BUY LINK: Abby's Bluff
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"Do you play?"
I snorted. "A little twenty-one, but not much else." A small light bulb came on. He wants to play strip poker! I had never played before but I figured I'd catch on soon enough. How hard can it be to get out of these clothes? I assumed an air of innocence. "So what shall we play?"
A twinkle illuminated those soft brown eyes. "Ohhh, I dunno. How about something simple to start off with?" There was an unopened pack of cards at the center of the table. He removed the plastic wrapping then the jokers and the score card, then began shuffling as only a professional card player could. Once the deck was fully shuffled he tapped the table twice, then spread the cards out in a semi-circle in the center of the table.
"Pick a card. In this game Aces are high."
I pulled one from the center of the deck. "Can I look?"
"Should I show you?
I turned it over on the table in front of me, revealing my eight of spades. "Now what?"
"I pick a card, and if it's lower, you win."
"What do I win?"
"You can ask me a single question."
"And if you win?"
"I can ask the same of you."
He didn't even look as he pulled a card from the deck. He turned it over and laughed. "Four of hearts. Not the most impressive start for a gambler."
"So I win?"
"Yes. You win."
"I can ask you anything I like?"
It was too delicious. I sat back in my seat, exhaling as I pondered what to ask him. Perhaps I should go easy at first. "Have you brought a lot of women here?"
"A fair few."
"That's another question."
I wanted to pick another card even before he asked me. I turned over a Jack of Clubs. Joel drew a ten of diamonds. "You win again!"
There was a laugh in his eyes as he answered. "Nine."
"Not floozy enough."
Like an eager child, mindless of the consequences, I drew another card. Five of diamonds. Joel drew the Ace of hearts.
"Hmmm, let me see." He paused for what felt like a life-time, and with every second that passed, I grew more anxious. What if he asked me something I didn't want to answer? I took another nervous sip on my cognac. I was almost out. He rose up from the table, leaving me to stew in my own juices for a while, but soon returned with the decanter. He poured us both a most generous amount.
"Trying to get me drunk?
"Trying to help you relax." He sat down again and swirled the drink in his glass, savoring the moment. I wanted to hit him.
"Have you ever sunbathed topless?"
I almost spewed my drink over the table. What kind of a question was that? "No. I have not."
This time he drew first. The Three of clubs. I drew the Queen of clubs. Equilibrium was restored. I felt so aroused, and so impatient, I grew bold with my next question.
"Do you want me?"
I liked this game. I drew another card quickly. Hah! Queen of hearts. Beat that!
Joel put his drink down and licked the excess brandy off his lips. "I see you like this game."
"How about we up the stakes?"
Strip poker, here we come! "Okay."
"On the turn of my card, what would you say if I offered to pay your friend's gambling debt, as well as the cost of the trip, which by your account, she can ill afford."
"Wow, really? You would do that?" I had no doubt he could afford it.
"Here me out, Abby, there's more."
I braced myself by grasping the rim of the table. "You asked me if I wanted you. I do, but I have very, errr, special tastes. If I win, you will remain with me for the duration of your trip. Unless I decree otherwise. And you will do anything; perform any kind of sexual gratification I demand of you, no matter how strange you find the request."
My eyes grew wider than the rim of the brandy glass. "You're kidding, right?"
"I never joke about cards."
"It wouldn't be fair on my friend Miah to spend all my time with you."
"Oh, don't worry about her. She as good as told me that first night she wanted nothing more than to see you get laid, as she put it. Plus I'm sure you'll agree, she'd be more than amply compensated if you win. Plus, you'll be free to call her whenever you wish. I won't forbid you from using your phone."
Forbid me? I knew my hand was over my mouth again, but I didn't care. Three days of unabashed romping with a virtual stranger certainly had an appeal, but I knew so little about Joel. What if he turned into a Vegas psycho nut after all - and all the other girls were sleeping the eternal sleep in holes in the sand? And anyway, wouldn't that be like paying for sex? I would be debasing myself. With that thought, I got up, suddenly awkward and anxious to leave.
"You think I'm some sort of whore."
"Huh, no I don't. I think you're a beautiful woman, and I want to spend the weekend with you."
"But you just offered to pay for sex. You can get that from any number of hookers on the strip. I can't believe I fell for the 'oh look at my fabulous mansion routine!' Is it even yours? Did you rent it?"
"Yes it's mine, that's not what I meant at all! Sit down and hear me out, will you?"
I should have run - God knows I knew it to be the sensible thing to do. But sensible was not what I needed right now. Yet crazy or not, I so badly wanted to stay. I still liked him, you see. And I wasn't looking for a happy-ever-after, so much as a happy-right-now. I was so confused. Horny and confused; a dangerous combination for any woman.
"You're in Vegas. And in Vegas people gamble. I'm not paying for sex, that's just your stake. If you win, you can walk out the door right now, no harm done. And yes, I'll drive you back to your hotel. You won't be stranded. And I think you want me just as much as I want you. Am I wrong about that, Abby?"
I shook my head. "No. You're not wrong about that. I do find you very attractive." How bold I had become.
"As for the sex, you can trust me I'll not ask you to do anything that turns you off. I might ask you to step out of your comfort zone, but I promise, nothing more. No harm will come to you, I swear it."
I was so conflicted. This stranger in a town known for double-dealing was asking me to trust him. Could I? I so badly wanted to, but could I?
Joel's eyes searched mine, and I so badly wanted to say yes. I looked down at his well-manicured hands, and imagined them touching my bare skin. My mind was made up. I could almost deny him nothing.
"So what do you say? Shall I draw a card or no?"
I looked at the now messy spread in front of me. If I won, all Miah's financial worries would be settled in a heartbeat. And if I lost, well, I wanted to sleep with him anyway, didn't I? After all, how kinky could he be? I grasped my cognac glass in both hands and drained it in a single gulp.
I wiped my mouth on my wrist. I needed it. I looked Joel in the eye and tried to read his face. But he had shifted gears and had gone full-on poker face. So it was up to me. It was always going to be up to me. "Draw."
Slowly, he slid his hand across the table, tapping his fingers as he decided which card to draw from the stack. I tried to calm my nerves, I had a Queen after all. I was no gambler, but I knew pretty well that would be a tough card to beat. After a final flutter of his fingers, Joel drew a card blind from the pack. He didn't turn it over, but kept it face down, tapping the back while his eyes were locked on mine. He was enjoying this. And why not? After all, wasn't this what he lived for? And then without breaking eye contact, he flipped the card face side up. I couldn't stand it! I had to look. And there on the green velvet card table, staring at me with his most serious eyes was the King of Hearts. My heart skipped a beat. Joel had won, and my body was his.
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