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Alien Devil’s Fortune: Chapter One

Ryrik

“…double down.”

“No, no…again.”

“Dammit!”

“Keep going.”

Words filtered around me as I made my way through the casino floor like a Trolovian river snake. I shuffled, head down, nearly indistinguishable from an everyday patron. Even the staff didn’t really recognize me, and that was the point.

I was collecting intel. It’s what I do best. Blend in, listen, and report my findings. I honed this skill during the war. It’s amazing what deep secrets and critical information people will divulge if they think you’re not listening.

Back then, the intel I dug up was lifesaving. These days, it’s almost as critical. The information I gather and pass on keeps this casino running. The stuff people chatter about, off the cuff, uncensored and unfiltered, is so paramount for keeping guests happy. An old woman at the slots will easily complain about the discomfort of her chair to the stranger at her side. Stick a survey in her face, though, and she’s too dazzled by the gift shop coupon to give real feedback.

“The buffet here is pretty good. I don’t know, they do a great job of grilling the meat just right. But what good is that to me when it’s closed half the time? Sometimes I think about going to that other place down the way. You know the one. Food is crap, but at least they’re open.”

This made my ears perk up. The voice came from Sami Greengall, a high roller who always had nothing but the highest praise to give to my boss’ face. Good to know there’s something we could actually do to make him stay longer.

Full bellies equal open wallets.

I wrote that down and continued on. A lady expressed disappointment in the color choice for the tile in the lady’s bathroom. An old man complained about how bright the lights were over the card tables. One couple audibly spoke about how unfair it was that they couldn’t bring their kids onto the game floor. Well, there was nothing we could do about the actual law, at least in this case. But maybe an offsite child watch program would be lucrative.

This was all very good intel. I finished noting my observations down and forwarded them to Draven, the owner of the Black Star Casino and my old friend. He would read what I found for him and decide how to act from there. He was always the real numbers guy, able to take data and make the best decisions based on it. I left all that to him.

A message beeped through on my percomm. Draven never usually replied to me that quickly.

Again with the kids thing, it read.

I let out a quick chuckle as I pushed my way through some double doors. As I did, I grabbed my suit jacket, straightened my tie, and fixed my posture. Just like that, I’m Ryrik once again. Entertainment director of the casino and respected member of Draven’s inner circle.

Without breaking stride, I walked back onto the casino floor. Suddenly, people acknowledged me. Staff scuttled away and guests greeted me with familiarity. I was no longer invisible. Amazing what such a small change in demeanor could accomplish, especially in a place like a casino.

I made my way to my destination. Our new restaurant. In a far cry from the ever-popular buffet, it was fine dining. We hired a new sommelier and celebrity chef to give the finest luxury culinary experience to our more discerning guests. The kind of guests that even Sami Greengall wished he was.

“Chef,” I said with a nod. He looked at me with enormous, dark bags under his bloodshot eyes. From what I knew about the culinary world, this was a mark of a well-seasoned professional. Even in the endless twilight of Thodos III, dinner service had only just started, and he already looked like he had one foot in the grave.

“Ryrik,” he replied, handing me the menu for the evening. A smattering of guests were already seated, enjoying their aperitif while the kitchen banged out the first round of hors d’oeuvres for the night.

And then there was one group of gentlemen, seemingly enjoying more than what was on order. Amber, our new hostess, was cozied up to their table. She was supposed to be at the stand, not lingering tableside.

The group was VIP Mondions. I considered that maybe she was buttering them up, encouraging them to spend to their heart’s content. I noticed a coy smirk on her face and found that turn of events strange. I’d met Amber a few times, and she always struck me as a little quiet. During her orientation, I noticed she didn’t look me in the eye while speaking to me.

That was why I had her assigned to the hostess position. I figured someone shy like her would do better if she didn’t need to interact with the guests as much as a waitress. Yet there she was, sharing a joke with some of the richest men on the Thodos III space station.

Perhaps I’d misjudged her. That was a realization that settled as fact when I watched her reach out and trail her hand suggestively up the arm of one of the guests. She leaned in closer, almost like she whispered something in his ear.

A tickle of irritation pricked at the base of my spine as I watched Amber flirt with those Mondions. I immediately chided myself. It was ridiculous to get worked up over a human woman I barely knew. Even if she was pretty with her honey-brown hair hanging loosely over her shoulder.

“Ryrik?”

“Yes, it’s good.” I shoved the menu, despite not looking at it for even a moment, back into the chef’s hands. The man needed to get to work and so did I. I had misread one of my staff. That was something that needed rectifying immediately.

My ability to judge people, to gather information from the slightest of cues, had saved our lives on the battlefield.

Now it was my way of helping to build a fortune for myself and my brothers.

If I’d been that wrong about one little human female… it didn’t bear thinking about. I needed to understand her better.

As Amber left the table and went back to the podium, I made my approach.

“Amber?” I asked. She looked up at me with big brown eyes. Something flashed behind them and that wide flirty smile settled into something more demure and polite. I saw her gaze travel all the way down my body, from my horns down.

A flame of desire rushed through me and I quickly smothered it. She was a professional. It was her job to evaluate who she was talking to.

That was all.

“Mr. Ryrik,” she said softly. “Is there something I can do for you?”

“Yes. Walk with me.” I signaled to the front of the house manager that I was taking Amber aside and he nodded in understanding. They weren’t at all busy that day.

Amber matched my pace as I led her to the casino floor, her hands folded in front of her.

“Excuse me, Mr. Ryrik, but did I do something wrong?”

“Not at all. I just wanted to get to know you better.” I stole a quick glance at her face and noticed the slightest blush of pink spread on her cheeks. “I realized I failed in that regard. I should be better acquainted with all my staff. Like him,” I said, gesturing towards a man working at one of the bars. “That’s Clancy. He’s been here about two months now, and he’s already pulling in more tips than some of the bartenders who’ve been doing this for years.”

Amber whistled. “How does he do it?”

“He listens to me. I gather information on our guests and pass it along to my staff. It helps them perform their jobs better. See the woman he’s serving?”

Amber nodded. “Mrs. Perkins?”

I hesitated a moment. How would she know who Mrs. Perkins was? She never eats here, just drinks and plays slots.

“Yes. I told Clancy about her two dogs, and Clancy knows to ask her about them every time she drops by.”

“That’s genius,” Amber replied. “So you don’t just know all the staff, you know all the customers, too?”

“Yes, that’s part of my job. If you ever have trouble with a customer, come to me. I can probably help you get along with them much better. Like those two.” I nod at two brothers, green-skinned Darguns loitering by the bathrooms. “That’s Tumeil and Turnbal. They’re brothers. They seem suspicious, but they just prefer to play at otherwise empty tables. They’ll wait hours for one to open up if they have to.”

“Oh, are they shy?” she asked.

“Paranoid. But otherwise harmless. And that gentleman.”

“Veran Kwiskill,” Amber said. Again, I had to pause. “Let me guess. He’s a widower three times over, so be extra flirty but don’t go home with him. Unless you want to be his number four in the ground.” Amber looked up at me with a knowing little smirk.

“Good guess.” She was dead right. Veran had lost three wives under suspicious circumstances, but this wasn’t common gossip. He was a deeply private person in public. I had to dig to find that much out about him.

How did Amber know?

As an indentured human, she knew just a few too many details about our clientele. She was either very good at her job, or she was up to something.

I studied her, noticing that smile still on her pretty face. Her cheeks were bright pink and her eyes wide as she looked up at me. And there was that pesky feeling again. A sort of possessiveness for something that had never been mine.

I’d never felt like this for a woman before. Certainly not one of my own employees. I indulged a quick daydream of her grabbing me by my horns as I fucked her against the wall.

I shook my head. I had to focus. But the urge to move in closer and take her by the hand persisted. Even as I was sure there was something amiss.

I wanted to let it go, but something about her bugged me.

I brought Amber back to work and had a drink at the bar. I settled in for another round of intel gathering, this time much less lucrative.

Until a few hours later, when I noticed Amber standing in the corner of the casino with someone I could not place. Even after getting a better look at his face, I had to admit I had no idea who he was.

They spoke for some time, then he bought her food from a grab-and-go kiosk. That feeling squirmed around in my stomach again. I couldn’t tell if it was jealousy, suspicion, or a horrid mix of both.

Alarm bells rang in my ears. I had a bad feeling about that pretty little hostess. But I also couldn’t deny the allure of her smile. I hoped, for both our sakes, my suspicions were unfounded.


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