DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
All Bets Are Off
Olivia Spencer glanced up at her adversary through hooded eyelids, watching, waiting to see that tell-tale twitch that would reveal everything she needed to know. Everyone had a tell, and she hadn't gotten to where she was in life without learning how to catch them extraordinarily well. She was known as a master manipulator - which was true, but she was a firm believer in working with the gifts you were given. It wasn't her fault she'd been blessed with the ability to read people.
Blake Marler's left eye narrowed a fraction of a millimetre. Olivia's face betrayed nothing, but inside she was grinning. She's bluffing, her mind whispered triumphantly.
"I call," she said, and tossed her cards face up onto the table. Her Jack of diamonds and ten of hearts joined the ten of clubs and Jack of hearts on the table. "Two pair," she said triumphantly. "What have you got, Blake?"
For a moment Blake's face remained stony, then she shook her head with a rueful grin. "I got nothing," she admitted. She tossed her cards face down into the middle of the table while Olivia chuckled and scooped up her winnings. There was a sizeable pile in front of her already.
"You're pretty good at this, huh?"
Olivia glanced up at Doris Wolfe and smiled, showing all her teeth. "Did you expect anything less?"
Doris shook her head. "Absolutely not," she admitted.
"Yeah, I could have told you Olivia is a bit of a shark." Doris glanced across at Jeffrey who was dealing the cards.
"In other news, the sky is blue," she quipped.
"Are we playing poker here or what?"
Olivia raised an eyebrow at Reva - by far the shortest stacked player at the table. Jeffrey, Doris, Blake, Josh, and even Natalia had more chips to their name than she did. "You're awfully eager to get your ass handed to you," she remarked.
"Gotta double up here," Reva said, pushing her whole stack to the centre of the table without even looking at her hole cards. "I'm all in," she said.
"Shouldn't you look at your cards before you do that?"
Reva turned to Natalia and shrugged. "It really doesn't matter at this stage. It's in God's hands now."
Natalia frowned. "I don't think God works like that," she said doubtfully. Reva rolled her eyes.
"Right, God doesn't play dice, yadda yadda. Are you in or not?"
Natalia bit her lip and stole a quick glance at her cards. "Is a two and a three good?" she whispered to Olivia.
"No," Olivia whispered back. Doris laughed softly, but quieted when Olivia turned a hard look on her.
"I thought connecting cards was good," Natalia continued. "And they're both red!"
Olivia reached over and squeezed Natalia's hand under the table. "Trust me," she said.
Natalia didn't even hesitate. "I fold," she said.
They went round the table and one by one all the players folded, except Olivia who called without bothering to look at her own cards. "Let's see 'em then," she said, her lips twitching in amusement.
"Is that a come on Olivia?" Reva fired back, turning her two hole cards face up and looking at them for the first time. She had the King of spades and the two of clubs.
Olivia blew her a kiss. "You wish," she said sweetly, revealing her own cards - the seven of clubs and the nine of diamonds.
"I wish," Jeffrey added, for Josh's ears only.
Olivia, however, had very sharp ears. "I think you should just deal the cards, Jeffrey," she said, with a pointed glance in his direction. He gulped, and quickly dealt the three flop cards.
"Looks like you've got nothing Olivia," Reva crowed. The cards hadn't improved her hand any either, but she still had the high card advantage.
"We'll see," Olivia replied.
The turn card followed - the two of spades.
"Yes!" Reva exclaimed, practically salivating at the thought of doubling up at Olivia's expense.
Olivia rolled her eyes and waited for the river. The seven of hearts appeared. "Ha HA!" Olivia leapt to her feet and did an impromptu dance of triumph. "I always knew my pair was better than yours," she said, sticking out her tongue at a crestfallen Reva.
"Yeah yeah," Reva grumbled, but with good grace. "Well, I guess I'm out. Can I get anyone a drink?"
"A martini would be lovely," Olivia said, scooping Reva's remaining chips into her own pile.
"Yeah, me too," Doris added, and Blake nodded to say she'd have one too.
"Jack and coke," was Josh's order, while Jeffrey decided to stick with beer.
"Natalia?" Reva turned to her expectantly.
"Uhm...orange juice, please," she said.
Olivia rolled her eyes. "Come on sweetie, you're allowed to have a drink. We're at home, Emma's on a sleepover, you don't have to drive."
"I know," Natalia replied, smiling hesitantly. "You just...never know."
"Never know what?" Blake interrupted. "You're not having another phantom pregnancy are you?"
Natalia flushed. "No," she said, thinking back to a brief period of stress related nausea and a cheap faulty pregnancy test. "Fine, I'll have a gin and tonic."
Doris turned to Natalia with a gleam in her eye. "I can't believe you actually took a pregnancy test," she said. "It had been how long since you slept with him - five months? Did you even miss a period?"
Natalia's cheeks only got redder. "No," she said in a small voice. Olivia glared at Doris.
"Back off," she growled, sliding closer to Natalia and slipping a protective arm round her shoulders.
Doris held up her hands. "Okay, okay, sorry," she muttered, but she was smiling. "Still, the thought of you carrying Frank's baby..." she trailed off, laughter overtaking her.
"Hey, Frank's a good man," Blake said. She took a sip of the martini Reva had just put down in front of her and glanced at the cards Jeffrey had dealt her.
Doris rolled her eyes. "I swear, if I have to hear that one more time," she muttered. "Can we get over this already? The poor guy got jilted - it happens. Apparently it runs in the family. It doesn't make him a saint."
Blake tossed her cards into the middle of the table, joining Josh and Jeffrey in folding her hand. "I like Frank," she insisted.
Doris tossed a pile of chips into the centre of the table. "Yeah yeah, everyone likes Frank," she said dismissively, then turned suddenly sharp eyes on Blake. "Or are you saying...oh, no. Come on Blake. You can do better."
Blake might have said something different if she'd been stone cold sober. However, as she'd had a couple of drinks already, she merely shrugged. "I'm not getting any younger," she muttered.
Natalia called Doris's bet and turned a pair of horrified eyes on her boss. "What? What are you always telling me about true love and not settling and all that?"
Doris cast speculative eyes over Blake's face, unnoticed by anyone by Olivia who raised an eyebrow.
"I guess you're right," Blake sighed. "It's just hard to be lonely, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Doris said, blushing when she realised she'd inadvertently been caught in a moment of sincerity. She looked at Natalia, trying to draw attention away from herself. "I'm all in. What about you?"
Natalia looked down at the five cards on the table, and glanced again at her own cards. "Um..." she mumbled, then turned to Olivia. "Is it good if the cards link up?" she asked.
"That's a straight, sweetheart," Olivia replied.
"Which would be pretty ironic, considering," Reva said, earning a glare from Olivia.
"Okay," Natalia said. "I call."
Doris grinned wolfishly, sensing blood. She turned her cards face up. "A flush beats a straight," she said, pushing up three hearts on the table to join the two she'd had in the whole.
Natalia's face fell. "Oh," she said, crestfallen. "I guess this is worthless then..."
She turned her cards over, revealing the King and ace of hearts. Doris's jaw dropped.
"Natalia," Olivia murmured. "That's not a straight. That's a royal flush."
Natalia smiled sweetly. "Oh, is it?" she said. She grinned at Doris as she scooped up her chips. "I guess that beats a regular flush then."
Doris hadn't yet recovered the power of speech. "Guh..." she managed to gurgle.
Josh and Jeffrey burst into laughter. "Oh my God, you hustled her!" Jeffrey cried.
"I'm not playing with you anymore," Josh added. "You're a regular shark."
Olivia's grin was so wide she worried for a moment her face would split. "That's my girl," she said proudly, then took Natalia's face in her hands and kissed her, ignoring the cat calls and whistles from the men.
"Oh, get a room," Doris grumbled. Blake was smiling indulgently.
"Oh come on Doris, even you have to admit it's romantic," she said.
"Ha!" Doris exclaimed. "I'm getting another drink."
By the time Natalia had cleaned out Blake, Josh and Jeffrey, Doris and Blake had got through another three martinis each and were giggling like teenagers on the sofa. Jeffrey, Josh and Reva had said their goodbyes and left, leaving Olivia and Natalia facing each other on opposite sides of the table, playing their last hand.
"Heads up," Olivia said, grinning. "You ready?"
Natalia nodded. "I've never been readier," she murmured.
A few hands went by cagily, with one or the other of them folding instantly until finally both had a hand they were willing to bet on.
"I'm all in," Olivia said, pushing her sizeable pile of chips into the centre of the table.
"You bet she is," Blake called from the sofa, leading to another round of giggles from her and the inebriated mayor. Natalia ignored them.
"I'm in," she said, and pushed her chips to join Olivia's on the table.
For a long moment Olivia sat captivated by the gleam in Natalia's eyes. "You really are, aren't you?" she whispered. Natalia glanced up.
"We're not talking about poker anymore, are we?" she asked.
Olivia shook her head tightly. "No," she admitted softly.
Natalia smiled slowly. "I'm all in," she repeated.
Olivia glanced over to the sofa and blinked once then twice when she saw how close Doris and Blake had gotten. "Get a room," she called. Doris glared at Olivia, then leaned forward and whispered something into Blake's ear. Blake paused for a moment with a pensive look on her face, then nodded slowly.
"Well, it's been lovely, but I think I'll just run the lady home," Doris said instantly, rising from the couch and going for their coats.
Natalia and Olivia's eyes locked across the table, twin expressions of incredulity on their faces. Natalia's eyes asked Do you think they're going to... Olivia's replied Oh yeah, I think they're definitely going to.
"Night night girls," Blake slurred as Doris took her hand and dragged her out the door. A moment of silence passed, then Natalia and Olivia burst into hysterical laughter.
"Oh my God!" Natalia said, her jaw almost hitting the floor.
Olivia tossed her cards into the centre of the table and got up, crossing to Natalia's side in two quick strides.
"God, I love it when you laugh," she murmured. Her hands curled round the back of Natalia's neck, pulling her close against her stomach. Natalia sighed in contentment.
"Don't you want to see who won?" she whispered against Olivia's shirt. Her hands slipped round Olivia's middle, sliding under her shirt to caress warm skin. Olivia swallowed hard.
"I won," she said softly. Natalia looked up at her with shining eyes.
"Oh yeah? And what's your prize?"
Olivia leaned down and captured Natalia's lips, kissing her softly and sweetly. "Everything," she whispered.
Natalia smiled slowly, then stood up and took Olivia's hand. "All right," she said.
Olivia blinked. "All right what?" she asked.
Natalia leaned forward and pecked Olivia's surprised lips before heading for the stairs. "All right, you can have everything," she said, flashing a dimpled smile over her shoulder.
Olivia stood rooted to the spot. "Wha..."
Natalia giggled. "I'll be waiting upstairs," she said.
Long moments passed in silence and stillness in the living room. Olivia wasn't quite sure how long she stood there, her mouth hanging open and brain frozen. Only when a softly seductive Olivia floated down the stairs did she snap out of it.
"Coming!" she yelled.
On her way past the table her eyes flickered down and she smiled. Without conscious thought she reached out and grabbed the first card she saw and pocketed it. Then, with the queen of hearts in her pocket and the queen of her heart in the bedroom, she hurried upstairs.
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