Chapter Fourteen | The Gambler

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The lights of Boss's parlor were turned down to a warm glow, the furniture pushed back against the walls to make space for the large circular table now occupying the center of the room. The gentle chiming of ice against glass occasionally broke over the smooth crooning voice coming from the stereophone. The crew was seated around the table at even intervals, Cash and Boss being directly across from one another. Boss was shuffling the red paisley backed cards with expert ease. The noise of the deck quickly whisking through the air in her hands was a sound that sent chills of excitement down Cash's spine and made memories pull on the threads of her heart.

Csy was seated to her right, head held in one hand, elbow on the table. With distracted fingers, they were teasing at the blonde curls of their current visage, a human man with wide soft features and pink cheeks. To Cash's left was Asimov. He sat unmoving in his eerie stillness, save for the click and whir of the mechanics that kept him alive and running. His chest, and the power source that resided there, were almost bright enough to be considered another light source. Beside him was Gideon, her eyes reflecting the lamps with an eerie glow as she nervously glanced about the room. Cash wondered if the Vox would be able to sit still long enough for a game of poker. On Boss's left side was Tate, his four hands occupied by a very complex knitting pattern as he waited for the game to begin.

"Now," Boss began, "this is Texas Hold'em, so have fun with it."

Csy let out a puff of breath. "I hate poker." Cash heard them mumble.

Boss dealt out the cards two at a time, starting with Tate and moving around the table.

"Let's begin.'

Tate slowly pulled up the cards with his large hands and puzzled for a moment.

"I think...bet." He pushed a few tokens to the middle of the table.

"Call," Csy said languidly.

"Call," Cash tossed a handful of tokens into the center.

"Call," Asimov repeated the gesture.

"C-Call," Gideon finally slid her tokens forward.

"Call," Boss said with a small smile, pushing her tokens out and then dealing out the three cards that made up the flop. The cards revealed were: a three of hearts, a three of diamonds, a jack of spades, and a five of clubs.

Cash teased the edges of her cards with her fingertips, the three of clubs and the ten of spades. She met Boss's smirking gaze across the pile of tokens.

"Raise," Tate mumbled, pushing more tokens toward the center.

"Fold."

"What, already?" Gideon whined at Csy. The Therian ignored her and placed their cards down on the table.

Cash pondered for a moment. "Raise."

"Raise."

"Raise."

"Raise," Boss finished the round and dealt out the turn. Eight of spades.

Cash steadied her breathing and glanced quickly around the table. Asimov was completely unreadable as always. Csy irrelevant. Tate's long tongue was poking just between his lips in thought. Boss's expression was casual, her eyes flickering upward to meet Cash's gaze with a twinkle.

Everyone but Asimov raised.

"The odds are statistically not in my favor," he said as he stiffly set his cards face down.

Boss dealt the river card. Nine of spades. Cash thanked her lucky stars.

Tate let out a disgruntled noise. "I fold," he said, relinquishing his cards.

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