DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Texas Hold 'Em
By Mercury


The bottles clinked as Cindy shifted the box under her arm and reached with her free hand to ring the doorbell. She rocked on her feet and glanced around the patio before her attention was drawn back to the house by a muffled yell from inside: "Coming!"

Cindy readjusted the box under her arm, and began smiling when a form finally appeared at the other side of the door. Her smile froze as the door swung open to reveal a very wet, very towel-bound Lindsay Boxer.

"Hey, you're early," Lindsay grinned her welcome, adjusting the towel that had slipped a little low on her slender frame in the flurry of opening the door. Cindy stared mutely, her smile plastered to her face. "C'mon in," Lindsay prompted.

Cindy snapped out of her stupor long enough to extend the box towards the host, "I come bearing beer... and that sounded a lot less awkward and alliterative in my head." The usually articulate reporter walked in and past Lindsay, muttering "I carried a watermelon?" under her breath.

"Why don't you put some of that beer in the fridge," Lindsay said, smiling at Cindy and shutting the door behind her, "and I'll go grab some clothes."

Cindy pouted adorably but made her way to the kitchen. She was met by an excitedly tail-wagging Martha. "Hey gorgeous," Cindy placed the two-four on the counter and turned in time to catch Martha's paws as the dog bounded up to greet her. "Whoa! Hey, I'm happy to see you too!" Cindy gave Martha's ears a good scratching before turning back to the counter, grabbing a few beers and placing them in the refrigerator.

"The girls should be here soon," Lindsay explained, walking into the kitchen and adjusting her hastily donned shirt.

"Okay," Cindy smiled, her gaze lingering on a strand of wet hair that clung just above Lindsay's collar bone. She looked up into Lindsay's eyes, which were fixed intently on hers. "Your, um, hair is still wet," Cindy tried to cover her blatant staring.

"Your powers of deduction are remarkable," Lindsay teased in that gravelly voice of hers. She ran her fingers through her damp hair. "It's alright, it'll air dry."

Cindy just nodded. "Beer?" she offered, holding out a bottle.

Lindsay accepted with a smile and unscrewed the cap effortlessly, while Cindy used the hem of her shirt to unscrew her own bottle cap. They clinked their bottles in cheers, and both took long drags of the still-warm liquid.

Cindy nervously glanced around, realizing that this was the first time she'd ever been alone with Lindsay at her place. Usually the other women were around to act as a buffer, or else they were so caught up in work that nothing else mattered. But she found it hard to know how to act towards the inspector in this laid back atmosphere. It didn't help that said inspector was leaning casually against the counter, cradling her beer in a decidedly sexy way.

"So, uh," Cindy cleared her throat, "do you have any tips for me before the others get here?"

Lindsay thought for a second. "Jill talks a mean talk, but it's Claire you've really got to watch out for."

"Okay," Cindy nodded, "duly noted."

With that, the doorbell rang.

"Speak of the devils." Lindsay smirked as she sauntered towards the door.

"I brought pizza!" Claire exclaimed, with Jill entering close behind her carrying what looked like an aluminium briefcase.

"And I've got the poker chips," Jill stated, placing the case on the table and snapping open the clasps. "Let the games begin."

Cindy glanced to her right and did a double take when she saw Jill put on a pair of sunglasses and place an earbud from her iPod to her ear.

"Is she serious?" Cindy spoke out of the corner of her mouth, leaning towards Claire but never taking her eyes off the blonde.

"Very," Lindsay stated from across the table. "Trust me."

Claire just winked at the newest member of their group and continued counting out the chips for everyone. Cindy giggled a little, and then braved a jab, "So, what - no visor, Jill?"

Lindsay barked out a laugh, and Claire stifled a chuckle. Slowly and deliberately, Jill lowered her glasses to peer over the rim and fixed Cindy with a glare that could melt glaciers. She calmly replaced her glasses, but kept her gaze trained on the reporter. Cindy looked around the room for support, and then back at Jill, whose eyes still seemed to be looking in her direction. Though really, it was hard to tell what was going on behind the shades. Cindy shifted in her chair and bit her lip.

Finally, Jill spoke. "You're pretty sexy when you squirm." She flashed an impish grin that sent a flush through the redheaded reporter.

Claire rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Are we playing this game, or what?"

And suddenly Jill was all business, grabbing the deck of cards and shuffling with a skill that surprised Cindy. "The name of the game is five-card stud, deuces wild. Double-ace flush rule is in effect. Small blind starts at ten dollars, four rounds of betting."

Cindy stared wide-eyed. "Ummm…" she glanced nervously from Claire to Lindsay. "I only really know the kind that they play on Celebrity Poker."

"Don't worry," Lindsay said, grabbing the deck from the indignant blonde, "she always tries this, but in the end, we always play Texas Hold 'Em." She flashed a disarming grin in Jill's direction, "You should know by now not to mess with a Southern belle."

Cindy was finding it difficult to concentrate on the game. The cause of her distraction was in the form of a stray foot that seemed intent on rubbing up and down her calf. The progress of this distraction also happened to be slowly inching its way higher. She blushed as she began to feel a wetness forming between her legs.

"Bet's to you, Lois Lane."

Through the haze, she glanced inquiringly at Lindsay, who seemed to act perfectly natural but for a slight upward curve at the corner of her lips. Jill seemed to be staring intently at her cards, her brow furrowed in concentration. Claire meanwhile seemed oblivious, if slightly annoyed that she was taking longer than usual to bet.

"Um, right," Cindy glanced at her cards again. Ace, five, both spades. Not a bad start, but with the flop showing a four of hearts, seven and king of diamonds, it wasn't looking like a winner. Maybe she should try bluffing. "I'll raise five dollars." She pushed in her chips.

"You can't," Jill explained. "The big blind is twenty. That's the smallest bet you can raise by."

"Right, right," Cindy scrunched up her nose and tried to think. If only Lindsay wasn't being so distracting… "Um, I fold."

Jill took one last look at her cards and placed them face down on the table. She counted out some chips and threw them into the pot. "One hundred."

Both Lindsay and Claire called. Claire burned a card and placed the turn face up next to the flop. Six of clubs.

Cindy shifted slightly in her chair. The stray appendage was now rubbing in small circles just above her knee on the inside of her thigh. She gasped softly and quickly looked at Jill and Claire to make sure they hadn't noticed.

Jill was watching her with a concerned expression. "Are you all right? You look a little flushed."

Which of course made Cindy's blush deepen. She looked to Lindsay for support, but the inspector's expression was one of mild interest. Cindy cleared her throat. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just, you know, need to slow down a bit." She indicated to the almost empty beer bottle beside her chips and smiled weakly. There's no way they're going to buy it, she thought, shifting again in her seat. She was, after all, one of the worst liars. Ever.

But Jill seemed to accept her reasoning and turned back to the game. The betting round continued and Claire turned the river. Ace of hearts. Cindy was thinking coherently enough to idly wonder if maybe she shouldn't have folded. Jill's poker face was indecipherable as she called all in. Lindsay sighed melodramatically and declared that was too rich for her blood, and folded. Claire seemed to observe Jill carefully, and then she smiled. "I call."

Jill beamed as she showed her cards. Pocket kings. "Three of a kind, baby, read 'em and weep."

Claire checked her cards again, her face a mask, and then she showed them to the group. She had a five and an eight, making up a straight.

Claire broke out into a wide grin and raked in her winning pile of chips. Jill slumped in defeat.

"Well," Lindsay sighed, "I'm gonna grab another beer. Anyone want one?"

"I'll have one," Jill chimed in.

"Um, sure," said Cindy, downing the remaining liquid in her now lukewarm bottle, momentarily sad that their little game of footsies was apparently over.

Lindsay got up and moved towards the kitchen. Cindy glanced up sharply when she realized the foot was still firmly planted between her thighs.

Cindy felt her heart rate quicken as she glanced at Jill, who was casually shuffling the deck. She had to give her credit for having an incredible poker face. Apparently those sunglasses really did wonders. Jill turned suddenly and flashed her a wicked grin. Caught staring, Cindy blushed again but found she couldn't look away. There was something captivating about the easy sensuality of the woman; Cindy was amazed at the way she could radiate sex with such casual confidence.

With one last motion, more aggressive than those previously, the foot between her thighs disappeared. Cindy was left with a throbbing ache that, in the absence of sensation, seemed all the more tangible.

She took a deep breath and then croaked out, "I'm, ah, just going to go see how Lindsay's doing." She managed to escape without glancing at Jill.

She entered the kitchen just as Lindsay was emptying a bag of chips into a bowl. "Hey, can I help you with that?"

"You can help me carry it," Lindsay smiled, and then frowned when she took a closer look at Cindy's face. "Hey, are you okay? Jill's right, you do look pretty flushed."

Cindy opened her mouth, and then closed it when no words came out. Lindsay was looking at her with such concern and tenderness that her heart almost broke. The inspector's hand came up to brush a stray piece of hair away from her face. Cindy's eyes closed at the soft brush of fingertips that lingered for a moment on her cheek. She felt at once elated by the attention, and guilty about what had transpired with Jill only moments earlier.

"Let's get these snacks out there," Cindy was relieved that her voice didn't betray her inner turmoil. She grabbed the bowl of chips and a bottle of beer, and headed back to the poker table.

"So, one more round?" Claire asked, once they were both seated. "After that I've got to get home." To various expressions of protest, she elaborated, "The boys will never get to sleep if I'm not there to tuck them in, and Ed will never forgive me if they're cranky tomorrow."

Resigned, the women dealt another hand.

After Claire had left with all of her winnings, the three remaining women sat nursing their beers in a comfortable silence. Jill removed her sunglasses and leaned back in her chair. She eyed Cindy and then spoke in a low, playful voice, "So, what do you say to making this a little more interesting?"

Lindsay leaned forward, a slight grin pulling at the side of her lips. "What do you have in mind?"

Jill's face widened into a devilish smile as she boldly declared, "Strip poker!"

Cindy's eyes widened and she glanced between Lindsay and Jill, who both seemed to be watching for her reaction. "Uh-um," she stammered, "s-sure, I'm in." She nodded with more confidence than she felt. Jill beamed at her and even Lindsay seemed pleased with her answer.

"I'm in, too," the inspector confirmed.

Cindy had no idea what she was getting herself into, but she had an inclination that it was going to be interesting.

For once in her life, Cindy was winning at poker. So far, she'd only lost both her socks and the argyle vest she had on over her t-shirt. The other women, however, weren't fairing so well. Lindsay was down to her bra, though she had managed to hold onto her jeans for the time being. Jill was right down to her panties.

Cindy sat smugly, enjoying the show and the feeling of accomplishment. That soon changed when she began to notice a thinly veiled flirtation taking place between her two playmates.

It was in the little things: Jill would be dealing the cards and Lindsay would grab her pile such that their fingers would brush together. Lindsay would watch Jill a little too intently when she thought no one was looking. Jill would remove her clothing in a slightly slower, more sensual fashion than was altogether necessary. Through it all there were teasing words, subtle glances, lingering touches.

They finally seemed to realize that Cindy was being quieter than her usually effusive self. Jill took in her state of attire, and arched her eyebrow. "It's time you learned something about strip poker, my dear," her impish smile made a reappearance, "when you lose, you really win."

And then Jill leaned towards Lindsay and kissed her. It was at once tender, almost familiar, and smoulderingly hot. Cindy was torn between a sinking disappointment at losing her chance with either of them, and the stirrings of desire from seeing two incredibly sexy, scantily-clad women kissing.

Lindsay broke from the kiss and turned, her dilated eyes locking with Cindy's. Jill turned towards her as well, and Cindy was overcome by the expression on both their faces. There was desire, compassion and warmth, all focused in her direction. Lindsay reached out towards her, an invitation. Cindy's breath caught in her throat.

With only a moment's thought, she stood up and walked towards two pairs of open arms.

Claire dug through her purse for her house keys as she climbed the stairs to the front door. As she wrestled with the lock, she thought back to the evening. Tonight was a momentous night, an initiation of sorts, since this was the first time that Cindy had hung out with their group on a purely social occasion. No talk of business allowed. As poker nights went, this one was as enjoyable as any other, if not more so due in large part to the fresh dynamic presented by the newest member of their group.

Claire set her keys by the door, removed her shoes and headed upstairs. She knew her boys would already be tucked in and fast asleep. Truth be told, she had used them as an excuse to duck out early more than once.

Her instinct told her that she had left just in time. She wasn't blind. She could sense the underlying sexual tension that often permeated their casual gatherings. She had known Lindsay and Jill for a long time. In work and in friendship, they acted as pillars of constancy for one another. But as lovers, they were so all-consuming that it could not be sustained. So they would play platonic friends for long periods of time, and under the surface the tension would build until it reached critical mass and they'd come crashing together. And then they would separate and recuperate for the next cycle. Each time they came together, their love seemed to become more incendiary.

Into this mix came Cindy. She was a strong woman; Claire had every faith that she could hold her own amongst these women. In fact, Claire even suspected that she might prove to be a stabilizing factor for their relationship. It would certainly be interesting watching the scene unfold.

Claire brushed her teeth and slipped into bed as quietly as possible so as not to wake Ed. She lay awake staring at the ceiling, idly observing the play of faint moonlight coming through the window. Yes, tonight was certainly a night of initiation for Cindy, in more ways than one. Although for this particular club, Claire was content not to hold a membership card.

The End

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