What she failed to accept was that I didn’t have a heart to give a woman.
My family . . . yes. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for any of them. Even Elena had breeched my defenses. She cared about my brother in a way I don’t think even he had expected. Most women wouldn’t be able to handle the life we led. Violence, crime, and risk surrounded us all of the time. There was no reprieve. No time out. Elena and my mom were a special kind of woman, accepting the men in their lives for who they were. They didn’t expect them to change.
No woman in the world could change me.
“Raise a grand.”
The lighting in the room was low, but I didn’t have to see his face properly to know that this fucker had no idea what he was doing. If he kept this shit up, he was going to have to see my brother for a loan to keep playing.
Wasden slid the chips into the center of the table, his hand shaking. He never knew when to just give up. Worked for me. His tells were obvious, and I could always weasel more money out of him than any of the other morons who graced my tables.
Without a word, I counted the chips and dropped them into the center of the table. “Flip ’em.”
I leaned back in my chair, waiting for Wasden to make the call. A slight chill caught my skin and I looked over my shoulder to see the back door closing, a long legged brunette having walked back in. I watched her intently as she made her way to the bar, leaning her elbow against the wooden top and cocking a knee, making her ass jut out at just the perfect angle.
Her clothes were simple: a plain black dress, and a pair of high heeled shoes the color of emeralds. Nothing special, yet enough to hold my attention. Her hair cascaded down her back and as she ran a hand loosely through the curly mane, I imagined it spread across my pillows, the dark chocolate color in stark contrast to my white sheets. She called to the barman and such was my effort to hear what she was saying, I almost missed Wasden call and flip his cards.
Unsurprisingly, all he had were two pair, Jacks high. The smile on his face fell when I flipped my own cards.
“Fuck you. A goddamn flush?” He stood so fast his chair fell backward, clattering to the ground.
All heads turned in our direction. Leaning over the table, I steepled my hands in front of me, my teeth clenched tight as I did everything to keep my ass in the chair instead of jumping out of it and beating the ever-loving shit out of the motherfucker in front of me.
“I suggest you pick up the chair and sit your ass down, Wasden. And if you continue to behave like a fucking animal in my club, I’ll be forced to teach you how to behave properly.” My voice was low and dangerous.
At least half the people in the room took a step back. Almost everyone knew I didn’t tolerate people acting like assholes just because they lost. Wasden put his hands up, then turned to pick up the chair.
“Now sit your ass down, or settle up and leave.”
Wasden’s eyes darted around the room. The rest of the men seated at the table didn’t say a word. They waited to see what Wasden would decide to do. I sat back and waited myself.
“I’ll play,” he said quietly, taking his seat carefully.
Smart bastard knew to be careful, which was a good thing because my temper was teetering right on the edge. The dealer looked at me and waited for the signal to deal the cards. I nodded and the game began again. Another drink had been placed in front of me and I let the alcohol cool the anger that had raced through my veins. The first hand after Wasden’s meltdown was played conservatively by everyone at the table.
Hand after hand we played, the pots growing with each round. Wasden won one or two, but nothing significant. His hands shook every time he pushed chips into the center. I was curious as to what caused his panic. I’d been in this game a long time, and I knew sweats like that were only caused by owing money to someone; someone bad.