of the Draw
By Carolina Garcia-Aguilera
Published by Rayo
June 2003; 0060536330; 304 pages
I had just hung up the phone and closed my eyes expecting to go back to sleep -- always the optimist -- when it rang again. I knew this call wasn't to announce Fidel Castro's death -- every Cuban exile's dream come true -- so my enthusiasm for picking up was severely limited. I debated ignoring the call and letting my voice mail get it, but I can never let a phone ring unanswered. Instinct made me reach for the receiver in the darkness.
I was bringing the phone to my ear when I looked over to check out the number on the caller ID. I cursed when I saw that it was my older sister Sapphire on the line. Mierda! It was barely six-thirty in the morning, far too early to deal with a family crisis. First my mother had called, now Sapphire. It was a bad start to the day.
"Hey, Esmeralda, did Mama call you yet?" Sapphire launched in without any pretense of small talk. "She called me about ten minutes ago. I know she must have gotten to you by now."
We both knew what she was referring to. In an effort to avoid any appearance of favoritism. Mama always telephoned her children in order of their birth. That meant she would first call Sapphire, then Ruby, then me, then our sister Diamond out in Vegas. Our brother, Quartz, the baby, traditionally got the last call.
"What in the world is so fucking urgent that we all have to meet as soon as possible?" Sapphire asked in her shrill, staccato, migraine-inducing tone of voice. I felt a low-grade pain developing at the back of my neck.
Apparently she didn't expect me to answer, because she kept talking at breakneck speed. I groaned as I realized it was too early for her first dose of meds to have kicked in. I hated dealing with Sapphire when she was pharmaceutically free.
"I bet you a hundred dollars she's just being a drama queen," Sapphire said with delight. "There's probably no real emergency at all."
That last bit woke me up, as Sapphire knew it would. There was nothing like a friendly bet between me and my siblings. For a moment I considered taking her wager and doubling it. That's the problem with being born into a family in the gaming business -- betting was in our blood. Our pool of bets on Fidel Castro's death was in the tens of thousands of dollars. As the bastard lived longer and longer, we kept rolling the bets over, extending the windows.
I don't know what it's about , I said, making a supreme effort not to take the wager. "But it sounded important, Sapphire."
Tony, my husband, started thrashing around next to me, making sure I knew that he was irritated by all the noise coming from my side of the bed. At an earlier time I might have tried to make up with a sexual overture, culminating in a quickie before it was time to get up, but our relationship at this point was such that I didn't want to make a pass that might be rejected.
"It's too early to call Diamond," Sapphire said. "But maybe Ruby or Q will know more. I'm going to call them."
Sapphire hung up without saying good-bye. I doubted Ruby or our brother would know anything we didn't, but Sapphire didn't give me time to say so. Well, let them enjoy an early morning call from our unmedicated eldest sister. it would be interesting to see what shape they were in when Sapphire phoned. Our family doesn't do well with situations that happen in the morning -- unless it is an extension of something that began the night before.
I put down the receiver and pulled the sheets all the way up to my chin. Like most people in Miami, we kept our bedroom temperature as cold as the air conditioner could go. Sometimes I awoke with chapped lips. The chill in the room was starting to make me shiver, so I gently appropriated the rest of the down comforter from Tony, careful not to disturb him further. It was too early in the day to deal with my husband just yet -- that challenge would come soon enough.
I looked over at the bedside clock and saw that in two minutes the first of my three alarms was about to go off -- I don't do well in the morning. Sometimes I entertained the delusion that my children might find a slot in some "exclusive" night school. It was a pretty unlikely scenario, considering the fact that they were still in elementary school.
As an interior decorator with my own company, I could set my own schedule. The only reason for me to wake up early was to roust my sons, feed them breakfast, and drop them off at school. The four of us were nearly comatose in the morning, and we barely said a word as we dressed and had breakfast. I made the boys drink double café con leches before we left the house, and still they slept in the car all the way to school. I had to yell at them to wake up and then get out and open the door myself when we finally arrived there. All three of my sons were good students, and regularly made the honor roll, but I also got notes from their teachers asking if they got enough rest, Apparently they fell asleep in class with alarming regularity. I told the teachers there was nothing wrong. It was in the genes.
The boys and I were in heaven during school vacations, because then we could sleep all day and stay up all night. My work schedule entailed my showing up at the office around noon, and I rarely scheduled an appointment earlier in the day. If the boys didn't have to be at school the next morning, it wasn't uncommon for us to have dinner at ten at night ...
Gambling runs through the blood of the Navarro family. And like the luck needed to score big, the Navarro clan will certainly need a lot of it, if they're going to hold themselves together through a hilariously highstakes game of family history and secrets.
Having heard her entire life of the lost glory of La Estrella -- "The Star," the name of the casino the Navarro family owned in Havana before Castro took power -- Esmeralda thinks it a joke when her mother informs her and her siblings Sapphire, Ruby, and Quartz that the family has a duty to bring La Estrella back into existence.
With a mandate given to her through a dream, the Navarro matriarch announces that in order for La Estrella to thrive once more, the family must be reunited in Miami. Only there's a hitch: the youngest daughter, Diamond, a journalist living in Las Vegas, is missing. The family must find a way to rescue her, not only in time to restore the family's lost business to its shimmering glory, but also to save Diamond's life.
Esmeralda, the most sensible of the Navarro clan, is dispatched to Las Vegas, and to an underworld that this Miami mother of three thought she would never be suited for. Surprisingly, Esmeralda is not only suited for it, she thrives in it.
From seedy bar to casino to back alley, Esmeralda sleuths her way through Las Vegas with sexy style -- and into a mystery that is much larger than she, her family, and her family's history had ever bargained for.
With a lightning-paced narrative and the author's trademark sense of glamour and tongue-in-cheek humor, Luck of the Draw will keep you laughing, and in suspense, until the very last page.(back to top)
Carolina Garcia-Aguilera was born in Havana, Cuba in 1949. A love of mysteries since childhood led Carolina to become a private investigator. She practiced ten years in Miami and now puts her experiences and knowledge to use in her novels.