I had my whole life planned out, more or less, when I got off that plane. I liked to be flexible and leave room open for opportunity, but I knew who I was and I knew what I wanted for my future. Or I least I thought I did. I guess we’re all wrong, sometimes.
I was in Vegas to finish my Ph.D. dissertation in anthropology, and of course have a little fun in my relatively care-free last days as a student, because life was just too short to do anything else. I’d never realized how short until I lost my father five years ago. God, how I mourned him. I still do… but when the tears finally stopped and time made things bearable again, I realized that the tragedy had changed me. In a way, his death gave my life more poignancy… more purpose. I used to be buried in textbooks, buried in goals… but now I made sure to live in the moment whenever I could, do things just because I wanted to, throw caution to the wind sometimes… have fun and live life.
My older brother Jake didn’t take Dad’s death quite the same way, though I wish for his sake that he had. He had been single-mindedly searching for our father’s killer since the day he died, and I kept telling him he needed to live his own life instead, before it passed him by. He had yet to listen to me, but I wasn’t going to stop trying. And I never stopped worrying that Jake was going to get tangled up somehow with the same people that killed our father; that I would lose him too.
But for now, Vegas was everything I’d dreamed it would be, all bright lights and swarms of humanity from every walk of life. An anthropologist’s veritable playground. I stepped off that plane full of dreams, but I never dreamt of the soaring heights and devastating misery I would find there. I would come to believe it was all meant to happen… every last moment. I even began to wonder if there really was such a thing as fate, and whether I ever had a choice, from the first moment I saw him.
The first time was from a distance, on my very first day there, and even then I think a part of me knew, because I couldn’t look away. It was like that moment when you see something flying towards you and you know it’s going to hit you before you can ever move out of the way, so you just watch, transfixed, as it crashes into you. Cristos Vicario: owner of the illustrious Adagio hotel and casino and reputed billionaire playboy. He sure as hell wasn’t what he seemed on the surface. That man had secrets. Terrible secrets. No one knew about the dark and dangerous world he lived in, and neither did I, not until it was already far too late. Not until a lot more people had died for the one goal he relentlessly pursued. And not before I found myself inextricably tied to him forever.
When I met Cristos, and I unwittingly and irrevocably changed the course of my life, I would never have guessed that our pasts were already intertwined in a most horrific way. I certainly didn’t know what kind of man he really was, or how he would single-handedly change my entire world, taking away my freedom and giving me the key to my dreams in one fell swoop.
How could I have known that the one man who should have been my greatest nightmare would become the one thing I couldn’t live without?