Rough and Tumble

Rough and Tumble by CRYSTAL GREEN Read Free Book Online

Book: Rough and Tumble by CRYSTAL GREEN Read Free Book Online
left him alone to trace the ice sweat off his glass and watch the entrance to the back hall, where the game would be starting soon, with him . . .
    . . . or without him.
    Sofia had claimed a bar stool, surrounded by red velveteen–papered walls and brass light fixtures—a real throwback to the Old West, as Arden had noted when they’d first walked in.
    Speaking of whom . . .
    Sofia raised an attitudy eyebrow at her friend, who was yucking it up across the room with Hooper and his fancy long mustache near the poker table.
    What had she been thinking with this private poker game? Sofia was pretty sure that Molly, who was sitting right next to her, felt the same way about their significant gambling other.
    Molly knocked her knee against Sofia’s. Either she was trying to get her attention or she was in the process of falling drunkenly to the ground.
    Turned out, it was the first option. “This’ll be over soon,” she said, before sipping from a plastic cup of water she’d gotten from the bar, then yawning.
    â€œI know,” Sofia said. “Then we can get on to the Strip when Arden’s had her fill. But why couldn’t she have found a good video poker machine there instead of this? We don’t know these people from Adam, and I have no idea why she’d put her money on a table with strangers in this kind of uncontrolled environment.”
    â€œListen to you, Mother Sofia.” Molly tweaked her arm. “I was thinking of getting into the game, too, you know.”
    â€œYou don’t know how to play poker.”
    â€œTrue. I also don’t have the money to burn.” Molly shrugged good-naturedly.
    This sure wasn’t Depressed Molly in the house. Hallelujah for that. But she also seemed very much unlike Regular Molly, and Sofia almost did another double take at the hair pooling around her bare shoulders. Usually, when she got drunk, she didn’t loosen up
much. First off, there’d been the flirting match with that biker in the bar . . .
    â€œActually,” Molly said, swinging one long leg over the other and clasping her knee, “this Hooper guy seems harmless. This isn’t going to be the tourist trap you’re expecting.” Molly nodded toward Arden as she kept mingling with the others, her teacher stance confident, her voice a little drunk-loud. “It’s exciting for her. You know how she is during summer vacations.” Molly’s gaze went a little dreamy. “We all get a little crazy sometimes.”
    â€œNo kidding.” Sofia noticed the smile lingering on Molly’s lips. She’d always liked the way they tipped up, whether Molly was smiling or not; it made her look like she had a secret. But wasn’t that the truth anyway? Sometimes Sofia wondered if she’d ever really known Molly as much as she’d known Arden, who didn’t give a flying fig about divulging every detail of her personal life to anyone and everyone except her students.
    At the table, a few significant others were kissing their mates farewell and wishing them good luck, and the players themselves finally took their seats, six in all: Arden, then a Midwestern capris-sporting woman named Rhonda who was married to the freckle-armed man named Matthew who sat on her left. Next to him was a guy named Lucas then Jerry, whose wives were just now leaving the room while they chatted about what kind of greasy food they might find at the diner farther down the street. Then there was Hooper, who was unwrapping a new deck of cards he’d fetched from Kat at the bar earlier.
    â€œJust sit back and relax, folks,” the older man said, beginning to shuffle.
    Everyone jokingly applauded as he spread the cards over the table, easily smoothing them back into his hand as if he were defying gravity.
    When a delighted Arden caught Sofia’s eye, Sofia fixed her gaze in warning. Just once. Arden offered an

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