“You know how to play poker?” he asked.
“A little.” One of my college roommates had a boyfriend who was really into poker. He’d taught us both the basics.
“You have any cash on you?”
“Perfect. Come on.”
Luke and I rose from the couch and followed Jaxon to the dining room table. Luke tugged on my wrist, meeting my eyes with a solemn gaze. “You don’t have to play with him.”
Honestly, the distraction of a game of cards sounded better than sitting on the couch moping and waiting for Knox to get home. And I liked the idea of getting to know Luke and Jaxon a little better. I hadn’t spent any quality time with just the three of us before. “Can we play with just three players?” I asked Jaxon, settling into the chair across from him.
“Yeah, shorthanded poker. Luke, Knox, and I play this way sometimes.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “Knox and I don’t play with him anymore. He’s too good. Be careful, McKenna.”
I laughed. I couldn’t really see Jaxon trying to roll me for my money. I grabbed my wallet from my purse and set it on the table next to me. “I think I can handle myself.”
Jaxon smiled at me, a devilish grin that showed off one dimple. “I like the confidence. Game on, babe.”
Luke rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head.
I watched as Jaxon pulled a roll of bills from his pocket that was several inches thick. Whoa. Where had he gotten that kind of money? There had to be several hundred dollars there, and as far as I knew he didn’t have a job. Unless you counted breaking hearts and getting into fights. I averted my eyes from the stack of money he was shuffling through. It was his business.
Jaxon made quick work of changing my twenty-dollar bill into singles and passing the cash back to me. “Aren’t you getting in?” I asked Luke.
He shook his head. “I don’t play Jax for money anymore. Now we trade homework assignments.”
I guess that made sense. Luke was good at school and it seemed to come naturally for him. “Oh. Well, what do you get if you win?”
A confused look twisted his features. “I don’t know. I’ve never won.”
I watched in awe as Jaxon shuffled and dealt the cards. The way his fingers glided over the cards with ease told me he’d spent a fair amount of time playing, a little hidden talent I’d known nothing about. It seemed the more I got to know about these boys, the more they surprised me.
“So, where is Knox anyway?” Jaxon asked, dealing the last card.
While I arranged the cards in my hand, I explained about Amanda and how her water had broken on his bedroom floor.
Jaxon made a face and shuddered. “Nasty.” Luke’s expression was more one of concern. They couldn’t be more different if they tried.
I’d been dealt a decent hand—a pair of tens and a pair of sixes—and I tossed a few dollars into the center of the table. After seeing and raising, then noticing conspicuous looks from Luke, I called Jaxon and he turned over his cards for me. A full house. He took the bills from the center of the table and gave me a mocking look.
Throughout the game I continually glanced down at my phone, wondering what was happening at the hospital and when Knox would be home. I felt a little bad that I hadn’t been the one to go with Amanda. I was sure she could have used a female friend there, but someone had to stay here with Tucker, and knowing the state I’d been in, it made sense that person was me. Watching Spiderman with a cuddly eight-year-old was much less stressful than being a birth coach, I was sure.
While Jaxon easily won hand after hand, Luke delivered salty snacks and cold beverages to the table, as if pretzels and chips would make up for me getting my butt kicked by Jaxon.
As it turned out, I wasn’t as decent a poker player as I’d thought. Or Jaxon was just that good.
When my twenty dollars had dwindled down to two, I folded, laying my cards down on the table, then yawned. It was already after midnight. “You know there is such a thing as letting a girl win.” I smiled sweetly, handing over more singles.
“I respect you too much to treat you like an unequal opponent,” he said, sweet as pie.
“Yeah, sure you do.” I winked.
“Let’s just not tell Knox about this, okay?” Jaxon grinned, stacking his pile of newly acquired bills in front of him.
I chuckled. No doubt, Knox wouldn’t be happy about Jaxon swindling me in a game of poker. “I’m beat, guys. I think I’m gonna call it a night.”
One more quick check of my phone and still nothing from Knox. I considered calling him but decided against it. If he was helping Amanda during her labor, he’d have his hands full. Yet there was something that nagged at me. Her showing up here when she was in labor seemed a little odd to me. Maybe they’d grown closer while I was away. Pushing the thoughts aside, I rose from my seat and stretched. “’Night, guys.”
Luke and Jaxon kissed each of my cheeks and I climbed the stairs feeling happy and complete. Being near them made me feel like I was getting my second chance at a family.
Crawling into Knox’s bed alone felt strange. The bed was too big, too cold, and it made me yearn for his warmth. The one bonus was that the pillowcase smelled like him. Curling onto my side, I snuggled in closer, breathing in that delicious scent, and drifted off to sleep.
When Knox finally arrived home late the next morning, I’d already made a big pancake breakfast, cleaned up, and played an epic battle of superheroes with Tucker. Knox looked weary and tired, but most of all he looked traumatized.
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