I take a long sip of my drink, the pungency of olives and alcohol saturating my mouth.
“How’d you do?” I ask.
“Not even close to as impressively as you.”
He shakes his head, as if we’ve just finished a friendly game on my balcony.
The bartender slides a tumbler towards him, brimming with brown liquor. I press Max Bet and hold two queens.
“You know what they say about losing propositions,” I say.
I land a full house, and suck on my cigarette.
Diego shakes his head. “Get out before you get killed.”
I tilt up my chin to exhale away from his broad torso, moving in closer as he leans an elbow on the bar. The current between us surges. He swirls the ice in his glass before downing most of his whiskey.
“Unless the risk is worth the reward,” he says, placing the near-empty glass on the bar. “Like winning a hundred-fifty-grand pot…on a bluff.”
He stares at the cut over my brow. “Jiu-jitsu?”
I gulp down more alcohol, watching his jaw flex from youth and an overabundance of testosterone.
“Are you looking for pointers?” I ask.
One of his large well-manicured hands takes the cigarette from between my fingers. He inhales a final drag slowly before putting out the stub, glancing again at my empty ring finger.
“I want to apologize,” he says.
When the call came in, he accused my stepfather of purposely scheming to break up our trip. Worse, he claimed that my working for the man was the reason my mother had landed in the hospital.
I finish my drink and push it away. It’s all I can think to do, to calm my nerves. I stand from my chair. In my heels, we’re nearly at eye level.
“My mother is out of the hospital,” I say. “Thank you.” I place a fifty on the bar and press the Cash Out button. “But it doesn’t change anything between us.”
I slip the paper worth a couple hundred extra now into my clutch and sidle up next to him.
“So fucking hot, aren’t you?” My bare shoulder brushes against his jacket, and my cheek flushes as it inches towards his. “But let me be clear.” My lips brush his ear. “I’m not interested.”
I let that sink in before pouting like I’m about to blow him a kiss and then strutting away, knowing his eyes are still on me.
“Hey,” he calls out, but I don’t bother turning around.
Diego and I…we’re better off as friends. I shouldn’t have given him false hope, again.
But he’s keeping pace. “Hey,” he says, firmly grabbing my arm.
My fist whips up and I nearly clock him.
He lets go and puts some distance between us.
“I know you like to play rough, Victoria.” He pauses. “But I also know you’re trying to kill my uncle.”
I grind to a halt. My heart thumps loudly in my chest.
“Interested now?” Diego places his hand back on my arm and walks me toward a set of elevators.