An excerpt? Oh, yes, I do happen to have one. Right here. Laura shows up in “Love Me Tender” in the Kiss Me anthology, but here, she’s about to experience the full magic of the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel (Back cover copy here, on-sale April 23, 2013).
The cluster of Chers at the corner table was making Laura Charles nervous. They were clearly hungry. Very, very hungry. Their predatory eyes were trained on the kitchen and their wigs rippled in some nonexistent breeze.
Laura leaned against the counter and shot a surreptitious look at the table in the mirror over the bar. She couldn’t look for too long. The Las Vegas Strip-worthy lights surrounding the mirrors would burn a hole into her brain with too much exposure. Everything about the Rock’n’Rolla Hotel was a nod to Elvis, and Viva Las Vegas, the lobby bar and restaurant, was no different. While the hotel lobby channeled Graceland’s Jungle Room with lush greenery and dark woods, Viva Las Vegas was more sequined showgirls and bright white lights. The tropical greenery here provided welcome shade from the bar’s overwhelming glow.
“Sal, can I get an update on the entrees for table twenty?” Laura leaned forward to add, “It looks like the Chers are fixing to turn back time on my rear if you don’t get me something quick.”
She tried to stealthily tug the neckline of her uniform up. Since Vegas was the theme, the wait staff dressed like they’d be forming a kickline at any minute. The short, skintight dresses could have been a lot worse. Everything Laura had was covered but she wished she had a quarter for every time she inched the sequined halter up or smoothed the bottom down. And the hot pink satin drew attention. More than the color or the cut, the three huge feathers attached right over her rear had taken some getting used to.
When there was no answer from the kitchen, Laura said, “Ha! Get it? Turn back time? Chers?”
Sal didn’t seem to appreciate her joke as he wiped a pristine white towel across his forehead and slid three plates through the pass. “Always the same, these folks. Don’t eat for three months before they come, so worried their gall-dang costumes won’t fit, and when they get here, they’re starved. And mean.”
Laura slid the plates on a small tray. “Thanks, Sal. Let’s just hope they’re good tippers.”
He muttered, “Don’t count on it.”
Sal was never a ray of sunshine. In the four months she’d worked here, she’d seen him smile twice. He and Marcy, the waitress who had taught Laura everything she knew about waiting tables, had done their best to prepare her for the bar’s Almost Famous competition. An April Fool’s Day tradition, the celebrity look-alike talent show had always been popular but this year the stakes were even higher. A travel show was going to tape the whole thing and somehow they’d roped in real, Hollywood judges. She had less than a week to adjust to sliding a burger and fries in front of Elton John while Michael Jackson looked on. The best thing about waiting tables at Viva Las Vegas was that every day was a new challenge. It was also the worst thing.
As Laura approached the Cher table, she had no idea who’d ordered what. The Chers were nearly identical, although one had a rounder face and more…generous measurements. Laura thought she might also be a woman. The other two were harder to guess.
“All right. I’ve got a burger.” Laura held up the plate and waited for a reaction. When the tallest of the three finally huffed out a breath, she slid the plate in front of her.
The round Cher said, “And I had the pasta.”
Grateful for the help, Laura flashed her a smile and slid the remaining two plates on the table. She grabbed her tilting headdress and slid it back as she asked, “What else can I get you?”
None of them spoke, just flashed darkly mysterious eyes her direction in a clear dismissal. Laura picked up her tray and carefully schooled her face into pleasant vacancy. She’d made the mistake of rolling her eyes in the early days, completely forgetting the mirrors and lights of ten thousand suns lining the bar. That customer had only been calmed with a free dessert and a solemn, if completely insincere, apology.
She quickly and efficiently checked on all her tables and then darted back to the dressing area to dump her headdress and heels. They were part of the official uniform but nobody managed the plumed headdress for long. Laura was the only one who abandoned heels at the first opportunity; but ballet flats were more comfortable, entirely more her. Without the extra few inches from heels, the three feathers tacked on right over her butt would drag the ground. Being shorter than average meant lots of her clothes dragged the ground. That was a sacrifice she was willing to make even if she did occasionally sweep up old French fries. Her tips would be better in stilettos but her toes might secede from the union of her foot after a six-hour shift.