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Flipp knew from the moment she stepped off the train and smelled the salt-and-chip fat that Goldsands was going to suit her.
It was a place where a new girl in town drew little in the way of notice or comment. A place of comers and goers, dreamers and transients, addicts and bohemians. They washed in and out like the tide on the broad curving beach that gave the place its name. Some of them sank, some of them trod water, and some of them found exactly what they were looking for here. Of course, Flipp didn't know at the time which of those she would turn out to be, but she was hoping to find out, one way or another.
So, by the time she was established in her little change booth at Caesar's Palace on the Pier, Flipp knew that she wanted to be in Goldsands. Her resolve was certainly bolstered, though, when Rocky rocked up, interrupting her nail-filing mission and hurling himself slap-bang into the middle of her dirtiest dreams.
"The boss in?" he asked curtly, raising an eyebrow towards the door marked Private: Staff Only.
Flipp didn't look up at first, registering only a low, grumpy-sounding voice. She pinched her lips together and wondered if Maroon Moon was really the right shade for her.
"Who wants to know?" The mockney accent was getting difficult to sustain, so she only spoke when absolutely necessary.
"Rocky wants to know."
She looked up at that, taking him in for the first time and liking what she saw. And who would not like a piece of Rocky? Six-feet-two of Herculean man in black bike leathers with accessorising hair and stubble, he was enough to stop most female traffic in its tracks.
"Oh," she said, laying down her nail file and running fingers through her hair. "So you're Rocky. The boss said I should watch out for you."
"Watch out, eh?" Rocky leaned an elbow on the shelf of the booth, peering through the scratched Plexiglas screen, leading the new girl to hope she was casting a spell of intrigue on him. "Did he tell you I was dangerous, then?"
Flipp leaned forward, meeting his devilish gaze, the tips of their noses only prevented from touching by the barrier. "Something like that." She grinned, wishing she had some gum to chew on. It was so much easier to look cool and indifferent to a guy when you were chewing, for some reason.
"He was right. I'm the big bad wolf. What's your name? Don't tell me it's Little Red Riding Hood."
She giggled and looked away briefly before turning back to him. "It's Flipp."
"What kind of a name's that?"
"No worse than Rocky."
"Cheeky. I'll see you later." Emphasising the "you," he backed away, pointing one gloved finger in her direction before disappearing through the staff door in a jink-clink of buckles and belts.
The smile stayed on Flipp's lips for a moment or two afterwards, then she took out her mirror compact and slathered on another layer of gloss. While she was thus occupied, a pair of spotty teenagers approached, shuffling from foot to foot, fists clenched inside the pockets of their hoodies.
"Tokens?" one of them said, once it was clear she was not about to acknowledge them of her own accord.