Chapter Twenty-One

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Poppy dangled her shoe from her toe, trying her best to look playful and interested in Todd's running dialogue on a racecar that had recently lost him quite a bit of money. Apparently, he blamed a bookie for misunderstanding his bet, his hands flying as he explained the delicacy of long odds.

"Are we going anywhere today, doll? Like...lunch?" She scanned the kitchen for signs of lunch being made, ordered, or even thought of. Her stomach growled at the lack of anything edible in sight. She'd rushed from the gym, where she'd spent the morning teaching two yoga classes and one self-defense aerobics class, for this supposed date. If Todd didn't stop talking about the benefits of deep braking and provide her with a meal, she was not going to be responsible for blowing this entire operation with one swift kick to the kneecap.

Todd shook his head. "I ate at the club."

She paused, waiting for the rest of the statement, but nothing came. The man's interest was definitely on its way out—he wasn't even willing to feed her anymore. "What was your mother like, I wonder?"

"My mother?" Todd's neck did a full swivel her direction. "What do you mean?"

Poppy swallowed a sigh. "Nothing. I just find parental history interesting, that's all. How it is a person becomes the way they are... I bet your mom was really pretty, wasn't she?"

Todd must have partially gotten the hint because he stood, grabbed a sparkling water from his refrigerator and offered it to her. Better than nothing. "She was beautiful."

He let the statement sit there, and Poppy thought it would be an easy jump to finish the rest of the description. Beautiful, expensive, and most likely not around much.

She knew guys like Todd—had grown up with guys like Todd. They were the ones who lived with single mothers and their endless string of boyfriends, who felt the only way they could compete for her attention was with either money or meanness. Some boys became overachievers and opted for both.

Todd was one of them.

"Speaking of families," he said, inserting a casual note into his voice. "I got a call from Drago. The game's been moved to tonight."

Aha. That was the real reason they weren't going out. He wanted to discuss the poker game.

That was fine with her, since the plan was to end things this evening. They'd increased the buy-in so that Todd would arrive with at least a hundred grand in tow. As before, they'd lull him into a belief he was doing well, only to start hitting hard as the night wore on. As soon as they had their take, Poppy planned on starting an argument with him to end the game.

By the time he left, Todd Kennick would be broke and alone. Just like Grandma Jean.

"Ohh, that's good." She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his midsection. It was hard not to make the comparison between that embrace and the ones she'd lately shared with Asprey. It wasn't just their physiques that were different—it was the way two bodies molded together.

Natalie, with her mile-high breasts and tight clothes, would have felt awkward pushed up against anyone, let alone a man who never appeared to be at ease in his own skin. But Poppy, naked Poppy, stripped-down Poppy—she seemed to melt into Asprey's arms without even trying.

She pulled away. That was a bad comparison to make. She wasn't going to end up in any man's arms.

"It's good, it's good." Todd grabbed his comb from his back pocket and ran it through his hair. "But I need to make some, ah, arrangements with my money guy."

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