They advertise on television—“find your true love; we’ll match you with the person of your dreams.” Their irritating spam clogs your computer inbox—"free tonight? Let’s chat.” You can turn the channel or hit the ‘trash’ button, but the promises still linger in your mind. Is it any wonder divorced and lonely, Cassie Fremont, signed up for an on-line dating service? What later shocked her was cost of the ticket for a ride on the roller coaster from hell.
Author, Ginger Simpson
Contemporary romance based on a true story but in a fictional context. There's a warning at the end of the book.
The elevator opened and whisked them to their floor. They found their room, and Evan slid the key card in the lock. He opened the door. His extended arm blocked her path. She eyed him curiously. “Well, let me in.”
“You know, we could go get married first, and then I could carry you over the threshold.”
Her breath caught in her throat. Surely he wasn’t serious. “Not tonight, I have a headache,” she joked.
“I guess that’s a no.” The dejected look on his face told her his proposal had been serious.
“Oh, Evan, when and if we get married, I don’t want it to be some cheap chapel in Las Vegas. I want my family…”
The rift! Pain tugged at her heart and she narrowed her attendance list. “My mom would kill me if I got married and she wasn’t there.”
Evan seemed to recover quickly. “Then let’s drop these bags and go get rich.”
A wave of relief swept over Cassie. She’d gotten out of that predicament easier than she expected. Standing in the middle of the posh but overdone room, she announced. “I’m ready when you are.”
On the ride back down in the elevator Cassie stifled a giggle. Suddenly she felt like a little kid going to Disneyland. Maybe it was because of the different environment, or just feeling free for the moment. Whatever it was, she intended to enjoy it.
When the doors parted, Evan made a beeline for a bank of dollar slots. Cassie glanced down at her still-extended hand, surprised he hadn’t taken hold of it. Maybe he felt the same excitement she experienced. She followed behind and stood at his shoulder, watching. He had already deposited money and was eagerly pulling the handle. The reels spun wildly, blurring the images of cherries, plums and the elusive sevens. When the tumblers stopped, a loud bell sounded, and Evan turned and smiled, pointing at the three bars that had aligned perfectly across the screen. “Look at that, I’m a winner.”
Cassie quickly scanned the colorful pay schedule looking for Evan’s reward. “Wow, five hundred dollars! Baby, you’re pretty lucky at this.”
Evan pulled out his wallet and handed Cassie several bills—big ones. “Here, take this and find a paying machine.” He stuffed his billfold back in his pocket and immediately grasped the slot handle.
She pulled out the stool next to him. “This one looks good.” She sat.
The crease in his forehead showed his displeasure. “No, I meant go somewhere else. I don’t like people watching me when I gamble.”
Shocked, Cassie stood. She was speechless.
Evan raised up just high enough to graze her cheek with a kiss. “You understand, don’t you, baby girl? It’s an anxiety performance thing.”
No, she didn’t understand, but she wasn’t going to hang around where she wasn’t wanted. Clutching the bills he’d given her, she ambled off in search of another place to sit. Somehow her excitement had waned. Just a little while ago he’d wanted to marry her and now he didn’t even want her sitting next to him. She let go of the hurt. She’d turned down his offer of marriage, so now they were even.
She eyed the dollar slots but decided she wasn’t ready for that denomination just yet. Quarters, would do. She unrolled the wad, looking for something smaller than a hundred but all five were the same. Cassie summoned a roving attendant and got change, then inserted twenty into her machine. She tucked the remaining bills in her pocket. It wasn’t long before she was lost in the hypnotic spinning of the reels—unfortunately there were no bells sounding for her and she had lost far more than she planned.
Her eyes grew tired from the never ending blur of whirling fruit. Dare she go back and check on Evan? It had been hours and he hadn’t come looking for her. Surely he wouldn’t mind if she checked in. She’d forgotten her watch but was sure it was close to 3:00 a.m. Why didn’t they put clocks in casinos? Even without knowing the true hour, it had been a long day and she was ready for bed.
The machine where Evan had sat earlier was empty. Cassie eagerly scanned the casino for him. In comparison to the earlier crowded room, only a handful of late-night gamblers remained. Cass walked up and down each bank of slot machines and perused each table, but Evan was no where to be found. Her heart rate increased with panic. Where could he be? Maybe he went upstairs.
She traced the outline of the room card in her pant’s pocket, and headed for the elevator. On the way up, she pondered why Evan didn’t come find her. Her heart beat hard against her chest.
At the room, she struggled to get the key into the narrow slit, and when she walked inside, her heart sank. Evan wasn’t there. Driven by feelings of disappointment and frustration, Cass expelled a large whoosh of air and plopped on the king-sized bed. She sorted through her options, enveloped by a feeling of helplessness. Where would she start to look? Should she report him missing? Maybe just wait. The latter choice was her least favorite but the most logical. There were dozens of casinos—hundreds maybe—and she had no idea where to search. If she wasn’t so worried she might really be pissed. She stretched out on the bed and stared hopelessly at the ceiling. The acoustical dots ran together, creating crazy patterns, and finally, blurred.
Extraordinary brightness attempted to creep beneath Cassie’s closed lids—she turned over and sleepily opened her eyes. She wrinkled her nose at the offensive light and realized it was morning. The room-darkening draperies only worked if someone closed them. The bright ascending sun spread fiery fingers across the sky and penetrated the hotel room’s drape-less window. Still half-asleep, Cassie checked for evidence that Evan had returned—still no sign of him. Her stomach knotted as she glanced at the clock on the nightstand—7:00 a.m. Surely something awful had happened to him. There was no way he would let her worry for this long.