We arrived in New Vegas after dark. It was exactly as I remembered it. I saw Charlie glance at me and I shot her a questioning look, she shrugged. "Where are we getting these guys?" Connor asked Bass.
"From a warlord named Duncan Paige. Very dangerous. Keep your mouths shut."
"I know what I'm doing," Connor protested.
"Not here, you don't."
Charlie smirked and I rolled my eyes. I sent up a silent prayer that Charlie and Connor would never get together. We walked through New Vegas and Connor took in the sights. "Remember that time you threatened to kill me here?" Charlie asked.
"Yep and the offer still stands," I said. But I added a smile to show her I was kidding, sort of.
We walked into the casino tent and my eyes went to the exact spot where Charlie and I had stood a few months ago. "Well, I'll be damned," a man said coming up behind us. "Jimmy King. You've got some balls to show your face around here, after your skipped out on me. You were my best fighter, I had you booked up for months and then poof, you just vanished."
"Yeah, well, something important came up," Bass said.
He looked Charlie and me over. "Yeah, that does look important."
"Where's Duncan?" Bass asked, bringing the guy's attention back to him.
"Screw Duncan, we have unfinished business." I thought he was going to stick around and be a nuisance but he turned around and went back into the crowd.
"Come on," Bass said, gesturing us towards the back of the tent. An area was sectioned off and inside several large men with guns stood around the perimeter while a poker game went on in the middle. "Hello, Duncan."
I think Connor, Charlie, and I were all expecting one of the bearded men to answer, because we all looked at each other in surprise when a woman turned around. "Sebastian."
"Oh, so that's Duncan," I mumbled.
"And she knows who you are," Charlie added.
"There's not a lot I don't know," Duncan said. She looked Charlie and me over.
"Can we talk?" Bass asked. He took a step forward and all the men lining the walls pointed their guns at him. Charlie, Connor, and I did the same.
"Whoa, whoa, calm down!" Bass said. Connor stepped down but Charlie and I still pointed our guns at Duncan. "Put them down. Now." Charlie did as she was told and after a second I reluctantly did the same. All of Duncan's guards resumed their position. "Now, we need to talk to you. Alone."
Bass apparently only included me in "we" because Charlie and Connor were ushered out along with the poker players and all of Duncan's guards but one. "I'll give you five minutes," Duncan said, pouring us all drinks.
"I'm-" I started to introduce myself, but she cut me off.
"I know who you are. Ciara Jackson, daughter of the late president of Georgia," she said surprising me. "However, I didn't know you were still alive. I suppose you're the reason Bass took off so quickly."
"You've heard about these Patriot guys?" Bass asked.
She nodded. "I've seen them around."
"You aren't worried?"
She shrugged. "I don't pick unnecessary fights."
"Not asking you to. We want to buy some of your guys."
"They aren't for sell."
"You sure you don't need the money?"
"Thirty diamonds ahead," Duncan offered.
"Ten," Bass bargained.
"Thirty or no deal."
"Come on, twenty? Twenty five?"
"We shouldn't be spending so much money," I mumbled.
"Why's a poor little rich girl worried about a few diamonds?" Duncan asked.
"If you know everything, you'd know I don't have anything left."
"You still have him. Always knew he wasn't done with you, even when he thought you were dead, your ghost still haunted him." She looked at Bass. "We got a deal?" She stuck out a hand.
"Thirty, alright." He shook her hand.
When we got to our wagon and found Charlie and Connor wrapped up in a blanket, naked. I groaned. "You have got to be kidding me!" Bass yelled. The two of them sat up and started getting dressed. "He's an idiot," Bass mumbled.
"Yep," I agreed. I walked over to Charlie and Connor passed me on his way to Bass. "Idiot," I mumbled.
He hit me on the shoulder. "Live a little, Ciara." I rolled my eyes. I sat down on the ground while Charlie put on her jacket.
"I can tell you and Connor are related," Charlie said. "You're both stupidly hopeful."
"Yeah, I hoped this wouldn't happen," I retorted.
"See what I mean by stupid? It was inevitable. Don't worry, it's not going to be weird and it's not going anywhere."
"That's what I said the first time I had sex with Bass. Look what happened to us."
"And when was that?"
"Significantly before I'd even seen signs that he was a redeemable human being."
"Hate sex, that's fun."
"Oh, it was."
She shook her head. "I thought we were going to have this conversation but I changed my mind, this is weird."
"Yeah, your right. Anyway, we should get going. Bass promised Duncan thirty diamonds up front that we don't have."
We headed back to the casino and sat at the bar to work out a plan. Bass nodded to a guy carrying around a cashbox full of diamonds. "Every two hours they collect winnings, and then they take them to the vault."
"Can we hit the vault?" Connor asked.
"Not alive. We take them out in here."
"Like common criminals?" Charlie asked. "How are we going to do that with all these people in here?"
"I know how to get most of them out. Just be ready, I'll meet you outside of town."
Charlie, Connor, and I were loading guns and preparing to rob the casino. "Alright," Bass said joining us. "I got Gould to put me in the ring tonight, that should draw most of the people out of the casino. You'll have to work fast."
"We've got this," Connor said. Bass nodded and told us he'd meet up with us after, before heading back to New Vegas. Connor patted me on the back. "Ready to go?"
"Ciara, doesn't have to come," Charlie said. "She wants to go to the fight so she can hover, don't you?"
"I don't hover."
"You worry, which is basically the same thing."
"Do you mind?" I asked them.
"We can do this without you, it's fine," Charlie assured me.
"Ok, well, be careful, both of you."
She rolled her eyes. "Ok, mom."
"Sometimes five years seems like twenty," I mumbled.
The tent where the fight was taking place was packed. Bass had been right; hardly anyone lingered in the casino. I pushed my way through the crowd until I had a decent view. Bass was already standing in the middle of the room and they were about to bring his opponent in. Everyone cheered when the other man came in. I was surprised at his size; he was practically Goliath. I cringed at the thought of the injuries I would be taking care of later.
An arm hooked through mine and I looked over to see Duncan. She pulled me to the front, to the annoyance of a few of the other viewers. Bass threw a punch at the man but it didn't faze him. The giant's punches certainly packed more oomph. Bass was knocked back into the crowd and they shoved him forward again. Goliath punched Bass right in the stomach and he dropped to his knees.
The giant continued. Bass was getting visibly weaker, until finally he just went down on all fours and froze. The crowd yelled at him to get up, but he just looked dazed. Duncan elbowed me. I glanced at her and she nodded towards Bass. "Bass, get up, you're better than this!" I tried. He looked towards me eyes focusing. Rapid movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention, suddenly Gould ran outside. Charlie and Connor must have gotten on with the plan. "This fight isn't over, you've got to get up!"
Bass slowly got to his feet, still looking shaky. But when the man threw a punch, Bass dodged it easily. From that moment, I wasn't worried anymore. At least not about him, Charlie and Connor's wellbeing nagged at the back of my mind. I still thought this was an awful plan in general, and cursed Duncan for forcing us to resort to this.
Eventually the fight was over and Goliath was on the ground. The rowdy crowed cheered drowning out my thoughts. Bass turned toward us and Duncan gave me a light push forward. "There's your winner."
I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around Bass's neck. "Scared me there for a little bit. I was beginning to think you were loosing your oomph."
He smiled. "I'm never going to loose my oomph." I kissed him and a few people wolf whistled. I didn't mind being part of the show, not if it gave Connor and Charlie a few extra seconds. "Let's get out of here."
I waited while Bass got dressed and then we walked toward the main gates. Connor fell in beside us and I looped my arm through his. Suddenly someone hit Bass in the head with their gun. He fell to the ground and I was quickly pulled away from Connor, my arms held behind my back. A man held Connor at gunpoint. "Hey, boss! This is the kid." Gould walked toward us and looked between us.
He reached into Connor's backpack and pulled out the moneybox. He shook his head and glanced down at Bass. "I thought we were friends, Jimmy." He motioned towards his men. "Take them away." I was dragged a few steps before Gould stopped us. "Not her, she goes to Duncan," he said bitterly.
I was pushed into Duncan's tent and thrown down. "Wait here," the guard said. He held me at gunpoint, but my arms and legs were free. I looked around for something to arm myself with, but before I could Duncan came it.
"Leave us," Duncan told the man. He nodded and walked out. She offered me a hand and pulled me to my feet. "You're lucky."
"Lucky?" I scoffed.
"It was a miracle I convinced Gould to spare you. He was throwing out all sorts of crazy ideas for you and Charlie, not the least of which was public execution. Though I'm sure he would have landed on something more fun."
"Am I supposed to thank you for saving me?"
She shrugged. "Your boys are locked up until tomorrow."
I looked at her skeptically. "They're going to be released tomorrow?"
"No, no, of course not. They're going to fight to the death tomorrow. Winner walks away and Gould gets more than double the diamonds you all tried to steal in bets."
"Look around you, sweetheart. You aren't in Georgia anymore."
"You clearly have pull around here, you can't let this happen."
"I don't have a say."
"There has to be some way to stop this."
"Think creatively, Ciara. I already pulled you out of the fire, I can't get my hands dirty with this one."
There was a commotion outside and we left Duncan's tent. Two men were dragging Charlie towards us. "What's this?"
"Gould's got Connor and Bass," Charlie said looking between us. "But I guess you already knew that."
"I have eyes and ears everywhere," Duncan said. "Now, like I told Ciara, I can't help you."
"If you don't they'll die," Charlie protested.
"If they were stupid enough to get caught stealing from Gould, they probably deserve it." She nodded at her men and they took Charlie away.
"What are you going to do with her?" I asked.
"I'll send for Gould in the morning."
"You're turning her in?"
"Those stolen diamonds were for me, I have to clear my name with him. If I turn Charlie in, he'll understand we're on the same page."
"But not me?"
"All you did was kiss a guy who won a fight. Doesn't mean you knew about the rest of it."
"Why would you stick up for me?"
"You remind me of myself." She shrugged. "Plus, Gould has no idea who you are. I do. The president of Georgia's daughter is more valuable to me alive."
"Can I at least talk to them?"
Duncan shook her head. "You can't look like you're too attached. As far as Gould knows, you're just some pretty girl Monroe picked up along the way." She glanced toward one of her men. "Find her a cot somewhere." To me she added, "You can stay until after the duel."