Excerpt from What the Gambler Risks:
“One more hand. Winner buys the loser a drink?”
She tilted her water bottle toward him. “I already have a drink.”
Jase snickered but was careful to keep the sound light and friendly. “That’s not a drink.” He lifted his glass of soda water with lime to his mouth. Most people wouldn’t consider the contents of his glass a real drink, either, but he rarely drank when he played. Alcohol and cards did not mix well in Jase’s opinion. “What do you have to lose?” he pressed.
“We’ll see,” she said, not meeting his gaze directly, and he was 75 percent positive she was on her way to a yes.
The dealer switched decks and then dealt the cards. Jase had random cards in his hands, but he didn’t care. The woman studied her hand, one manicured nail tapping against the cards. Considering.
“Twenty,” she said, throwing a chip on the table.
“Raise to forty,” Jase said, tossing two chips on the table. The best plan of attack when the cards in his hand were useless was to make her think he held something amazing. He didn’t bluff in real card games, but despite her two wins, he didn’t peg this woman as a true card player. If she were a regular player, she wouldn’t be so transparent about what she held in her hands.
The woman blinked, and her teeth began nibbling at her lower lip.
“Are you in?” he asked, a bit more forcefully than was necessary.
Her finger tapped faster against the cards in her hand. “I’ll take three,” she said and slid three cards to the dealer.
As soon as her new cards were in her hands, Jase said, “I’ll stand.” And he stacked his worthless cards with all the careless confidence he used in high-stakes games around the globe. The kind of confidence that made big-time, big-money gamblers think twice about going against him in the second betting round.
The woman circled her index finger around her remaining green chip, considering her options. Call, take the gamble, lose, and have a drink with him. Of course, it would take a truly pitiful hand to lose to what he held. She could fold and have a drink with him. She could also call his bluff and, depending on the cards in her own hand, win. He didn’t like the thought of her winning, but if her winning at the table landed the two of them at the bar, was it really a loss for him?
“Call,” she said, and Jase felt a wave of admiration for his opponent. Which was not good, because if she was calling she had to have something in her hand, and he had a big, fat zero. Which meant she would win. Jase didn’t like to lose, especially at poker, not even when it was a friendly game instead of a high-stakes match with thousands of dollars to lose.
She laid down her cards: three queens, a two, and a ten.
“Three of a kind. Nice.”
“I was hoping for a full house.”
“I was hoping you’d fold, so I could buy you that drink,” he said and laid his cards—all four suits, random order—on the table.
“Nice bluff, I almost folded.”
“If it had been a better bluff, you would have folded.” He watched her for a moment across the table. “Now you have to buy me the drink; all in all, not a bad night at the table.”
The woman pushed back from the table, pulling the pot in the middle to her side. Jase pocketed the chips he had left in his stack. “I never agreed to that bed,” she said, and her hands stilled over the chips. Her gaze flicked to his, and despite the dim light, he saw the flush that crept over her cheeks.
“And here I thought we were just talking about a drink. I have to tell you, I’m not the kind of guy to go off to a strange woman’s hotel room after a lousy hand of poker,” he said with mock outrage.
“Bet. I meant bet.”