He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

by Lisa S.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thank you to Rhonda for helping me on the first scene of the story and to Antoinette/RiverOtter for betaing and for her suggestions. Also a special thanks to Sarah for creating this wonderful AU for us to play

DISCLAIMER: Mag7/Las Vegas alternate universe was created by Sarah (aka Midnight Profit) and is based on the "Las Vegas" TV series. This AU is not related to the Mag7/Las Vegas RPG created by Lisa O. and Ruby. Trilogy, MGM, and the Mirish Corporation own "The Magnificent Seven" characters. NBC Studios, NBC Universal Television, DreamWorks Television, and Gary Scott Thompson Productions own "Las Vegas." They are not mine. The only purpose of this story is for entertainment. No money is being made.


Buck Wilmington groaned softly as the bright sun shown through the hotel window hitting him right in the face. Rolling over he hoped to fall back to sleep but instead encountered the soft curves of a distinctly feminine form next to him.

Slowly opening one eye and then the other, he took in his surroundings as he sat up. Well, he was obviously in a Montecito hotel room he thought but for the life of him he couldn’t remember how he got there. He obviously had too much to drink last night, he thought as he ran a hand through his bed-head hair but definitely not too much of a good time since he was still dressed in his slacks and shirt.

An item lying on the nearby chair caught his attention and he did a double take. It was a white wedding dress. ‘Oh shit,’ he thought. He didn’t get married last night, did he? No, that’s not possible, he thought as he then spotted the wedding veil draped over the nightstand lamp. Or is it?

The body next to him stirred, the movement causing Buck to glance over curious as to whom she was. Shoot, he couldn’t even remember the woman in his bed.

"Mornin’," said Buck as he watched a blonde covered head pop up under the covers and turn to him.

"You're not Chandler," stated the woman as she looked at the stranger in her bed with sleep-filled eyes.

"Uh. . . Not the last time I checked," replied Buck.

"Who are you and what are you doing in my bed?" asked the woman as she sat up, carefully making sure she used the bed sheet to protect her nearly naked state.

"Well darlin', that would seem to be the question of the day," replied Buck.

"What? You don't remember either?" replied the woman in disbelief.

"Uh. . . no, everything is a little fuzzy at the moment but you mind tellin' me what's that doin' in here," he said pointing at the wedding dress in the corner of the room.

"Oh no. We didn't! Did we?" She looked at him in horror.

"Well hold on now. Don't go lookin' at ol' Buck like you might have married a monster. You could have done a lot worse," he said, offended by her reaction.

"I. . . I didn't mean it like that." She hung her head embarrassed. "But, I don't know you."

"Well by the looks of things, we knew each other pretty well last night." Buck bobbed his eyebrows suggestively.

A deep blush covered her cheeks at his innuendo.

"I hate to ask you this, considering," he glanced at the rumpled bed, "but what is your name darlin'?"

"Hilda Trent," replied the woman. "And you are?"

"Buck Wilmington, at your service." He winked at her causing her to blush again.

Down in Montecito’s surveillance control room, the security force was switching over shifts.

JD Dunne took a sip of his coffee as he settled into his chair and began checking the computer system to make sure everything was running properly and no problems occurred when he was off duty. Meanwhile Vin Tanner was looking over the previous shift’s incident reports to get caught up on any pending items.

"Anything happening?" asked Security Chief Chris Larabee as he arrived in the office with coffee in one hand and a newspaper in another.

"Looks like all is quiet," replied Vin as he took in all the security monitors.

"Good," replied Chris as he paused before entering his office. "Is Buck in yet? Wanted to talk to him about a few things."

"Don’t know," replied Vin as his brow furrowed. "Haven’t seen him on any of the monitors."

"That’s weird," replied Chris. "He’s never late."

"Let me check," chimed JD as he brought up the recognition software and did a search on Buck’s employee photo. A few seconds later, the negative response appeared on the screen. "He’s not on any of the cameras," replied JD. "Now that I think about it, I don’t remembering seeing his car at the apartment complex when I left today. . ."

"Well, maybe he’s just at a ‘sleep over’," commented Vin as a wiry grin appeared across his face.

"Could be," replied Chris. "I’ll try giving him a call in a bit and see what happened to him." The Security Chief then headed into his office.

Back in Room 646 Buck Wilmington and Hilda Trent, who was now wearing the hotel’s complimentary white terrycloth bathrobe, were trying to figure out exactly what happened the night before.

"Ok, there has to be a simple answer to explain all of this," said Buck as he paced back and forth in the hotel room. "Let's remain calm . . ."

"I am calm!" said Hilda in a raised voice and then groaned softly as she placed a hand to her forehead, realizing too late that the raised voice would just aggravate her hung over headache.

"Ok, well, we just can’t be married. . . we just can’t be married. . ." repeated a very nervous Buck.

"Would being married to me be so horrible?" asked Hilda. Sure she didn’t have model looks and a stick figure but she thought she was pretty and some guys did like full-figured women.

"That’s not it, Darlin’," replied Buck who could see he had hit a raw nerve with the woman. "It’s just this never has happened to me." Sitting down on the edge of the bed beside her he continued, "Ok, so last night . . . let's see . . . what happened," started Buck as he tried to calm down. "I was working and the big wedding event was going on. . ."

Sixteen hours earlier. . .

Since Buck didn't have any high-rolling whales in town he was helping with the big "I Do" event at the Montecito where 100 couples were to be wed. After assisting a very nervous groom who had forgotten the very important ring in his room, Buck found himself nearly run over by a pretty blonde bride who came rushing out of the ladies room extremely upset.

"Whoa there, darlin'," said Buck as he placed his hands lightly on her shoulders to steady her. "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing," said Hilda in a shaky voice as she quickly brushed some wayward tears away.

"Well, clearly something is wrong if it got you all upset on your big day," replied Buck in a soothing voice. "Now, tell ole Buckley what happened and let's see if I can help. . ."

"My fiancée . . . Chandler . . . left me," she declared in a soft voice. "He said he changed his mind and didn't want to get married."

"That no good bum," replied Buck.

"My thoughts exactly," replied Hilda. "Of course I used other words when I told him."

Buck chuckled softly and he replied, "Well, he deserved it and much more. So, where are you off to in such a big hurry?"

"Bar . . . I need a drink," replied Hilda. "A big drink."

"Care for some company?" asked Buck who didn't want to leave the upset woman by herself.

"I'd like that," replied Hilda as she nodded yes. Buck took her to Montecito's Opus bar where she promptly ordered two drinks.

"Darlin', I can't drink. I'm on duty," said Buck as the waitress placed two alcoholic beverages in front of them.

"When do you get off duty?" asked Hilda.

Buck looked at his watch and then said, "In about 15 minutes."

"Well, you'll just have to catch up in 15 minutes," replied Hilda succinctly and then tossed back her drink on one swallow. She smiled as she reached for his drink and Buck watched as she drank that too.

"Darlin', you better take it slow," warned Buck as Hilda signaled the waitress for more drinks. After 15 minutes passed and Buck was officially off duty, Hilda insisted he join her and over the next couple hours they enjoyed themselves while Hilda drowned her sorrows.

When it started to get late into the evening, Buck suggested, "How about if I escort you back to your room? Make sure you get there ok. . ."

"Oh, I'm fine," replied Hilda as she slid off the stool and began to sway.

"I got ya," said Buck as he placed a comforting arm around her shoulder. He, too, was also feeling the effects of their night of excessive drinking. "I insist that I escort you to your room."

"You're such a good guy," commented Hilda in words slightly slurred. She looked up into his face, her hand reaching up to touch his cheek. "Why couldn't I have met someone like you?"

"Well, darlin' I'm one of a kind," replied Buck as he winked at her. "Now let's get you upstairs." Together the couple left the bar and headed upstairs to Hilda's room. While in the elevator, Hilda removed her shoes and veil, holding the items in one hand. "I can't believe I spent all this money on this outfit and the loser left me at the alter. . ." grumbled Hilda who was now very angry at her ex-finance.

"Here's our floor," stated Buck as the doors opened. He helped her off and led her down the hallway towards her room.

"I need to get out of this gown," stated Hilda as she twisted one arm behind her to reach for the zipper.

"Darlin', it would probably be best if you wait until you're in your room," suggested Buck.

Hilda giggled as she replied, "You're a funny guy . . . Chandler was never funny . . . he was such a stick in the mud . . ." She came to a stop in the middle of the hallway and Buck asked, "What's wrong?"

"Do you know what Chandler's last name is?" asked Hilda.

Buck shook his head 'no' as he said, "No, what?"

"It's Hilliar," replied Hilda. "That means I would have been Hilda Hilliar if we had gotten married . . . how horrible does that sound?"

"Pretty bad," replied Buck as he nodded while gently encouraging her to continue on her path to her room.

"Maybe this is fate's way of making sure I don't get stuck with that horrible name the rest of my life," commented Hilda out loud.

"Could be," replied Buck and then said, "Ok, we're here. Do you have your key?" They reached the door to her room and she fished the key out of her tiny purse and handed it to Buck.

"There you go," said Buck after he swung the door open for her.

"Why don't you come in and join me," suggested Hilda as she grabbed his hand and tugged him into the room, closing the door behind him. She then moved in close to him, her lips finding his neck as she continued, "I don't want to be alone tonight and I thought maybe we could. . ."

There was no doubt what the woman wanted and Buck gently pulled her away and said, "Now Darlin', I don't think we should be doing this. I don't want you to regret it the next mornin'."

Hilda giggled as she replied, "Oh, I doubt I'll regret it. In fact I have a feeling this is just what I need to get this horrible episode out of my head." Meanwhile her hands were all over him, trying to persuade him.

"No . . . no . . . no," stammered Buck as he grabbed her wayward hands. "We can't do this."

"You don't like me, do you?" stated a deflated Hilda as she took a seat on the bed. "It's cause I'm not thin and gorgeous?"

"Now darlin', that's not it," said Buck as he moved to her side, taking a seat beside her on the bed. "You're a beautiful woman and under any other circumstance I would jump at the chance to spend the evening in your arms but right now, we've both had too much to drink and I don't want you to regret it . . . Ok?"

Hilda nodded as she asked, "Will you stay with me? We don't have to . . . you know . . . I just don't want to be alone."

"I'd be happy to stay," said Buck as he smiled. Truth of the matter he didn't want to leave the jilted bride alone for fear of what she might do plus he, too, had way too much to drink and didn't want to have to worry about catching a cab home.

"Thanks," said Hilda as she smiled at him. "Can you help me with the zipper on this dress?" she asked as she turned her back to him.

"Sure thing," said Buck, who has had lots of experience with ladies' zippers. He slowly unzipped the wedding gown and then said, "There you go."

"Thank you," said Hilda.

"Now, I think I might go hit the head if you don't mind," said Buck as he stood. "All that alcohol is catching up with me."

"Ok," replied Hilda as she stood and began to get undressed, removing the wedding gown and tossing it on the nearby chair. She definitely didn't need that anymore. Maybe she will donate it to charity or something. Yawning, Hilda decided to lie down, the events of day finally catching up to her, and she slipped under the covers.

When Buck emerged from the bathroom a couple minutes later, he found Hilda fast asleep on the bed. Smiling he shrugged out of his jacket and removed his shoes and laid down on the other side of the bed. A few moments later he was fast asleep too.

Back to the present. . .

"So we didn't . . . you know," declared a very relieved Hilda as she took a seat next to him on the bed. "Oh, thank God. . ."

"Well, you don't have to sound THAT happy about it," replied Buck as he gently nudged her with his shoulder. "I've been told that I'm pretty amazing."

Hilda giggled as she replied, "Sorry . . . I know if we did do it, it would have been incredible but I'm glad you stopped me . . ."

"So, are you gonna be alright?" asked Buck.

"Yea, I will be," replied Hilda. "Thanks for being there last night . . . I do appreciate it."

"Anytime," replied Buck as his cell phone began to ring. He fished it out of his pocket and took a look at the small screen to see who it was. It was Chris who no doubt wanted to know where the hell he was. "Now I do hate to run but I have to get to work . . . I'm already late and they're trying to reach me. . ."

"Ok," said Hilda. "Maybe I'll see you later . . . I've decided I'm not gonna cut my vacation short and I'm gonna stay here . . ."

Buck stood as he grabbed his suit coat and quickly put on his shoes. "Ok, I'm sure I'll see you around. . ." he said and headed out the door and headed for the security room.

Hilda watched him make a hasty retreat out of her room. It was a shame she couldn't have met someone more like Buck, she thought, while picking up the phone by the bed to call room service for some much-needed coffee.

"Hey Guys, what's up?" asked Buck as he strolled into the Surveillance Room in his wrinkled suit as if nothing was wrong and he wasn't over a hour late.

"Care to tell us where you've been?" asked Chris who was holding his coffee cup. He took in his friend's rumpled attire and figured it had something to do with a woman.

"You don't want to know," replied Buck as he took Chris' mug in mid-sip and took a long drink from it. "Damn, I needed that." He glanced around at his friends and asked, "So, what's going on?"

"The cat adoption event is tomorrow," stated JD. "They're busy setting up for it right now."

"Cat adoption? Whose idea was that?" asked Buck as he began to take another sip of coffee but was so rudely interrupted when Chris took his mug back. "Get your own," grumbled Chris.

"Evie Travis," replied Vin. "She's organizing the event."

"I bet Orin is pleased about that," remarked Buck.

"Well, he's not too happy about having cats at the Montecito," replied Chris. "But he'll do anything for Evie so he said we should deal with it."

Buck nodded as said, "I don't think I have any whales coming in for the next day or two so if you need any help, just yell." Meanwhile he was searching his pockets looking for his newest toy -- his Blackberry -- and not finding it. "Now where is it?" he mumbled.

"Whatcha you looking for?" asked JD.

"My blackberry," replied Buck. "It's got all my client information . . . now where did I put it?" He suddenly realized where he probably left it . . . it must have fallen out of his coat pocket when he was in Hilda's room.

"Didn't you just get that thing?" asked JD. "And you lost it already?"

"I didn't lose it," replied Buck. "In fact I know where it is . . . I just need to figure out how to get it . . ." This meant he'll need to pay Hilda another visit and as much as he liked her, waking up in her room with the uncertainty of if they were married had shaken him to the bone. Sure, the ladies man had figured he would eventually settle down when the right woman came along but he figured it was a long, long time in the future. Seeing her again would just remind him how closely he came to being a groom. And that was just something he didn't want to relieve again anytime soon.

Up on the eighth floor housekeeper Maxine was busy cleaning her group of assigned rooms. Knocking on door 896, she said, "Housekeeping," and waited a moment to see if she got a response. Thinking the room was empty she used her master key and entered. As she rounded the corner she stopped dead in her tracks. There handcuffed to the bed was a naked blonde hair man covered only by the thin bed sheet.

"Umm . . . can you help me out here?" asked Peter Miller who when he woke up found himself handcuffed to the bed and his female companion gone. He glanced around the room and immediately noticed his wallet was no longer on the nightstand and he realized he'd been robbed.

"Just a moment sir," said Maxine. "Let me call Security. They handle these types of situations."

Maxine went out into the hallway and immediately placed a call with Security.

Meanwhile down in the Surveillance Room, Vin took the call and then informed Chris of the situation.

"JD, we'll be down in room 896 if you need us," said Chris as the two men headed out.

"Will do," said JD as he continued to monitor the cameras.

When Chris and Vin arrived at the designated room, Maxine was waiting for them in the hallway. "He's in there," she said as she gestured to the room.

Chris nodded as the two men entered the room. True enough they found the man in question handcuffed to the bed.

"Sir, my name is Chris Larabee and this is Vin Tanner, we're from Montecito's Security," said the Security Chief. "Care to tell us what happened?"

"Can you remove these first?" asked Peter as he tugged at the handcuffs. "I'd be happy to tell you the whole story."

"Do you have the key?" asked Vin.

"Well I did," said Peter as he glanced around. He remembered leaving it on the bedside table but sure enough it was gone too. "It was right here on the table with my wallet but they're both gone now . . . she must have taken them."

Vin began looking for the key to make sure it didn't fall on the floor while Chris said, "She? Sir, why don't you tell us what happened while we try to hunt down the key?"

"Well, it all started last night," explained Peter. "I was playing poker. . ."

The previous evening. . .

Peter was having a major lucky streak. He was playing poker in one of Montecito's private rooms and he had won three hands in a row and was up a very large sum of cash. Two of his three opponents had quit and now it was just between him and this gorgeous red-head whose name was Pandora.

"So, Pandora, that's an unusual name," commented Peter as he tried to make chit chat in between games.

"It's a family name," replied the red-head as she checked her lipstick in her small compact mirror. "I'm named after my grandmother."

"Well, did you get your beautiful looks from her too?" asked Peter after taking a sip of his drink.

"Some say that I do," replied Pandora and then smiled at him.

The next game started and again Peter found himself winning.

"It looks like I'm a little short," said Pandora as she eyed his growing pile of chips with interest. "Maybe I can play for something other than money?"

"What did you have in mind?" asked Peter who liked the recent turn of events.

Pandora leaned forward, showing a teasing amount of her ample cleavage while under the table she lightly ran her foot up his ankle. "Maybe there's something I can do. . ." she whispered. "All or nothing this next game . . . your pile of chips for one night with me . . . anything goes. What do you say?"

"I'm in," replied Peter succinctly.

Pandora smiled as she replied, "Me too."

It turned out Peter's luck continued through the next game as he won again.

"Looks like I'm all yours tonight," purred Pandora.

"It's definitely my lucky night," remarked Peter as he quickly cashed in his chips, putting his winnings in his wallet. He then turned to the gorgeous red-head and said, "Shall we?"

When they got up to his room, Pandora was everything she promised and more, leaving Peter totally exhausted as he fell into a contented sleep with a huge smile on his face. The drug she also had placed in his drink also ensured he didn't stir in the wee hours of the morning when she slipped out of the bed and dressed quickly. Taking a second to gaze at the sleeping man, the sex had been amazing, thought Pandora, definitely a bonus in addition to her evening's take. Removing his wallet from the nightstand, she glanced at all the cash inside (his winnings from the big poker game) and smiled as she slipped it in her purse. She then decided she would use those handcuffs he so enjoyed earlier on him. Taking one hand, she handcuffed him to the bed railing, moved the bedside phone to the floor so he wouldn't be able to reach it, and then took the handcuff's key and flushed it down the toilet. The soft click of the door closing was the only sound signaling her exit from the room.

It was the next morning when Peter woke up handcuffed to the bed and his wallet missing, that he realized he had been robbed.

"So, that's what happened," said Peter who was still chained up because they were not able to locate the key.

"And you've never seen this woman before?" asked Chris.

"No, last night was the first time I saw her," replied Peter.

"Chris, maintenance is here to cut Mr. Miller free," said Vin a low voice.

Chris nodded and a few moments later Larry from the maintenance shop came into the room with a pair of cutters. The sight of the man handcuffed to the bed didn't even faze the maintenance worker since he had seen quite a few weird things while he had worked at the resort. It didn't take long to cut Peter free and the man rubbed his wrist as he said, "Thanks."

"Do you know if she was staying here?" asked Chris.

"She didn't say," replied Peter. "We didn't talk much during the game and when we came up here we had other things on our minds. . . the most amazing sex I've ever had . . . the woman was incredible . . ."

"Well, sir, we'll check the tapes and see if we can get a picture of 'Pandora'," stated Chris, changing the subject.

"I guess I should be happy she just took my money," remarked Peter. "And didn't take a kidney or something and leave me on ice in the bathtub. . ."

"Sir, that whole missing organ thing is an urban legend," remarked Vin. "We've never had that happen here at the Montecito."

"Mr. Miller, if you think of anything else that can help our investigation, please let us know," said Chris. "In the meantime, we'll let you have some privacy." The two men left the room, closing the door behind them.

"Vin, why don't you head back to the office and fill JD in on what's happened and see what you can find 'Pandora' on the tapes," suggested Chris. "In the meantime I'm gonna go talk to Ezra . . . maybe he saw something."

Vin nodded and replied, "Will do."

Buck decided he would go ahead and stop by Hilda's room to see if he indeed left his Blackberry there. Knocking on the door, he waited.

A few moments later, Hilda opened the door and smiled. "Buck, hi!" she said. "How are you doing?"

"Fine . . . good," replied Buck as he tried to make chit chat. "And you?"

"I'm feeling much better," replied the woman. "I think it was the four cups of coffee that did it."

Buck smiled as he said, "Good . . . that's good . . . listen, Hilda, I'm sorry to interrupt but I think I might have left my . . ."

"Blackberry," finished Hilda. "You did . . . here, let me get it for you." She retreated back into her room and appeared a few moments later. "Here you go."

"Thanks a lot. I just got this thing and I'd hate to lose it," explained Buck.

"It's no problem," said Hilda. "So, umm . . . Buck . . . I don't know what your schedule is like but if you're free for lunch or something . . ."

"Oh, I'd love to, Hilda, but I've got some things I need to tend to," said Buck. "Maybe later. . ."

"Sure, no problem," said Hilda as she nodded in understanding. "Well, I should let you go and get back to work . . . see you later. . ."

Over the next couple hours, Security personnel busily went through the previous evening's tapes to find the exact movements of the mysterious red-head woman named 'Pandora'.

"What did you find?" asked Chris as he leaned against a desk.

"Well, we easily found the couple at the poker game as well as leaving the game, heading up to Mr. Miller's room," stated JD as he brought up the scenes in question.

Chris squinted as he closely followed the woman's movements on the monitor.

"And we did a little more work and found her entering the Montecito earlier that evening as well as leaving around four a.m. from Mr. Miller's room," explained JD as he proceeded to show the Security Chief that footage.

"I ran the facial recognition program," continued Vin as he brought up a picture of 'Pandora'. "We got no hits here in our database but interestin' enough we did get some hits from the intra-casino database." The Las Vegas casinos had recently set up a shared database where they added any suspicious activity, characters, cheaters, and such so they could share information with each other because sure enough if a scam was tried at one casino, it would be tried at another.

"It seems 'Pandora' has several other names . . . she's also known by Phoebe and Athena and has performed various scams at other resorts here in Vegas," said Vin as he brought up surveillance pictures of her from the other resorts. It was definitely the same woman but the one thing that was different in each picture was her hair . . . she had a different color in each photo -- brunette, blonde, red-head as well as different styles -- long or short. But there was no doubt it was definitely her. "She's never returned to the same casino twice," ended Vin.

Chris nodded while thinking, 'Damn.' It didn't look like they were going to catch this one. She definitely was a pro. Well, all they could do was enter all their information and picture in the intra-casino database and hope down the road another casino would catch her.

"Isn't he adorable," declared Inez. "I just want to take him home. . ." She was holding a beautiful white kitten at the big cat rescue event that was in full swing at the Montecito.

"It looks like he likes you too," commented Rain as she watched the cat nuzzle against the woman's neck. The two women had purposely arrived to work early to go to the event together.

"I can't believe there are so many cats needing homes," remarked Inez with sadness in her voice as she gazed at all the cats that needed adoption.

"Yea, I know," replied Rain. "It's such a shame they've all been abandoned . . . I do hope they find homes for all of them."

"I wish I could adopt them all," replied Inez. "But I guess I just have to settle on one. What do you say, little one, do you want to come home with me?" Her last question was gestured to the kitten in her arms.

"Hello ladies," said Head Valet, Josiah Sanchez, in a low voice. He and his friend on on-call physician, Nathan Jackson, were both checking out the cat adoption event.

"Rain . . . Inez," said Nathan as he smiled at the two women, his gaze lingering on the beautiful lounge singer.

"What are you all doing here?" asked Inez who was surprised to see the two men.

"I'm thinking about adopting a cat," answered Josiah.

"Really?" said Rain, his comment surprising both women.

"Humans aren't the only lost souls on the planet," replied Josiah as he gazed around at all the cages filled with abandoned cats that needed homes. "Sometimes animals need a little rescuing too."

"Amen, brother," said Nathan.

"Plus I've got this mouse problem that I'm hoping a cat can help me out with," revealed a grinning Josiah as the two women laughed. "It looks like you found a companion to take home," continued the Head Valet as he gestured to the kitten in Inez's arms.

"Yea, but it was more like he found me," replied Inez as she smiled at the kitten.

"So, what are you gonna name him?" asked Nathan.

"I was thinking maybe 'Elvis'," replied Inez as she grinned, knowing the name would definitely get the Hospitality Host all riled up especially after his recent undercover assignment as the 'King'.

The two men and Rain laughed at Mystique Manager's choice in names.

"Well, he definitely looks like an 'Elvis'," replied Rain as she gently pet the kitten.

"So, Josiah, would you like some help picking out a cat?" asked Inez.

"I'd love some ladies," replied the Head Valet as he smiled.

The foursome began to walk through the event together, Josiah finally finding the perfect cat that he wanted to adopt. Luckily the Montecito had worked out a deal with the cat rescue event to hold any cats that employees might adopt until they got off of work.

As the quartet exited the cat rescue event, they ran into Mary Travis and her son, Billy.

"Josiah! Nathan!" said the exited boy. "Mom said I could adopt a cat. Isn't that cool?"

Meanwhile Mary had a look on her face that said 'what have I gotten myself into'.

The little boy continued, "Mom said if I did really good in school we could get a cat and guess what, I got all A's in my classes."

"That's great, Billy," said Josiah. "And getting a cat will teach you responsibility when you help your Mom take care of it."

"That's what Mom said too," replied Billy as he rolled his eyes at the 'responsibility' talk. "Look Mom at that kitten . . . isn't he cute!" said Billy as he grabbed his Mom's hand and began to pull her in direction of the cats needing homes.

"Good luck," said Inez and Mary nodded as she waved goodbye to the group.

"Well, I don't know about you all but its time for me to get back to work," stated Josiah as the others agree, the foursome headed off in different directions.

"Boo!" said Pit Boss Ezra Standish. He has seen his friend, Buck Wilmington, dart behind some slot machines and thought he would investigate, approaching the man from behind.

Buck whipped around and placed a hand to his heart. "Damn, Ezra, don't do that . . . you'll give me a heart attack."

"I'll remember that for the future," replied the Pit Boss and then asked, "Hiding from someone?"

"You could say that," replied Buck as he peaked around the corner to see if Hilda Trent was still there. Yep, she was so he withdrew further behind the shelter of the slot machines.

"Does it have anything to do with your surprise wake up yesterday morning?" asked Ezra as he craned his neck to look at the woman in question.

"You could say that," replied Buck.

"Are you planning on hiding behind the slot machines all evening?" asked Ezra as he tried not to smile.

"No!" said Buck his voice fill exasperation.

"What's wrong with Buck?" asked Chris who was doing a security sweep of the main floor and noticed his friend hiding.

"Hiding," responded Ezra.

"I am NOT hiding," chimed Buck in a low voice.

Ezra raised an eyebrow and said, "Then what would you call it?"

"Inspectin' the slot machines?" replied Buck. "Ok, ok, I just don't want to talk to her at the moment, ok?"

"You know, Buck, this is what happens when you sleep with a guest," reprimanded Chris in a stern voice.

"For your information we didn't 'sleep' together," replied Buck quickly. "Just got stinking drunk and fell asleep . . . that's it. . ."

Chris looked at Ezra and said, "I almost believe him."

"I agree, it does seem he is telling the truth," replied Ezra.

"Cause I am," replied Buck. "And stop talking like I'm not here." The Hospitality Host peaked around the corner and noticed the coast was clear and he let out a sigh of relief. "Now I don't know about you fellas but I have to get back to work," continued Buck as he straighten his suit lapels and walked away.

"What just happened here?" asked Ezra who was clearly confused by his friend's antics.

"I have no idea," replied Chris. "Maybe he's drinking too much coffee."

"Well, if so, I highly recommend he switches to decaf," replied Ezra who then nodded to the Security Chief before returning back to his job.

It was several hours later and Buck decided he would stop in at Mystique on his break to see what was happening and if Inez was working. Slipping into the club he noticed it was karaoke hour, grimacing slightly as the current wannabe singer butchered a song that Buck couldn't even recognize, he headed to the bar and ordered a cup of coffee. Having learned his lesson from the previous night he was staying away from alcohol for the next couple days.

Not seeing the lovely Inez anywhere in sight Buck turned as he focused his attention on the stage. A new singer had gone up on stage and he immediately recognized her. It was Hilda Trent, the lady he woke up with the previous day. For a brief moment he considered sneaking out, worried she might spot him and then she started to sing and he froze.

Her voice was absolutely beautiful and it seemed to weave a spell around the Hospitality Host. As the last notes of the song faded, the audience gave Hilda a standing ovation. She smiled as she bowed and then quickly got off the stage.

Buck made his way over to her and said "Hey," as he got to her side.

"Hi Buck," said Hilda. "I was looking for you earlier . . ."

"Well, was busy with the job and all," replied Buck quickly, now feeling a little ashamed that he was hiding from her. "Anyway I wanted to say you sing like an angel."

Hilda smiled as a blush covered her cheeks. "Thank you. It's something I like to do . . . I'm in the choir at church."

Buck nodded. "Well, I'm on a break . . . do you want to get something to eat. . ."

"I'd love to," replied Hilda and Buck escorted her out of the noisy club and to the Twenty-One café that was open 24 hours.

After they were seated, Buck said, "So, Hilda Trent, it seems you're full of surprises . . . why don't you tell me about yourself. . ."

Hilda smiled as she began to respond . . .

Over at the Palms Resort and Casino, Security Chief Rafael Martinez was just summoned to his surveillance room. "What's up?" he asked as he walked into the room.

"Sir, we got a hit from the intra-casino database," explained Jacob as he brought up the live picture on the security monitor. "It seems this young woman currently in one of our private poker rooms recently robbed a guest at the Montecito. They had placed a thorough report in the database and warning that's why we caught her."

Rafael studied the picture of the woman from the Montecito and then the woman on their monitor. It definitely looked like the same woman except she had a different hairstyle but it definitely need further investigating. "Tell the casino personnel to make sure she doesn't leave the room, I'm on my way down there now."

"Will do," said Jacob.

A few moments later Rafael entered the private poker room, glancing around he immediately spotted the woman in question who was now flirting with the man across from her.

He walked up to her, stopping when he was behind and to the right of her and said, "Ma'am . . . or should I say 'Pandora' . . . I need a moment of your time."

The woman froze realizing she had been caught. Damn, she thought.

"Pandora?" said the now confused southern gentleman seated across from her. "I thought your name was Aphrodite?"

"Ma'am, if you will accompany me, please," said Rafael in a stern voice.

The woman nodded as she stood.

"Hey, we're not done here," called out the southern man who was disappointed they would not be able to finish their private bet. "I was on a lucky streak. . ."

"Sir, you should consider yourself lucky that you didn't finish," said Rafael and then lightly taking the woman's arm he escorted her out of the poker room and to one of their security holding rooms.

Chris Larabee was in his office reading over some reports when his assistant, Sally Frost, poked her head in his doorway and said, "Rafael Martinez from the Palms is on the line for you . . . he said it's important."

"Thanks Sally," said Larabee as he reached for his phone. "Hello Rafael, what's up? Don't tell me you want to challenge us to another baseball game? Remember what happened last time?"

Rafael laughed as he replied, "Very funny . . . no, this isn't about a rematch . . . this is about a recent scam artist that had hit the Montecito . . . 'Pandora' . . . you all had filed a report in the intra-casino database."

At the mention of Pandora's name, Chris sat up straight in his chair. "What do you have?" asked the Security Chief. "Did she try something at the Palms?"

"She did and thanks to your alert, we caught her," replied Rafael. "She's in one of our holding rooms waiting for LVPD to show up."

Chris was pleased to hear that 'Pandora' had been caught. He definitely didn't like it when a con-artist got away, taking it as a personal affront to him and his team. "I'll send one of my men over," said Chris. "Will also notify our victim, Mr. Miller, that she's been caught . . . I'm sure LVPD will want a statement from him as well as for him to identify suspect."

"Sounds good," said Rafael. "I'll let Lt. Perez know you all will be contacting him."

After the phone call ended, Chris stood, heading to the bull-pen area to let the others know that 'Pandora' had been caught. While telling the others the good news, Oren and Evie Travis entered the Security spaces.

"Orin . . . Evie," said Chris. "This is a surprise . . . is everything ok?" Chris couldn't remember a time when both had showed up in the Security offices so now he was worried that something had happened.

"Oh, yes everything is fine," replied Orin. "Evie wanted to stop by . . ."

The older woman smiled at the men as she said, "Yes, I wanted to thank you all for everything you did for the cat adoption event today . . . I realize it is not a typical event that we have here at the Montecito but it was a huge success . . . 55 out of 65 of the cats were adopted and we raised over $2,000 for their charity. . ."

"That's great news, Mrs. Travis," said JD.

"We even adopted a kitten for ourselves, didn't we sweetie?" declared Evie while turning to her husband.

Orin nodded, not looking too pleased about the idea of now having to share his home with a cat.

"So, did any of you gentlemen adopt a cat?" asked Evie.

"Umm . . .no, I didn't," said Chris. "I'm not a cat person. . ."

"No Ma'am, I'm allergic," replied Vin.

"I already have a pet," declared JD.

"Oh, really? Dog?" asked Evie.

"Horse," replied JD.

Evie slowly nodded as then turned to her husband, "Orin, we really should be leaving . . . we're supposed to meet Mary and Billy for dinner."

"Yes, dear," said Orin as he nodded to the other men before escorting his wife out of the office. As they reached the entrance, Evie turned and said, "Oh, did Orin tell you the good news . . . we're going to have another cat adoption event next month?"

"No, Ma'am, he didn't," replied Chris as he tried to keep a smile on his face. He definitely was not happy at the prospect of another cat adoption event here at the Montecito.

"That's great news, Mrs. Travis," chimed JD. After Orin and Evie left the room, Vin swatted JD on the shoulder.

"Hey, what was that for?" asked JD as he rubbed his arm.

"Horse?" said Vin as he turned back to his computer and returned to work.

"Well, I do have one," explained JD.

It was the next day and Hilda Trent was checking out of the Montecito and leaving to return home. Buck escorted her to the front entrance to catch her ride to the airport.

"Thank you so much for everything, Buck . . ." said Hilda as they watched the valet personnel load her bags into the back of the cab.

"Anytime, Hilda," replied the Hospitality Host. "And just remember not all men are like your ex-fiancée."

"I know," said Hilda.

"And you can do much better," continued Buck as he winked at her.

Hilda smiled as she replied, "I know." She leaned up and kissed on him on the cheek and then said, "Thanks again." Buck assisted her into the cab and then closed the door.

"Have a safe trip," he said.

She waved goodbye as the cab pulled away.

Josiah observed the exchange with interest and he approached Buck, stopping next to him as they watched Hilda leave.

"You ok?" asked Josiah.

"Yea," said Buck. "Funny how a couple days ago just the thought of getting married had me in a tailspin but now. . ."

"You're ready for it to happen?" asked Josiah.

"Well, I wouldn't go that far," replied a grinning Buck. "Let's just say I might consider it down the road if the right woman came along."

Josiah laughed as he said, "I'll be sure to notify the female population. . ."



The Las Vegas Chronicles