"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then
- Charles M. Schulz
High Stakes Poker
The moment he walked in sitting across from Amanda, she had to
remind herself to breathe. She did not remember ever feeling this
attracted to a man before if she had it was decades ago.
She had heard his name in passing never setting her eyes on him.
This was the first time she was playing this level, despite
having played for two years with success. She had played with
everyone else at the table except for him-Antonio.
His serious appearance supported the poker-faced pun. His
expression was authoritative in an unusual sense for the
circumstances. Amanda sensing this was not a game face thought it
was a part of his personality.
She found herself unintentionally observing him. Stunning, the
man was magnificent. This was a new sight to her eyes. Needing
the distraction, she wondered why the game was not starting.
Again, she found her gaze converging with his. Oh my God, he was
looking at her. The whole situation made her feel like a
teenager. He probably thought she was silly.
He was gorgeous even with a bruise and laceration at the hairline
over his left eye. No doubt, he had fought over a woman in a bar
room argument. That thought did not deter her from trying to
imagine how would feel like to touch his short waves of dark
He wore glasses, small frameless glasses reminiscent of a
scholar, adding to his mystery. The glasses not hiding his eyes
they were intense dark eyes revealing an inquisitive soul
suggesting his outer serious persona might be a covert act.
Amanda imagined getting close enough to remove his glasses.
Taking a deep breath, she wondered if he could see without his
glasses. Knowing that personal detail Amanda felt was an intimate
His face was perfect, a defined bone structure a genetic gift of
his ethnicity, which she was not pinpointing. She thought maybe
Argentine. His complexion golden almost amber reminded her of the
gorgeous Argentines. If she touched his skin, it would feel
smooth and pliable. Reality showed up with disappointment it
pinched her he must be younger. He had an abundance of
collagen... That suggested he was younger.
He possessed a biblical neck. She ran through the file folders in
her brain. The ancients loved the neck. This intrigued her. She
now understood a strong lean neck compared to a pillar or a
column. His neck was of biblical proportions. She wanted to trace
it with her fingers.
Antonio was unable to believe he was sitting across the table
from the phantom woman who had appeared in his unconsciousness at
Hidden Mountain, in the cavern three days ago. He had obsessed
about her ever sense. Now, seated in front of him, he was sure to
make an ass of himself. At least if he was anywhere else at the
table he might have stared at her with some privacy.
Her eyes enchanted him. He decided they were weapons she could
cast damn spells over anyone she chose. They were kaleidoscopes
of colors with tantalizing sparkles of blue, gray, green, and
aqua. No doubt, she knew it and might use them. She was able to
get anything she wanted with those eyes. Yes, they were weapons
all right. His eyes met with hers, he thought, yeah Antonio,
she shot your ass. You have fallen victim to her artillery. Save
yourself some trouble and come out with your hands up. Let her
have you, she would make you her slave.
The conversation with his self did not end there as he moved his
attention to her hair. It was Auburn red keeping with the witchy
theme. Not blonde, not brunette but lots of gorgeous auburn hair.
Nothing was ordinary about her. It was wicked, witchcraft that
was it. First, she was invading him in his hallucination, or
dream or whatever, the hell it was. Now she was seducing him
right here in public. His eyelids closed. He squeezed them
together and reopened them. Damn, she was still there.
That was it! She looked as an angel but she was in reality a
gorgeous witch. It was a curse or a joke from King Solomon. She
came with the damn scrolls; he had a couple of days to develop a
relationship with her, she was able to help him fulfill the
scrolls' legacy. How would he do that when he was not able to get
beyond wanting her for himself? He had been set to fail. She was
supposed to be his partner on a journey for the greater good. A
journey served better if she were ordinary.
He caught a glimpse of her smile. God she was killing him. He
wondered how her smiling mouth tasted. Whatever it was, he was
sure it was poison. He had wanted to meet someone his whole life
who made his heart dance. He thought he found the one who could
dance. He had to try to make her a business partner. That was
nuts. He had heard the Legends of King Solomon's black magic.
The one average trait she had was her height. She was fit not in
a skinny or bony pretending to be fit way. She had an elongated,
not bulked, yoga feminine strength. She had the ability to wrap
those yoga legs around him anytime. That thought made him
He wished he were King Arthur or Sir Lancelot. He would kick back
his chair at the round table, pull out some long-ass sword, swoop
up the enchanter, throw her on his horse, and take her to his
chamber at his castle. He would cut out all the roadblocks.
She turned sideways to talk to someone and he concluded from her
movement. God they were real, no silicone implants! Her tits were
He was not able to take it any longer. She straightened back in
the chair. A natural soft cleavage, not pumped up, pulled up
stuffed in a contraption to small leaving indentions of cut-off
circulation for eight hours after removal. Oh, God, that meant
she would feel him touching or even better yet, kissing her. Her
breasts had feeling. He had not been with anyone in sometime but
it had been eons since he had even seen real tits.
He grabbed the water bottle from the short service table behind
him. He drank half of it without moving it from his lips.
They informed everyone of a technical problem. The game officials
delayed the game for a short time. She moved away from the table.
He felt weak: her entire being was in his view. He should go talk
to her. Out of the question, he had become mute. She smiled. She
even smiled when she was not smiling.
Somehow, he stood; he paused and stepped away from the table. She
possessed him; he was walking over to introduce himself. He did
not know how he was doing it. Her eyes met his as he approached;
he glanced down at her feet to measure her shoes. Her forehead
met his lips. She would lose some height with her shoes an inch,
maybe. She was not walking around on stilts with her feet
swelling. He held out his hand. She took it in hers.
He said, "I do not believe we have met. I'm Antonio Dominguez."
She responded, "Amanda Messenger, nice to meet you, Antonio." Her
smile made him tingle. She spoke with an educated articulation
and a kind diction. Her tone suggested she was fun animated and
dramatic at times. She used words; communication was not alien to
her. A woman he was able to talk to without editing words.
He wanted to keep her talking, small talk. He asked her a few
mundane questions to keep her talking. He discovered she was
bold, not timid by any means.
"I hope I am not intruding upon something too personal but you
have a nasty bruise and cut on your forehead. I hope it was not
too serious." She spoke in a concerned tone.
"No, I am fine. I fell into a cavern." He wanted to tell the damn
woman, let us cut to the chase. You were there haunting my brain,
you should know how it happened.
"A cavern, that is interesting. I hate to appear bold but I have
something I will bring you later. Put it on that area tonight, in
the morning it will be much better." She promised him.
He gave her a slight smile. "Is that right? Well I would
appreciate that gesture." Wow, he thought, she would have to
bring it to him. That meant another chance to see her face to
face. The witchy woman had a potion to give him. What magic spell
would it hold?
They separated; he was working his way back to his designated
seat. He noticed the server brought her a drink, something hot.
Coffee, he tried to figure out what she was drinking. The server
came by him; he was not able to curtail his curiosity, he asked
her what Amanda was drinking. The server told him she always
requests two things, water without chlorine and Mocha Latte as
organic as possible. He laughed and the server joined.
She insisted Organic and chlorine-free, interesting. She did have
an organic air about her. Her beauty was organic, natural. She
exhibited a hint of elegance or properness but he saw underneath
a fun, daring, even wild woman. He thought that from what he had
learned, this was private part of her. He wanted to know that
part of her; he would kill to experience it.
He noticed early that she was off on her game. The rumors and
statistics made it clear she was having a bad day. He sympathized
as he was experiencing the same. He knew his problem; he wondered
what her issue was.
She was his problem. His only thoughts were of ravishing her. She
was bringing him to his knees. Hell, she did not even know, or
Damn she was out and she was leaving. God, she smiled at him
before she left. He wanted to yell, 'Wait Baby I'll come and
comfort you.' He wanted out. Where would she be going? What would
she do with her time? He wanted to get out. He did not have to
wait long he was out.
Max had to know where or what she did. Yeah! Was it not Max that
predicted she would knock him on his ass? He did not care, he
would admit to bigmouth Max if he had to. He went to find Max. He
found him around the corner.
"Antonio, what are you doing out here?" Max did not believe
Antonio was out of the game.
"Max, I need your help."
"Sure, anything for you Antonio."
"Amanda Messenger, where does she go? Even better, where is she?
What does she do? I need to find her."
Max was laughing hard. Antonio rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, Max you were right. Don't hang me out to dry on this."
"I would not do that Antonio. There is an organic restaurant that
she goes to and a coffee shop. She has been finishing some
writing for a deadline and she does that in her room. Tommy
always drives her, he knows best."
Antonio sighed, now he had to find and confess to Tommy. Great
she was going to shred in a day his Vegas reputation he had
enjoyed creating over the last several years. He sat out to find
Tommy, one of the drivers employed by the hotel.
On his way, he thought, what is this organic woman doing in
Vegas. He was not able to fathom where an organic restaurant was
in this city. An organic spiritualist playing poker in Vegas, the
woman looked as if she were one of God's angels and she was alone
in sin city, intent on staying organic. Now, he was the idiot
running after this craziness. He never had chased a woman in his
life until today and now at this age, he was chasing a woman;
that made no sense.
He found Tommy talking with some of the other drivers. They
stopped when Antonio approached.
"Tommy, I need to talk to you a minute?"
He felt he was an idiot.
"Sure." He motioned for Tommy to move with him away from the
"Tommy, I need your help. It is a sensitive matter, if you know
what I mean?"
"Sure, Antonio, I won't tell anybody."
"Good Tommy, because I'm feeling more than crazy right now I need
your help." Antonio revealed.
"Oh, Antonio, that's not good." Tommy sympathized.
"You're telling me. It is a woman. Max told me she always has you
drive her." Tommy cut Antonio off.
"Ah ha, Mr. Antonio, I know who it is, she got your attention,
"How did you know, Tommy?" Antonio asked.
"You would fall for her. She would like you. She is an angel
Antonio." Tommy was enjoying this.
"Really, what else do you know, Tommy?" Antonio was demanding
"Antonio, I would drive her anywhere. I have never met someone as
nice and kind. I drive her places nobody else ever goes. She is
different in a good way. She brings me books and stuff; she
always is nice to me. She needs some guy that's going to treat
her nice, she's a real lady."
Tommy was warning.
"I'm nice Tommy. I have never hurt a lady."
"I was telling you Antonio, she's different, not a Vegas woman.
She is special, my favorite."
"I noticed Tommy, but face it, you're in your late twenties,"
Antonio was defensive.
"Antonio shame on you, I got a wife." Tommy scolded him.
"Really? Help me Tommy. She is making me crazy."
"What do you want, Antonio?"
"I don't know how, but I want to be wherever she is going to be,
help me?" Antonio was desperate.
Tommy motioned Antonio to come over to a counter with a hotel
phone. Tommy picked it up and dialed Amanda's room.
"Miss Amanda, this is Tommy."
"I'm fine. Miss Amanda, now I am asking because a weird thing
happened. Antonio Dominguez is here and he said he wanted to go
to an organic restaurant and I told him I was driving you to one
in fifteen minutes, he said he wouldn't mind to have me take you
both. He said he would be willing to share the ride if you
"Okay, I'll see you down here Miss Amanda." Tommy hung up." She
will be right down."
"Tommy, I would kiss you if people weren't around."
"Don't Antonio. But you better be nice to her."
"Tommy I promise, if her eyes do not kill me first."
"Antonio, I can't believe a woman has you this way. You will like
her a lot. She may think you are interesting; I see that is
"I love you Tommy. Just pretend you have taken me somewhere
organic, before." Antonio was paranoid.
"Yeah, Okay," Tommy, agreed. Tommy gets a hell of a tip tonight.
He caught a glimpse, she was approaching, and she had changed.
Her legs were bare, the short casual skirt revealed a lot of leg.
Definitely, yoga, now he really wanted them wrapped around him.
She was almost bouncy happy.
"You're organic?" She asked Antonio.
"I try to be," God he felt stupid. He did eat healthy but this
was a stretch.
"It is hard sometimes but I often resort to organic yogurt when I
can't be sure."
She informed him. She sounded organically dedicated.
"I hope you don't mind sharing a ride. Maybe we should share a
table?" he was trying to be nonchalant.
"That would be nice. Eating alone is no fun."
"I agree," he told her as they climbed into the car. Tommy was
smirking. She opened her giant purse and took out a book. Antonio
thought, great, she was sitting next to him...reading.
"Here Tommy, I brought you a new book. It is awesome, some
mystical surprises. You will love it. Read it to your wife, that
will win you some points," she smiled.
"Good idea Miss Amanda. She would enjoy that, Thank you," Tommy
told her. The scene he was watching stunned Antonio. Was she a
siren in disguise? Could she be real? Suggesting that massive,
huge Tommy read a mystical story to his wife, Antonio was not
sure whether to laugh his ass off or start worshipping.
"Have you eaten here often, Antonio?" he did hate to lie.
"A few times," he told her. He did not even know where they were
talking about. He caught the scent of her, he tried to identify
it but, he was not able put his finger on it but he was sure it
was not perfume, something pleasant, not sugary, but sweet. He
did think he wanted to know, to taste it. Antonio was without
"It sounds as if you eat there a lot maybe you can tell me what's
best." How stupid he thought.
"Are you a Vegan or Kosher or organic?"
How complex he thought, for dinner. He could say 'all' and he
would have the bases covered. What would he say in the future, if
they had a future, 'I lied to get to you, Baby'?
"I am organic, otherwise I am flexible."
"We are alike. I am organic but no pork. Everything is good here,
I'm not sure I am able to choose one favorite," she explained.
Tommy opened the door for them, Amanda got out, and Antonio
followed. Tommy leaned over to Antonio and spoke under his
breath, "Man, can't you do any better? You're crashing man,"
"Thanks Tommy." Tommy was right. He was crashing.
Amanda waited, God he hated this, he wanted her so much that she
was intimidating him. Fifteen minutes sitting by her she was
stripping him of his masculinity. Now he was preparing to sit in
a restaurant with health food. Did real men even eat at these
restaurants? Antonio thought if they did, it was for one thing
and one thing only. He liked healthy, he liked fresh, but a
restaurant for vegetables was extreme. He glanced at her. Their
eyes met for a moment. Her eyes were why he was here, hell; he
hoped to come back again. He was sure he would, those eyes would
hold him hostage.
Amanda was so nervous. She was somehow having dinner with this
gorgeous man, a man that appreciates organic. She wanted to slap
herself. She talked; that is what she did when she got nervous,
talked and talked about nothing.
"Antonio, do you like wine?" she asked.
"Yes, do you?"
"I do. I guess it is fair to say I am into wine. I have a
vineyard. But, I wanted to see if you wanted to drink some, now."
"Sure, that's a great idea. Tell me what you like." He wanted to
drink wine with her, lots of wine, barrels of it.
"Dark reds, Merlot, Burgundy, the darker the better," she told
Antonio asked the waiter for help. He assured him that she would
like his choice. He thought about telling the kid, he had a lot
riding here and it had better be good. At least she was talking.
She had an awesome sense of humor. Her words entranced him.
Amanda looked at him she feared he was younger. It should not
matter because she had no business with a man anyway. The last
thing she needed was what he said next.
He surprised himself with his own words it came out. "You have
beautiful eyes." God, he wanted to die. She did not believe he
had said that to her. She was flattered but shocked.
"Thank you." What else could she say?
"I did not mean to embarrass you. It is true but I should not
have said that."
"No, I'm flattered, really." He thought, flattered enough to
spend the rest of your life with me? The wine was good; watching
her drink, it was erotic.
He asked, "Do you like the wine?"
"I do. Do you?"
"It's great," he declared.
He convinced her to tell him about the wine and vineyard. She
obliged with great animation. She entertained him all the way
through dinner, which was good. He wanted to touch her, not
getting to touch her hurt.
"Antonio, I know we are here by accident eating together, but do
you mind if I am bold and ask you something?" Antonio's head went
racing, no, I do not want babies, but we need to try to make one.
"Sure Amanda. I think it was a nice coincidence resulting in our
having dinner. Ask anything." He was praying.
"See I have often come here alone and I love chocolate, would you
share a chocolate soufflé with me? It is too much to eat alone;
it should be a couple's thing." Did she say couples but in
reference to chocolate? That is different from 'Antonio, I want
to have your baby.'
"I would enjoy that, Amanda. Sure."
"Great, it's a weakness of mine. Good Chocolate."
He smiled, what a confession, do not get too wild and sinful.
Save some for when we are alone, Baby, do not go too crazy. He
wanted to laugh aloud at her confession 'chocolate weaknesses'.
When the chocolate came, he wanted to feed it to her. She did
seem to love the chocolate. Right in the middle of the chocolate,
he had another Freudian moment.
"Do you date?" She wanted to faint. He knew that had made her
"I haven't." What the hell kind of answer was that? How did he
come back no that?
"Would you, go out with someone?" Damn! Where did this 'someone'
come from? He sounded as if he were a recruiting pimp.
"I don't know." Of course, she would come back with that answer.
She added to her answer, some craziness.
"I'm not a cougar. I wouldn't date someone younger." Where in the
world of possibilities did or why did she say that.
"Amanda, what do you mean by a cougar?"
"That is a woman who dates younger men."
"I know what a cougar is. I am wondering where you were coming
"I thought perhaps you were going to ask me out?"
"You think going out with me would make you a cougar?" He laughed
at the lame excuse. She looked aggravated.
"Amanda, I'm not younger than you," he told her.
"I'm sure you are."
"Thanks, but I'm not."
She rolled her eyes. Those damn eyes. He saw it; she thought he
was not truthful. He had searched and found out a lot about her,
if he told her, she would think he was a stalker or something.
She was his exact age. What if it was an excuse and she had
another reason. He would convince her.
"Amanda, why do you think I'm younger?"
"You look younger too much collagen," God, he wanted to laugh.
"You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not." She wished it were not true.
"Do you want to know my age?" he asked.
"I cannot ask that," she confessed.
"Don't tease me. Go out with me." He was baffled.
She looked at him and smiled. She wanted to he felt it. Why are
you coming up with this dumb excuse?
"I'm not trying to tease you." No, go ahead, break my heart and
make me fail, King Solomon, that is all you are doing.
The waiter put the bill down, he grabbed as she went to snatch
She sure as hell was not going to humiliate him on top of
"I'm taking care of this, Amanda." He was firm.
She said nothing. He did not realize she was broken hearted; she
wanted to go out with him. Under other circumstances, she would
run away with him.
She should understand he wanted to pay for dinner. He saw she was
"Amanda, you understand a man that wants to buy dinner." He
needed her not to be upset.
"I do. Thank you. I enjoyed dinner a lot."
Antonio thought here is how you daft women do it; let me take you
to dinner again, as a date. Let me take you somewhere.
Tommy was waiting for them. They got into the car. Tommy gave him
a look that said- asshole you flopped, great.
Something was up with her. He had flopped, but he knew he was not
able to win; something beyond him was at play. He would have to
play harder, he was better at that anyway. He saw what he needed
to see, she wanted to go out with him. They rode back to the
hotel in silence, she was sad. He did know that it was something
She got out of the car at the hotel, Antonio followed. He had a
couple of things to say. She may want to run from him but he
would catch her. She was a yogi but he ran everyday. He told
Tommy he would be back to take care of him.
"Amanda." He was calling her. She beat him on the elevator but he
knew her room number because he had watched Tommy call her. He
got off on her floor and ran around the corner. He saw her.
"Amanda, you should at least tell me what I did. That is fair."
He kept talking.
"No cougar with me, Baby. I promise. Come on. You are beautiful.
Talk to me." She stopped. He went to her. "Tell me what it is,
you want to, I know you do." He was not able to let her go.
"Antonio, if your looking for a roll in the sheets; or as some
might say from my part of the country; a roll in the hay, I'm
just not your gal, even though I would imagine it would be way
better than average."
Antonio gave her a smirk, squeezing her elbow, "So you want
"I didn't say that," she muttered at him.
"Okay, why would you think that? Listen, it is way too hard to
infiltrate your invisible force field. Besides at the risk of
sounding like an egomaniac; I think, especially in Vegas, I could
score, maybe even better than average." He could certainly play
"Amanda, I asked you a question, why would you think I would want
to roll in the itchy old hay?" He goaded and laughed aloud.
"You're frustrating me. Most people would not pursue someone that
lived seventeen hundred miles away except for a toss in the
sheets." She emphasized. "I can't, that is all. I can't," she
"Can't or won't?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said.
"You are making me crazy. I want a date, a real date. You feel it
too, something is here between us," he told her. "I am safe, ask
Max. You know Tommy would not have let you eat with me if he
thought I wasn't safe."
She looked at him, his eyes were sad.
"Antonio, I have baggage. It would complicate things."
"Your kids are grown. I asked for a date, not matrimony."
"I'm flattered." She told him.
"Okay." He turned away.
She went to her room. He was dangerous, not a one date person.
She had baggage, obligations, and things to do. This was not a
pleasant thing for her. She would love to feel free to go out
with him. She did not, that was the fact.
She needed to go somewhere and finish her manuscript. The game
was over for her this trip she decided to call Max.
Antonio went down to tip Tommy. "Here Tommy thanks, man."
"Antonio, what did you do?" Tommy asked.
"That's it Tommy, nothing, something's up with her. She said she
had too much baggage. You know, Tommy, I think she is scared of
something. I don't know what," Antonio explained.
"Amanda, scared?" Tommy was skeptical.
Antonio left Tommy and went to his room.