“Hey, Dawson. Bet you a hundred bucks you can’t eat that whole pizza in under five minutes.”
“Dude, why would I want to do that?” Craig Dawson frowned at Bill Tompkins, the SEAL sitting opposite him.
Tompkins drew back. “What the hell kind of a question is that? It’s Vegas. You gotta gamble.”
If Craig wanted to gamble he could play the slots rather than make himself sick and ruin his meal. It wasn’t like there weren’t slot machines absolutely everywhere, from the gates at the airport to the grocery stores.
He couldn’t even get to his hotel room without being led through the maze of gambling opportunities. It felt as if he’d covered miles just trying to walk from point A to point B this weekend because there was no direct path anywhere. But that, he supposed, was Vegas.
“I’m not a big gambler.” Craig lifted one shoulder and bit into a piping hot slice of pizza, taking his time to savor the flavor.
It was good—thin crust, tasty sauce, not too much cheese, just the right amount of grease. Good pizza was something he could appreciate and something that was damn hard to come by outside of New York State where he’d grown up.
“But it’s Vegas.” Tompkins repeated himself, as if that fact would convince Craig to change his mind and take the ridiculous bet.
“Yup, it is.” He nodded.
Training in Nevada definitely had a few perks. The proximity to twenty-four hour fun was one of them.
Last time they’d been aboard Naval Air Station Fallon the team had gone to Reno seeking entertainment since it was only an hour away from the air station.
This time, during the weekend liberty the team had been granted, they’d decided to take the trip to Sin City itself—Las Vegas.
There were many opportunities for entertainment there besides gambling, one of which Craig was very excited to take advantage of.
“So what are you going to do while you’re here if not gamble? Take in the Celine Dion show?” Tompkins scoffed.
“Nope.” Craig pulled a printed color brochure out of the back pocket of his pants and tossed it on the table. “That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow.”
Tompkins might be jonesing to gamble on anything and everything this weekend, but Craig had a different plan for his money. It was better than shows or even showgirls. Definitely better than sitting at a slot machine or a blackjack table in a sunless casino for hours.
The Adventure Range. He and a couple of his teammates were heading there tomorrow.
“A shooting range?” Tompkins frowned, staring at the brochure in his hand.
“Not just any shooting range. They take you in a helicopter over the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, then you get dropped off to ride ATVs to the shooting range.”
The furrow in Tompkins’ forehead deepened. “This crap costs hundreds of dollars.”
“Yeah, but it’s almost a full day and you get a lot for that. And they feed you. At the end there’s a barbecue with hamburgers and hot dogs.”
Tompkins cocked one brow high. “Did you get brain damage during your last op? You do remember what you do for a living, right? Pretty much all of this stuff and the Navy pays you to do it, not the other way around.”
“But that’s work. This is for fun. And we’ve got a bet riding on who’s the best shot.” Craig figured Tompkins would appreciate that at least, since he seemed to be ready to bet on just about anything, including eating pizza.
Tompkins rolled his eyes. “You’re nuts.”
“If I am, then so is the rest of my team because a bunch of us are going. Brody Cassidy wants to check it out since his brother Chris is thinking about opening something similar back home.”
“Fine.” Tompkins tossed the brochure onto the table. “Anyway, that bullshit is tomorrow. Right? You can still go out and have fun tonight.”
Craig swallowed another bite of pizza and shrugged. “I guess. As long as I’m not home too late.”
He didn’t want to be tired for the big day since he had a hundred bucks riding on this bet with his teammates about who could score best on the range tomorrow. But besides the money, there was his pride.
Craig would be damned if the older guys bested him. They treated him like a kid already. And it seemed no matter how many months passed and how many missions he went on with them, he was still considered a new guy by the others who’d been on this team for years.
No matter how well he performed during missions he would always have years less in the field than the older guys. At least until they retired and he became the old guy.
He couldn’t seem to combat the image. Even more than a year after Craig had finished training and been accepted into the elite DEVGRU program and been assigned to his team they still called him the kid. Craig feared it was now his nickname, whether he liked it or not.
Maybe when someone younger joined the team it would change. But for now—at the Adventure Range—there he’d be on equal footing. He intended to take full advantage of it.
He couldn’t wait.
Although, Tompkins was right. Craig could have a little bit of fun tonight and still be sharp for the range tomorrow.
Hell, more than a bit of his training prepared him to function at peak performance on little-to-no sleep.
“What are you planning on doing after you finish eating that?” Craig tipped his chin to indicate the single oversized meatball on Tompkins’ plate.
The thing was the size of a baby’s head. He’d never seen a meatball that giant before in his life. It was a little freaky.
No wonder his teammate Rocky Mangiano had turned up his nose at this restaurant. Rocky, a born and bred connoisseur of Italian cuisine, had sneered and called it tourist food.
Looking at the plate in front of his dining partner, Craig had to admit the meatball sure didn’t look like something Rocky’s mother would serve up at home.
As Tompkins attacked the beast of a ball with fork and knife, he said, “I’m hitting up a bar.”
“A bar?” Now it was Craig’s turn to scoff. “You can go to a bar at home.”
“First off, there are slot machines in the bars here, which there aren’t at home. Second, this particular bar happens to be strategically right outside the theater and directly in the path of the women leaving the male strip show, which gets out . . .” He referred to the watch on his left wrist. “In two hours.”