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Fair Game

By:Monica Murphy

the many ways I could have her if she was mine. Though it would be brief. I don't keep girls, never have. Girlfriends want too much. Have high expectations that I can never, ever deliver. I don't even want to deliver, because women? They are demanding as fuck.

And this one I know would give me nothing but endless shit.

"I hate you," she whispers, shooting daggers at me with her … hmm. Hazel eyes? Yeah, they're a mix of colors, green and gray and a hint of brown, so I'm calling her eyes hazel. "Don't think I won't stomp on your balls if you go through with this, because I so will."

"Maybe I like that sort of kink," I say, sitting up straight. "So what'll it be, Joel? You in?"

"I'm fucking definitely in!" He shouts, then high fives the jackass who's sitting behind him.

"All right then. An extra fifty-k if you win, Jade Bitch Face if I win." I throw a hundred dollar chip into the center of the table, adding it to the pot as a goodwill gesture. "Call."

"Here you go." The smugness in Joel's voice is unmistakable. "Read ‘em and weep." He spreads his cards out in front of him. Three aces and two kings.

A fucking nice hand for sure.

"A full house," I murmur, keeping my voice even while deep inside, I'm ready to offer up my own triumphant shout. Hot damn, I've got this fucker. "Aces and kings high."

"Fuck yeah, dude." Joel starts to reach for the pile of chips, coins and dollar bills, looking like a greedy kid who just busted the piñata and has no plans on sharing any of the candy that fell from it.

"Hold it." Joel pauses in his gathering. "I haven't showed my hand yet. There's a protocol to this procedure you know."

"Right, right, dude. Go for it." He releases his hold on the pile of winnings, though his greedy gaze never strays from it. He's not even looking at his girl, who just happens to be staring at me. She hates my guts. I can feel the waves of anger coming at me, heavier and heavier as each minute passes.

She's really going to hate me when I share my cards.

"Ready?" I cock a brow, drawing out the suspense. I'm relishing this moment because it's going to be a good one. There's a vibration beneath my skin, a buzzing that grows and grows until it's a dull roar in my ears and I blow out a long exhale, crinkle the cards between my fingers before I slowly drop them onto the table, one by one.

Six of hearts-the trash card.

Queen of spades.

Queen of hearts.

Queen of diamonds.

And-dramatic pause-the queen of clubs.

The entire room erupts into cheers, choruses of ‘no way' and the occasional ‘he fucking beat you man!'. Gabe rushes me, shaking my shoulders from behind and offering up his congratulations. Others follow suit and clap me on the back, some chick drapes herself over me and kisses my cheek. A defeated Joel pushes away from the table so fast his chair falls backward with a clatter. He leaves the room in a huff, never once saying a word to anyone, not even his freaking girlfriend.

What a jackass.

And speaking of his girlfriend …

"You don't really think you've won me or anything, right?" She rests her hand on my thigh-Jesus that feels good-and digs her fingernails in so hard, I can feel them even through the thick denim of my jeans.

That doesn't feel so good. At all.

"A bet is a bet," I remind her, wrapping my fingers around her wrist and disengaging her from my flesh. I drop her hand back into her lap, ignoring the tingle I feel in my fingertips from touching her.

"It was all for show," she says, sounding the slightest bit worried. While all hell breaks loose around us, we're having this conversation. Funny how I'm able to tune everyone else out and only focus on her. "You didn't lose your fifty thousand, so everything's good right? You get all that as your prize." She waves her hand toward the pile of chips that Joel so recently abandoned.

"I hate to break it to you, Jade. But you're my prize. And I plan on collecting." I lean in close to her, so close I can feel her warm breath waft across my face, see the way her eyes widen the slightest bit. Her lips part, her tongue appears, touching the very center of her upper lip and my skin tightens. "How about a victory kiss for starters?"

"Fuck you," she spits out.

Just before she slaps my face and storms off without another word.

Stop texting me. I broke up with you. Deal with it.

I toss my phone beside me on the bed and flop back against the pillows with a dramatic sigh. "I hate men."

"You and me both sister," Kelli agrees though I know she really doesn't mean it. She never came back to our dorm room last night and finally texted me at one in the morning to let me know she was staying the night with Dane.

As a matter of fact, she has that after-sex-glow thing going on since she arrived fifteen minutes ago. They must've been doing it all morning. Her hair is a mess, her cheeks are flushed and she moves like her limbs are made of rubber, all languid and easy.

Lucky bitch.

I, on the other hand, had to break up with my boyfriend last night-who was just okay in the sex department-and am now once again single.

If you don't count on me also being the personal property of one Shepard Prescott, thanks to the ridiculous bet Joel agreed to.

God, I hate him so much. Both of them.

"Joel won't leave me alone," I say as I watch Kelli move about the small room. She's gathering up clean clothes, probably going to take a shower and I realize she might still be all sticky sweaty from her sexual escapades.

Ew.

"You did just break up with him," Kelli points out as she turns to face me. "I'm sure he's pretty upset."

"Are you saying I shouldn't have broken up with him? He did offer me up as part of his bet."

"He didn't offer you up. Shepard Prescott took over the entire situation. You know this." Kelli starts laughing. "You should've seen the look of shock on his face after you slapped him. It was priceless. There was a red handprint on his cheek, Jade. You hit the boy hard."

"Whatever. He deserved it." I glance at my buzzing phone. Another text from Joel.

It's not my fault. Come on Jade.

Please forgive me.

"Ha." I start texting.

I never want to see you again. Quit making an ass of yourself.

"He makes me crazy," I mutter as I discard the phone, wishing he would just leave me alone. I'm probably being a total bitch but I can't help it. He never ran to my defense, he never told Shep to back off, nothing. He let it all unfold and then left me having to deal with the aftermath.

I'm feeling pretty justified in breaking up with him. We'd been growing apart anyway. This was just the final layer of frosting on the gigantic shit cake our relationship had turned into.

"You're so mean," Kelli says, shaking her head. "What was Joel supposed to do? Shep Prescott is a big deal. Very intimidating. Joel didn't have a chance."

"So? He should've defended me, not run away." I shrug, but what she says makes sense and guilt swamps me. "Besides, you're mean too. You treat Dane terribly."

Kelli waves her hand, dismissing my lame accusation. "We're not talking about Dane. And really, I'm not as mean as you. Poor Joel. He thought he had that game won. Did you see his hand?"

"Did you see Shep's?" The way he revealed it too. Smug bastard. One card after another. One queen after another. My heart had sunk with every card that fell onto the table. Until it was in the pit of my stomach and I knew I lost. Not Joel.

Me.

"You know he wasn't serious." When I say nothing, Kelli continues. "About the bet. About you. He can't claim you as his prize. You're a human being with your own mind. He wouldn't be that much of an asshole to try and collect."

"Please. He's a spoiled rich ass

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