Earthquakes and Chills

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Chapter 14

Jack and Carlos began to explain the rules to hold’em, which I pretended not to know, and they even let us do a practice round which I expertly lost. I could see the guys begin to believe that they might actually have a chance, and I also saw how much the entire concept of me here at Poker Night irked Nolan.

“What’s the point in this? She’s only going to lose,” Nolan said with irritation.

“What’s the problem, Noley? There’s also a chance that I can win, and I like my odds,” I said smiling.

Charlie dealt the cards. I cursed silently. I had a great hand, but I knew I would have to lose the first round, otherwise they probably wouldn’t let me play. So I surrendered a shoe, much to everyone’s dismay.

“Hold on! I’m wearing a jumpsuit, this is only one piece of clothing! So I think it is only fair that I can surrender other items,” I explained.

My argument was taken into account, and the guys all ruled in my favor.

We continued the game.

I won the next hand but purposefully lost the next, pretending not to understand how the game was played. I was two shoes down and wishing I had more jewelry other than earrings.

I hadn’t intended on losing the next hand, but I did. That’s the way it sometimes goes with poker. I surrendered my earrings, knowing that my clothes were next.

That’s when the Poker Gods came down to bless me, and I found myself winning hand, after hand, after hand. I could see Jack’s irritation building as I bought back my shoes and earrings.

“I’m just confused. Is this good?” I said as I showed my queen-high straight.

“You’ve got to be fucking joking,” Jack said.

“Beginner’s luck,” Carlos offered.

“No way, you must be cheating somehow. What is it, Zoey? Can you count cards or something?” He asked genuinely.

“What?” I pretended not to understand what he was asking. “If you are upset that you are losing at a game I’ve never played before, we can always play another game.”

Nolan looked at me sharply. I couldn’t believe the gall this guy had, as though a stupid glance could get me to shut up.

Nolan didn’t want me to talk anymore for some odd reason, and he didn’t like how I was pushing Jack- that much was clear.

“Charlie, reshuffle the deck. Let’s go one more time. All in. Last game,” Jack said.

“No need to be so intense,” I laughed, “last game, and I’ll stop bothering you guys on your game night.”

“We’re going to The Underground after,” Charlie said, “loser always buys.”

Charlie dealt the cards, and I found myself holding an unsuited 2 and 4. I grimaced, but Charlie turned over the flop. I had two pairs. At least I was in the game.

“Why the fuck are you smiling?” Jack spat at me. “I swear, she is totally cheating.”

“How could I possibly be cheating when Charlie’s dealing the cards? I’m nowhere near him,” I said, rolling my eyes.

Charlie put down the turn, but it did nothing for me. Two pair was better than nothing until I saw the river- I had a full house.

“Fuck this,” Carlos said, throwing his hand to Charlie.

“Yep,” Charlie concurred.

It was just me, Jack, and Nolan. We glanced at each other, but Jack was the first to reveal his cards. He had two aces. I smiled to myself as I turned my cards over.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Jack said, standing up and knocking the chair over.

“Your turn,” I said, leaning my chin on my hand as I looked at Nolan.

He had a low straight flush.

“YES!” Jack said as he ran over to Nolan to pat him on the back.

“Alright, that was fun guys, I’ll see you next time,” I said as I stood up to leave.

“Dude, you still have to ante up,” Carlos said.

I walked swiveled on my heel and walked over to Nolan, who looked up at me curiously. I swung a leg over his lap and put his hands on my waist.

“Holy shit,” Carlos breathed.

I tucked loose strands of hair behind Nolan’s ear. He stiffened. He looked serious in an almost angry sort of way. I moved in and pressed my lips against his ear.

“I’m not paying you jack shit,” I said clearly enough for everyone to hear.

I pushed myself up while the guys roared with laughter.

Nolan cracked a smile, and I knew he was happy I hadn’t done anything. I knew these guys forever; even though they were a bunch of horny guys, they were harmless. None of them would’ve made me pay up.

“I forgot how fun you were, Zo,” Jack laughed. “Why don’t you just come down with us?”

“Why? You need a babysitter?” I quipped, “I thought that was what Charlie was here for.”

“Damn,” Carlos said under his breath.

“I’ll have you know, I can be fun,” Charlie said.

“Okay, I’m down to see that, Sir, Charles,” I said.

We crowded the elevator, and we absolutely annoying as we all joked around. Nolan even ended up loosening up and looking like he was having fun. The club wasn’t packed, but it was still fun.

By the second shot, they all pretty much forgot I was there because they were drinking and scouting out the lay of the land. I went up to check on some stuff at the office to make it easier for me to be there in the morning. I also thought leaving would be wise because they could all definitely drink me under the table, easily.

I printed out some paperwork I knew that Nolan would have to approve and placed it neatly on his desk, then went back to my computer to check his schedule thoroughly. I emailed his morning meeting and moved it to the afternoon just in case.

I slid out the door, maneuvered my way across the club without being noticed and headed up to go to sleep. By the time I got to the loft, the ringing in my ears from the silence was deafening. I turned on the tv, hoping it would help ease the pain, and I laid down on the couch.

I could’ve sworn I had only blinked, but I opened my eyes to Nolan tapping his fingers on my shoulder.

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