Style in a Small Town Mystery #8
Paperback ISBN: 9781939197467
eBook ISBN: 9781939197429
When amateur sleuth Samantha Kidd is assigned to cover the lingerie shows in Las Vegas, her excitement is more visible than panty lines. Events in her hometown have made her a celebrity, and a romantic getaway with fiancé Nick Taylor is timely.
But when a lingerie model is found dead outside their hotel room, their escape turns brief. Cheeky designers, high class hookers, and tabloid trouble make this gamble her most dangerous one yet, but when push-up comes to shove, Samantha bares everything in order to save her future.
Panty Raid is the eighth feel-good mystery in the Style in a Small Town cozy series. If you like funny situations, determined sleuths, and surprising endings, then you’ll love Diane Vallere’s out-of-town mystery.
Don't get caught with your panties down. Snatch Panty Raid today!
I expected the Eiffel Tower to be bigger.
When the powers that be at Tradava, the department store where I worked, first approached me about attending the lingerie trade shows in Paris on their behalf, I said yes. After hearing the word “Paris,” my mind may have gone to the land of baguettes, beatniks, and Beaujolais. Turns out they meant the trade shows in Las Vegas, not the ones in France. They booked me a room at The Left Bank, a new fake French casino that had popped up across the street from the original fake French casino (which was a fake version of Paris, France). They’d sent me to the city of sin, not the city of lights.
On the bright side, if I tired of Paris, it was only a two-block walk to New York.
Tradava was in the middle of a Chapter 11 reorganization after some messy details surfaced eight months ago about ties to local mafia. Considering I’d had something to do with exposing those details, I wasn’t sure they still wanted me around.
But for all the bad press they received, my star was on the rise. The local newspaper ran a profile on me that got picked up by the AP wire. I was invited to sit in for a weekly stint as guest host of Good Day, Ribbon!, the local cable morning show. A recruiter called to see if I was interested in more lucrative positions at competitors. For the first time since I filled out an application to work for Tradava, our association was better for them than for me. Keeping me on the payroll was the best publicity Tradava could buy.
I stood on the sidewalk outside of The Left Bank while Elvis circa 1970 and Madonna circa 1991 posed in front of the half-scale Eiffel Tower across the street. The bright August sun reflected off the red, blue, and green rhinestones on Elvis’s jumpsuit, calling even more attention to the selfie photo shoot than their costumes already did. Madonna smoothed her long blond ponytail, pulling it over one shoulder. I snapped a couple of pictures with my phone. Madonna reached into her cone bra and adjusted her stuffing (at least that’s what I assumed she was doing). Elvis did a few karate moves with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
As I watched the unbridled display of attention-seeking, I wondered if perhaps the powers that be hadn’t had something else in mind by sending me here. Like getting me out of town while the attention died down.
I caught a whiff of sandalwood and musk and turned around. Nick Taylor, shoe designer to the luxury market and fiancé to me, rolled our luggage onto the sidewalk. “Do you think you packed enough?” he asked.
“I packed like I was going to Paris.”
“This is Las Vegas.”
“Don’t spoil the illusion.” I grabbed the handle of my train case. “Let’s get checked in.”
“I hope the room’s ready,” he said. “We can grab some food and hit the casinos.”
“Let me guess: you’re a blackjack guy.”
“Nope. Winning at blackjack requires too much thought.”
“Yeah, um, most people like to have some control over their money.”
“Not me,” he said. “If I’m going to gamble, I’m going to gamble. Let the universe determine the outcome. Roulette. Slot machines. Craps. Win or lose based on the roll of the dice.”
“Interesting,” I said, studying his profile. With Nick’s recent financial trouble, I’d expected him to eschew the lure of casinos. This devil-may-care attitude was a surprise.
In fact, Nick had been full of surprises recently. After his company had been tied to the mafia trouble too, he lost everything. He’d tried to keep me from getting involved, but that had backfired famously. Yet somehow, we came out of it closer than ever.
The timing of the Las Vegas trade show was fortuitous. The past few months had been rough on Nick’s business. He issued a statement to the fashion media, subleased his apartment in Milan to a friend, and put out feelers in the industry. When the opportunity to join me in Las Vegas for a few days presented itself, he jumped at the chance to get away. A luxury accessory market was taking place at the same time, so Nick would have something to do while I was busy watching models parade about in lingerie.
I would have invited him to join me, but lingerie models. I’m not stupid.
We entered our hotel and located the check-in desk. The room was under my name. I dug out my wallet and approached the concierge. The floor was inlaid marble with an elaborate pattern of curly waves, suns and circles. Surrounding the lobby were boutiques and restaurants, each offering the fake Parisienne experience. Baguettes and Beaujolais were still in my future. (I wasn’t so sure about the beatniks.) Nick waited for me by a round gilded fountain that could have accommodated a family of eight.
“Hi, I’m Samantha Kidd,” I said to the concierge. “I have a reservation for a room with an Eiffel Tower view.”
“Meees Keeed,” the man answered in a possibly phony French accent. His nametag said Jacques. “Welcome to Paree.”
I smiled. “Merci.”
Jacques copied my ID and clicked the mouse. His expression changed to confusion. He maneuvered his mouse a few times and clicked again.
“Is there a problem?”
“I’m not sure,” Jacques said. “Ze computer shows all of our Eiffel Tower views are full. Perhaps I can put you in a room with a view of ze fountain?”
“I don’t understand.” Being slightly old-school, I’d printed my itinerary and kept it in my bag. I pulled out the folded sheets of paper and turned them toward Jacques. “I made the reservation weeks ago,” I said, tapping the papers.
Jacques clicked the mouse a few more times, and then his eyes widened. “Oh,” he said. “I’m sorry, Meees Keeed. A guest of the hotel requested your room. We have upgraded you to ze French Countryside. I’ll send up a bottle of our best champagne, and a voucher for fifty dollars in our casino.”
I was hot. And tired. And cranky. I turned around and saw Nick chatting with a man in a gray tropical weight wool suit and a black shirt unbuttoned at the collar. The man had an expensive Goyard briefcase with the initials MR embossed in gold. Whoever he was, he had money.
And for the first time in eight months, Nick seemed completely relaxed and at ease. I didn’t want to tell him there was a problem with the reservation, but I’d spent the past week watching videos people had made of their view from The Left Bank and talking up fake Paris. I’d specifically chosen this room. When Nick had suggested I get reservations at Flush, the convention center hotel where the trade shows were scheduled, I’d made a case that a Paris-themed hotel was more romantic than a hotel based on a poker hand and had promised to make our stay in fake Paris worth his while.
I was fairly sure a bottle of champagne and a fifty-dollar casino voucher wouldn’t distract him from the fact that the Eiffel Tower wasn’t outside our window.
I turned back to Jacques. “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
“Absolutement,” he said.
I approached Nick and the stranger. Nick saw me coming and held out his hand. I took it.
“This is her. Samantha Kidd. Samantha, this is Marc Rico.”
Nick dropped my hand and put his arm around my shoulders.
I shook Marc’s hand. “Are you in the shoe industry?” I asked.
Nick laughed. “Marc’s in the media industry. He owns four cable networks and two satellite stations.”
“And a lingerie company,” he said.
“You own a lingerie company? Is that why you’re in Vegas?” I asked.
“Not exactly,” he said. His eyes were dark brown and intense. He maintained eye contact with me for slightly too long, and I looked away, embarrassed by the sense that I was being studied. I turned to look at the concierge, who was watching the three of us from the desk.
“Nice meeting you, Marc.”
He smiled like I’d said something funny. Nick’s hand tightened on my shoulder.
“Do you mind if I talk to Nick for a moment? Alone?”
“Be my guest. I have to check on my arrangements for tonight.” He left the two of us and approached Jacques.
Nick grabbed the handles on the suitcases. “Which way to our room?”
“Hold up,” I said. “Who was that guy?”
“I just introduced you. That was Marc Rico.”
“How do you know him?”
“We went to college together.”
I looked back at Marc. “Why did he smile when I said his name?”
“I imagine he’s used to strangers calling him Mr. Rico. He probably thought it was cute.”
“I don’t get it. You’re the same age, right? Are you used to people calling you Mr. Taylor?”
“No, but I’m not a billionaire.”
“He’s a bill—”
Nick clamped a hand over my mouth. “Let’s talk about this after we get to our room, okay? I want to set up the iPad to take a time release video of the sun setting over the Eiffel Tower, and the light is good right now.”
“We, um, don’t have a room yet,” I said.
I pouted. “The hotel gave our room away. They offered us another room, a bottle of champagne, and a fifty-dollar casino voucher, but I…I had my heart on the Eiffel Tower view. It’s stupid, I know.”
Nick leaned down and whispered in my ear. “It’s not stupid if it’s important to you, but to be honest, I was hoping when we’re in the room, we wouldn’t spend all of our time looking out the window. If you know what I mean.”
I did, and the mere suggestion shifted my priorities from a room with a view to a room with a bed. “I’ll be right back,” I said.
I reapproached the front desk. “Okay, we’ll take the French Countryside room,” I said, quickly adding, “and the champagne.”
Marc, who’d been listening from a few feet away, stepped closer. “Put their room on my bill,” he said.
“Pardonez moi, Monsieur Rico,” Jacques said. “I did not know Meees Keeed was part of your partee.”
“I’m not,” I said.
At the same time, Marc said, “She is now.” He glanced at my printed reservation. “You’re supposed to be in a room with a view. My plans must have bumped you. Jacques, take care of them. Give them a room on my floor.”
“Of course.” Jacques looked embarrassed. He took the keycards he’d already coded for me, tossed them into the trash, and coded a new set. He handed them to me and set my ID, credit card, and a shiny gold poker chip with $50 embossed on the surface on the counter. “Enjoy your stay at ze Left Bank,” he said. He rang a bell, and a bellman appeared with a gold-plated luggage cart.
“Thank you,” I said. I turned to Marc. “I’m not sure what just happened, but thank you, too.”
Marc picked up the gold poker chip, tossed it in the air, caught it, and pressed it into my hand. “Nice to meet you, Sammie.” He winked and walked away.
“It’s Samantha,” I said to his receding back.
I shoved the poker chip into my pocket and rejoined Nick while the bellman loaded our luggage onto his cart. “Looks like we’re back in business,” I said. “A room with a view, right this way.”
“Never underestimate your charm, Kidd.”
“It wasn’t my charm so much as your friend’s generosity. He’s the one who bumped us in the first place. When he found out we’d been inconvenienced, he fixed it so we got what we originally expected.”
Nick stopped in his tracks, and I ran into him. The bellman kept walking and disappeared into an open elevator. When Nick turned around, his eyes narrowed.
“Go back to the front desk and take the other room, Kidd.”
“It’s already done, Nick. And the bellman is probably halfway to our room. It’s fine.” I forced my voice to be light and teasing. “I’ll be on my best behavior and won’t embarrass you around your rich friend.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about. I haven’t seen Marc Rico since college. He’s the last person in the world I want to owe.”