Authors: Missy Johnson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Teen & Young Adult
It was official; I could not have looked like any more of a psycho if I’d tried. I moved away an inch, trying to get my head clear from the spell she seemed to put me under whenever I got close to her. I pretended not notice the way she swept her hair over one shoulder, or the way she played with her nails when she was nervous. Or that cute little smile that appeared when someone said something funny.
I grabbed the two cards Ash had dealt me. I placed them flat on the table, and flicked up the edges so that only Rose and I could see. A king of hearts, and a ten of diamonds. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down the order of winning hands.
“Keep this next to you. A pair is the lowest winning hand—well, technically you can win with no pairs and the highest card. The best possible hand is a royal flush. You'll get the feel for the cards the more you play, and trust me, working here you will play a lot. The aim is to get the best hand, or have your opponents
you have the best hand. You can have the worst possible cards, but if you can convince your opponents you have something good by betting high then you’ll probably win.” I explained, then motioned for Ash to start dealing.
"So the way it works is the dealer deals two cards to every player. The key to a good poker hand is pretending you have a good hand, even if you have the shittiest combination possible, okay?" I asked, glancing up at her. Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she nodded. I chuckled. She looked as confused as hell.
“From what I hear, Jack thinks he’s pretty good with his hands,” chuckled Ash, his eyes on Rose.
“You hear that from your sister, hey?” I shot back. Everyone laughed.
I turned back to Rose. "So, what we have here isn't a bad hand. You don't have to play every game, and if you're dealt something like a three and a seven off suit, then folding is probably your best bet. So after the initial two cards around the betting takes place. It's at this point you decide whether or not you want to play." I picked up two chips and placed them neatly in front of me.
"So now more cards will be dealt?" She asked uncertainly, glancing around the table.
I nodded. "That's right. The dealer will burn a card, and then placed three cards upright on the table."
"He burns a card?" Disbelief filled her voice.
I chuckled. "Not literally. In poker, burning simply means tossing aside." She blushed and I chuckled again. This girl was...I couldn't even put into words what I was feeling. I pushed aside those thoughts and forced myself to focus as Ash placed the three cards face up on the table. "So now there will be another round of betting. You don't have to raise, but if someone else raises you need to match their bet in order to stay in the game."
"Yeah, and Jack's always raising," Ash smirked, winking at Rose. Laughter followed his comment, only I wasn't laughing. I was too busy giving Ash a death stare. "What?" he asked innocently, his blue eyes twinkling. "It's true. You like to raise don't you?"
I threw three more chips in front of me, ignoring his comment. "We have a pretty good cards so it makes sense to raise. If you have a good hand you can hold off raising and let everyone think that they are holding shit. The beauty of this is that someone, probably Ash,” I said, glaring at him, “will try and bluff their way into buying the pot. Buying the pot means they will go in with a big bet to scare everyone into thinking they're holding something really good."
"And then I can match that bet?" Rose asked, her brow creasing in concentration. She was so damned cute. I reached over to the cards she held in her hands partly because I’d forgotten and partly because I wanted another excuse to touch her. My hand overlapped hers, until she lifted them high enough for me to see.
“Nice hand,” I whispered in her ear. She turned to me and grinned.
“I’m going to assume you’re talking about the cards.”
“Them too. Y
ou can raise. If you're feeling really confident, you can put him all in." Ash snorted at my comment. I glared at him. "Are you fucking kidding me?" I asked. "I mean, what are you, twelve?" laughter erupted around the table.
"What can I say? Words like 'raise' and 'all in' make me horny," he teased. He grinned at Rose, who shook her head and rolled her eyes, clearly not falling for his oh-so-smooth attitude. My heart was pounding so loud it was all I could hear. I was glad she wasn't falling for Ash's charms. He was a good-looking guy, and he knew it. Ash was me three years ago. A different chick every night and everything was about fun. The thought of Rose falling for that—for him—made my stomach turn.
She never would have fallen for me three years ago.
"Save your sweet talk for tomorrow," I growled at Ash. He shrugged and glanced at Rose, then back at me. I saw something in his eyes. Realization. That I wasn't fucking around. He had really pissed me off, and now he thought he knew why.
Whatever he thought he knew, it was wrong. So I didn't want Rose ending up in his clutches. That didn't mean I wanted her. She was just some girl I was attracted to. So what? It didn't mean anything. But even as I thought the words I knew there was more to it than just attraction. I'd been attracted to pretty girls before. Hell, I was attracted to Harmony, but what I felt with Rose was different.
The mood in the room completely changed. Suddenly it was serious, as everyone focused on the cards in front of them like they were the most interesting things on earth. I caught a look exchanged by Benj and Darcy and shot them a deathly look.
"You play this hand, and I'll watch you," I murmured.
She glanced at me, and nodded. God, there were so many things I wanted to watch this girl do, and playing cards was way down the bottom of that list. Unless the card game was strip poker.
Now there’s an idea.
A really bad one. We would all end up naked except Ash.
After a few more hands, she seemed to have the hang of things. Enough for her to play on her own anyway. I moved my chair back. Our proximity was beginning to make me perspire. Fuck it was hot in here. I pushed my chair back. I needed another drink, and more importantly I needed a few seconds away from this girl. She was clouding my thoughts, and she was sending each and every one of my senses into overdrive. The scent of her perfume, the sound of her voice, the way I felt when her skin brushed past mine, and god, how I longed to taste those lips. I'd been in the same room with her for less than an hour and it was driving me fucking crazy.
"Anyone want a drink?" I called out. Responses came in thick and fast, everyone requesting something different. My question had broken the awkward silence. I rolled my eyes. I shouldn't have asked.
"I'll give you a hand," Rose said, jumping up.
Before I could answer she was beside me. My fingers trembled as I clutched on to a glass. Placing it under the tap, I filled it with beer. She stood beside me carefully pouring out two glasses of wine. All I could think right then was that if it weren't for the table full of people to our left, my body would be pressed up against hers my mouth finally tasting those sweet lips.
"Thanks for this, Jack. For giving me a chance. I promise I won't let you down." She took the beer from my hands.
“Thank Alex, but I’m glad you’re here. I’m looking forward to getting to know you, Rose.”
She flashed me a smile. “Really? That’s not the feeling I got before.”
“Something you will learn pretty quickly around here is that I can be a huge ass sometimes. But I’m not past admitting when I’m wrong,” I chuckled.
She tilted her head and smiled. “I’m glad to hear that. Maybe, if you’re free for lunch one day I can take you to experience the best Tacos Brooklyn has to offer?”
Her proposal came out of nowhere, knocking the wind out of me. Suddenly, I was right back where I was before, my shame for being attracted to this sexy beauty beginning to take over.
I glanced away, feeling guilty about the dirty thoughts that were circling through my brain. How the fuck was I supposed to focus when all I wanted to do was drag her up to my room, throw her down on the bed and fuck some sense into her? Of course, she didn't know what she was doing to me. She had no fucking idea just how much I wanted to feel myself inside of her, and even less idea why that could never happen.
Just tell her no. Tell her it’s a confliction of power, being her boss and all
. “Sounds good,” I choked out. Bugger. Now I was fucked. I was taking direction from my dick rather than my brain, and if past experience had taught me anything, it was that my dick knew fuck all when it came to doing what’s right.
I shifted uncomfortably, the headrest cutting into my neck as I struggled to find a position that would allow me at least a few more hours sleep. Mom and Dad had threatened to kick me out if I didn't 'comply' with their treatment plan, but the fact that they'd done so had shocked me. I never thought I’d be sleeping in my car.
What the hell was their problem? I was getting help, I just couldn't stand being in that god forsaken place a moment longer. Locking me up was not the answer. Did they expect that leaving me in that place for twelve weeks would leave them with a brand new daughter?
it were that easy.
I didn't have a problem that could just be fixed with therapy or drugs. It was hard to describe how I felt. Most of the time I could work through the anxiety and get on with life, but eventually it would get on top of me. It was like I was running too fast and I knew I needed to slow down but my feet wouldn't listen. I could see the wall getting closer and closer and I knew I was going to hit it and it terrified me, but there was nothing I could do. What scared me the most was not knowing what was behind that wall.
Still, it had to be better than living.
Thank god for Alex getting me this job. That meant in a couple of weeks I could get a cheap place to rent. But in the meantime, I'd need to make the most of my car. I tried to stretch out my legs in the tiny foot well of the convertible.
Why hadn't I listened to my father and gotten something more practical?
Opening my eyes, I gave them a moment to adjust to the sunlight that was glaring through the windshield. Shit, and it wasn't even six in the morning yet. A garbage truck moved slowly past me, clambering along loudly, stopping every few meters to empty a bin. Somehow, I didn't like my chances of getting anymore sleep.
I'd parked just down from the bar, off a side street where I thought I was least likely to be bothered. The police were the least of my worries. I was more concerned about having my window bashed in and being raped and murdered and having my naked body dumped in a trashcan.
And who said
Law and Order
wasn't informative? That would teach my parents though. How bad would you feel having to go down to the morgue to identify your only daughter hours after you kicked her out for being too mentally unstable?
As I chuckled at the thought, my stomach growled loudly, demanding to be fed. I spied a coffee shop across the road where a girl was carrying out tables and chairs. That had to mean they were open, right? My mind wandered back to the night when I was seventeen I got hungry after studying all night. I’d ducked down to the twenty four hour grocery store…Or at least I’d thought it had been twenty four hours. After about fifteen minutes of being stared at by staff, I was informed they were actually closed. I’d dropped the basket and run out, completely mortified.
I sifted through my purse for the few dollars it would cost me to buy a coffee. Or ten. I had the feeling today was going to be a long day. I got out of the car and stretched. Oh god that felt good. I zipped up my jacket, the cool wind hitting me in the face enough to jolt me fully awake. I crossed the road and approached the girl.
"Are you open?" I asked her.
She smiled at me and nodded. "Just."
"Can I get a coffee please?" I asked, handing her my money. I tried to ignore the glances she kept sneaking at me. Did I look that bad? I subtly wiped the edges of my mouth, wondering if I'd been drooling in my sleep again. Yeah, I did that sometimes. Okay, I did that often.
"Anything else?" I shook my head. My stomach rumbled loud enough that she just
to have heard. "No. Just coffee." I stood up and walked over to a table, taking a copy of the newspaper with me. I had no intentions of reading it; I just didn't want the awkwardness of having nowhere to look while I waited. I yawned, covering my mouth and trying to keep my eyelids from falling closed. I think I'd gotten three hours, which was better than nothing but nowhere near enough. I was nervous enough about my first shift tonight without having to add exhausted to the list of things I was feeling. Reaching up to my neck, I tried to rub some of the tension away.
"Here you go."
I jumped, not even aware that she'd walked over to me. She placed a coffee and a stack of pancakes in front of me. I looked up at her, ready to hand them back, even though my stomach was screaming for food.
"On the house." She smiled at me and just stood there, like she was trying to decide whether to say something. In the end, she slid into the seat opposite me. "What's your name?" she asked. Was she trying to hit on me?
"Rose," I said, shoveling a forkful of food into my mouth, pushing all my dignity aside. God, this tasted so good. I was so hungry that I was barely chewing it as it passed down my throat.
"Rose," she repeated. She bit her lip and eyed me hesitantly. The way she was looking at me made me nervous. No wonder this place was so empty, even if it was barely morning. Did she just stand there and stare at everyone? "I worked the late shift here last night...I saw you in your car. And then I arrive here to open and you're still there." Her voice was curt, almost as if she were accusing me of something. Okay, definitely not hitting on me.
I didn't answer. I just kept eating. Answering required energy, which I just didn't have a lot of right now. Besides, there was no point denying it, and I doubted she would believe I just fell asleep. Wait a minute, why did I even need to explain myself to her?