Carlo casino brimmed with beautiful women, and Max loved women. He loved everything
about them, from their finer skin to their soft curves to the sweet scent of
them to the sparkly and beautiful clothes they wore.
between two rooms where Maxence was standing was half-blocked by Christmas
trees that towered over his head and the doorway. He’d been careful not to
jiggle the tiny gold-and-glass ornaments that encrusted the tree. The balls and
icicles tinkled alarmingly every time his arm brushed the branches.
just decided to inch closer to the televisions airing the soccer match when his
old high school friend Simone Maina rushed across the opulent casino room and
through the crowd toward him.
figure was a harmonic vibration on a violin string, blurred at the edges of her
slim curves by the lights sparkling on the glass beadwork of her white dress.
As she neared him, the smooth skin between her eyebrows and under her eyes
creased, indicating strain. Her arms reaching for him were slim, dark lines in
the room of round, solid bodies held tightly together to avoid contact.
his whiskey glass on a small table behind himself and drew a breath to ask her
what was wrong.
natural Afro hair was a sleek halo around her thin face. She was reaching out
to Maxence, her fingers nearing the lapels of his tuxedo, and she glanced
behind herself in fear. Black eyeliner and eyeshadow in soft sage and
glittering gold accentuated her sloe-eyed beauty, and she almost looked like an
Egyptian hieroglyphic of a queen.
abrasions and the darkening plum of bruises covered her slim throat.
heart fell as rage rose in his body. Her husband, Estebe Fournier, must have
thought people wouldn’t notice the damage to Simone’s dark-bronze skin. Estebe
had always been a bully when they had been at school together, and he’d been
excellent at creating incidents where he could deny his guilt.
twenty feet behind her, two men in dark suits pushed through the crowd, their
eyes intent on her form.
in dark suits—all with the nearly shaved heads and odd bulk of the paramilitary
security profession—converged toward them from another side of the crowd.
could have sworn he recognized one of the men. Maybe all private mercenaries
and bodyguards were beginning to look alike to him. Many of his friends
employed dozens of them.
opened his hands as Simone rushed into his curtained alcove and whispered near
his shoulder, “Help me.”