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Saturday, April 24, 2010

All-In for Love by Michael Bracken

Sharon met Ted at a No Limit Texas Hold ’Em poker tournament and was surprised by her immediate attraction to her handsome opponent. She admired Ted’s aggressive style of play, and after Ted knocked her out of the tournament, she stood at the rail and watched him until he lost to a full house two hours later.

As Ted rose from the table and left the room, Sharon admired his broad shoulders, trim waist, and tight rear-end even more than she admired his poker playing. She considered following him, but didn’t know what she might say.

Sharon couldn’t stop thinking about Ted after that tournament, often daydreaming about what he might be like away from the table. Her heart raced and her palms grew clammy when she found herself seated with him at another tournament three months later. Ted seemed equally pleased to see her and he smiled when she sat down at the table.

As the game progressed, Sharon realized that Ted bet differently when she was in the hand than when she wasn’t, and she used that knowledge to her advantage. She knocked him out of the tournament three hours after it began, and was herself knocked out an hour later.

Ted had been standing at the rail watching her play, and he followed her out of the room. When she realized the handsome poker player was behind her, Sharon stopped.

“You’re pretty good,” Ted said when he caught up to her.

Up close, Sharon could smell his musky aftershave and see the piercing blue eyes he hid behind sunglasses at the poker table. Sharon smiled up at him. “You’re not bad yourself.”

“You play often?”

“Friendly games, mostly,” she explained as they crossed the casino to one of the many bars. She tried to keep a poker face, not wanting to let Ted know her heart was racing because they barely knew each other. “Tournaments are new to me.”

“I play in about one a month,” he said, “but always small buy-ins like this one.”

“You win much?”

Ted shrugged. “I’ve never won,” he said, “but I usually finish in the money.”

Ted bought them drinks and they talked about their lives away from the poker table. Sharon learned that Ted taught high school math and she told him about her job as a secretary in an accounting firm. She felt comfortable with Ted, especially after learning that he was a recreational player like her and not a professional.

After a few hours, though, Sharon excused herself and headed home. She thought about Ted during the long drive and mentally kicked herself for not getting his number or giving him hers.

They met again at another tournament a month later, and wished each other luck before finding their tables. Sharon was always conscious of Ted’s progress throughout the day because they flirted with each other during the breaks. They didn’t share a table until the end of the tournament, when the competition had been narrowed to 10 players and they faced each other across the final table.

Ted played recklessly, pushing his chips all-in on multiple hands and pushing around the short stacks. Sharon played conservatively, never putting money in the pot unless she was sure of her hand. After three hours, they were the only players remaining at the final table.

Sharon knew it was time to let the game get personal. Even though her interest in Ted was genuine, Sharon used it to her advantage. She touched her hair, wet her lips with the tip of her tongue, and toyed with the top button of her blouse. She gave her handsome opponent all the signs that let him know she was interested. Soon Ted was paying more attention to her than to his cards, and she knocked him out with a pocket pair of Queens.

When she stood to accept Ted’s congratulations, Sharon wasn’t the least bit surprised that he peeled off his sunglasses and swept her into his arms. Ted kissed her in front of the dealer, the tournament director, and the audience, but Sharon was ready for it. This was the hand she’d been playing all day, and he’d understood all of her “tells.”

Sharon melted into Ted’s arms, the thrill of winning surpassed by the liquid fire racing through her body. No poker-fueled adrenalin rush had ever made her feel like Ted’s kiss did.

When the breath-stealing kiss finally ended, Sharon looked up into the poker-playing math teacher’s eyes. Ted might have lost the tournament, but he had won her heart.

About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of 11 books, including the young adult romance Just in Time for Love. His short romantic fiction has appeared in New Love Stories, True Love, True Romance, and many other publications.

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