Skintight by Susan Andersen Read Free Book Online

Book: Skintight by Susan Andersen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Susan Andersen
draw to an inside straight and that was never the most promising odds.
    â€œDid you—how you say—chase your father’s approval, too?”
    â€œSeek. Seek my father’s approval. And what’s it to you? Are you gonna talk all night or play cards?” he demanded. Extracting the card that didn’t fit his straight, he skimmed it across the table. “I’ll take one.”
    He actually drew the card he needed to fill out his belly-buster straight draw. After Sergei dealt himself two cards, Jax tossed three one hundred dollar bills into the pot.
    Sergei saw his bet and raised it seven thousand.
    He counted his remaining cash. He didn’t have enough and knew he ought to toss in his hand.
    â€œSergei is best poker player,” the Russian crowed. “You may as well save your money and skip Las Vegas. I am going to win.”
    Shit. He didn’t have enough left in the safe and heknew without asking that Kirov wouldn’t allow him to leave to visit an ATM machine. “Will you take my IOU?”
    â€œFor ball.”
    What the hell, he thought blurrily. He had a good hand. “Gimme a piece of paper.”
    He wrote the IOU and tossed it into the pot. Then he turned over his king-high straight.
    Sergei turned over four twos.
    For a minute Jax thought he was seeing double. God knew he’d been having a tough time focusing. But then he realized he’d just lost his grandfather’s World Series baseball. His gut twisted and he felt sick. Still, a bet was a bet.
    Long after the Russian left, Jax remained at the table thinking about losing the ball and wondering what difference it made to him. It wasn’t as if he wanted the damn thing himself. It had been the frigging bane of his existence for as long as he could remember, a symbol of everything that was wrong between him and his old man.
    So why the hell did losing it bite so deep? He assured himself it was merely because he’d been outmaneuvered by someone he didn’t respect. It had nothing to do with the way he’d carelessly tossed aside a memento his father had put a lot of stock in.
    That was his story.
    And he was sticking to it.
    J AX GAVE HIMSELF a shake. Enough of this trip down memory lane. He didn’t want to think about things he couldn’t change.
    Maybe he’d cashed in his chips too soon. Because what he needed right now was the slick feel of a newdeck of cards in his hands, the tink and click of a stack of chips sliding through his fingers. He needed to inhale the scent of green felt and nervous players.
    The game had been his one constant companion for the past dozen or so years, and if there was one thing it had taught him it was that some days things just went to shit despite his best efforts.
    But there was always another poker game.
    â€œH EY , T REEN ,” the dancer named Jerrilyn called from across the dressing room. “I heard some interesting news about your hot new beau.”
    Treena finished wiping greasepaint from her face, then lowered the hand towel, aware that the backstage chatter had softened. In the mirror she saw the other woman walk toward her; then, before Treena could even swivel to face her, Jerrilyn bent down and met her gaze in the mirror.
    â€œYou missed a spot.” Jerrilyn indicated a patch in front of Treena’s left ear where a smear of stage makeup remained. “So, anyhow,” she continued as Treena scrubbed at the splotch, “I’ve got a new honey, too. His name is Donny and he’s a huge World Poker fan. I’m talking a guy who lives for the televised tournaments, if you can imagine such a thing.” Shaking her head, she plopped down on the vacated stool next to Treena. “It’s sure as hell lucky he’s good between the sheets or we wouldn’t have anything in common.” Then she flapped her hand. “But that’s neither here nor there. What I wanted to tell you is that when I was

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