Lucky Me (His Dark Charms Duet Book 1) - eBook
Lucky Me (His Dark Charms Duet Book 1) - eBook
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He’s lucky as sin, and we’re playing for keeps.
Seven Delaney runs his corner of Dragonfly Hollow with the insufferable arrogance you’d expect from someone born lucky. Now he needs my help, and my unique talents, to solve a murder that threatens his fortune as well as our kind’s tenuous relationship with humans.
He’s lucky as sin, and we’re playing for keeps.
For sixteen years, I’ve lived unlawfully among humans, supporting myself by playing poker. But concealing my fae identity isn’t easy. When a high stakes game goes terribly wrong, only one person stands between me and lifelong servitude—Seven.
Seven Delaney runs his corner of Dragonfly Hollow with the insufferable arrogance you’d expect from someone born lucky. Not only did the sexy fae billionaire break my heart, he’s responsible for the most humiliating experience of my life and is the reason I fled that fairy realm.
Returning to Dragonfly Hollow is my only way out, but there’s a price. Seven requires my help, and my pixie talents, to solve a case that threatens fae society’s tentative relationship with humans. I promised myself I’d never get involved with him again, but his dark charms prove hard to resist. The closer we get to solving this mystery, the harder it becomes to keep my distance. And the clearer it is that if we don’t learn to trust each other again, our luck might just run out.
Winner of the 2022 Reviewers Choice Award!★★★★★ "Secrets, surprises, lies, betrayal, romance, bigotry and a murder mystery. All I can say is WOW." -Paranormal Romance Guild★★★★★"This story was amazing. There were twists and turns and such amazing writing that once I started reading I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.” –Sassy Southern Book Blog
There are only three times in life when everyone is equal: the moment we’re born, the moment we die, and the moment we sit down at the poker table. Poker is the great equalizer. The cards don’t give a shit what you look like. They don’t care where you started from. All that matters is the hand you’re dealt and how you play the game.
I love poker, but then you might say I’m lucky.
Luck is something I’ve been intimately familiar with since I was three and I learned that with a little focus I could make an ice cream cone drop from a human’s hand into my own. My mother was furious that day. I licked that mint-chocolate-chip miracle so fast the human didn’t want it back.
Since then, I’ve discovered I’m not the luckiest fae in existence or the smartest, but I know how to make the most of what I’ve got. I’m living proof that sometimes the hand we’re dealt isn’t the whole story.
Sometimes we can bluff.
Not that I prefer to lie. It would be a relief to have the privilege to be myself if doing so didn’t come with grave consequences. Out of necessity, I’ve been living a lie for sixteen years now, from the time I got knocked up by a human man and left my fairy homeland. Living as an undocumented fae among humans can be a bitch, but it’s taught me how to make the best of a raw deal.
Today the player across the poker table fits that description. He’s a vexation, a thorn in my side. For the course of this game, I’ve referred to him as Mr. Fidget in my head. Mr. Fidget has a name, but I keep forgetting it because until this moment I would have bet my left tit he’d run out of chips long before this.
Fidget is a newbie. None of the regulars have ever heard of him. He’s young, maybe thirty, and dressed more like an accountant than a poker pro, in a pair of khakis and a checkered dress shirt straight off a clearance rack. He never stops bobbing his knee or riffling his chips. It’s annoying as hell.
It’s one in the afternoon, and the room I’m in reeks of billowy floral cologne, stale smoke, and the sickly sweet essence of spilled liquor. I’m experiencing a stomach-clenching, throat-constricting anxiety that flails inside me like a trapped octopus. No one would ever know. From the outside, I maintain a carefully curated impassivity, as cool and collected as one of the marble statues in front of Caesar’s Palace. Nothing to see here. Just a human woman holding a few cards, ordinary as can be. I’m no threat at all. Focus on the other players.
I need this win.
The pot could finally buy my daughter the life she deserves, the life I left Devashire to give her. A normal human life, free of lies. Free of constantly looking over her shoulder.
Casually, I toy with Kiko, the shiny gold maneki-neko (aka Japanese lucky cat) who sits atop my chips. I relish the bubbly rush of luck she feeds me and direct it at the deck shuffler beside the dealer. It’s a fae thing. Wielding luck is a talent each of us possesses at varying levels. As a pixie, I’m certainly not as powerful as others of my kind, but you might say I’ve made the most of my talents.
The machine whirs, spits out a deck, and the dealer flicks out the cards with crisp precision. I turn up the corners of my two and find that the luck I’ve spent on the shuffle has paid off: pocket aces.
Mr. Fidget’s eyes dart wildly between his cards and my face. He swallows hard. He has the small blind, which means he was a C-note in before we even saw our cards. Action folds to me, and I raise. He calls. The big blind, not wanting to get mixed up in things, smartly folds. The dealer rakes our chips into the pot, and now it’s heads-up, just him and me.
I school my features as the flop is dealt. Ace of clubs, ten of clubs, nine of spades. And just like that, my pocket aces become three of a kind. Across from me, Mr. Fidget is sweating bullets and generally looks like his heart might fail at any moment.
He mops his brow with a cocktail napkin. “All in,” he mumbles.
At the moment, I have what we call in poker terms the stone-cold nuts, the strongest hand given the situation, but I know a flush and a gut-shot straight draw are possibilities. Is he all in with a draw? Any decent player knows I’ve got great odds… and with my luck, I call. Here we go. Let’s say goodbye to Mr. Fidget.
The turn drops. Ace of clubs. Four of a kind. It takes effort not to grin like a cat with a mouse between its paws. Mr. Fidget holds his breath as the dealer flips the river.
The jack of clubs. Interesting. I’ve dosed the deck with a heavy amount of luck, and it’s a good thing because if I didn’t know better, I might be worried. The makings of a royal flush lay on the table.
It’s time to show our cards. When I tip my four of a kind, I can no longer hold back a self-satisfied grin, but Mr. Fidget doesn’t react as expected. He goes perfectly still, no longer moving or sweating. He’s transformed into someone older, cooler, and somehow smoother. A man who belongs in a Lexus commercial. A player in nerd clothing.
Without breaking eye contact, he flips his cards and my heart stops. All the tiny hairs on my body stand on end. King and queen of clubs. Royal flush. He wins.
As the dealer rakes my chips and the crowd applauds, Mr. Fidget makes eye contact and smiles for the first time. Warning bells ring inside my head, and fear stabs an icy tendril into my heart. His teeth gleam with the slightest hint of blue.
I snatch Kiko from the table and storm for the exit, trying to look like a disappointed pro rather than a terrified illegal alien. I drain the last morsels of luck from Kiko’s belly and pray this isn’t what I fear it is.
People call out to me. Faces blur in my haste for the exit. As fast as my muscles will move, I weave through the crowd and out onto the Strip. I want to deny it. I want to be wrong. But there is only one thing that can turn a human’s teeth that shade of indigo: blue iron. And there’s only one department whose agents drink it regularly for its luck-neutralizing effects, the Fairy Immigration and Rehabilitation Enforcement agency (FIRE).
Mr. Fidget explodes out the door behind me, and I pour on the speed, no longer even attempting to move at the same pace as the humans around me. He’s gaining on me anyway. Damn, the man is in great shape for a human. I push my luck again, and a gaggle of scantily clad dancers in tall headdresses flood out of the nearest doorway and into the space between us. The distraction buys me precious distance. I duck into the Venetian, thinking I’ve lost him, but seconds later he’s barreling through the doors, a cruel blue smile turning his lips. He’s enjoying this.
I push my luck again and hear a grunt as an exceedingly large man slips on a discarded bag of chips and lands in front of him. That shot of luck was meant for Mr. Fidget, but the blue iron in his blood makes him immune. He steps over the man and relentlessly continues his pursuit.
My breath comes in huffs as I speed walk deeper into the casino and spend what remains of my luck to change my appearance. I go from brunette to blond and add a few pounds. Only I’ve used most of my luck on the game. I don’t have enough juice to change my clothing, and I won’t be able to hold the illusion for long. Fuck! He’s drawn me down to almost nothing. I realize in full Technicolor horror that was his aim all along. Fidget’s erratic play was meant to bottom me out the entire time.
I zig and zag through a dense cluster of gamblers and duck into the nearest restroom. A group of women celebrating a bachelorette party crowds the mirror. Without calling attention to myself, I rush into the last stall, lock the door, and draw my feet up so that they can’t be seen from the outside.
This better work. I am dry, as is Kiko. If I push again, I’ll overdraw my reserves, and for a fae, being overdrawn is deadly. Luck is a force. It’s limited, like energy. A marathon runner can pour on the adrenaline and force themselves to use more than they actually have, but just like Pheidippides, who died when he reached his destination, fairies who overspend their luck welcome disaster. My father used to say, “An empty bucket can be filled with anything, Sophia. Never completely empty your bucket.” It’s one of the few ways fae can be seriously injured or killed.
I huddle, perched on the toilet, sure I’ve lost him, until the screams of the bachelorette party fill the bathroom.
“Get out,” Fidget orders, his voice laced with malice. A few of the girls curse and threaten to call security, but their voices fade as they rush out the door. I hold perfectly still, taking slow, steady breaths.
Fidget slams the door of the first stall open.
I shiver. Out of the corner of my eye, my blond hair changes back to dark brown. My illusion fizzles like a burnt-out match. I’m out of luck. Closer, another door bangs open and then another. Maybe two more to get to mine. I have to act.
Crashing out my stall, I bolt, slip past his grabbing hands, and dash back into the casino. I don’t make it. He tackles me from behind, and my face slaps the floor. His boot stomps on my back before I even have a chance to register the pain.
“Stay down,” he orders. Like I have a choice. He twists my arms behind my back. Blue-iron cuffs snap onto my wrists. Then Fidget pokes a needle into my arm and through a dangerous smile says, “Nighty night.”
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