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Game

By:Cora Brent

CHAPTER ONE

Stephanie



I tried craning my neck to see the television mounted over the bar but a bunch of sloppy drunks with fat heads were in the way. I sighed and peered into my champagne glass. Usually there wasn’t a lot of betting action in baseball but this was Game Six of the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Dodgers. People grew emotional anytime the chronic underdog Cubs were involved. Emotion led to rash decisions and that led to empty pockets. If I was still running my sports book, this would have been a hell of a busy day.

But I wasn’t.

After the shit that went down last month I hadn’t gotten my nerve back. No one, particularly a female, could run a sports book without a set of brass balls.

The room we were ushered into after the ceremony was small, but there were only about twenty five of us here. The wedding had been brief but nice. I liked the bride and groom. Saylor was a close friend of my roommate, Truly, but lately we’d hung out together often enough for her to invite me to Las Vegas for the event. I’d asked her why she didn’t just get married in Arizona. Saylor smiled and said, “This will be the biggest party I ever have. So it has to be the best.” That made sense to me in a weird way. Still, I wouldn’t have come along if Truly hadn’t dragged me.

Even though I doubted that the whole Happily Ever After thing was meant for everyone, I had to smile over Saylor and Cord Gentry. It was tough not to. I sipped my champagne and watched the two of them. Saylor was radiant in her simple white dress. Her long brown hair had been curled and hung down her back. She kept absently running a hand over the small bulge in her abdomen as Cord held her possessively close. There was a story about them but I’d only heard it in bits and pieces and I wasn’t nosy enough to ask. They’d known each other as kids and she hated him for a long time. Apparently he’d been quite the piece of work in his youth. All the Gentry boys were.

I knew Cord and his brothers were triplets but they must not have been identical because I could tell them apart easily. They were all big, blonde, square-jawed and strong. Even just one of them would have been enough to soak all the panties within half a mile. The visual effect of the three of them together was nearly spellbinding.

Cord had a lot of tattoos and seemed like he was the steadiest of the three. If he’d once been an asshole he must have gotten over it because he seemed all right now. I prided myself on being able to tell the difference. Creedence was Truly’s boyfriend. He was a monster of strength and steely blue eyes. But one thing I could say for Creed was that he wasn’t a phony. He just plowed through life not caring who likes or doesn’t like him. The first time I met him I thought he was a dick, but then again I’d mistaken him for his brother, Chase.

Chase Gentry.

He was sitting at the next table with Creed and Truly as a waiter brought out steaks for all the guests. Chase was looking at me again. We shared a psychology class and once he realized we knew the same people he made a habit out of seeking me out. Like a cat batting a ball between its claws, every approach had a mischievous quality. Usually our conversations ended abruptly and profanely. In truth, Chase was so goddamn hot I had trouble staring straight at him without flinching. I could swear that jerk knew it too. He was used to chicks climbing all over him and he thought all he had to do was flash an impish smile to get what he wanted.

I put my glass down and started cutting my steak. I felt out of place. Plus, even though I had no money in it, I was still dying to see the game. I would have been better off pacing in front of the television or staring tensely at my phone. My fingers fairly itched to pick it up. Ordinarily I would have had my face buried in the screen, but it seemed wrong to be an electronic parasite in the middle of a wedding. I left it in the small purse Truly had forced me to carry in place of my backpack.

Saylor’s cousin, Brayden, and Millie, his girlfriend, were at my table. They seemed determined to get me to like them.

“So,” said Millie cheerfully, “you go back to New York often?”

I shook my head. I hadn’t been back in three years. There was no reason to. Robbie and my mother were dead. My father was locked away in some upstate prison tundra. And Michael and I had always been at odds. I didn’t even know where he was now. “I don’t go back.”

“What was that like?” Brayden asked with a little bit of awe. “Growing up in a place like New York?”

“Long Island, actually,” I told him. “Suburb about thirty miles outside of the city.”

Brayden nodded. “You used go there often though?”

“To the city? Not really, maybe four or five times a year while I was growing up.” Whenever we took the train into Manhattan it seemed like an alternate universe full of crowds and noise and confusing smells. My mother hated the city. She was forever pining for her childhood country home in the Catskills. She did love the beach though. I couldn’t think of my mother without remembering the old Jones Beach boardwalk.

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