“Come on! Red! Red! Yes! You losers can kiss my ass. Cough over the dough.” Kyla held her hand out. “I don’t got all day here. Time is money, people.”
The scene in front of him had been on replay for a solid couple of hours. Kyla had better luck than he could have imagined. Before arriving at roulette, she got kicked out of blackjack for winning too much, and now she was cleaning house here. They were enemy number one in the casino. Jaycee kept alert for any hired hit man. In jail, they talked about it like that kind of thing was normal. Kyla must have completely forgotten about the mission; her hands were busy digging in the company’s pockets and robbing them blind.
A blast of hot air slammed into him as someone zipped by. The only relief came in the form of perspiration from the glass of water he held. It felt cool compared to the humidity of the room he found himself in. Right now, he wished Alec would have left him his fan to help ward off the heat.
Around them, lights traveled across the floor in an array of intensities, brightening the dim area. Each corner of the spacious place had a specific game it offered, with a line of patrons waiting to be allowed entrance. It was bizarre seeing so many individuals shoved into one room, bodies slammed up against each other. Jaycee was uncertain if he was uneasy from the closeness or if his claustrophobia was kicking in.
“One more time, old man.” Kyla’s voice drew his attention back to the game. She had her hand on her hips, chin jutted out. “Unless you’re scared you’ll get beaten by a girl?”
“N-No!” The older man next to her, with his brown beard and beer belly sticking out, had his fists clenched. “You’re on, little girl!”
How did he fall for her taunting so easily? The crowd that surrounded them comprised older men with greying hair, huge guts, and crooked teeth. Their clothes were unkempt, and their breath reeked of alcohol or something far more sinister. Kyla, however, remained unfazed.
“You, old geezer, let’s start already!” She pointed to the croupier, a rude gesture in Sheol, but one that was overlooked in places of sin like this. The man looked anything but old, with a youthful face, wrinkle free, and dirty blonde hair that cropped his sharp features. He threw her a telling glance, but continued the game.
As the wheel turned, they announced numbers and colors, cries becoming stronger as the seconds passed. The crowd became greater, pushing Jaycee from Kyla’s side to the edge. His heart thumped rapidly in his chest as more people appeared on all sides of him. He shoved through the masses of bodies; the dizziness blocking him from seeing straight. Someone knocked the cup he held from his grasp; the sound of shattering glass lost in the yelling. When he finally made it through, his body collapsed on a chair against the wall. It was the first solid object his mind could make out that had no one near it.
Eventually, he could breathe in rhythm again. Glancing around, thoughts unjumbled, he noticed the initial group of individuals had vanished.
Just as he was about to get up and search for Kyla, said women of the hour spotted him. Her face lit up.
“Jaycee, there you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” She sat down, an enormous bag lying in her lap. “I sucked these rich snobs dry. If that doesn’t cause a scene, I don’t know what will.”
“Make a scene?” Jaycee frowned. If that was their goal, he was sure they went above and beyond. They were so successful, he doubted they’d make it out alive.
“Yeah, boss can be really anal about little details—Whoa, what happened to your face?” Her fingertips ran over the cut he had neglected because of the earlier excitement. The medicinal powder felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket, the warmth radiating out. “Alec didn’t even bother to heal you? What good is being a healer when you don’t even use it?”
They had already split up when the wolf had attacked them. Ignoring that for a minute, she called Alec a healer. That meant he was proficient in the healing arts, but also a skilled fighter. The two didn’t mix well in their society. Everyone knew Sheol for keeping its warriors and healers separate. No one may master the skills of the other.
“I’m fine, honestly,” he replied. “We were being chased and didn’t have a lot of time.”
“Don’t stick up for him. He doesn’t deserve it.” She reached into her shorts and pulled out a similar-looking vial. She gently applied the powder to the aggravated skin while continuing to grumble. “Next time I see him, I swear. He’s going to cook and start the fire.”
Alec and Kyla perplexed him. It was impossible to compare the two, as they were complete opposites, like yin and yang, and yet they complimented each other. The thought had him wondering just how they met. What brought people from such different walks of life together? They acted more like a family than even his own did. Blood didn’t always mean loyalty.
To Jaycee, Alec was an enigma. His actions, carefully planned, would seem reckless to others. That alone made even him nervous. Those who he could not predict terrified him the most. Agnar also fit that role. The few times they crossed paths, the electrifying intensity he gave off had Jaycee on high alert.
It was almost as if Kyla could read his thoughts, for her next words mimicked his own apprehensions.
“You know, he may be a brat, but Alec isn’t that awful of a guy. He’s easy to misunderstand, but without him I wouldn’t be alive today. I’m not saying you have to trust him or anything.” For a brief moment, their eyes met. A slight smile graced her lips. “Just give him a chance. He may surprise you.”
Jaycee wasn’t certain how to reply to her, or why her tone changed, but the sincerity in her comments was genuine. At least, that’s what he preferred to believe.
“Thank you,” he said. Once she finished, he ruffled his hair to cover the wound.
“Anyway.” She scanned the area, wrist resting on her hip. “If you’re okay, we should probably get moving. All Alec wanted us to do was get the ball rolling. Alessio owns this casino, so upsetting the balance here should reach his ears.”
“This is what you meant by causing a scene?” He paled at that. Instead of starting a spark, they ignited a fire. “I think we may have done more than that.”
“Really? Alec suggested I use whatever means necessary. I think I did a bang-up job.”
“That’s one way to look at it.” They needed to get out of there, and fast. Jaycee’s stomach started churning the more he learned. “Shouldn’t we leave before Alessio himself comes here?”
“Why would the big wig himself come here?” asked Kyla. “I only skimmed their pockets. It’s not like I robbed them blind.”
Suddenly, the noise in the room heightened, voices bouncing off one another as throngs of people crowded around the entrance. From their spot in the back, they could see the door open and light pouring in. Jaycee had a bad feeling.