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“So what’s your best pie?”
The waitress smiled flirtatiously at Brett’s question, suggesting her response might have been a little more personal than the one she gave. “Depends on what you like,” she said. She indicated the menu Brett held. “The full list is on the back.”
Brett flipped it over. At just after ten at night, he was not interested in a full course meal. But a slice of pie sounded like the perfect thing to tide him over. He raised his eyebrows at the impressive list before him. “Wow. Pie’s kind of your specialty, huh?”
The waitress chuckled. She was a slender young Hispanic woman, with wavy dark hair swept back in a standard ponytail, revealing rather light-toned skin dotted with endearing freckles. “You’re not from around here,” she commented.
Brett echoed the small laugh. “Just drove in,” he said.
“Well, the Double J has the best pie in Texas,” she declared. “The whole country, even. Got more awards on the walls than any other diner in Del Rio.”
Brett nodded slowly. “So . . . you’re saying you give good pie,” he responded with a rakish grin.
The waitress didn’t back down from his innuendo. “We give the best pie you’ll ever have.”
He cocked his head, deciding he licked this girl. “What’s your favorite?”
“Cherry apple,” she responded without hesitation. “Even better a la mode.”
“Sold,” he said, then let his eyes drift from her pretty face to the name tag that hovered over one of the round, well-shaped breasts outlined in her blue work polo. “Thanks, uh . . . Ino?”
She smiled. “Short for Inocencia,” she explained, taking up the menu. “You want coffee, too?”
Inocencia, Brett thought. Why do I get the feeling her name’s a misnomer? “Actually, a glass of milk,” he said. “Never liked coffee much.”
She winked with a sexy pout of her soft pink lips and snapped her server book closed. “Be right back,” she trilled, then turned and left the booth, a sexy little sway to her hips as she stepped.
Wouldn’t mind seeing what’s under those tight khaki pants, Brett thought with a wry chuckle. But as Ino headed around the diner’s counter, Brett’s attention returned to the reason for his being in Del Rio. He took out the deck of cards from inside his worn leather jacket. The box itself was crinkled and scratched, showing its age, and the cards within fared no better. But in ten years of playing poker, Brett had never been without his lucky deck.
* * * *
“Regular cutie you picked up,” commented Mona, the resident matriarch of the Double J as she stood leaning against the counter of the half-full diner. “You see that slick little roadster he’s driving?”
Ino rolled her eyes. “No, actually, I didn’t,” she said as she opened one of the coolers and retrieved a carton of milk. “I was busy taking care of my customers.”
Mona’s eyes smoldered, her gaze drifting across the diner to Ino’s latest guest. “Mmm. I wouldn’t mind ‘taking care’ of that one.”
Ino shook her head. “Jesus Cristo, Mona, it’s like you’re a guy or something. All you think about is sex.”
Mona laughed. “Perks of menopause,” she said. “Makes you horny as hell.”
Ino filled a glass with the cold white liquid. “I’ll take your word for it,” she said as she returned the carton to the cooler. “Since I won’t know for about another twenty years or so.”
“Oh, you’ll know,” Mona said cattily. “In the meantime, let me know if Mr. Roadster there needs some company tonight. Mona’s feelin’ a little bit frisky.”
Ino rolled her eyes again as the older waitress headed away to tend to her own customers. She opened another cooler, one filled with racks of the various pies the diner served, and scooped up a slice of cherry apple. As she did so, Mona’s words echoed in her mind, and she found herself briefly fantasizing about her latest customer.
He is pretty cute, she had to admit. He’s got that two-day stubble thing working for him, and that leather jacket. Kind’a James Dean like. Regular bad boy.
But then she caught a glint of light from the tiny diamond ring on her finger, the one that reminded her of her two-year marriage. She grimaced and shoved the budding fantasy from her mind.
Keep your mind on work, Ino . . . .
* * * *
As simple as it was, Brett considered Solitaire a nice warm-up before the main event. There was some skill involved, in having to plan moves ahead of time in order to prevent a lockout. In that regard, it wasn’t completely unlike poker . . . except that there was only one opponent, which went by the name of Chance.
“Play cards, huh?”
He glanced up at the sound of his waitress’ voice. She stood holding a plate in one hand and a glass in the other. “It’s kind of a living for me,” he said.
Ino set the orange juice and slice of pie at the edge of the table. “Now I know why you’re here,” she announced. “Going to the Aguilar, right? Seen a bunch of you caballeros heading there. Something going on?”
Brett smirked at the mention of the casino just bahis firmaları across the border. “Poker tournament,” he revealed.
She snapped her fingers and nodded. “Okay. Gotcha. So, you any good?”
He chuckled. “I win more than I lose.”
She pursed her lips. “Always a good thing.”
Ino shook her head with a rueful smile. “Only if everyone’s drunk and we’re playing for pesos.”
Brett laughed. “Wanna try your luck?”
Ino scoffed. “Yeah, right,” she said, setting down a paper-wrapped straw beside the orange juice. “You’d probably beat me out of my tips, shirt, and pants,” she said, then stepped back and started to turn away.
“I like the sound of that,” Brett retorted. “Well, the last part, anyway.”
Ino paused for a long moment, a long-suppressed feeling percolating in the core of her being. But she forced it down, remembering the ring on her finger, and glanced over her shoulder with a sly look. “Eat your pie, gringo,” she said, then walked away.
Brett watched her go once more, unable to push away the feeling of what if that had blossomed in his mind. But he decided he needed to concentrate on the reason for his arrival in Del Rio. Flirtatious waitress aside, he was here for a competition, and he didn’t need any distractions.
He slid the plate bearing the slice of cherry apple pie closer, took up his fork, carved off a chunk, and slipped it into his mouth. Even before the tines of the fork left his lips, he was impressed by the rich flavor. His brow furrowed slightly as he considered the taste, the way his tongue felt suddenly awakened. Slowly, deliberately, he chewed the tasty morsel.
God damn, that is good pie . . . .
* * * *
He shuffled the deck, then again, smiling at the sound the cards made as they slapped together, interweaving themselves like well-choreographed dancers. He checked the time on his phone; there were still three hours until the start of the tournament. Why they had to begin it at midnight was beyond his understanding.
He was aware of Ino’s presence when she returned to clear away the plate and set the check on the edge of the table. “So, uh, when you win a million bucks, are you gonna remember all us little people?”
Brett snorted in mirth. “Of course not.”
She laughed airily, shaking her head. “Whenever you’re ready, I’ll take care of you.” She blushed slightly. “The check, I–“
“Oh, I’m ready now,” he said with a wink.
Once again, she fidgeted, nervous energy telling as she shifted on her feet. Her thumb toyed with the wedding band on her finger.
“I have an idea,” Brett announced with his roguish smile.
Oh, I bet you do, Ino thought, but she said nothing, cocking her head in expectation.
“Play a hand with me,” he suggested. “You win, I pay the check and give you a hundred dollar tip.”
She arched a brow. “And if you win?”
His smile broadened. “Then I get a free meal.”
Contemplation was evident upon her face. After a decade of reading poker faces, Ino’s thoughts were as clear to him as if he had been a telepath.
“Tell you what; I’ll even the odds. High card wins.” He tapped the deck before him. “You can even shuffle them first, if you want.”
Ino’s lip curled at one corner. Oh, what the hell, she thought. It’s only a six-dollar tab. And it’s a fifty-fifty shot at a hundred bucks. Suddenly making up her mind, she slid into the booth across from Brett and took up the deck of cards. The man across from her grinned.
“I love a woman who’s willing to take chances,” he said gleefully.
Ino shuffled the cards — with a noticeable lack of finesse, Brett noticed — then cut the deck three ways before stacking the cards in the middle of the table.
He glanced to the deck briefly. “You first.”
Ino reached for the top card, then paused. “High card wins, right?”
Ino’s fingers trembled slightly over the deck, a mild rush of excitement tingling through her. This was the sort of thing she used to do when she was single: taking chances. Being free and careless.
With a smile, she snatched up the card and looked at it. She tried not to show her sudden elation, her hope.
Casually, Brett took the next card. His eyes bore into Ino’s. “Call,” he said.
With a sly look, Ino set her card face-up on the table. The Jack of Hearts. Of the remaining deck, twelve cards could beat it, thirty-nine couldn’t. The odds were in her favor.
“Congratulations,” Brett said, setting down the Seven of Clubs.
Ino emitted a shriek of joy which was quickly stifled when she slapped her hands over her mouth. “Serious?” she asked, dark eyes glittering.
Brett chuckled and leaned back, digging into his pocket. He came up with a bulging money clip, a five-dollar bill visible. Slipping off the clip, he unfurled it to reveal tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds. He set the faces of Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin atop the check presenter.
“Serious,” he kaçak iddaa responded, sliding the money toward her. He slid from the booth with a wink. “Have a good night.”
Ino stared after him, still shocked. She looked to the money, then to the retreating form of her unlikely benefactor. And for a moment that spanned an eternity-stretching heartbeat, she considered running after him to express her gratitude in a more intimate way.
But she didn’t. She did, however, snatch up the money and watch through the windows as her customer headed to a sleek, dark blue roadster parked before the diner.
She smiled as she realized she had fresh fantasy material.
* * * *
Checking in at the motel took practically no time at all. He had made the reservation online and expected a place like Del Rio, Texas, to be a little slow when it came to e-commerce. But he was pleasantly surprised to find that his room was waiting for him almost as soon as he walked through the door. He handed over his ID and credit card, signed the forms, and was given a pass card to his room.
Though it had only taken him three hours to drive to the border town, he felt he needed a shower. At the least, it would make him feel refreshed and ready for the hours of poker play that lay before him.
He took his time in the shower, taking advantage of free hot water. He shaved his face, then, as an afterthought, his testicles. Stepping from the shower, he carefully groomed the dark hair around the root of his penis. He styled his hair, selected fresh clothes, dressing for both comfort and style. From experience, he knew that even the smallest detail of his appearance made a difference when it came to a good poker game. He wanted to look like a winner, and that meant donning something more than blue jeans and a T-shirt. He opted for the dark silk slacks and matching button-down shirt from his garment bag.
Recalling the waitress from the Double J, Brett hesitated before getting dressed. He considered jacking off to fantasies of the cute Hispanic girl with her young, freckled face, perky young breasts, and delicious, bubble-like behind. But he refrained, remembering a line from an old baseball movie, something about “re-channeling sexual energy,” and figured his sexual urgency could just give him the extra edge he needed.
So he dressed. Standing before the mirror in the room, he figured he looked suitably impressive while at the same time not appearing to be too self-efficacious.
While filling his pockets with their usual items, he checked the time on his phone. Even after all that, it was only slightly before ten PM. He scowled. What the hell am I going to do for the next hour and a half? The casino’s not even a ten-minute drive away.
He sighed. Get there early, have a drink to relax, hit one of the junior tables to get a feel for the place. That way, you won’t be walking in looking like a newbie.
Brett nodded to his reflection. Sounds like a plan. He snatched up his keys and headed to the door.
* * * *
The route to the casino just across the border took him by the Double J once more. The diner sat upon a lonely stretch of state highway, a neon oasis in the dark of night. Brett slowed the car as he approached, thinking once again about his comely young waitress. It wasn’t his normal pattern to go after young married women, but something about Ino enticed him. She seemed like she just might be willing to wander from her vows, if given the right impetus.
That thinking, after all, was why he let her win at their little high card game. He knew every card in his deck, and after she had shuffled the cards, he had recognized exactly which card sat on top. The Jack of Hearts had a little tell-tale crease at one corner. He did not know which card was beneath, of course, but the odds were against it beating a Jack.
And he had been right.
Giving up a hundred dollars might have been a bit extreme for some, but Brett had already planned on returning to the diner the next day. He would be greeted enthusiastically by her, with the hope that his previous generosity would be repeated. And that would give him just the opening he needed to seduce her.
In his scenarios, bedding such a delicious prize as Ino after either winning or losing in the first round of the series would be either icing on the cake or a more than decent consolation prize. Either way, it was a win-win situation. But by no means a guarantee.
As his car slowed, and he cast his gaze across the parking lot of the diner, he suddenly and unexpectedly saw her. She stood directly beneath the street light, amber luminescence raining down upon her to cast her skin in an almost sickly light. Still, she looked beautiful.
Conflicting thoughts battled in his mind in as much time as it took for Brett to blink. Even before he realized he had made a decision, he was slamming on the brakes and turning into the parking lot of the diner.
He rolled up slowly beside the street light, pushed the kaçak bahis button to lower the passenger-side window. He leaned across the seat. “Hey!”
She glanced his way, looking up from the glowing face of her phone, appearing both perturbed and annoyed before a sense of recognition set in. She stepped closer, obviously on her guard.
“Uh, hi,” she responded, stooping to peer through the window of the sleek little car. She smiled, almost gratefully, upon recognizing the face of her most memorable customer of the day. “Oh! Hi! What’re you doing?”
Brett shrugged with a smile. “On my way to the casino,” he said. “Then I saw you. Need a ride?”
Her eyes darted to her phone briefly. “Um . . . I’m waiting.”
He met her gaze. “For your husband?”
She stared back, momentarily grinding her teeth. “A friend.”
He rolled his shoulders. “I can be a friend,” he suggested.
Ino considered her options. She couldn’t call her husband, and her friend Casey still had not texted her back. Casey would, eventually, but how long would she have to wait? And why wait when an offer of a free ride was already at hand?
But another, more disturbing, thought occurred to her even as she reached for the door handle. “Wait a sec,” she said. “Are you, like, collecting on me?”
Brett frowned, confused by her words. “Collecting what?”
A flash of foolish embarrassment bloomed within her. “Never mind,” she said, then tugged open the door. She slid down into the leather seat beneath the canopy of the raised convertible top, finding herself almost laying back. She snickered as she pulled the door closed. “Never been in a car like this before.”
“Nobody owns a roadster in this town?”
She scoffed, then mimicked a man’s accented voice. “Cain’t haul nuthin’ in no roadster.”
Brett grinned and let the car roll toward the street. “No, but I can hit sixty in about five seconds,” he said, and shoved his foot down hard on the accelerator.
Ino’s eyes flew open wide as the engine roared and the world outside suddenly began flying by as if she had been shot from a cannon. Brett worked the clutch with, deft, expert moves of his hand, making each change of gear as fluidly as possible. The wind whirled through the windows, making Ino’s hair fly around her face. She had to hold it back to keep from being blinded.
“Ino!” Brett called, laughing. “Ino!”
He laughed again over the now-stable engine patter. “You were screaming.”
She huffed, blushing as she realized he was right. She joined his laughter. “Medre de Dios, I’ve never gone that fast!”
Brett glanced to the speedometer. “I’m not even breaking seventy.”
Ino’s flushed grin was persistent. “Sure felt like you were doing, like, a hundred.”
He shrugged. “What are the cops like around here?”
Ino thought a moment. “Unless it’s the weekend, they all hang out around the casino waiting for drunk drivers.”
Brett pursed his lips with a sly smile. “So, we probably wouldn’t meet any around here?”
“No, not really,” Ino said, then let out a surprised puff of air as the roadster shot forward once more. “H-holy sh-i-i-it!”
* * * *
Ino’s words rushed from her lips. “Ohmigod, that was intense!” She turned in the seat to look back at the sharp bend in the road they had just passed. “I’ve seen, like, a hundred guys go off the road on that turn!”
Brett chuckled as he eased off the gas, letting the two-seater coast down beneath the speed limit. “If they were driving trucks, I don’t doubt it.”
She grinned at him. “This thing is like a freakin’ roller coaster.”
He nodded, glancing over to her. Their eyes met briefly. Ino’s heart was still pumping from the drive, her limbs still tingled from adrenaline. But now a different sort of tingle blossomed in a very specific part of her body. She found herself looking at Brett’s lips, then at the firm, strong hand at rest upon the gear shift.
“When does your tournament start?” she asked.
She looked forward through the windshield, watching as a road marker darted past. She knew exactly where they were. She considered her following words carefully before uttering them. “Hey, uh, could you pull over for a sec?”
Brett’s brow furrowed. “You okay? You’re not gonna be sick, are you?”
She didn’t look at him. “Just . . . pull over. There’s an old rest stop right up here.”
“Okay,” Brett said. “Sure.”
The rest stop was illuminated in the headlights barely a handful of seconds later. The place had obviously not seen any maintenance in quite a while. The grounds were overgrown and weeds grew through cracks in the parking lot and sidewalks. Brett pulled the roadster into a space before the darkened husk of a welcome center that had not welcomed anyone in at least a decade.
As soon as the car was parked, Ino pushed the passenger door open. She paused before slipping out. “Um . . . you wanna put the top down?” she asked.
What’s this girl’s game? Brett thought, but he saw no reason to argue. “Sure. It’s a nice night,” he remarked, pushing the requisite button. As the top lifted and folded itself back, Ino stepped from the car and took a few paces away.
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