"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
— 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 shiny hair.
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 concept.
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 perspire.
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 authentic.
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 did she?
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 group.
“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, Miss Amanda.”
“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 information.
“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 wouldn’t mind.”
“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 possible.”
“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
“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 words.
“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,” Tommy
"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 him.
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 nervous.
“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 from.”
“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 it.
She sure as hell was not going to humiliate him on top of everything.
“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 upset.
“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 else.
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
Antonio gave her a smirk, squeezing her elbow, "So you want more?"
"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 this game.
"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 told
“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.
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