Holiday Games


Page 8





Author: Jaci Burton






Which meant Liz was glad she was stone-cold sober and staying glued to Jenna's side. Savannah and Alicia were off on the dance floor with Tara, who'd also decided to drink on the light side tonight, so at least she had some help, because Alicia and Savannah were feeling no pain. Jenna had warned them about those fruity, fancy rum drinks, but did they listen? No. They were currently swaying on the dance floor, holding on to each other, their once perfect hairstyles now droopy and flat.


They were adorable. Tara was snapping pictures and laughing as she danced around them, and doing a fine job of glaring at any men hoping to take advantage.


Good for her.


Sebastian had also stationed a couple of the bouncers nearby, so Liz knew her group was safe from anyone thinking to take advantage of her loopy friends tonight.


Jenna, meanwhile, blinked, frowned at her list, and bumped into Liz. "Whas thiz one say?"


She loved being sober when her friends were blitzed. "It says you have to kiss a bald man on the head."


"Oh, I can do that one easy sleazy, man." Jenna flipped around and lost her balance. Liz grabbed her.


"Okay, go find a bald guy."


"On my way." Jenna weaved her way in and out of the crowd, Liz right behind her. Then she turned around and bumped into her.


"Oh, there you are, Liz."


"Need something?"


"Yeah. What am I doing?"


"Looking for a bald guy so you can kiss his head."


"Oh, yeah. On it." This time, she wandered off in the opposite direction.


Shaking her head, Liz pivoted and followed. When Jenna stalled in the middle of the dance floor, Liz grabbed her arm.


"How about I help you out?"


Jenna frowned. "With what?"


She could tell this game was winding down. "Bald guy?"


"Oh, yeah. Nope, I'm totally in control here." She pushed her way out of the crowd of dancers and made her way to the bar, where there was a gorgeous and very bald dude leaning against it.


Jenna leaned against the bar. "Hey there, hot stuff. Can I kiss your head?"


"Excuse me?" The guy's girlfriend didn't seem too keen on the idea, for obvious reasons.


Liz said. "Bachelorette party to-do list. Totally harmless, I promise."


"Oh," the woman said with a grin. "I remember when I had to do all that shit. Hideous, but fun at the same time."


Liz nodded.


"Your friend looks shitfaced," the girl said.


Liz laughed. "Pretty much. I think we're going to wrap it up if your guy here gives the okay."


"Fine with me if my wife says yes."


The woman leaned forward and looked at Jenna. "Go for it, honey."


Liz got out her camera as Jenna kissed the top of his head. She got the shot and thanked the couple, then took Jenna by the hand.


"You about ready to call it a night?"


"Hell, no. I'm ready for another drink."


Liz rolled her eyes. Oh, Lord. This was going to be a long-ass night.


***


Gavin got his second card from the dealer.


A six, which gave him twelve.


What the fuck. A twelve? How could he keep getting such shitty hands?


"Dude," was all Ty said next to him. At least he commiserated.


Gavin flicked his fingers to take a card. He had to hit on the twelve. He had no choice.


He pulled a nine from the dealer and grinned.


Twenty-one.


The dealer ended up with eighteen and Gavin raked in winnings.


"You lucky sonofabitch," Mick said, setting down his bet for the next hand. "Who the fuck pulls a twenty-one out of a twelve?"


"I just did."


They played several rounds, and after that one winning hand, Gavin's luck changed. When the dealer reshuffled the deck, Gavin cashed out, figuring he wouldn't press his luck. He and Mick moved over to the craps tables. They both did well there, so Ty and Garrett joined them along with Ty's friends from his hockey team, Eddie Wolkowski and Victor Putinov.


"Too bad Cole can't be here," Gavin said. "He loves to gamble."


"Yeah, well, he has a game tomorrow and I have a bye this week, so he's shit out of luck," Mick said with a smile as he tossed the dice across the table.


Everyone surrounding the table cheered as the numbers came up a win.


"But I'm in the luck," Mick said with a wide grin.


It had been a good day. They'd gone to the shooting range earlier in the day. Nothing like firing off some machine gun rounds in a controlled environment to let off a little aggression. It turned out Victor was the most accurate. Ty had accused him of spending time in the Soviet military. Victor laughed and told them he used to hunt rabbits and that's why he was such a good shot, though he didn't need machine guns to take them down.


Then they'd headed over to the raceway and driven some very expensive cars. Gavin had chosen the Ferrari, which had been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There was nothing like having all that power in his hands as he'd fired it up and taken it around the curves at the Las Vegas raceway. It had been a thrill not only to drive the car, but to watch the other guys drive the cars they'd chosen. Impressive machines, and a lot of fun.


Spending tonight gambling was more relaxing. It was nice to have an easy night just hanging with the guys and cutting loose. Guys didn't need glitz and glamour to have a good time. Gavin just wanted to make sure Ty was having fun, and from the pile of chips in front of him and the wide grin on his face, he seemed to be having a blast.


They hit the poker room later in the evening, drank several beers, and played well into the night. Gavin had given Ty a choice of gambling or hitting the clubs.


"I spend a lot of time in Riley's Club with Jenna," he said . "Lots of music and dancing and we always have a really good time. If I want to hit a club, I'll do it with my woman. Let's gamble."


It had been a good choice. This was quiet: just the guys, their beers, and their cards. Understated, and fucking perfect.


He sat in the sports book room and took a look at the betting, more or less to take a breather.


Mick joined him. The waitress came over and Mick ordered a soda while Gavin ordered another beer.


"Making bets on some of the games?" Mick asked.


"Nah. Just looking at the lines."


The waitress brought their drinks.


"How's Nathan doing?" Gavin asked.


"Good. He's finishing up finals and coming home next week. I can't wait to see him."


"Me, too. He's changed a lot since you and Tara first got together. He's a man now."


Mick laughed. "Yeah. He was just a kid when I first met Tara. A little unsure of himself, but still, he knew what he wanted. And now he's the damned quarterback at the University of Texas. His freshman year and they took the Big 12 Championship." Mick took a long swallow of soda with a smile on his face.


"Spoken like a proud father."


"I know. I can hardly believe it myself. But he's my kid. He might not have been born mine and he might not have my DNA, but he's still mine and has been since- Hell, since the first day I met him, I guess. I couldn't be more proud of everything he's accomplished."


"You've done some nudging along the way. There's no doubt you've had some influence on him."


"Yeah. A lot of don't-fuck-this-up-like-I-did influence. He knows what not to do. He's always gotten good grades, and he loves sports. He's focused. Though he said he wants to bring his girlfriend to be his date for Ty's wedding."


Gavin arched a brow. "Nathan has a girlfriend?"


"So he tells me. Some hottie who plays for the basketball team there."


"You said yes, right?"


"Of course I said yes. Though the poor girl will be subjected to all the Rileys. I'm not sure Nathan knows what he's dragging her into."


Gavin shrugged. "If she survives all of us at one time, she's a keeper."


Mick laughed. "You're right about that. Maybe he's smarter than I think. Trial by fire and all that."


"Hey, relax, Dad," Gavin teased. "He's doing good."


"I know. He's got it all together. I keep reminding myself that every day."


Gavin knew what Mick wasn't saying. "And he's not drinking."


"God, no. Not like I was in college, anyway. He knows I'll kick his ass from Texas back to Missouri if he does."


"I think he understands how important this is. And what you went through with your alcoholism and how it almost cost you your shot in the NFL. Like you said, he's a smart kid."


"Yeah, he is."


"So quit worrying and let's figure out who's going to kick Philadelphia's ass on Sunday."


Mick grinned and they stared at the board for a while. After that, they wandered out to find the others. Mick went back to playing blackjack with Garrett, while Gavin, Eddie, Victor, and Ty hit the poker tables.


Gavin wondered how Liz was doing with the women. Knowing her, she was probably showing them all a great time in Jamaica.


His woman knew how to party. He knew she had it well handled.


Still, she was on his mind, so when he took his next break he grabbed his phone and sent her a text, figuring she likely wouldn't see it until tomorrow.


I miss you. How's it going?


Surprisingly, she sent back a reply within a few minutes.


Everyone's drunk except me. And maybe Tara. And I miss you, too. I'm having fun with the girls, but Jamaica would be a lot more romantic if you were here.


He smiled and sent her another. Yeah, fun here with the guys, but can't touch them like I can you.


She replied back with. God, I hope not. People will talk.


He laughed and typed off one more text. Have fun. Call me tomorrow. I love you.


I love you, too, Gavin.


Chapter Six


"No one told me I'd have to fly home with a hangover today. This is awful."


Jenna sat on the edge of the sofa, bent over with her hands covering her face.


Liz was curled up on the chair across from her, oh-so-happy not to have partaken in the debauchery of drink last night. She'd suffered many a hangover and she was glad to have escaped it this time.


Alicia came out of the bedroom and leaned against the doorway. "Can we stay another day? Because I feel like I'm going to die."


Liz fought the urge to laugh. Alicia's hair kind of resembled Einstein's at the moment.


"Did you sleep on your face last night?"


Alicia dragged her hair back. "I don't even remember getting back to the hotel last night."


Savannah pushed her way past Alicia, and, if possible, looked even worse. She didn't make eye contact, just stared straight ahead. "I. Need. Coffee."


"It's over there." Liz hooked her thumb toward the cart. "There's also orange juice, tomato juice, and some pastries."


"Gag," Jenna said from her spot on the sofa.


"You should eat something," Liz said. "And tomato juice will help."


Jenna pulled a decorative pillow against her stomach. "Please stop mentioning food. Or drink."


"Hey, at least we had fun last night," Liz said.


"Did we?" Savannah asked as she walked by with a cup of coffee in hand. "I hope there's photographic evidence because I don't recall a thing." She laid the coffee down on the table and flopped into the chair. "Lord, who made me drink so much?"


Alicia had only made it as far as the sofa where Jenna was lying. She sat and pulled Jenna's legs on top of her lap. "I'm blaming Jenna for this."






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