Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “las vegas”

What Really Happens in Vegas

Today’s Brew:  Protein shake with banana, blueberries, and pineapples.  Time to get serious again.


by Kristen

Locals don’t hang out on the Strip.  In fact, they do everything they can to avoid  the snaking traffic, long lines, cover charges, fifteen dollar drinks, and mid westerners trying to live the dream for the weekend.  The only reason to go to the Strip if you live in Vegas is to make money or bring the inevitable never ending parade of house guests down to see the sights.

I never developed the a hatred for Las Vegas Boulevard as many of my friends in the city did.  I grew up in a town that bans neon.  I am neon deficient. My bones needed to soak up the glow.  I learned the back ways to everywhere I wanted to go and went to the places who let local ladies in for free.  Local women are a rare, exotic creature to vacationers partying in Vegas.  Clubs use them to perpetuate the myth of their existence.  Many people who just visit for the weekend don’t realize that there is a real live city beyond the playground, one that much resembles Phoenix.  We have normal lives and jobs.  Not all local women are whores, strippers, or cocktail waitresses.  But it doesn’t stop any any guy who finds out that you actually live there from assuming so.  I got invited to be the guest of honor at more bachelor parties than I can count.  I always declined.  You can pay a professional for that shit, boys.

Most nights, my friends and I wound up at a comfortable dive bar miles from the Strip.  All bars in Las Vegas proper are a little seedy and dangerous, at least everyone that I ever went to. And I think that is a good thing!  Most of them aren’t all that crowded, and drinks are dirt cheap.  I quickly learned that me and dollar draft are bitter enemies.  Bars are really open 24 hours a day and you can really drink all 24 of those hours.  Or we would just go to a restaurant, or hang out at someone’s apartment.  Or even just stay home, watch TV, and go to bed early. Just like you do in Iowa.

My favorite bar experience in Vegas was going to The Boston to watch Patriots games. Every NFL team had their own “home” bar.  The first week of the season, the newspaper would print a list of which bars affiliated themselves with your team.  Patriots attire was a must.  The cool kids got the obscure new player shirts sent from the Pro Shop.  We’d gather starting in the 8 AM hour most Sundays.  Someone would bring Dunkin’ Donuts coffee ordered from home (and I would actually drink it, times have changed), and we’d pass printouts of the latest Red Sox news back and forth on the bar.  Everyone was from somewhere in New England, and for a few hours, we were home.    Once the game started, (usually at 10 AM), many of us switched to booze and bar food and cheered our boys on.  James, the bartender from the same street I lived on Cape Cod, would make us shots for every touchdown.  The Patriots won the Super Bowl that year, so we did a lot of shots.   If you’re on vacation in Vegas during football season, I highly recommend watching your team play with the locals.  It’s almost as good as actually being at the game.

Otherwise, we’d go see bands play at our seedy bars.  Hairbands love Vegas.  It’s cheaper than LA and you can drift back and forth easily.  Rock and Roll lurks everywhere in the dark recesses of the city. The best place for that was on the East Side, a bar called The Tailspin, where hasbeens and never wases congregated to party the night away.

Most of the nightlife action in Immortal Dilemma does take place on the Strip.  That is by design.  Tristan is a performer on the Strip and lives there, Dave works in a bar on the Strip.  You will notice that when Blade takes Callie out, they hardly ever go to the Strip.  In Immortal Forever, as Callie becomes more entrenched as a local, I will move some of the action to where the locals like to play.  But until then, enjoy the ride.


Excerpt #2 From Immortal Dilemma

Chapter Twelve

Saturday, October 5. Evening.

Janelle was a flurry of activity when I got back to our room. Her computer was blaring music with some guy screaming over a double bass drum. Her side of the room looked like a Chinese laundry with black clothing draped over all of her zebra print bedding and hot pink accessories. Still in her skull and crossbones pajamas, she kept going in and out of the room, sometimes bringing another girl I didn’t know very well in from down the hall to ask her opinion on clothing. I was relieved that my opinion didn’t seem to count anymore. This new girl was also clad in all black and seemed to be a little more in touch with her inner vampire than I was. Was I the only one who just didn’t seem to get it?

The new girl was named Lindsay or Lizzie or something like that, I couldn’t really hear her over the music and I just didn’t care that much either way. I wasn’t sure if she was coming out with us tonight or not, again I didn’t really care too much. She and Janelle were giddy and giggly over something. I feared whatever it was would be happening tonight and I would be dragged to it whether I liked it or not.

Oh, wait a minute. No I would not, I smiled to myself. I had Blade to bail me out of their nonsense.

I had to start getting ready for dinner as well. Since I was never going to fit in with these people, I was over the all black thing and the club scene. I got my pretty new scarf out of its bag. I wanted to base my outfit around that. I picked a long slim brown crinkly skirt that had white lattice detail, a white men’s style tank top, topped it off with a jean jacket and my china doll shoes. My hair was pretty unruly from being whipped around in the wind at the Hoover Dam so I strategically rolled it up and fastened it with a flower. It’s a proven fact that any outfit can be made better simply be adding a scarf and putting a flower in your hair.

I had correctly guessed that our dinner was set for eight and it was indeed at one of the restaurants at the Alta Vista. Janelle, Lindsay/Lizzie and I drove down to the strip together and would meet up with Amanda, her mom, and whoever else was involved in our evening there. I sat in the back seat and let Janelle and Lindsay/Lizzie sit in the front and gossip and squeal about vampires and bands and whatever else rocked their worlds. I blocked them out, looking out the window at the Strip scenery that I would probably forever find fascinating and replayed my afternoon in my mind. I was smiling, so if the girls in the front seat paid any attention, they would think I was completely happy to be there with them.

I realized just then that Janelle hadn’t asked me one question about my afternoon, after grilling me all week about Blade. Hmm. Something big must really be going on tonight or I really had been replaced. I definitely didn’t mind a break from being on the hot seat but something seemed a little odd about it.

Amanda and her crew held court outside the Serenade Cantina. Amanda was perfect in one of her signature mini dresses with her thigh high stockings and high heeled Mary Janes. There were two slightly older women with her, in what were obviously their “going out” outfits—sparkly blouses and stretch pants that bordered on inappropriate with comfortable shoes and another girl who looked like a slightly shorter, stockier, less well put together version of Amanda. They probably dyed their hair red out of the same bottle.

Janelle and Amanda greeted each other with the enthusiasm of friends who’d been separated for years. Everyone seemed to know each other already, besides me. The girl who looked like Amanda was sister Ashley, her mom’s name was Donna and her friend was Kathy. The girl from our dorm turned out to be Lindsay. We did have a reservation, which turned out to be a good thing because the restaurant and hotel’s common areas were packed even more than a normal night. We just had to wait a few minutes for our table to be cleared.

Being at the Alta Vista without an invitation always made me a little uncomfortable. I felt like I was sneaking around someplace I didn’t belong. At the same time, I was slyly keeping one eye peeled just in case I might see Tristan. I don’t think with his celebrity status he’d be roaming the common areas freely, but you never know. This place made my brain go into Tristan overdrive, which was complicated by my secret escape plans with Blade later this evening.

As soon as we were seated, we ordered drinks and started perusing the menus. I texted Blade we were at the Alta Vista, which on my number pad only phone, was less discreet than I hoped for.

“Who are you texting?” Amanda asked.

“Just a friend.”

“Are you texting Tristan?” Kathy asked in a thick New York accent. It was blunt and strange that she would say that, she just met me. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

“Noooo,” I said carefully. “Why would I be texting Tristan?”

“Well Janelle says you used to date him.”

I thought my eyes were going to fall out of their sockets. I finally had the full attention of everyone at the table. I glared at Janelle. She shrugged. “You told me you did…didn’t you?”

“We were friends. Years ago.” Why did I feel like I was defending myself to these women?

“Janelle says you came here just for him.” Amanda interjected.

Now all I could see was red, and I wasn’t talking about Amanda and Ashley’s dye jobs. “I’m here for school.”

“Oh honey, it’s OK,” Kathy continued. “We’re all here for one of them.”


“There are certain women who are genetically drawn to certain vampires,” Donna explained, in a very motherly way. “It’s called Bloodlust. And the ladies at this table, including yourself, all seem to have an attraction to one of the vampires in Immortal Dilemma.”

“It’s a proven fact,” added Kathy.

I sat there in stunned silence. This was absolutely crazy. First of all, these women thought that these people were actually vampires. Secondly, they thought it was a “proven fact” that they had some sort of bond with them. This can’t be, for a thousand reasons this just can’t be. There is no way I can be like these women. I had actually shared something with Tristan in real life, outside of my wild imagination.

“So can you text Tristan and see you can get us on the list for the event tonight?” Ashley asked.

“What? No! I haven’t even talked to him in years. I can’t get you all in to…some…event.” I practically spit out the last word. So that’s why I was invited out tonight.

Now it was everyone else’s turn to look surprised. Almost everyone. Janelle looked a bit triumphant while dipping nachos into salsa. Amanda broke the silence. “I didn’t think so, but the girls thought it was worth a try.”

I buried my head into my menu. I couldn’t even focus enough to read it. When the waiter came for our order, I think I ordered fish tacos. If they wanted to use me for whatever connection they hoped I had with Tristan, I could use them right back for a decent dinner. Once the waiter took our menus, I texted Blade immediately. One word: Help.

While I waited for my tacos, I played with the fringe on my scarf absentmindedly. The rest of the table was working together frantically to come up with Plan B on how to get in to this big event tonight, since I had failed them. However they were going to pull it off, I’d never know. Blade had responded to my desperate texts, he would meet me by the entrance to the Tattoo Parlor at 9:30.

By the time food had arrived, the table had agreed on a way in to their event and now they were talking and laughing about the latest episode of Immortal Forever. Thankfully, the tacos were delicious, although they weren’t worth the ordeal I had to go through to get them.

As Blade predicted, I was executing my escape plan as soon as the check came. The rest of the group was going to head over to the theater. “I’m not old enough to get in to the theater, and I don’t have an ID. My friend who I was texting is going to come pick me up.” I explained.

“Blade?” Janelle asked with a bite to her tone. The rest of the table looked puzzled, searching in their brains for who Blade could possibly be.

“Yes, Blade.”

“It’s hard to date someone when you have the Bloodlust.” Kathy said. She always seemed to have something to say. “It gets in the way, you know.”

“No, I don’t.” I said as sweetly as possible. “Thank you for dinner, ladies. It was delicious. Good luck tonight.”

Did you miss the first excerpt from IMMORTAL DILEMMA? You can read it here.

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The Dream

Today’s Brew: Mudslide with vanilla soy. Julie calls my soy milk something unspeakable, but it doesn’t stop me from loving every second of it.

Picture it, Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 4, 2002.

My friend Kiva was in town for the holiday from New York. I decided to stay with her for the night. Since she’d moved away from Boston I didn’t get to see as much of her as I liked. Kiva’s always been kind of a calming, zen presence in my life. We weren’t sure what we were going to do to celebrate. Finally, we discovered that a glam band, Pretty Boy Floyd, was playing that night in Cambridge at a club we never heard of. We called everyone we thought might have some info. No one had ever heard of the place. We’d pretty much given up on finding the show, until we headed out to the parking lot of our hotel and found the club right next door to where we were staying.

Game back on.

Because we were totally on foot that night, I decided to have a couple of drinks. Okay, more than a couple. There were these delicious blueberry malted liquor drinks that existed that I’ve only been able find one other place, ever. We had a great time at the show and I was feeling pretty good afterwards. Sleep came easy that night.

We’ve all heard about certain foods giving people weird dreams when consumed before bedtime. That night, those blueberry drinks had the same effect. I had a dream about this girl trying to make her way in Las Vegas….it seemed so real to me. I had to bring it to life somehow.

But I’d only been to Vegas twice, once for a day and the other time for a weekend. My body of knowledge about the workings of the city was very small. Still, I felt very strongly about this dream, and soon after, I was making plans for a move to Vegas and I was going to write a book.

Apparently, Kiva must have left the TV on that night, because my dream turned out to be very similar to the movie Showgirls, once I finally saw it.

The move to Vegas happened, but the book did not. I stayed there for a year. My experience there was very different than I thought it would have been. I love the city, and will always consider it my home away from home, but I was glad to come back east.

Years later, as I again attempted to write a book, this time about a vampire rock band set in Los Angeles, something didn’t feel quite right about it. I decided to move the production about 300 or so miles east to Las Vegas. It was the perfect setting for a vampire rock band. Everything is always young in Vegas. It’s a 24 hour city, where outrageousness is celebrated. The more I thought about it, the more my story couldn’t be set anywhere else.

I had moved to Vegas originally because I wanted to write about what I knew. This time, I knew the city well. I was able to use it as a credible backdrop to Callie’s adventures in Immortal Dilemma.

What had at first seemed like a far fetched cross country venture finally came to fruition.

Callie’s In Over Her Head

To continue the Ferris Bueller analogy, life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around, you may miss it.  And as you can see from our last post, teenage girls can get in over their heads pretty quickly when left to their own devices at rock concerts.  And here is what happens to Callie out at a show for an evening.   This is an excerpt from Chapter 50:

I hit the bathroom door a little too hard and felt conversation stop on the other side.  I smiled nervously at the women in there smoking.  Smoke filled my nostrils and fogged the whole bathroom, but not too much for me to see one of the girls wearing the very same dress I was wearing.  And the same shoes.  The salesgirl from the store!

“I knew it!” she said, with a too-friendly smile.

“Hi,” I mumbled, and closed myself in a stall, eyes shut.  When I opened them, the visual I had to match the smell in there was Immortal Dilemma graffiti and stickers all over the door.  I rolled my eyes, and tried to just ignore it all as I just stood in there.  I needed just a minute to breathe, even this air, and remind myself that this was all for Blade, and me, and not about anything to do with Immortal Dilemma, or Tristan.  I wouldn’t let it be that.

I opened the door, knowing that the salesgirl and her friends were still there, but went about my business, washing my hands and not looking too nervous I hoped.

“So, it’s true, then?  Immortal Dilemma’s playing here tonight, right?”

I pursed my lips and looked the one who had spoken in the eyes.  “No.  No, they are not.  Have you seen the flyers?” I said pointing at one of the flyers on the wall advertising Blade’s show that night.  She smiled at me, like we had a secret, and I went back out to the bar.

On the way there, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the people in this rather excessive crowd thought they were catching an impromptu Immortal Dilemma show.  How many of these girls were here for Tristan?

How much did I have to do with that?

“Is there anywhere we can be a little more…private…for a minute?” I asked Blade over the loud music when I got back to him and the small crowd that he had amassed. He smiled at me and nodded.

I followed him up a flight of winding stairs near the back of the club, where things were much quieter, and the crowd had thinned quite a bit.  My mouth was dry with nerves that Blade had noticed how many of this crowd was wearing a little too much leather, black eyeliner, and other Immortal Dilemma garb.

He quickly turned on the staircase, and I gasped with surprise as he caught me up in his arms, bending me backwards over the railing, and kissed me with such intensity that I forgot where we were, or that anyone else even existed but him and I.  When he let me go, it took me a minute to open my eyes.  I could feel my dumbstruck smile.

“Did I thank you for coming tonight?” he whispered in my ear.

Follow Kristen on Twitter!  @Kristen Strassel

Read the synopsis for IMMORTAL DILEMMA here.

Excerpt from “Immortal Dilemma”

Chapter 1

We must have been the only two people that didn’t belong anywhere else.  It’s the only explanation how I wound up with Janelle for a roommate.  I was furious that my mom refused to let me come out to Las Vegas for the college’s early orientation.  Everyone else seemed so happy with their roommates.  I bet they paired off at the orientation.  Oh well.  In mom’s defense, we really didn’t have the money for the extra trip and it was our busy season at the restaurant.  I would have to make the best of it. Roommate trouble isn’t on the top of my priority list.  However, I did want to make it work as much as possible, so I planned to have dinner with Janelle that night.  Nothing fancy, just the dormitory café.  At least this way we’d have a chance to chat face to face without being wrapped up in school work and other distractions.

First impressions could always be wrong, and I’d been wrapped up in trying to get my new schedule deciphered, trying to find my way around a campus full of identical buildings, and quite honestly, my nerves were sometimes getting the best of me.    Maybe I hadn’t given her a fair chance.  It was possible we had more in common than I thought. Janelle seemed to sleep a lot during the day. It was strange I hadn’t even seen any evidence of her buying books. Her focus seemed to be on her nightly social life, the internet, and famous people.  She spent a lot of time talking about people that she didn’t know as if they were close friends.   Some of them I’d heard of, some I just nodded and pretended I knew what she was talking about.  Celebrity gossip seemed so meaningless to me.

I straightened up my side of our dorm room while I waited for her.  The room was small to begin with, and Janelle’s belongings oozed over the imaginary line that designated my side of the room.  Even her stuff was loud.  Her bedding was zebra print with hot pink accents.  Every inch of her wall space was covered with posters of scary looking people and weird lettering. She had poetry pinned up haphazardly, overlapping the posters.  Her clothes, all black, exploded out of her closet and the debris of the last week’s outfits was all over the floor.  I hadn’t brought much along with me, since the logistics of getting things cross country made packing efficiently an art form, but still I craved neatness and order.

Janelle returned about a half an hour later than promised. My stomach was growling so I was anxious to head to dinner.  She immediately opened a bag of chips and flopped down on her unmade bed in front of her computer.

“Weren’t we going to go to dinner tonight?”  I tried not to sound annoyed. Deep down I still hoped this girl had some redeeming qualities.

“Oh, yeah, you want to go now?”  She replied with a mouth full of food.

“Well, I am kinda hungry. But you just had those chips.”

“No, no, no…not a problem,” Janelle got up off the bed and pulled her T shirt down over her stomach.  She finished off her snack.  “Let’s go.”

Dinner was in full swing and the cafeteria was crowded.  Tonight’s offerings were baked chicken and spaghetti.  I opted for the spaghetti.  One thing I’d have a hard time getting used to here was the food.  It was all so overcooked, overprocessed, and bland.  Not like my family’s restaurant.

“Do you mind me asking you, why did you pick Las Vegas State College?”  Janelle started the conversation after we settled at our table with our trays.  “You don’t seem to like it here very much.”

Janelle was paying more attention to me than I thought. I hadn’t realized I was projecting so of my discomfort. “Well, some of my friends moved here, and I thought it would be a good place to try something completely different than I was used to.”

Janelle swallowed a scoop of mashed potatoes.  “I’ve got to hand it to you for having big brass balls.  I couldn’t wait to get out of Snoozeville, either.  But I knew what I was getting myself into coming here.  My parents have been dragging me here since I was a kid. Didn’t your friends tell you what this crazy place was like?”

“Um…no.  Well, sort of,” If you count my mom badgering me ever since I brought up coming here, all I knew was I was moving to the devil’s playground.  “All I’d heard about was the gambling, and the heat…and the hookers.”  It shocked me to see the trucks on the Strip towing billboards, advertising “HOT GIRLS DIRECT TO YOUR ROOM!”  Equally shocking were the signs just off the Strip proclaiming “CASH FOR CAR TITLES.”  What happened to people, they’d drove here in hopes of winning big, and then had to sell their car to keep gambling? How would they get home?  It just seemed so sad and desperate to me.

“That’s just a myth.  Prostitution is only legal in Nye County.  Pahrump—That’s where you find The Bunny Ranch, The Chicken Ranch, The Midnight Ranch…”

I cut her off.  I wasn’t in the market to hire a prostitute.  “Whatever.  I just wanted to see what things were like here…And I really wanted to see my friend.” So that was the understatement of the year.

Janelle seemed confused by this.  “Your friends, or friend, must have told you something about the city.”

“No….I haven’t actually talked to him, to them, in a while.  Not since they moved here from California.” Saying these things out loud didn’t help my cause.  I pushed my food around on my plate, hoping it would get more appetizing.  I guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I was.

“Ooooo-oooh it’s a him, huh?  An ex? Or a friend with benefits? How long ago did you did you talk to him?”

“Not exactly a boyfriend.  Four years ago.”

Janelle had moved on to her dessert and was scraping cupcake frosting off of the baking paper.  “Wow.  And you haven’t talked to him at all?  That’s a long time, Callie.  You really moved all the way out here because of someone you haven’t seen in four years?  You were, what, fourteen?”  She licked pink goo off of her fingers slowly as she waited for my answer.  It turned my stomach a little.  That, and actually telling someone why I’d really come all this way under the guise of school.

“It’s, uh, complicated.  I just felt like I had to come here.  Tristan—his name is Tristan.  I just needed to see him again.”  I sounded as ridiculous as Janelle did when she rambled on and on about her celebrities.  Well, at least I knew Tristan.  Or did I?  Four years was a long time.

“Tristan, huh?” She said thoughtfully. “So have you like, friended him on Facebook or googled him?  He should be easy enough to find.”

“Uh no,” That sounded stalkerish.  “Why would I do that?  I don’t even have a Facebook.”  Facebook had been severely frowned upon in my house.

“Huh.”  Janelle took a minute to digest that.  Of course she didn’t understand.  Maybe I should just go back to Martha’s Vineyard and forget this whole thing.  No, there was no going back to my hippie, home-school world where hardly anything, or anyone, new came in, and definitely nobody went out.

Finally, she asked, “Is he hot?”

I couldn’t help but laugh.  “Yeah.”

“Is he a good kisser?  Please tell me you at least kissed him.”

My heart skipped a beat thinking about it.  “Yeah.”

“Alrighty then.  Do you know how to get in touch with him?”

I hoped so.

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