47. A Game of Chance
By Thursday, Nate and Leila were back on Ireland soil and ready to hit an Irish pub. They parked their rental car in the hotel’s garage and walked a few blocks to a small, cozy joint that went by the name of The Brazen Head. It was dubbed as Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198. Surprisingly it was very modern both inside and outside, and had flat screen TV’s on the walls and in corners. Its written history was dated later, in the 1600′s, but the establishment was part of the original Irish settlement of Dublin in the 1100′s.
By the time Leila and Nate had gotten to the pub, it was early in the dinner hour and there were almost no tables available. After a ten minute wait, they were escorted to a table in the corner where they were given their menus.
Nate ordered a Guinness- the warehouse being mere blocks down the road- and Leila settled for hot tea.
Perusing the menu, they were glad to see quite a selection, making sure anyone- even the most picky vegetarian- would have something delicious to eat.
Nate decided he wanted bangers and mash, while Leila decided to be more adventurous and go with the steamed mussels. Nate just blinked at her when she placed the order.
“What?” she asked, blinking back. “It sounded good.”
When one was in the mood for seafood, there was little that could be done to purge the urge.
They talked a little about their short trip to London, focusing on Work Fanatic Flora. Leila would have preferred the nickname Fecal Flora, but they were eating and it just wasn’t the time or place. Frightful, fearsome, foolish Flora Patton, who seemed to have finally found some way of not frightening the workers into leaving Charles’ employ to gain their wages elsewhere. At least if Magnus’ word was to be trusted.
Leila was quiet and listened as Nate spoke throughout the meal, only looking up to nod and add a little to the conversation every once in a while.
And she ate like it was her last meal on death row.
“Why so quiet?” Nate asked, finishing the last bite of sausage. “Too busy inhaling your food to talk?”
He smiled at her, nodding to her already empty plate.
“I was starving,” she said honestly. “I hate eating before a flight, so I only had a little to eat this morning. Flying makes my stomach nervous.”
Nate nodded. He could concur. He was a bit of a nervous flyer as well, which was why he would be glad to see the end of this little personal/business trip.
“It’s no fun, even if it’s a short jaunt across the sea,” he said, agreeing.
They paid their tab and left some extra for their waitress, though the tip had already been added onto the bill.
Heading back to their hotel room, Nate asked Leila if there was anything she wanted to see or do the next day. They had a few more days to sit and wait, and he was damned if he was going to be waiting it out while sitting on his duff the whole time. He’d go mad with anticipation.
“How about one of those hop on- hop off tours?” she said. “I’ve seen those huge red double-decker buses all over the place. Surely we could get on one of those and see where it takes us.”
“Good idea,” Nate said. “I’ll contact the front desk to see about that for tomorrow.”
While Nate made a call downstairs, Leila went into the bathroom. She took her time, coming out five minutes later to see Nate sitting on his bed and playing a game on his cell phone.
“At least if my cell phone reception cuts out I’ll still be able to play the Family Guy game,” he said, frowning as he lost another life. Stewie’s voice said something on his cell that Leila couldn’t understand and Peter laughed maniacally at his misfortunes at passing the level.
“Did Lettice ever make it to Ireland?” Leila changed the topic at hand, antsy.
“Yes, she got here Tuesday,” Nate told her, placing his cell phone on the bed and looking over at Leila. “She’s staying here at the hotel as well, but on another floor.”
“I can’t wait ’til this whole things over with,” Leila mumbled, walking over to the bed. All she wanted to really do was get into some comfortable pajamas, put on the TV and get lost in something other than reality.
“You’re tense,” Nate told her. “You could get a massage and spa treatment if you’d like.”
Leila shook her head.
“Not enough time,” she told him. “We’re going on that bus thing tomorrow and we’ll be pooped by the time we get back.”
“Let me set up something for Saturday then,” Nate said, grabbing his phone and pressing some buttons. “It’ll be good for you. Relaxing.”
“Only if you do it with me.”
Nate blinked and scrunched his face.
“Okay, but if a seaweed wrap or facial is involved, I’m totally blowing it off,” he told her.
“Just massages together,” she told him, laughing. “I promise I won’t let them put cucumber on your eyes or put a green mask on your face. I wouldn’t want you to look like the Swamp Thing.”
“I’ll set it up,” he told her, leaning over to kiss her on the cheek. “You get comfortable and flip on the TV. Maybe they have something on there that we could actually watch.”
The next couple of days went by quickly. One harried on and off bus ride, and a relaxing day at the spa to rejuvenate the next day. By the time Sunday afternoon came, all the good vibes from the massage had worn off and Leila felt as coiled as a spring.
One more day, she thought. One more day and we can either put this behind us or deal with the repercussions.
Within twenty-four hours, their future would change. It was a harrowing thought to behold.
“That massage yesterday already wore off I see,” Nate said with a frown. He wished he could take away the tense set of Leila’s shoulders and the constant frown she wore.
“I’m just anxious for tomorrow,” she told him, trying to tuck away the downward curl of her lips. She attempted to bring a smile on, but her facial muscles seemed to want to fight her.
“Me too, but no matter what, it means nothing to me,” Nate lied.
At least Leila thought he lied. If the little sprout was indeed Nate’s, she was sure he would make himself available to be a father. If he wasn’t... well, it was almost too much to hope for at this point.
She was in her own head when her phone started to ring. Leila didn’t move at first, and Nate grabbed it off the nightstand and took a look at the caller.
“It’s your mom,” he told her. “Want to answer it?”
She nodded her head and took the phone from him, pressing the green ‘accept’ button and clearing her throat.
“Hi Mom,” she greeted, voice as cheery as she could muster up.
‘Hi, baby,’ her mother’s sweet voice said. It was quieter than usual. ‘You still in Ireland?’
“Yeah, for just a little bit longer,” Leila told her. “A few more days at the most.” She looked over to Nate who nodded his head, assuring her they would leave soon.
“Mom, you sound strange. Is everything okay?”
‘Yes, sweetheart, I’m fine. Just tired.’
Leila called bullshit on that. Her mother wasn’t one to be as demure with her daughter as all that. She was strong. It was only when it came to her father that she showed her underlying weakness.
“What did he do this time?” Leila closed her eyes and felt Nate’s hand curl around her waist. He pulled her closer, knowing she was talking about her father.
‘I... I don’t think I want to be here anymore.’
Leila’s heart thudded to a halt in her chest before picking up sinus rhythm again.
What? And you waited until I was a million miles away to make this decision? Fuck!
“You need someplace to stay?” Leila asked, looking toward Nate. His eyes were bright and mouth lifted in a small smile.
‘I’m fine here, for now.’
No. Fucking. Way. That would just give her father time to convince her mother to be the good little Stepford Wife he wanted.
“There’s a key to my apartment I have taped inside my mailbox,” Leila rattled out quickly. “It’s in a small manila envelope on the left side of the inside of the box so people don’t automatically see it. Take it and get some rest at my place.”
“Tell her if she wants, my mother will put her up for a bit,” Nate whispered into Leila’s ear.
“Or stay with Mathilde and Harry,” Leila urged. She really didn’t want her mother being alone. Loneliness wanted company, and Angelica had been alone long enough in her life and marriage. “They love company, especially Mattie. Nate will contact them. I’m sure you can stay there until I get back and then we’ll think of something more permanent.”
Nate nodded fervently, his eyes sparkling. He was already busy tapping away at a text on his cell. He looked like he was brimming with ideas, and Leila wasn’t altogether too sure if that was a good thing or not.
‘I don’t know...’
“Mom, I’m sure you will want to talk about this when the reality of it has sunk in, but please, whatever you do, don’t go back to him.”
‘How will he feed himself? And the house will be a downright mess.’
“He can order takeout and hire a fucking maid for all I care. Just don’t answer his phone calls and don’t let him know where you’re staying. As far as I’m concerned, any of his attempts at apologies are weak and way too late. ”
She could hear her mother sigh and knew she had her. If it was one thing Angelica Winters was good at, it was usually listening to her daughter, even if she didn’t always comply with her wishes.
“Besides, once the divorce goes through, you’ll own half that house,” Leila steamrolled on, in for hell or high water. “You can sell it, give it away or burn the fucking place down to the ground. As long as you and he are separated, that’s all that matters.”
Leila bit her lip, hoping she hadn’t gone too far with her little speech. She nibbled determinedly on it until Nate’s finger pulled her lips away from the offending teeth.
‘Alright. I’ll do what you say, but I don’t know where I’m going to go once you come back. I can’t stay at Mattie and Harry’s indefinitely and I certainly can’t crash at your place forever. I have no job to make money and-’
“Don’t worry about that,” Leila interrupted. “You have a place for as long as I have a roof over my head. And you can look for work if you want, though it isn’t necessary.”
Mother and daughter spoke a little longer, mostly to Leila’s insistence that Angelica was not going to be a bother and could stay with her for as long as she liked. How that was all going to happen, Leila didn’t know, but she was sure she could think of something.
Once Leila had hung up on her mother, she was back to frowning.
“I would have thought this news would have made you happier,” Nate told her, pulling Leila onto her lap. “You’ve been wanting your mother rid of your father for years, so why the frown?”
“I... I’m glad she’s finally leaving him, I just wish I was there to help her,” Leila said after a moment to gather her thoughts. “I’m afraid without me there, she will want to go back to him, and that she will.”
“I’ll tell my mother to entertain her,” Nate said. “She’ll keep her so busy, she won’t be interested in leaving. Mom can be quite diverting when she wants to be.”
“You can be too,” Leila told him, smirking.
“Oh, I am the master of diversion,” Nate said with a wink. “But mine is specifically catered to only one person.”
“And how will you divert me for the rest of the day, sir?” Leila asked on a purr.
“I think I can think of a few things,” he said, face splitting with a grin.
Stunning Leila, he got up and walked toward his suitcase. It still had a few things in it, but nothing that sparked Leila’s interest. A few newspapers, a magazine or two, and a pack of cards. Nate picked up the latter and walked toward the bed.
“Care for a game of poker?” he asked, is lips curving upward slowly.
Leila tilted her head, looked at him with confusion.
“Poker better be a euphemism for something else,” Leila said. “I’m not much for cards, but if you think it’ll help...”
“You’ve never played strip poker?” Nate asked.
“No, and don’t you usually play that in order to get people you haven’t slept with naked?”
“Not this variation,” Nate told her. “There are special rules to my version of strip poker.”
“Somehow the fact that you have your own special version isn’t a big help,” Leila said. “You’ve played this version before?” If so, she really really didn’t want to hear about it.
“No-o-o, not this version,” he countered. “As a matter of fact, whenever I’ve played poker before, I definitely remember not wanting to see any of the people I played with naked. If I was Jared...”
“I see,” Leila said. “You actually played for money. And with guys.”
“Yes, I didn’t know too many women in college that wanted to play so it was usually with Russ and a few others. Russ usually won. If he wasn’t happily ensconced in the business world, I’d picture him at the World Poker Tour, cleaning up at the tables.”
Leila could see that and she was intrigued at this impromptu game of chance.
“So, tell me,” she said. “How does this game of poker go? We get naked and fuck? We can save a lot of time by just stripping down and getting to it.”
“What’s the fun in that? There’s no anticipation.”
Leila rolled her eyes but nodded her head.
“Teach me, poker master.”
Leila was starting to hate this game. It wasn’t the fact that she was losing. It was the fact that she was in her panties only and Nate was still in a t-shirt and boxers. She really wanted to toss the cards aside and climb on Nate’s lap, see if she couldn’t divert him from this ridiculous card game.
“Full house, tens over aces,” Nate said, throwing his cards down onto the bed with a flourish.
“Looks like you win,” Leila said and stood up to divest herself of the last scrap of fabric from her body. “So what does the winner get?”
Nate stood up as well, took the cards and placed them on the nightstand in a messy pile.
“Baby, I think I’ve already won more than the game, but I am sure I can give you a consolation prize,” he told her and pulled the t-shirt up and over his head.
“Aren’t consolation prizes supposed to be small and obligatory?” Leila asked, grinning.
“There’s nothing obligatory about this,” he said, cupping his hard cock through his boxers. It had been in that state for, well- most of the game. “In this game of chance, the loser is actually the one who reaps all the benefits.”
Leila raised her brows in interest.
“I intend to, love.”