“Do you like to gamble?” Steven asks after the waiter takes away our dinner plates.
“I don’t like making risky moves with my money.” And that was the God’s honest truth. After everything I’ve been through, I’ve become thrifty. A word I didn’t even know existed until recently.
Steven’s face falls a little, like my answer totally disappointed him. “Ah, there’s this illegal gambling house not too far from campus.” He pauses.
“I’ve heard of it,” I tell him. Who hasn’t? There are whispers about it everywhere but I’ve never been there.
“My friends and I like to go there on occasion and I just got paid so…” He smiles. “I thought you might want to go. But if you don’t, it’s cool. We can do something else. Maybe go to the movies or go have a drink. You do drink right? I mean, we met at a bar so I assumed you like to drink and we can—”
I settle my hand over his and he goes mute, his eyes widening as he glances down at our connected hands. I only touched him to shut him up. The guy rambles when he gets nervous. “Let’s go gamble your paycheck away,” I suggest.
He laughs but it sounds forced. I think I freaked him out with my remark. “Not my entire paycheck. I have about one hundred dollars to play with tonight.”
That’s it? Alex of old would laugh at him. The Alex of old would’ve spent one hundred dollars on an appetizer and not blinked twice.
The new Alex wouldn’t toss one hundred dollars away playing blackjack or whatever. I can buy a week of groceries with that kind of money, maybe even two if I really stretch it.
“Let’s go. Sounds fun.” I smile at him and release his hand, settling mine in my lap.
He studies me as he gnaws on his lower lip. That looks painful. “Can I admit something to you?”
Uh oh. I mentally brace myself. “Sure. Go for it.”
“The other night at the bar? My friend dared me to talk to you.” His cheeks turn ruddy and he drops his gaze to the table. “I kept going on about how gorgeous you were and he got sick of it so he told me if I thought you were so hot, I should just go ask you out.”
My cheeks warm too. Poor, sweet Steve and his asshole friend. “I’m glad you approached me. I’ve had a good time tonight.”
He lifts his head, his gaze meeting mine as he smiles. “You have?”
Poor dude. He sounds surprised. “Totally.” I nod. “You’re fun.”
“I am?” He sits up straighter. “I mean, yeah. So are you. Fun, that is. And pretty. Shit. I sound like an idiot.”
I start to laugh, but not at him. “Stop while you’re ahead. And you’re adorable when you’re flustered.”
The pleased look on his face was worth the compliment. And Steven is cute when he’s flustered. Not Tristan gorgeous but cute.
Ugh. Quit thinking about Tristan.
Pushing him firmly out of my thoughts, I focus on the guy in front of me. He’s got his wallet out as he looks over the check and I automatically grab my purse. “Do you want me to help?” I ask.
Steven glances up, a scowl on his face. “No way. I invited you, Alex. I’ll pay the bill.”
“Thank you,” I say softly. I’ve gone on exactly one date since I arrived here at school and we split the dinner bill. I paid for my own movie ticket. He also wanted me to help pay for popcorn but I didn’t want any so I refused. That pissed him off.
I never saw him again. Good riddance.
Would Tristan actually take me on a date? Or would he just drag me into his bedroom and fuck me? I’m going with the latter. He doesn’t seem like one who’d buy me dinner in order to get me naked. Not that I would get naked with him on the first date. No way.
“You ready to go?”
Steven’s voice bursts through my thoughts and I nod, rising to my feet, totally irritated with myself. It’s not fair of me to constantly think of Tristan while on a date with another guy. A really nice guy who seems to like me versus just using me. How often does that come along? I need to focus on Steven. He’s easy to talk to. Seems fun. Has good taste in clothes—he’s dressed nicely in a dark green and black checked flannel shirt and jeans. Polite and a gentleman, he holds the door open for me as we exit the restaurant and walk out into the cold night.
The rain stopped Wednesday night and left cool and cloudy days in its wake. I have a thick blue sweater on but it’s still cold enough to make me shiver when the breeze hits us. We walk side by side in the parking lot toward his car, making small talk. I can feel Steven looking at me and I wonder what he’s thinking. Wonder even more what Tristan is doing…
I grimace. He invades my thoughts. I don’t even like the guy but I can’t get him out of my head. It’s crazy. I think of when he came into my room, eating up all the space with only his presence, trying to find out information about me when really, why would he care? He sees me as nothing but a conquest. I know it. So why am I still thinking about him?
Why am I still interested?
Damn it, I am not interested.
“If you don’t want to go to the gambling house, it’s cool,” Steven says out of the blue.
I look over at him and smile. “I want to,” I say sincerely. “Let’s go win you some money.”
He laughs. “Sounds like a plan.”
“I think we should close early,” I mutter to Shep.
We’re sitting at an empty blackjack table that has no dealer, surveying the scene before us. It’s dead for a Friday night. This place is slowly losing its appeal with the masses and Gabe is especially over it since everything happens at his house. He’d rather snuggle up with Lucy than work his shifts.
“I’m with you. It’s quiet tonight,” Shep says. It’s my normal shift but Shep showed up about an hour ago, letting me know Jade was having some sort of girls’ night with her friends so he thought he’d help me out.
It took everything within me not to ask if Alexandria was part of the group Jade was with tonight. I mean, I knew she had a date with that dude from the bar but I was hopeful she canceled on him. I was damn proud of myself for keeping my mouth shut. Though her name still hangs on the tip of my tongue.
Our little argument after picking her up in the rain had been some sort of weird foreplay that I can’t get out of my head. After leaving her place, I went home and jerked off in the shower to the memory of her falling asleep in my car, how she tried to hustle me out of her house, the angry look on her face just before she shut the door.
Yeah. My beat off material is of Alexandria mad at me. What the hell?
“I think we should close this place down period,” I tell Shep who raises his eyebrows in surprise.
I nod. “We already plan on shutting it for good at the end of the school year. Are we even making enough money to make this feasible?” At first, we’d started the gambling house for fun. Something to do—something illegal, which made it even more enticing. It wasn’t about the money. It was about playing poker, blackjack, whatever we could for big money and getting away with it. It was about high stakes and hot girls and all the booze we could ever want.
Don’t think I’d ever admit this to anyone—especially Shep and Gabe—but I’m tired of it. Tired of running this place and having it eat into my time. Maybe I just want to veg out by myself and have a beer, you know? I don’t even hang out at our fraternity house much anymore. To the point where they’re demanding we all show up and go to the semi-formal dance they have planned with one of the sororities.