm sleeves of foxtails, which drooped to the ground. The golden lamé dresses hugged every curve, chains of crystal, diamond and pale-colored gems peeked out from beneath the fabric. The girls checked each other’s headdresses. Their foxtails were weighty, but only about ten pounds to Jeannie’s thirty.
Kiki danced in place at the head of the line, her hips bumping to a song only she could hear. The gyration warmed her up. She would be the first up the stairs and out onto the stage. She would burst through the door, potential energy unleashed, a payload delivering a megaton of enthusiasm, lift and sensation.
Heidi adjusted another strap, testing it against pull and murmured. “Two minutes.”
Two minutes to become Pandora.
Two minutes to let go of Jeannie.
She didn’t need two minutes anymore.
“Kiki!” Heidi yelled over her shoulder. “Go!”
“Holla!” Kiki whooped and charged up the steps, graceful in her five-inch heels. Sparks shot in every direction as the twelve bejeweled women bounced up the stairs.
Jeannie followed, but without the click-clack of running on the stairs. She ascended, shedding her humanity with each step. Years of practice shuttered her emotions, smothered her soul and silenced her sense of self.
At the top of the steps, Jeannie vanished.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Arcana Royale and the Midnight Mystery Lounge present Pandora!”
The music, velvet pulsations, squeezed her heart in time to the rhythm, and she surrendered. Across the sea of night, blue eyes blazed in the darkness. Pandora stared at them. Her heart paused, startled, and then the sluggish, ho-hum beat pounded, a descant bass to the sameness of the night.
She barely hit her first mark, waiting almost a full count from the first bars of the music. With every pop of her hips, every twist of her shoulders, every kick of her legs, she sought out those blue eyes, burning like icy flames in the blackness.
Her abdomen cramped, the chill of desperation quieting only when she found those burning eyes in the cold, empty dark.
Maybe tonight wasn’t the same after all.