December 26, 1997 ‒ Almost Midnight, the Mirage Poker Room, Las Vegas, Nevada
It really wasn’t about winning money. Playing seven-card stud was what she wanted to do, or so Georgia Cates had been telling herself since the first time she had sat down at a casino poker table. Now, a little less than a quarter-million dollars in chips and paper money lay on the green felt in front of her. She casually riffled a stack of white five-thousand-dollar chips. Never mind that this money was all that was left of the $500,000 she had started with a few hours ago, and never mind that the entire half million was not hers in the first place and that she could go to prison for a very long time.
She had perfected her poker face, and the eight carats of diamond rings on her fingers sparkled, but not because her fingers were trembling. No one could guess that the elegant, perfectly composed woman in the Jil Sander suit was about to throw up. She tried to swallow, but her dry throat convulsed, and she coughed to cover up the gag impulse.
Who was she trying to fool? Herself? A little late for that. She had to win; her survival depended on it.
June 26, 1998
It was like trying to hurry across a frozen lake in four-inch heels. She forced herself to slow down as she made her way along the marble thoroughfare that spanned the Bellagio Casino.
“I will not slip, I will not fall,” she intoned, very aware of the several curious glances she got. But vocalizing her thoughts, transmitting them via her vocal cords so that the vibrations were sent to her eardrums and the neural message delivered to her brain, validated the reality of her existence. Talking to herself was the only way she knew to keep focused. So what if she was acting loonier than a bag lady?
“Think out loud,” she commanded herself. “I am Georgia Kassov Cates, poised and elegant, strolling along in my perfect clothes, great haircut, makeup subtle but effective. But can they see my lips moving? Do I care?”
Trying to imagine what she must look like on a casino surveillance camera, she concentrated on a nonchalant but brisk stride, doing her best to edit out the throngs of tourists, many with necks craned and fingers pointing. At her? No, of course not. This was Bellagio, and there were thousands of reasons to crane necks and point.
About The Book
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.