I guess what I'm trying to say is I need the deep end
Keep imagining meeting, wished away entire lifetimes
Unfair we're not somewhere misbehaving for days
Great escape lost track of time and space
She's a silver lining climbing on my desire
"Y'know, the age of consent in Nevada is 16, " Cassie says as soon as they step over the border.
Nick rolls his eyes behind his sunglasses and says, "What have I told you?" He keeps his voice level and calm because the last thing they need to do is attract any undue attention.
For a moment, mercifully, she says nothing. "So that's why we're staying across the street in California, then." She laughs. "It's still not going to change what I've seen happening."
"I've seen your book, and I haven't seen that in it." He pushes through the door of Harvey's resort and casino.
She draws for pleasure now, too. Strangers have commented on her use of line and color as she works away in some coffee shop, tea house, public park, or even on the subway.
He's gotten her more art supplies in the last year than he can shake a stick at: sketchbooks, fancy pads of paper from Japan and France, copic markers, prismacolor pencils, pastels, water brushes, exotic inks, and sparkly gel pens, as well as box after box of her go-to Sharpies ….
"Just because you haven't seen the drawing, doesn't mean it won't happen." Her nose wrinkles at the smoky air inside the casino and she gives an almost reflexive cough.
Desperation has pushed them to this -- back on American soil, hoping to hide in plain sight in the forgotten back 40s of various states and B-level cities. For the next few days, it's Stateline, Nevada, on the shores of Lake Tahoe, where you can tell where one state ends and the other begins by the way the pavement and sidewalks abruptly change. South Lake Tahoe, California, is a sleepy and seasonal tourista town, catering to more to families who want to camp, hike, and fish, unlike Stateline, which is 24-7-365, rain or shine.
Today is recon.
The tricky thing with working in a casino is finding a way for he and Cassie to have line of sight while he works roulette or craps, but for her to be off of the gaming floor, because, even if she's heavily made up and dressed for a night club, Nick is not running the risk of having security ask Cassie for an ID. Can of worms doesn't even begin to describe that kind of mess.
Mercifully, her teenager crankiness when she gets asked why she's hanging off to the side -- and she will get asked -- will be genuine when she tells them that she's just waiting on her older half-brother while he plays a few rounds at the tables.
If it goes well from here, they'll hit other cities in Nevada: Elko, Ely, Fallon, Pahrump, Mesquite, and Laughlin. Changing their appearances as much as reasonably possible between towns, of course. (Nick can't wait to ditch the beard he's got going, because the damn thing itches and he's always ending up with something in it.) They'll fly under the radar by keeping his wins in any one place modest and by hitting several towns, they'll net a decent yield -- enough to keep them going for a few months.
Nick plots a meandering loop through the four resort casinos closest to the border: Harvey's, Harrahs, Montbleu, and the Hard Rock, before they head down the road to the Lakeside Inn, which clearly caters to locals, and so gets ruled out immediately.
Lunch is a sushi place across the street from the Lakeside.
Cassie picks and pokes at her plate.
"You asked for sushi," Nick says, popping a California Roll. (Ah, surimi; it's hard to go wrong with surimi… mostly because you can't go really right with it.)
Cassie curls her lip, pops a piece of violently pink fish into her mouth, and swallows. "It's just …" She gestures, groping for words.
"Anything that's not a bass or a trout straight from the lake gets flown to Vegas or Frisco, and from there, to Reno, and then it gets a ride on the truck before it gets here." Nick takes a swig of iced green tea.
Cassie puts her chopsticks down and rakes her fingers through her hair -- reddish-brown at the moment and ironed straight -- in frustration. "I know that the US is supposed to be -- is -- home, but I never thought I'd find myself missing Hong Kong and Macau, hell, even Singapore, the way I do. Damn, if they aren't home to me now," She finishes softly, drumming her fingers on the table. Her pink nail polish is chipped, and Nick makes a mental note to get her some from the drugstore near their motel.
He understands exactly what she means, because he feels it, too. He still gives her a look, through, to warn her that she's on the verge of saying too much. He doubts there's an agent in town, or that they've flagged in the system -- they paid serious money for their passports -- but you never know what a person will recall when questioned or pushed, and for this to work, they need to be as ordinary as possible, just passing through, out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
It's a little past two in the morning and Nick watches the lights idly flicker through the curtains. Doc's Cottages are just over the state line and behind the employee parking for Harveys. Stick your hand out the bathroom window far enough, and it's in Nevada.
Cassie is crashed out hard in the bed. He's got the sofa sleeper.
After recon yesterday morning, Nick insisted on taking advantage of the fact that they're right next to a natural wonder, so they spent the afternoon and into the evening at a park full of trails winding through the tallest trees either of them has ever seen, and ended up at beautiful beach overlooking water so blue it almost seemed faked.
(Cassie tried to play it cool, but even she couldn't stop a few excited blurts over the tallness of the trees and the sapphire color of the lake.)
Late in the afternoon, they fell in with a group of older teens, locals, who all accepted Nick as Cassie's older half-brother, no questions asked … except would he be willing to go on a beer-run for them? (Oh hell no.) They all ended up roasting hot dogs over a campfire and eating s'mores, and Cassie learned to play volleyball … and sucked at it, of course, but had fun trying.
Right now, Nick thinks it was the best-worst day he's ever had, and the worst-best thing he's ever done -- giving Cassie an afternoon of being a regular all-American teenager. A part of him will always be happy that they had it, and a part of him will always chafe at the fact that this isn't her reality: hanging out with friends her age and doing all the things that ordinary teens are supposed to do.
Not that he's had much experience living an ordinary life, either.
And whose fault is that?
(You play the hand you're dealt. That's all. And you don't stop until you're six feet under.)
A part of Nick aches to tell Cassie that he loves her, and that he's been in love with her for … years at this point, but he doesn't dare. She won't understand that because he loves her, he can't. Not yet. And not in a place like this.
He idly fingers her sketchbook. Cassie drew a picture of herself sitting beneath a giant psychedelic album cover painting that hangs in the hallway to the bathrooms just off the main floor at the Hard Rock. So that's the place they go tomorrow before they move on.
The clock at the edge of the bed reads 2:27.
Nick has thought about it -- what he wants it to be like with her.
(He's half afraid to ask if she's a virgin. A part of him hopes she isn't, that she slipped away on some hot and muggy afternoon with one of those boys who shamelessly flirt with her. The other part wants to be her first.)
He eases off the sofa-bed and pads across the floor on bare feet to the bathroom. The lock on the door is busted, so he hangs the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, positions himself in front of the sink, gets the washcloth ready, eases his sweats down, takes his half-hard cock in hand, closes his eyes, and strokes.
It's not like he's had a lot of experience -- and he hasn't gotten laid since he split with Kira -- but he knows what kind of lover he wants to be to Cassie. He hopes her nipples are sensitive, because he wants to tease and lick them until she shiver-squeals. (His cock twitches at that thought, spurting pre-cum, the added slickness just making everything that much better.)
Next, he'll kiss a trail down her fluttering little tummy until he gets to her belly-button --
The door starts to swing open and he frantically -- "Cassie!" -- tries to leap back and put his dick back in his sweats at the same moment, but he ends up clipping the edge of the toilet, flails, and sits down hard, legs splayed, sweats still around his thighs, one hand cupping his cock, the other braced against the tub, breaking some of the fall.
She stands in the doorway in her bra and panties. The look in her eyes means business, and he knows in this instant that she's seen this all play out, and she's planned it ….
…. and instead of deflating, his cock's harder than ever at the thought.
"I've seen your book …" the words tumble from his lips.
"And I'll show you the drawing," she smiles impishly, "… later."
"Cassie …" but it's weak.
"Nick, can we just trust that it's going to play out this way for a reason? That maybe trying to fight this will lead to something worse than the guilt you feel due to your ideas of propriety?" Her voice softens. "We're not like other people. We never have been. I haven't been a little girl for years now." Her voice drops an octave, "Own it."
She reaches her hand out to him, and though part of his mind is screaming every dirty name in the book at him, damn him, he takes it.
She pulls herself close. "My way of thinking is, I've kept myself safe on some very hard streets, and I'm old enough to drive a car, which is, in a way, a life or death thing, so I'm damn well old enough to be responsible for what I choose to do with my body." She pushes him down to the toilet seat and straddles his lap.
"It's not just your body. It's your heart, too." He says just before he kisses her. He doesn't know what else to do. He's about to break several laws by cheating at the tables tomorrow. They're both in danger of being discovered.
What's one more thing on top of that?
"Show me the drawing," he murmurs as she tucks in -- sweat soaked -- and rests her head on his chest.
"Now?" She asks in that really?! tone of voice.
"Yes now, I need to know how you got this one by me." Nick's wrung out and he can feel a crash-out coming on, because, damn, she rode him hard (he made her lead the way, and it was everything he wanted and more), but he needs to know.
With a heavy sigh she gets up, looks at the clock on the side table and sorts with laughter before she grabs the sketchbook and a small penlight out of her bag. She turns to the picture of her sitting under the painting at the Hard Rock and flicks it the light on.
A drawing of the bedside clock showing 3:34 with an empty condom wrapper next to it rises eerily blue-white through the psychedelic colors splashed all over the page.
"You got me some UV ink a few months back." She smiles as she replies to the question he can't untangle his tongue to ask. "I've been putting it to good use. Some of these 'blank' pages aren't."
"Oh, I -- your ability, it's --"
"Getting stronger, yes." She grabs the condom wrapper from the table and drops it in the trash as she rises. "Also," she says crisply, tucking the book and her penlight away, "we need to leave after Mesquite. Laughlin holds disaster for us. I've drawn that six times and it hasn't changed."
"Okay. Then what?"
She shrugs. "We head home. I'm not certain about the rest yet."
"We'll figure it out as we go. After all, 'you play what you're dealt.'"
She settles in next to him, her hair tickling his nose as she echoes his words, "We'll play what we're dealt … unless I see a literal re-draw."
He laughs, and kisses her forehead, and turns out the light.
Life's gotten a lot more complicated. But, Nick thinks, somehow, for once, that's actually going to make it better.