Shine Not Burn
Author:Elle Casey

“I’ll blow it out for you, but you need to shower first. Get all that hair off you and then you can change into what you’re wearing tonight. I’ll finish with a quick blow and then we can go to dinner.”


I looked down at my jeans and flowy blouse. “I thought this was what I was wearing.”


Candice tsk-tsked at me. “No, no, no-no-no, you are not wearing that Bohemian get-up out for a night out on the town. No. A dress. A tight black one. And heels.”


“But I didn’t bring one.” I pouted, feeling like Cinderella surrounded by well-dressed step-sisters.


“Not to worry. I brought back-up,” said Candice. “I’ll put something together for you while you’re in the shower, don’t worry.”


I looked right at her chest. “I’m not going to fit into your clothes, Candice. Not unless I stuff an entire roll of toilet paper in my bra which I’m not going to do so don’t even try it.” I pointed a threatening finger at her and narrowed my gaze, just so she’d know how much I meant it. I wouldn’t put it past her to try and force me to stuff my bra. She’d done it before in college, and the wet t-shirt contest that had sprung up spontaneously at the party we’d been attending hadn’t ended well. I was scarred for life, in fact. I could never look at a wad of toilet paper again without seeing soggy boobs falling out of my t-shirt and landing on the ground at my feet.


“Just go shower and leave the details to me, okay?” Her smile was way too dangerous for comfort, but I suddenly realized I had to pee, so I left her standing there with her nefarious plans in favor of emptying my bladder.


“I’m not going to stuff my bra with toilet paper. I’m not,” I mumbled as I made my way to the toilet.






Chapter Six






“YOU MADE ME COME ALL this way and you didn’t think to make hotel reservations?” Mack shook his head at his little brother. Ian’s two friends were standing just behind him, too engrossed with checking scantily clad women walking by to care about not having a room to stay in for the night.


“How was I supposed to know the place was going to be so packed?” Ian scowled, hitching up his bag onto his shoulder uncomfortably. “There’s like a thousand hotels in this town.”


“Well, come on,” said Mack, moving his hat around on his head a little. It was a nervous gesture this time, not just a sweaty, itchy head. “Let’s at least see if we can talk one of these bellhops into looking after our bags while we get some grub.”


Thirty minutes later they were sitting at a table for four, diving into plates piled high with all-you-can-eat buffet finds. Their bags were locked in a small room just behind the reservation desk, and the ticket to retrieve them rested safely under Mack’s hat.


“Man, I ain’t never seen so much food in one place in all my life,” said Bo, Ian’s best friend since grade school.


“That’s cuz you’ve never been outside Baker your entire life,” said Ian. “They have buffets like this all over Portland.” He shoveled a huge mouthful of potato salad in his mouth, not letting it get in the way of his conversation. “See, the difference is, here in Vegas? They got all kinds of food, like seafood, steaks, Indian food, vegetarian garbage. Anyone can come to Vegas and have a good time.” He glanced up at his brother before spearing a hunk of beef. “Even Mack.”


Ian’s friends snickered.


“Laugh it up, boys, but I came here to do some business. I got plans.” Mack took a bite of his overcooked steak and cringed. “Jesus Mary and Joseph, this meat is like jerky. Remember that jerky you made with Mom that one year, with the deer meat?” He poked the lump of meat he wasn’t going to finish. “This stuff is worse.”


“Oh, I remember that,” said Dillon, Ian’s other friend. “The dog wouldn’t even eat it.”


Mack pushed his plate away and drained his beer. “I have a date at the blackjack tables. Move it,” he said to Dillon, elbowing him in the ribs.


“Aren’t you gonna wait for us?” asked Ian, looking first at his brother and then at his half-full plate.


“You kidding? If I know you, you still have at least three more trips to the buffet before you’re done. If I start now, I’ll be up a grand before you’re done with dessert.”


Ian snorted. “Fine, mister high roller, go on with your badass self. After we’re done tearin’ up the buffet, we’ll come find you. Just don’t leave the casino here in the hotel.” He stabbed his fork into five layers of various foods and stuffed them into his mouth, his cheeks bulging with the effort of chewing it all.


“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Mack said, standing and throwing some cash on the table. “Dinner’s on me. Save room for beers. I’ll see you at the tables.”


He strolled away, tipping his best cowboy hat back a little on his head as he made his way to the blackjack pit.






Chapter Seven