SIN: Read the first three chapters of the sinfully addictive, brand new novel in the Vegas Nights series. Coming on July 18th to all retailers.
You can find the pre-order links at the end of the post!
Disclaimer: These chapters are not from the final, edited version of the book. Things may be changed or removed prior to publication on 7/18/17. Copyright 2017 © by Emma Hart. The material in this post may not be removed and posted elsewhere without the express permission of the author.
It didn’t feel real.
Staring at the book-themed bar that was now mine, I sighed. It was all I could think about. It wasn’t real. It was a dumb dream that I’d wake up from if only someone would punch me in the face.
I’d always known that The Scarlet Letter would be mine. The bar was a love letter from my father to my mother, and today was the first time I’d stood in the building since my father’s death. Seventeen years since my mom’s murder had flown fast—but not as fast as the three months since my father’s passing. I’d spent the weeks since his funeral staying with family in California, but two days ago, I’d gotten a call from the manager of the bar.
Someone wants to buy your bar, she’d said. He’s offering a ton of money. You need to come and handle this.
Honestly, that was the polite version. Since the manager was my best friend, the exact words had been, “Dahlia Lloyd, that’s enough of this. That cock Damien Fox wants to buy the bar and won’t leave me alone. Get your ass back to Vegas to deal with your shit, because this is your problem, not mine. I won’t fix anymore for you. Three months is long enough.”
She wasn’t wrong. She’d been running the bar in my absence, doing all the things that weren’t in her job description because I’d been hiding from the reality of my situation.
Which was this. The Scarlet Letter, Las Vegas’ most successful non-strip club, was mine.
This building with its book-nook booths and literary influence woven into every part of it was all mine.
I knew how to run it. I knew every inch of the building. I just didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to do now.
“Well, hello, stranger.” Abby, my best friend, strolled into the bar, cutting off my woeful and self-pitying inner-monologue. Her fiery auburn hair fell loosely around her shoulders, contrasting perfectly against her scarlet-red dress.
She pulled me into the tightest hug known to man, squeezing for all her worth. Which, thanks to her love of Pilates and yoga, was a lot.
“Hey. Can’t breathe.” I wriggled to extract myself from her tight grip.
“I don’t care if you can’t breathe.” She squeezed one last time, as if to make her point, then let me go. “How dare you leave me here to deal with that insufferable man?”
I blinked at her. “I didn’t even know you were dealing with him until two days ago.”
“You should have known.”
“With all my psychic powers?”
Abby pursed her glossy lips.
“I know, I know.” I sighed. She could guilt-trip with the best of them. “I should have been here. I’m sorry, Abs. I just needed…”
“Time. I know. Four weeks from your dad’s diagnosis wasn’t enough time for you.”
Swallowing hard, I carefully set my purse down on the table nearest to me. It was one of the one-legged ones that was fixed to the floor, and its lone leg was a stack of fake books. It was one of my favorite things about the bar.
“It wasn’t,” I agreed with her. “I still don’t feel ready to be back here.”
“You’ll never be ready. You just have to do it. If we all waited until we were ready to do something, we’d do nothing but watch reruns on Netflix.”
She had a point there, too. I hated it when she was wise like this. It made it hard for me to argue with me.
“Well, I’m back now. I dropped my stuff at the house earlier, and I’m not going anywhere.” Somehow, saying the words made it feel realer. “You’re right. Three months was too long.”
And, if I was honest with myself, I was starting to get bored—and annoyed. I loved my family, but I had little tolerance for my soap-star cousin whose drama didn’t stay on the set. I knew moping around wouldn’t be something my dad wanted me to do. He’d made that abundantly clear the moment the doctor had looked at him and told him the tumors on his lung were cancerous and that treatment would only prolong his life.
“Don’t cry for me, flower,” he’d said, holding my hand. “I’ve done my bit with you, now it’s time for me to see your momma. It’s all yours now.”
I took a deep breath and swatted the memory away. Holding onto it would do nothing but make me cry. It was still too raw—four weeks wasn’t enough for anyone to find out they were losing a parent, especially not when that parent had raised you for almost your entire life.
Quite simply, I didn’t really know how to live without my father. It was a world I was attempting to navigate, and most days, I felt like a newborn giraffe trying to walk for the first time. As lame as that sounded, it was the truth. That was why coming home was so scary.
I’d never been here without the knowledge I could call him. Now, I was, and it stung. All I wanted to do was grab my purse and get the hell out of here, but I couldn’t. I’d neglected my duties long enough. It was time for me to pull up my big girl panties—but not too far, given that I was wearing a thong—and get the hell on with it.
“All right. What needs doing?” I stepped up to the edge of the bar.
“Damien Fox needs to fuck off.” Abby said it so simply, like it was nothing more or less than a fact. And I guess, to her, it was a fact. He needed to. “He said he’d wait for your call to discuss a meeting, and that his lawyer is on standby to draw up papers for the sale of the bar. But you can’t call him before one p.m., because he’s up late with the clubs some nights.”
“Well, that’s a surefire way to get me to call you before one o’clock.” I rolled my eyes.
I didn’t know much about Damien Fox except for the fact he lived up to his surname and owned half of the strip clubs in the city. My father had crossed paths with both him and his father on occasion, but from the rumors I’d heard, I went out of my way to avoid the entire family.
Now, it seemed, that wasn’t an option for me. I needed to confront the cunning, smug asshole myself.
“How do I contact him?”
“His card is in the register.” Abby cocked a thumb over her shoulder and opened a folder.
I was hoping she’d say she didn’t know.
Stepping behind the bar was strange. It’d been such a long time since I’d been there, yet at the same time, it felt right. I knew what Abby had said wasn’t wrong—waiting until I was ready to come back would have resulted in me never doing it. I might have been throwing myself in at the deep end by calling Damien Fox immediately, but the situation needed handling.
I wasn’t selling The Scarlet Letter. No matter how much money he tried to give me.
I opened the register and instantly found his card, the small, black rectangle obvious on the silver tray of the drawer. It wasn’t hard, given that the register was empty because Abby hadn’t put the cash tray in there yet. Knowing her, she