Whisper No Lies

By: Cindy Gerard

(the 3rd book in the Black Ops series)


1



It was business as usual tonight at Bali Hai Casino on the Vegas Strip, which meant that every nut job and wacko who could arrange bail was on the prowl. Crystal Debrowski figured that in her seven years working casino security she’d pretty much heard every come-on line

written in the casino crawlers and lounge lizards’ handbook. That was because Crystal was what her friend Abbie Hughes Lang referred to as a man magnet and yeah, Crystal knew what men saw when they looked at her: sex on a stick. Pixie features, spiky red hair, and fairy-green eyes. Showgirl breasts and round hips that swayed to a sultry beat when she walked and drew heartbreakers and bizarros from the four corners of the earth.

In her twenty-seven years, she’d been lied to, cheated on, hit on, and proposed to. Just when she’d thought she’d heard it all, this guy sweetened the pot. Her latest admirer—a Mr.

Yao Long, according to the business card sporting an embossed Komodo dragon emblem—

had come a long way for a letdown.

Wait until she told Abbie about this joker.

She glanced from Mr. Yao to the man who appeared to be his assistant. “I don’t believe

I caught your name.”

“Wong Li.”

Wong, a Jackie Chan look-alike, did most of his boss’s talking for him. Talking that

included propositioning Crystal at a one-hundred-dollar-minimum blackjack table where she was filling in for a dealer who’d gone on a quick break. Crystal was about ninety-nine percent certain that the gist of Yao’s offer ran somewhere in the neighborhood of: Him, lord and master. Her, concubine and sex slave.

“Please tell Mr. Yao, thanks, but no thanks,” she told Wong, who hovered at her

amorous suitor’s side like a pet gnat.

Because she perpetuated the sex kitten image—a girl had to have some fun, especially

if that girl lived in a world where few people took a woman seriously who wore four-inch platforms that topped her out around five-four—Crystal cut Yao a little slack.

That didn’t mean she was going for his insulting proposition. And it didn’t mean she

liked it. She’d pretty much had it with the opposite sex. Recently promoted to Gaming

Manager at Bali Hai, and with several heartbreaks under her belt, Crystal’s newly adopted motto was: Men. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t tie ’em to a train track and wait for Amtrak to do the deed. Chalk her disenchantment up to a string of bad relationships with men who had

basically “gotten into her” because she jiggled when she walked.

Johnny Duane Reed was a recent example. That cowboy had heartbreak written all over

him and she’d be damned if she knew why every time he blew into town she ended up naked

before he ended up gone. Reed always ended up gone.


The latest case in point, however, stood before her tonight. Mr. Yao Long did not look

happy. But then, it was hard to tell for certain. His expression hadn’t altered since he’d appeared thirty minutes ago with Wong.

“Did he understand that my answer is no?” Crystal’s gaze darted from Wong to Yao as

she turned the table back over to the dealer. “Because, I’m thinking that if he did, now would be a really good time for him to leave.” To stress her meaning, she made walking motions with her fingers.

Mr. Yao, all five-foot-four inches of salt-and-pepper hair, Armani suit, and Gucci

loafers, continued to stare at her through narrow eyes the color of onyx. His expression never wavered.

Was it anger? Disappointment? Gas? she wondered, as a frisson of unease tickled its

way down her spine.

“Did you understand that my answer is no?” She averted her gaze from Mr. Personality to Wong, hoping to make it clear that it was time for the two of them to shuffle on back to Laos or Cambodia or Hong Kong—wherever—and out of her face so she could get back to

business.

“Mr. Yao understands your response but respectfully rejects your answer.”

She blinked. “He said that?” She hadn’t heard a word.

“Mr. Yao is quite taken with you. He expresses regret that you are reluctant to allow

him the opportunity to get to know you better but must insist on your cooperation.”

“No, seriously. Is he like texting you or something because I never saw his lips move.”