The poker room had a distinct atmosphere during the day, although only a glimpse of daylight ever penetrated the depths of the casino where the poker room was located, and that was from the domed roof of the rain forest. More than once, Georgia had looked up after hours at the poker table to see the gleam of dawn slanting through the glass over the jungle waterfall and had felt that innate guilt that she was out too late. No matter that she was on her own, that no one expected or awaited her return; that no curfew was in place; that the good little girl could stay out all night if she wanted to. Then she’d have to remind herself that she was not breaking any rules, that she was not shirking any responsibility, that her children were safe and old enough to care for themselves, and she too was an adult, independent and free to choose whatever hours she wanted to sleep, eat, play poker, shop. Amazing, delicious freedom.
The games that had continued through the night consisted of some players who had been there since the day before and several who had just arrived after a good night’s sleep, a shower and breakfast. Now, early in the afternoon, the room was quieter, more tranquil than it would be in the evening, when all the tables were filled and dozens more people wandered through, greeting each other and conducting business of all kinds, like a crowded marketplace in the heart of Marrakesh.
As she added her name to the waiting lists, a conservatively dressed man in a navy-blue Ralph Lauren polo shirt and khaki Dockers called her name. Georgia glanced in his direction, not recognizing him but realizing there was something familiar about the face, although it didn’t
seem to go with the thinning but neatly combed light brown hair. She smiled at him tentatively, and he grinned at her.
“Kruikshank,” he said, “John Kruikshank,” as though he couldn’t fathom why she didn’t recognize him.
“Kruikshank?” Georgia blurted before she could think. Then her mind caught up with her mouth. This clean-shaven, neatly dressed man with the steady hands and clear eyes of a neurosurgeon was the same person who had warned Milt and her about the pulsars and quasars emanating from the loudspeakers, not to mention the toxic gases that spewed from the air conditioning ducts.
“Don’t you recognize me?”
“Of…of course!” Georgia stuttered.
Kruikshank patted the table in front of him. “Join me,” he said. “I won’t bite. And yes, I realize there are times when I seem somewhat unlike I do today, but I can explain.”
Georgia smiled meekly. She pulled out the chair across from Kruikshank and sat. Kruikshank leaned over the table toward her. “Old Doc who has been managing my medication has finally come up with a combo that keeps me tuned into local channels.”
“Medication?” Unnerved as she was, Georgia tried for a chatty tone.
“Yeah, it was the pink pills that really blitzed me. I used to take twelve a day. Now I only take two and six robin’s egg blue ones. They replace the bright yellow capsules, but enough about my personal pharmacology.”
Title: River Card
Author: Joan Destino
Genre: Psychological Thriller
“Who was she trying to fool? Herself? A little late for that. She had to win; her survival depended on it.”
Do you have what it takes to lose it all? Find out in Joan Destino’s stunning debut novel, “River Card.”
Georgia Kassov Cates is a business woman, a wife, a mother…and a gambling addict. Desperate to recoup a devastating string of losses, she risks it all for one last game- a game that’s abruptly halted when the Las Vegas casino succumbs to a freak blackout.
Georgia meets some fellow patrons of the Las Vegas casino, including the wealthy Melanie Nallis, a woman haunted by her horrific childhood; Zivah Koski, an enigmatic elderly holocaust survivor; Phillip Vance, a billionaire casino developer; and Milt Braverman, a professional poker player.
As they get to know each other, a connection is slowly revealed: postwar Germany, a time and place that is reflected in” River Card’s novel-within-a-novel, “Alexandra.”
Alternating between the opulence and depravity of 1940s Germany, and the glamor and baseness of 1990s Las Vegas, “River Card” reflects Georgia’s mounting fears-both past and present-as she plays one last hand…
As the daughter of an Army Officer, Joan Destino traveled throughout her childhood, living in many parts of the U.S. as well as Germany. After high school and college in New England, she taught kindergarten in Boston while her husband attended law school. In the early seventies she moved to the Los Angeles area, raising her family in San Marino. She participated in the UCLA Writers’ Program for several years, culminating with several semesters in their Master Novel Writing Class. After playingTournament Bridge for years, shebegan playing casino poker in the mid-eighties. She bought a second home in Las Vegas in the mid-nineties and moved there permanently when her husband retired in 2004. Joan plays both cash and tournament poker including the World Series of Poker at the Rio Casino.
River Card on Goodreads
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