Nik speaks, “Table for two, please.”

The host immediately replies, “Of course. Follow me.”

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Still with our arms around each other, she shows us to a table just inside an open doorway that leads to the patio seating. I feel a slight breeze come through the doorway and I think she just gave us the best seats in the house.

Just as we’re about to sit, I hear multiple gasps and look over two tables to see three pretty women sitting and staring at us open mouthed. Nik stiffens and I’m confused.

What’s going on?

All the women look past us to the restaurants entrance. I feel my eyes follow theirs and when I see what they see, I stiffen as much as Nik has.

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At the host table stands She-Devil Sissy. Her face flashes pain but she covers it quickly with a superior look.

She walks over to where her friends are sitting and as she passes us she acknowledges us, “Nik, and Friend of Nik’s.”

Nik sounds bored when he replies, “Sissy. Enjoy your lunch.”

As Sissy sits with her friends I hear them bombard her with questions and statements. “Oh my gawd Sis, isn’t that your boyfriend?” “I thought you guys were gettin’ married?” “Forget his cheating ass, honey.”

Nik takes out a chair for me and I sit, then he seats himself and shoots me an easy smile, “Just ignore them.”

I feel my neck get hot and itchy and I’m sure it’s bright red. I do my best to plaster on a fake smile, “Yeah, sure.”

Nik sees my obvious discomfort and reaches over to put his hand over mine. He whispers, “We can leave.”

I’m just about to answer when the waitress comes over to our table. Rather than answer Nik, I place my order. He smiles and shakes his head at me then places his order.

As we’re waiting for our meals, we chat.

I point out, “So, this is kind of awkward, having your ex-girlfriend watch us eat. Now she definitely thinks you’re shtupping me.”

Nik laughs at my silliness and says, “She was never my girlfriend, babe. Never even been to my house. We always met at the club or I would go to hers. Don’t listen to her friends. She knew what our relationship was. I never played games with her, I was always forthright. If I’m completely honest with you, it was just sex.”

I blush at his bluntness and squeak, “Oh, okay.”

He narrows his eyes, places his joined hands under his chin and says, “But I’m curious about you, little T. How does a woman who owns her own business, bakes like you do, and is as pretty as you are not have a boyfriend?”

He thinks I’m pretty?

I return with, “Uh, I guess I could ask you the same thing. You must know how handsome you are. And you own a hugely popular nightclub. How do you not have a girlfriend?”

He smirks, “Ahh, the old answer a question with a question sham. I’ll answer yours but you’ll answer mine too, okay?” I smile and nod. He says ,“Good. Okay. Well, I don’t have a tragic story to tell about lost love. I had a girlfriend in high school and she was great. I thought I’d end up with her.” A look of pain crosses his face. “My dad died when my sister Isabel was just born. I was sixteen. Max was fifteen. I was the oldest boy in the family which meant most of the responsibilities fell to me because my Mom was raising five children on her own. After dad’s funeral, my auntie and Trick came to live with us for a few months to help out. They fell in love with New York and never left. Trick helped me out a lot back then because his dad died the year before and he knew what I was going through. To cut a long story short, I didn’t have the time to date like other teenagers did. I was always fixin’ something around the house or watching the kids or working to make some extra money for Mom. When I was twenty four I took some night courses in Business and got a degree. A few years after that I decided I needed to look into a business which could be open at night so I could still help Mom during the days. I got together with two other people and opened The White Rabbit. There was no time in between for anything else. Now the club takes up most of my time and I don’t think that’d be fair to a girlfriend, ya know? There will come a time when I want to settle down. It’s just not now.”

My face dropped halfway into his talk.

He lost his father at sixteen. His sister was just born when he died, she probably doesn’t even remember him. I think back and now realize the family photograph in his office must have been taken just months before his father died because his mother was so heavily pregnant.

He took on the role of father figure at sixteen and did what he had to do to make sure his family was ok, missing out on most of his childhood and teenage years. While most teenagers we’re going out, being stupid and fooling around, Nik was watching his brother and sisters.

Who was there for him?

My throat tightens with emotion and my eyes mist. I reach over and put my hand over his, I whisper, “I’m so sorry, honey.”

With a soft face, he lifts my hand and kisses the top of it, “Your turn.”

I clear my throat and steady my voice. “I’ve dated guys. When those guys kissed me,” I shrug, “nothing happened. There was no spark. My heart didn’t skip a beat; there were no butterflies in my belly. It was just nice.”

He states, “They weren’t good enough for you.”

I feel a swell of panic. I don’t want Nik to think I think I’m pompous.

I immediately sputter, “What? No! It’s not like that!”

He chuckles, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make it sound like you’re picky or some shit. What I meant was you seem like the type of person who knows when she’s got somethin’ good. So, if any of those guys were good enough for you, you’d be with one of them.”

Wow, that’s nice.

I lower my eyes, pick invisible lint off the table cloth and tell him, “I had something good once. I was young and thought he was the one. I loved him. Like, really, loved him. And he left. So, I guess you could say that I don’t trust my instincts much anymore.”

Nik sounds mildly annoyed, “That’s too bad. What kind of asshole would leave all of this?” He waves his hand up and down at me. “He must’ve been blind, babe. You’re better off without him.”

I lift my head and smile at him.

The waitress brings our food and we push both plates into the middle of the table. Nik puts the tomatoes from his salad on my plate and I put most of my French fries onto his.

We pull our plates back and smile at each other.

You’re doomed.

Yep, I’m pretty sure I am.

“That’s not fair, Nik. I said I would get it this time.” Tina actually looks pissed.

When I saw her come out of the Safira staff room, I was blinded. She looks like an angel today. Wearing a long white gypsy skirt, white blouse with short puffy sleeves and white sandals, she actually looks angelic. Her dark hair is down, falling in soft waves down her back, the front of her hair pinned up in a little poof. She wears little make up and only glosses her lips. That really turns me on. She has natural beauty. None of it comes from a tub of goop.

I can’t help but grin at her. She’s so damn cute. She actually thought she was buying lunch today.

Ahh, little Tina. You’ll get used to it.

While she was in the bathroom I waltzed up to the register and paid for lunch.

We’ve spent most of lunch chatting. And very surprisingly haven’t let Sissy two tables over distract us. She walked passed us a few times trying to get our attention but we ignored her. I know Sissy, and she does not like to be ignored.

I state, “Tina, I invited you. It was the polite thing to do.” When she still looks pissed, I decide to fight dirty. “Have I mentioned I’m seven hundred thousand dollars richer because of you?”

That works. She tilts her head, lifts a brow and says, “This is true.” I chuckle at her.

The girl wears her heart on her sleeve. You can tell whatever she’s thinking through her facial expressions.

I want to leave so I can hold her while we walk. It’s relaxing. And she’s so small it makes me feel like a giant. I’m her personal teddy bear.

I like that.

I want to do a good job and make sure she’s hugged out so she doesn’t need to get ‘em from anyone else. I want to be the only one who gets her affection.

God, I’m turning into a pussy.

I stand up and help her out of her chair. As soon as she’s up I have my arm wrapped around her shoulders. Like it comes so naturally, she puts an arm around my waist.

As we turn to leave, I happen to glance at Sissy. She’s watching us with unconcealed pain on her face. Her brow has crumpled and her lips are quivering. I feel sorry for her but not enough to apologize.

I’ve never treated Sissy the way I treat Tina. Sissy never earned my respect. I’m not sure how I’m meant to respect a woman who, without even knowing my name, gave me a blowjob under a table at the club one night. After that one time, she found out who I was and she was proving difficult to get rid of. It took so much effort that I gave up. Sissy can blow like a machine. That’s why I kept her around. Now four months later, cutting her loose of hooking up once a week, I don’t even miss her. In fact, I only have one star in my fantasies recently. And we just had lunch together.

I turn away from Sissy and lead Tina out of the restaurant. As we’re walking in comfortable silence, Tina reaches up with her free hand and plays with the collar of my sweater.

This is the kind of thing I want when I meet the one.

Everything comes so easy with her. Nothing feels fake or for show.

Before I know it we’re back in front of Safira. Still with an arm around my waist, she turns to face me, places the other arm around my waist and squeezes me tight.

“I had the best time.” She whispers, “It was awesome. Thank you.”

I look down into her sweet face and smile, “You’re welcome, sweetheart. I had a good time, too. We’ll do it again soon.”

She sighs and puts her head on my chest. “I love your hugs. You’re so warm and you’re arms are huge.”

I chuckle, “You’re welcome to them anytime you want, teeny Tina.”

Her laughter is hot on my chest as she says “Thanks, Nik the Dick.”

I’m going to kill Max.

I utter, “Well, I think I better go. We’re blocking the doorway.”

She releases me with a pout and I feel it in my cock. I want to kiss that pout away and suck on her bottom lip.

Great, now you’re hard. Move away. Quickly.

I tuck a stray hair behind her ear and say, “Talk to you soon.” And then I make my way back to The White Rabbit.

Once I’m settled back in my office I get a really stupid idea.

I open up the instant messenger and type out a quick message.

I’m back at work trying to avoid the stupid smiles of Nat and Mimi. It seems they were spying on Nik and I when we had our little hug fest.

It’s been about ten minutes since I’ve seen Nik. And I miss him already.

Just as I walk over to the counter I hear the tone of the instant messenger alerting me.

As soon as I read the message, I smile like a loon.

Nik123: How do you girls feel about Poker?

Chapter Nine

Poke Her Face

Every Thursday night is Poker night with the guys. As soon as I sent Tina a message asking the girls to Poker night, I knew I’d fucked up. The guys were going to string me by my balls. But I’m so desperate to see Tina again, I’m taking the any excuse will do route. When I told the guys, it went a little like this.

“So, everyone still on for Poker night?” I anxiously ask.

Max picks up on it, narrows his eyes at me and says, “Yeah, I think. Ghost wasn’t sure if he could make it. Might just be me, you, and Trick.”

I brighten a little too much and chime, “Oh, okay. We might have some extra players to fill in for him.”

Max questions, “And who would these extra players be?”

I try my best at being inconspicuous, “Tina. Nat, Mimi, and Lola.”

Max looks as me a full minute before he bursts into laughter. He straightens up and says, “You’re shittin’ me, right?”

I need to sweeten the deal.

I blurt, “Tina’s bringing two different types of cupcakes. She said she only ever makes them for special occasions so you know they’re gonna be good.”

Max’s brows lift, he strokes his chin and says, “Okay, I’m good with it. You know Trick will be good with it.” He smiles a cruel smile and rasps, “You’re telling Ghost.”

I’d rather shit in my hands and clap!

Ghost doesn’t like changes to his routine. I call him and the second I greet him I know I’ve fucked up by being too cheerful. I normally say Hey but today I say Hey brother, how are you today? He knows something’s up so I just blurt it out. He laughs and teases me, “You’re pussy whipped.”

I claim, “I can’t be pussy whipped. I haven’t even had the pussy to be whipped!”

Take that, Ghost! Oh, wait…

He chuckles, “That’s even worse, bro.”

Fuck me, it totally is.

I’m shocked when Ghost agrees without a fight. I did sweeten him up with hopes of Tina’s cupcakes though.

I told Tina to tell the girls to come around eight thirty. We don’t eat dinner beforehand; we order pizza and eat while we play.

It’s now eight o’clock. Max has ordered the pizza to be here at nine and I’m putting together our bigger poker table which seats ten.

Over the next twenty minutes the guys, Nat, Lola, and Mimi have shown up.

When the doorbell rings, I’m up and heading to the door before anyone can get it.

Whoa, this can’t possibly be it?

I check the address again. Sure enough, I’m at the right place. And it’s big. Really big. So big that it has those huge, fancy cast iron gates. Someone has been kind enough to leave those open. I head down the long driveway and I see Mimi’s car there. They could fit at least ten cars in front of the house. And that’s not including down the driveway.

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