AVIA I - THUNDERSTORMS AND .45S SAMPLE CHAPTERS

Avia might be able to con a rich woman out of 50 million dollars before her vacation to Hawaii, but she's going to need some help to do it. She has to call in people she terms her "cousins," and she has to deal with the fact that she is still an alcoholic and heroin addict. With the help of Benton, can Avia actually pull off this heist and get out of town before it is too late?
 

CHAPTER 1- THE PICK-UP



It was after midnight when Avia and Victor reached the side of the road about a half mile from the Grand Rapids airport and 500 feet from their Dodge Stratus. Rain pounded the pavement, leaving the visibility of the roads almost nonexistent. The howling wind overpowered the sounds of the creaking signs as they shifted and rattled under the pressure of the fierce storm.

If this was the east coast, I’d swear we were having a hurricane,” Avia said just as a large boom of thunder drowned out the sounds of the rain and wind. She glanced down at her watch. Her black duster was no longer collecting beads of water. It felt more like a steady stream flowing down her back, starting at her black Fedora. Sighing, she removed her hat for the tenth time, draining the water from the brim before placing it back on her dampening head.

"Are you ready?” Victor asked as he cast a sideways glance at his wet cat of a partner. It wasn’t his idea to do this tonight, but Avia had left him little choice. Ten phone calls and a 13 hour Seneca ride later, he found himself standing on the side of the road in a torrential downpour in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"Yeah,” Avia said, shaking more water from her head as her heels both crunched and sloshed in the black gravel. She was standing in the middle of a growing mud puddle that hadn’t been there when they had arrived. “Whose idea was this again?” She asked, glancing over at Victor. He had always had good taste in clothing, and tonight was no exception. He would have been better placed at the grand opening of an art gallery than standing on the side of the road.

This was all you,” he said as he cast a sideways glance at her. At least she had dressed appropriately. Victor had been half-worried that she’d be sporting her usual attire of jeans, tunic, and boots. Instead, his red-headed partner had actually chosen well; black slacks, a white blouse, black stiletto shoes, and a matching overcoat. "Okay, let’s get this show on the road." He checked his watch before sticking his black gloved thumb out to the passing cars. “They should be here in two minutes, if Brian did his damned job.”

If he didn’t, I am kicking his ass,” she said as she rubbed her aching wrists. This cold weather was not conducive to good circulation, and her ankles were quickly becoming as painful as her wrists.

You are ninety-five pounds. You’re not kicking anyone’s ass,” Victor said. “What’d you weigh when you got out of rehab?”

Hundred and five,” Avia said.

And I saw you right after you got out. You’ve lost weight over the last six months,” he said as a white Camero slowed beside them.

I have not. I eat,” Avia said as she turned to watch the white car. “What is she driving?” 

Not a Stealth,” Victor said. “I think it’s a white Camero.”

Avia shifted her stance. “They need to hurry. My toes are going numb.” She turned her gaze when a red Jeep started to slow down. “Any chance it’s a red Jeep?”

No. That wasn’t a car that was listed when Brian sent the report,” Victor said.

Avia cursed.

Hang tight. I think I see it,” Victor said.

If I have to walk to that damned hotel…” Avia said.

You won’t have to shoot anyone. I see it,” Victor said.
 
 
 

CHAPTER 2 – THE HOTEL

 
Ten minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of a Marriot suites. Pine trees lined the drive leading to the grand lobby entrance, and Avia counted twenty sets of windows, which meant that the hotel had at least that many floors. It looked like a giant towering white skyscraper with the dark red Marriot sign blazing from beyond the top floor.

Avia, Victor, and Stephanie were dropped off at the glass front lobby while Brian parked the car. The three of them walked through the gold trimmed double doors and entered the massive hotel lobby. It was as larger than most residential homes. In fact, it was almost larger than Avia’s first floor.”

Walking over to the ornately carved courtesy counter, she listened to her heels clicking on the white marble floors. Victor had gone to sit down in one of the plush red loungers, while Avia stood beside the woman, hand resting on the counter. She was impressed when Stephanie rented them a suite instead of a regular hotel room.

Two doubles per room or a Kings?” The clerk asked.

Kings are fine,” Avia said. 

The entire transaction took less than ten minutes, and soon Avia was walking through the lobby towards the reclining Victor with the hotel keycard in her hand. It was Brian who stopped her before she had gotten to her destination. "Did Stephanie already rent you guys the room?" he asked.

She did,” Avia said and showed him the keycard.

Great. I’ll talk to you guys later.” He turned and followed Stephanie to the elevators.

"Thanks a lot,” Avia called out behind her as she continued to where Victor was sitting.

“You got the room key?” he asked.

“Yes,” Avia said and motioned for him to stand. She was still soaked to spite being out of the rain for a good forty minutes. “Let’s go. I need a shower and a change of clothes.”

“We don’t have any clothing with us,” Victor said.

Avia paused. Rolling her eyes, she cursed. “I knew we forgot something.”

“It’s still in your Seneca,” Victor said.

“Shit. For some reason, I thought we’d drive back,” Avia said as they entered the elevator. She pulled off her hat to reveal wet tangles of curly red hair. Pushing the button for the 20th floor, she leaned back against the wall. “We can call a department store or something. Have them deliver some clothing?”

“At one in the morning. Avia, nothing is open,” Victor said.

“There has to be something open. I am not spending a night in wet clothes,” she said.

“You know damned well, you wouldn’t spend the night in wet clothes. You’ll get to the room, take a shower and sleep naked,” Victor said. 

What time is it?" She asked.

"Quarter after one,” Victor said as he glanced down at his watch just as the elevator doors opened, granting them access to the top floor. 

They stepped off the elevator and walked halfway down the hall before they found their suite. Avia slid the keycard into the reader and opened the door to reveal the interior. She saw two rooms immediately; a front room and a bedroom further back. The carpet was a typical industrial weave in dark blue with lighter colored diamond shapes. 

Walking to the center of the room, Avia took inventory of the furniture. The darkly stained dining room table had been polished to a high gloss. She wasn’t fond of the floral arrangement that had been placed on top of it, but it was a nice detail nonetheless.

We have to order room service while we’re here,” Avia said.

I’m sure they’ll be happy to bring you breakfast,” he said as he removed his trench coat and hung it in the front closet. His hat, he sat on the shelf above. Victor turned to watch her. “What do you wear? A size two?”

A two or a three,” Avia said as she pulled off her shoes and tossed them near the door. She threw her hat and coat on the couch before walking into the bathroom. 

I’m billing this to L,” Victor said as he sat on the couch with the local phone book.

You can’t bill it to L,” Avia said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

Victor looked in the direction of the bathroom. “Why? I thought he wanted you on this.”

He got wind Benton was involved,” Avia said.

Well no shit,” Victor said. “He’s the fucking con artist of the family.”

He thought Brian was doing it on his own because Benton had something else,” Avia said.

Brian is the fucking hitman. He agreed to set the stage for Benton when he arrived,” Victor said.

I know. That’s not what L heard,” Avia said.

L is fucking delusional. You owe me for this,” Victor said.

Fine,” Avia said as she disrobed and threw her clothes on the bathroom floor.

There were two bathing areas within the ornately tiled bathroom; a shower stall and a whirlpool bath. Avia decided to take a bath in hopes that the warm water would ease her aching joints.

She turned the water on hot and let the faucet run for a few minutes before plugging the drain and sliding within the sloped confines. She closed her eyes as water filled the tub and submerged her body in liquid warmth.




In the sitting room, Victor pulled out his cell phone and opened the phone book, which was now sitting comfortably on the plush red couch next to him. Flipping through the pages, he found quite a few department stores in the immediate area. However, most of them had closed at 10:PM. Grumbling to himself, he flipped through the pages again. Victor knew that his partner would not be happy to sit in a bathrobe all night.

Finally, he decided to call a few local tailors. If nothing else, he could have something made for her to wear tonight and tomorrow morning. The phone conversation was brief with the one tailor that did answer the phone, and Victor told him what he needed and by when. The price was ridiculously high, but given the time of night, he didn’t have much of a choice but to pay it. A full set of clothing for his soggy partner was going to run them over a grand. Correction, it was going to cost him over a grand. He knew that Avia wouldn’t pay for it.

A few minutes later, he heard the bathroom door open. Avia, was indeed, dressed in one of the long white terrycloth robes provided by the hotel, and she looked significantly more comfortable and warmer than she had 45 minutes ago. “How was the bath?” 

Whirlpool tub and unlimited hot water,” she said.

I may have to try that,” Victor said as he stood and walked over to the wet bar. “Drink?”

Please,” Avia said watching him pour two glasses of Maker’s Mark whiskey.

Do you need ice?” He asked.

No,” Avia said as she watched him turn around with the glasses in hand.

Victor walked the drinks over to her and handed her one before sliding his free arm around her waist. “I did manage to get hold of one tailor who will be bringing you a set of clothes.”

Avia took a drink from her glass before leaning her head against his dry, suit covered chest. “How’d you manage to stay dry?”

Remember when we went shopping and I pointed out the London Fog trench coats?”

She nodded.

“You decided you wanted the Armani version,” he said after taking a sip from his glass. Gently pulling her across the room with him, he sat down on the couch and pulled her into his lap.

“Did you get me anything to sleep in?” she asked.

“Since when have you ever worn anything to bed?” he asked. It sounded better than him telling her that he hadn’t. It hadn’t crossed his mind that she’d want to sleep in anything other than the blankets.

Avia drained her drink. “You did not expect me to sleep next to you naked, did you?”

He laughed. “It doesn’t matter to me how you sleep.”

"Do you know what room those people are staying in?" Avia asked.

He shook his head. “No idea. I didn’t get a chance to talk with Brian before he walked off with Stephanie.”

Avia nodded, glancing back at the wet bar. “I’m not exactly dressed to go visiting anyway.”

“The tailor should be here anytime. Though, I would suggest that you sleep tonight. We’ve had a long day.”

“It wasn’t my idea to fly from Florida to Michigan today,” Avia said.

“You could have fooled me,” he said. “Contrary to popular belief, L. does not have his hands in every piece of the pie you want to play in, and the Sarasota police are not in the pie. At least, not anymore. Fucking Chief Archer.”

“Now you tell me.” Avia sighed, flopping backwards against the soft arm rest.

“I tried to tell you that a week ago,” Victor said. “I said let Brian handle it, but no, you went off half cocked and shot the mother fucker in front of the police station.” He knew Jacob Stone had been on her shit list for months, after foiling one of her large drug deals in Sarasota.
Victor had heard that 100 kilos of cocaine had been confiscated by the Sarasota police along with 400 packages of Pseudoephedrine. Avia had had plans to get into the Ecstasy business and had purchased a warehouse she could use as a storage facility and laboratory, but things had gone south the minute Detective Jacob Stone had started snooping around. Victor wasn’t even sure how the man had gotten information on it. Avia wasn’t one to blab about her business dealings.


The confiscation had cost her almost a million dollars in lost profits, or so she said. Victor had a feeling that it had cost her more like two million in lost profits. Either way, it had ended with Avia tracking the man down, learning his work and home schedule, and then losing her temper and gunning him down in front of the police station at dawn. That had gotten the attention of every cop within 100 miles. Had Avia not been driving a turbo charged Camero, she would have been caught. The news footage of that chase had her clocked at 150mph. 
Victor had picked her up Naples after receiving a frantic call from her at 10:AM. Of course, he’d been watching the news in his mansion in Sarasota at the time. The coverage had stopped at about 9:30 because they lost her. As it turned out, she had ducked off the side of the road outside of Miami and into some brush. The cameras had panned the road in front of her car in that split second and when they turned them back, she was gone. 

He had it coming,” Avia said.

“I know he had it coming. Brian was going to take care of it after this,” Victor said. “And where the fuck did you get a turbo charged Camero?”

“I saw Jamie Sanchez park it at the Walmart,” Avia said.

“Jamie Sanchez?” Victor asked. “As in John Sanchez’ Jamie?”

“That’s the one,” Avia said.

“Oh fuck,” Victor said. “They are going to kill you.”

“She was fifteen-hundred miles from home,” Avia said. “She was probably in town to kill me.”

“Was the gun in the back seat?” Victor asked.

“It was,” Avia said.

Victor shook his head. “So you stole her car and framed her.”

“That was the plan,” Avia said. “The gun was just a bonus. I had mine.”

“You are one lucky bitch. You still owe me for this morning,” Victor said.

“Oh come on,” Avia said, shifting into his lap. “L. would have been pissed had you not helped.”

“That excuse is tired,” he said before kissing her forehead. She was young; 25 to his 45. He had known her for the last eight years down in Columbia, Florida, and wherever else L. tended to send his favorite group of troublemakers. Usually, it was Benton who accompanied Avia, and Victor preferred it that way. She was taxing to his contacts. Speaking of contacts, he glanced around. Where was that tailor?

“It is, but it is no less true,” Avia said.

“I hear it won’t be that way forever,” Victor said.

“What did you hear?” Avia asked.

“That Benton has had it with that fucker,” Victor said. “Plans to shoot him in the head.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Avia said.

“So, he hasn’t mentioned it to you?” Victor asked.

“Not a word,” Avia said just as she heard a knock at the door.

Victor shifted her out of his lap so he could answer the door. Peering through the peephole, he saw a man carrying two packages and a black bag as well as a few reams of cloth. “It’s the tailor.” He opened the door allowing the man inside the suite.

“I have the set of clothing that you requested, and a few yards of material in case the lady requires something more,” the tailor said as he walked over and handed Avia the packages.

Avia opened the first one, taking off the ribbon that had been holding the box closed, and pulled out a pair of dark blue jeans. Checking the size, she noted that they were three’s, and frowned slightly. They would work. They’d just be baggy. 
The next item she pulled out was a black cameo with spaghetti straps. In the bottom of the box was a pair of flat black boots. The other box held undergarments and socks. 

This’ll be fine,” Avia said after setting the clothes on the couch and the empty boxes on the floor.

“You sure you don’t want anything else while he’s here?” Victor asked.

Avia shook her head. “This will get me through until we can go shopping tomorrow.”

Victor nodded and showed the tailor out the door and into the hall where he gave the man $1,000 in cash before walking back inside and locking the hotel door. “Are you going to sleep now?”

“Maybe,” Avia said, standing and walking over to the wet bar to pour herself another drink. “But I don’t really feel like sleeping.”

Victor walked up behind her and slid his arms around her waist. “How about you stop drinking, and we go to bed. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.” His tone was low in the quiet room.

Avia finished pouring herself the drink and turned around in his arms with the glass in hand. “I don’t sleep. You know that.”
Victor edged her towards the bedroom, kicking the doors closed behind them, while Avia sipped at her newly poured drink. Sliding the glass out of her hand, he sat it on the bedside table before laying her backwards in the bed and untying the belt on her robe. 

“Victor, we can’t do this. We don’t know what room they are in,” Avia said.

“They are not next door to us. I guarantee it,” he said as he slid out of his jacket and tossed it across the room to the couch.

“How do you know that?” Avia asked.

“Because she has more money than sense,” Victor said as he finished undressing. He sat his clothes on one of the dining room chairs. “She’s probably in the penthouse.”

Victor positioned himself above her himself above her and capturing her protesting mouth with his. He knew she wasn’t going to refuse him as he slid the cloth away from her skin and began tracing his mouth from her lips to her chest, caressing one nipple with his tongue as she began to squirm. A moment later, he was positioning himself between her legs and pressing his sex against hers gently, teasing her.

Avia shifted her hips then, pressing upwards as their sexes gently rubbed together. She could already feel herself becoming damp with excitement. Anticipation getting the better of her as she gazed up into his lust filled eyes, she pressed harder against him. His mouth muffled the moan that wanted to escape, the tip of him just barely penetrating and then more fully as she felt his shaft edge up inside her. They both moaned once he was fully inside her.

Quiet pleasured sounds became harsh grunts and moans as Victor pistoned inside her over and over again. Soon she was screaming and begging him to fuck her harder. He could feel her tensing as her sounds becoming more frustrated. Her grip on his back intensified as her hips bucked against his.

Victor thrust hard inside her as he felt her muscles begin to spasm and clench around his pulsing manhood. The screams of pleasure practically echoed off the walls as they both climaxed, her body arching hard against his as he panted with the final few thrusts before collapsing next to her.

Avia panted, her breathing rough as she rolled over against him with her head on his chest, eyes still somewhere in the back of her head. 

​Minutes later, they were both calmly asleep after Victor turned off the bedside lamp securing them in darkness for the rest of the night.
 
 

CHAPTER 3 – THE SETUP

 
Avia rolled over to view the clock. It was after 10:AM. She jolted into a sitting position and looked beside her only to realize Victor was not in the bed.

You didn’t oversleep,” Victor said as he walked toward the bed, fastening his pants. “I woke up at nine, went downstairs to the menswear shop, bought some clothes and showered.”

Avia stepped out of the bed and stretched. “Is the water hot?”

Should be,” Victor said.

Did you find out what room Stephanie and Brian are staying in?” she asked.

Not yet. I thought you wanted clothes,” Victor said.

I do,” she said.

Then shower, I have your favorite car waiting downstairs,” Victor said.

Avia walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower and stepped inside. It did not take her long to wash her body and hair and rinse.
Once she was dressed in her new clothes, she walked out into the sitting room to find Victor lounged across the couch.

You ready?” he asked.

They both walked out of the suite and down the hall to the elevator not seeing Brian or Stephanie anywhere in the lobby or outside the hotel. The driver already had the back door to the limousine open and waiting for them.

Avia bounced slightly when she saw the black stretch limousine. You did get my favorite car.”

I told you I did,” Victor said as he helped her inside before joining her.

Where are we going?” she asked.

There’s a luxury mall up the street,” he said.

Avia sprawled across the backseat during the drive allowing Victor to massage her calves as they talked about the upcoming job.

Have you actually spoken to Benton?” Victor asked.

Benton should be in town later today or tomorrow, but I haven’t talked to him, just L and you,” Avia said. 

Well, we’ll meet up with Brian later,” Victor said as the car pulled to a stop in front of the Woodland Mall entrance. A moment later, the driver had the door opened and both Avia and Victor stepped out into the light drizzle. 

Does it ever stop raining here?” Avia asked.

Springtime,” The chauffeur said. “It gets better closer towards summer.” He closed the door and walked back around to the driver’s door while Victor and Avia headed inside the mall.

He’s going to wait right?” Avia asked.

Victor nodded as he led her down the large corridor filled with various shops. “Where would you like to go first?”

They have a Marshall Fields in here, don’t they?” Avia asked.

Victor nodded and walked them over to a mall directory. “Yes, they do. It’s down this corridor.” He pointed out the location of the store and where they were before leading her down the walkway towards the large department store.

Avia was practically hopping along next to him as they walked. She didn’t relish shopping, but she liked new things. “I’m going check out the women’s stuff once we get inside.”

That’s fine. I need to pick up a few new suits and some casual wear,” Victor said.

Avia headed for the women’s clothing the minute they entered the store and immediately picked up three new pairs of Joe’s jeans before heading over to the racks of shirts. She picked up a couple of black lace cameos, a few Nike fitted tank tops, and a couple of button down dress shirts. She was happy with the boots that were brought to her last night, and she wasn’t big on undergarments, so she didn’t pick up any of those. Instead, she met Victor at the cash register between the women’s and men’s departments. “Shit, we actually have to pay for this.”

Victor laughed. “We do,” he said. It was one of the few times where they actually had to spend their own money. 

Do I owe you for this too?” Avia asked.

No,” Victor said. “Leave your cards in your pockets.”

Victor whistled and shook his head when the cashier read the final total for his and Avia’s clothes. It was over two grand. He slid his card.
“Let’s hope that is the last of the expenses.”


I hope,” Avia said as she grabbed her bags.

Victor picked his bags up and walked with her back to the limousine. “Me too, but we have to dress the part for this. Do you even own any new clothes?”

No,” Avia said. “I fly shit from point A to point B and no one gives a shit what I wear.”

Then, this was a good investment,” Victor said. “Especially if you plan to do this type of work more often.”

I don’t know that I do, but the flights are few and far between these days,” she said as they stepped into the limousine.

L’s losing his damned grip on the business,” Victor said. “That’s why Brian is up here. He doesn’t have shit to do either.”

Hopefully, this will pay off,” Avia said.

We’ll all walk away with millions,” Victor said.




Once they arrived back at the hotel room, Avia lounged across the couch with a glass of scotch. She fell asleep for a brief nap only to be woken by someone knocking on the door. Opening her eyes, she saw Brian was now standing in the room.

"Hi, how do you like your room?" Brian asked watching Avia sit up on the couch.

"It’s bigger than I thought,” Avia said. 

She rented me a suite, too,” Brian said as he glanced around. 

I thought you’d be in her room,” Victor said.

Not yet, “Brian said. “But I do spend a lot of time in there.”

How long have you known her?" Avia asked.

"A couple of years,” Brian said, stepping further into the room and away from Victor who seemed to be looming behind him.

You’re doing this to a friend?” Avia asked.

I don’t have friends,” Brian said. “I am a hitman, and we need the damned money.”

Well, I guess I should thank her for the room,” Avia said, yawning and standing. She had had plenty of sleep. Victor had seen to that by exhausting her right before bed. That thought caused her to grin briefly as it had been quite awhile since she had orgasmed that hard with anyone. Then again, the man was quite skilled, and she caught her gaze traveling Victor’s suit clad body before stopping herself and turning her attention back to Brian. “What room is she in?”

“2003,” he said. “I can show you.”

Avia nodded. “We’ll be right back, Victor.” 

They walked out of the room and stepped onto the elevator at the end of the hall, riding it up two floors to the 20th. Stephanie’s room was two doors down from the end of the hall, and Avia knocked gently on the door.

Oh, hi,” Stephanie said, surprised after she had opened the door to her room.

I just wanted to thank you for the room again,” Avia said. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t picked us up.”

"It was the least I could do. I saw all those cars slowing down and then passing you.” She paused. “Say, why don’t you come down to the hotel bar with me?”

Avia glanced at Brian then looked at Stephanie. “Sure. How late are they open?” she asked as she glanced at her watch. It was almost 6:PM, and she couldn’t help thinking that the day had gone by really fast.

They stop serving drinks at two, but they only kick you out of the bar area.” Stephanie glanced backwards and then spoke again. “Let me change shirts real fast. Come on in.”

Avia entered the suite with Brian and looked around. It wasn’t any different from the one she was staying in. Averting her gaze and making idle conversation with Brian, she waited for Stephanie to change. “Double beds in this one.” That was the change with this room. Her and Victor had a King-size bed. Avia inwardly groaned at that realization. She was going to be forced to sleep with the man every night they were here. Of course, part of her mind was wondering if that was actually that bad. He was well endowed.


Once Stephanie was ready, they headed down to the lobby and through the hotel’s massive restaurant to the bar. It was still packed with people, and Avia glanced around looking for anyone she knew. Thankfully, she didn’t recognize anyone.


Come on. My favorite table is open,” Stephanie said.

Avia and Brian followed Stephanie to a table in the back of the small bar and watched as a waitress greeted them promptly, asking for their drink orders. Avia ordered Vodka as she glanced around the room for the third time. She was wrong. She did know someone at the bar. The bartender. 


Avia excused herself and walked over towards the twenty foot solid black oak bar. She sat down on a stool near the end of the bar. 


The bartender walked over to her a few minutes later. "Well, if it isn’t my old pal. I thought you were wanted in this state.”


Not this one,” Avia said. “We miss you.”

No, do not even try to drag me back into your shit,” the bartender said. “And from the looks of it, you’re still causing a lot of it.”

I am perfectly clean,” Avia said.

I saw that police chase down in Florida yesterday morning. Rumor is, you had something to do with it,” he said.

Wasn’t me,” Avia said. “I saw the same chase. I don’t own any Cameros.”

They zoomed in pretty close. I thought I saw red hair,” the bartender said.

It was black hair,” Avia said.

The bartender grabbed a bottle of whiskey and poured it into a tumbler. ““You have to drink.” He slid it to Avia. “What do you want?”


Avia took a long drink from the glass. “I was hoping you could tell me something.”


For a price,” the bartender said.

Avia slid him a $100 bill.


Ask away, tiny,” he said.

What do you know about the woman over their next to the wall?" Avia asked. “Sitting with Brian.”

"Long time resident of the hotel. She’s been here four or five years. Stephanie Hook,” he said with a shrug as if he were simply remembering a name on a credit card. “Rumor is, she’s got a lot of money, and she has a hell of a drinking problem.” He looked at Avia “Why?”


Avia shrugged. “I like to know who’s buying my drinks. You know I don’t want to get stuck with the tab.”


The bartender laughed. “Oh yeah, I know all right. Did you ever pay for a damned drink down in Florida?”


She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I still don’t pay for them.”


Who do you have paying for them now? Brian? Benton? Some old dude with a yacht?”

Any of the above, depending on the night,” Avia said. 

All right. Well, I know your friends. I know your family, and I know what you guys do.” He leaned in close. “And let me give you some advice. 
You are not the first person to try and woo her from her bank accounts, and every son of a bitch Casanova and Romeo has failed so far. We place bets on that crap back here.”


Well, if you place your bets on her this time, don’t come crying to me when you lose,” Avia said. She took another long drink from the tumbler in front of her.

"You need to take your friends and go on back to Florida,” the bartender said. “I’m not kidding. No one has ever succeeded, and I’ve seen at least four in the last three years.”


Is she that smart?” Avia asked.

No,” the bartender said. “She doesn’t know, but somehow the cops find out.”

You have got to be kidding me,” Avia said. “Who’s ratting them out?”

The bartender shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s got to be someone in the hotel or close to her.”


Are you?” Avia said.

Do I look like I want a new decorative hole in the back of my head?” the bartender asked.

If she tips well, you might,” Avia said.

It’s not me. If you ask me, it’s either the dude sitting with her now or the hotel manager,” the bartender said.

Avia finished her drink. “Are you lying to me?”


On my honor, woman,” the bartender said.

Avia nodded. “All right. Thanks.”


Be careful or that spotless criminal record you and your family has could be tarnished,” he said.

If you ever need a job, come back. We’d love to have you again,” Avia said as she stood. 

You’re dad’s fucking crazy. No way in hell,” he said.

You never know. The offer is always open.” She walked back to the table with Stephanie and Brian.

She wasn’t terribly worried about what the bartender had said. After all, Benton was coming in to town, and she already had Victor and Brian. 
Turning her attention towards the table, she noticed Brian and Stephanie deep in a conversation. Avia simply sat down and took a sip from her drink. Another drink had already been brought to the table, and she noticed that three glasses were now sitting in front of Stephanie, two of which were empty, the third glass half empty.


"How long was I gone?" Avia asked.


"About a half an hour,” Stephanie said. "When the waitress came back she said you had a phone call."


"Yeah, it was a business call from the investors that stood us up last night. They said they had found a better investment after they had canceled our meeting." Avia said as she took another drink from her glass.


Stephanie glanced at her watch. “They called you this late in the evening? And how did they know you were here?”


"They gave me their home phone number and told me to call if I had any questions. After getting ditched last night, I had questions," Avia said before changing the subject. "What are you drinking?"


"Scotch,” Stephanie said. "I saw you took the hotel limo out today. Do you need a car?" 


Avia blinked. “Well, I suppose a car would be nice, but I haven’t gotten around to getting a rental just yet.” 


"Do you like Corvettes?" Stephanie asked.


"I guess,” Avia said. She glanced at Brian who shrugged.


"Well, how bout I take you out tomorrow around noon, and we take a look at a few?" Stephanie asked.


No,” Avia said. “That’s ridiculous. You don’t even know me, and I don’t know you.” 

Avia was now concerned. She didn’t think it was the hotel manager. She thought it was Stephanie. No one was this generous. Avia had the strangest feeling Stephanie was trying to reverse con her.


Stephanie started to say something when the bartender walked over to the table.


Can I bother the red-head for a moment?” he asked.

Certainly,” Stephanie said.

The bartender helped her out of her seat and walked with her toward the back room. “You looked like you were about to kill someone.”


She just offered to buy me a car,” Avia said.

What?” he asked.

She just offered to buy me a car,” Avia said. “Is she fucking nuts?”

She may be testing you. What’d you say?” he asked.

I said no,” Avia said.

Good. Well, the real reason I pulled you away is that there’s a poker game in the back. I thought you might be interested.”

Has it started?” Avia asked.

No, I told them I knew someone else that might want in,” he said.

I’m in." Avia said.

The bartender led her to the back room to where seven other men were seated around a poker table. “This is the Tasha I was telling you about.”


"Is she any good?” one of the men asked.


Better than you,” Avia said as she took a seat.

We’ll see. Hope you brought your money,” the man said.

Another man began shuffling the cards and dealing them. "Five card stud, deuces wild." 


"Ten in for the ante," the first man said and waited until everyone had placed their bills in the center of the table.


"I raise ten," the man said sitting to the right of the dealer. The raise was matched and everyone passed except Avia, the dealer and the man to the right of him. 


Avia was looking at three Queens, a two and an Ace. “I raise fifty."


"I pass," the dealer said.


"Well, I don’t," the man said and raised it ten more. Avia matched his raise and called. She then waited for everyone to lay down their cards before laying her own on the table face up.


"I have three Aces," the man said confidently.


I have a Full House,” Avia said and raked in the money... The waitress walked into the back room. "Can I get anybody anything?”

Avia ordered a shot of vodka while the rest ordered whiskey. When the waitress finally brought their drinks they were well into their third hand.


Three hours later the group broke up, and Avia walked out into the front room sitting down at the bar. "What time is it?” Avia asked, noticing that most of the patrons had cleared out of the bar.


"It’s just after midnight,” he said as he began wiping down the bar. 


"When did Stephanie and Brian leave?" 


"About thirty minutes ago,” he said as he rummaged under the counter. He pulled out a napkin with writing on it. “She said that she’d meet you in the lobby at noon tomorrow.”


Avia laughed, amused, taking the napkin and crumpling it. “Okay. Can I get another drink then, and has Victor been down?”


The bartender handed her a glass of scotch and shook his head. “I haven’t seen him all night.”


Avia sighed. “I swear all he does is hole himself up in the hotel rooms and doesn’t do any work.”


The bartender chuckled. “Perhaps you should go motivate him.”


The grin appearing on Avia’s face was all telling. However, instead of responding to him, she asked. “I’ll be seeing you later?”


You know it,” the bartender said. “Now go get some sleep.”

She laughed as she exited the bar and walked out into the lobby. Taking the elevator up to the 18th floor, she walked into the suite a few minutes later and saw Victor asleep in the huge bed. He looked exhausted, and Avia wondered how that was possible since he hadn’t done anything all day except take her shopping.


Avia decided to take a quick shower and walked into the bathroom. When she came out Victor was lying on his side on the bed, staring at the bathroom door. "You’re finally back."


Avia nodded. "You were asleep when I in. I didn’t think you’d want to be woken." She paused momentarily. “And Stephanie offered to buy me a Corvette."


Victor sat up on the edge of the bed. “What did you say to that?


"I said no,” Avia said. “I’m not letting her buy me a damned car.”


Good,” Victor said. “That’s weird.”

That’s what I thought,” Avia said as she walked over to the mini-bar and poured herself a drink.

That’s not normal,” Victor said. “Sounds like she’s trying to play you.”

Exactly what I thought,” Avia said.

Does Brian know?” Victor asked.

He was sitting right there,” Avia said.

Good,” he said. “We’ll have to watch that. If she makes anymore of those offers, we may have to pull the plug.”

Well, I haven’t seen Benton yet,” Avia said. “He may have some different thoughts.”

He might,” Victor said. “It’s definitely cause for a team meeting. What are you doing later today?”

I guess Stephanie wants to meet me in the lobby at noon,” Avia said.

Keep that appointment,” Victor said.

I was going to cancel it. I think that’s more of that car shit,” Avia said.

Keep it. We need her to trust us,” Victor said.

But I don’t trust her,” Avia said.

You don’t have to,” Victor said. “You are trying to get her to trust you so you can get paid.”

Avia nodded. “Well, what were you doing all day?”


Watching,” Victor said as he stood from the bed. “Follow me.”

Avia stood and followed Victor into the second bedroom. “Holy shit. What the hell are all those computer monitors?”


Cameras,” Victor said. “I spent most of this time hacking into the security system. I can see every floor, the lobby, the bar, the elevators, and 
I even found the security cameras inside Stephanie’s hotel room.” He pointed.


No wonder you looked exhausted,” Avia said. She suddenly looked around their suite. “Are there cameras in here?”

They are just inside hers for some reason,” Victor said. “And the top penthouse on the 21st floor.”

I didn’t count a twenty-first floor?” Avia said.

It’s not visible from the ground. It’s located in the center of the roof,” Victor said. “Extremely private.”

Avia laid across the bed. “So what did you see?”


Not much yet, but I’m also recording,” Victor said.

That could be useful,” Avia said.

I think so,” Victor said.

Avia glanced at the clock. “What in the hell did you do to me last night? I am far too exhausted tonight.”


Victor laughed. “I think that’s your body telling you that you can’t stay up for weeks at a time.”


“Bite me,” Avia said as she pulled out the money she had won during the poker games. When she finished organizing and counting, she had ten grand.


"Where did you get all that money?" Victor asked.


"I won it downstairs playing poker,” Avia said.


Victor looked at her. “Playing poker?”


“The bartender was our old informant,” Avia said.


“And we haven’t killed him yet?” Victor asked.


“He’s still useful,” Avia said. “And now we have money.” She handed him a stack of one-hundred dollar bills.


Victor laughed. “All right, but if he blabs, I’m killing him.”


“Fine,” Avia said. “I need another drink.”


“No, you don’t,” Victor said. He placed the stack of money inside a drawer and walked over to her.


“Yes, I do,” Avia said.


Victor lifted her off the bed and carried her into the master bedroom. “You need to sleep. You have to be awake and alert by noon.”


Avia sighed. “I am not interested in sleeping.”


I know you’re not,” Victor said. “But it’s almost one in the morning. I’m exhausted, and I’m not allowing you to stay up all night.” He sat her on her feet next to the bed. “This is a serious job. You can’t be half asleep or drunk.”

Avia sighed. She undressed, tossing her clothes on the floor. “I’ll sleep in the other room.”


Victor undressed and slid into the bed under the covers. “I don’t care where you sleep just that you do, but you are going to be really cold in that other bed.”


How am I going to be cold?” she asked.

Go test that bed and come back here,” Victor said.

Avia rolled her eyes as she walked into the other bedroom. She moved the money to a drawer next to the bed and made herself comfortable under the covers. The sheets were freezing. After 30 seconds, she exited the bed and walked to the one Victor was laying in. She climbed under the covers and wrapped herself around him.


​Victor smirked, but said nothing.
 
 

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