Queen of Hearts

byslyc_willie©

The lunch buffet was almost done when I made it down to the restaurant. I managed to get my fill of king crab and lemon-pepper shrimp, then took my usual table at the outdoor café. Café mocha. Double shot, this time.

"And . . . how was your night?"

I chuckled at the sound of Cobb's voice. He pulled out the chair across from mine and eased into it.

"It was . . . worth it," I said with a wink.

He arched a bushy eyebrow. "Was it?"

I shrugged. "It was what it was."

Cobb shook his head. He motioned to one of the waitresses, ordered a café latte. He regarded me a moment, rolling an unlit cigar in his fingers. "She's gone, you know."

I nodded, sipped my coffee. "I figured."

"You think she'll be back?"

I sighed. "She's still a married a woman," I said. "Last night was . . . a bargain. A debt earned, and paid in full." I smirked. "And then some."

Cob laughed gruffly. "Are you sure about that?"

I frowned. "What are you talking about?"

Cobb leaned back, scratching his beard. "I've been around a lot longer than you, Nick. I may not be as good at cards, but I've seen more. I remember when Arizona Joe bluffed his way out of a flush with Brown-Eyed Bobby. Joe didn't have more than a ten of spades as the high card, yet he got Bobby to fold. I thought that was the best bluff I'd ever seen. Until last night."

Confusion deepened my frown. "What are you talking about?"

Cobb's older, wiser eyes met mine. "Three of a kind," he said.

I said nothing.

He leaned forward, grinning. "She played you, Nick," he said with a smile that was both smug and impressed. "She had three sevens. Three of a kind beats any pair."

I was silent for a long moment, mulling over Cobb's words. Robin could have taken my money and left, her 'honor' intact. Yet she did not. She chose to come to my room. What had happened, had happened because Robin wanted it to.

I smiled slowly. "Oh, she had three sevens, all right," I said, then lifted my cup. "But I had the Queen of Hearts."

-finis-

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