Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chapter 48

“We really should be going,” Kevin said looking over at Caroline who was looking very sleepy. “It’s after one in the morning and we do have a flight out at eleven tomorrow.”

Tricia sighed, shuffled the cards one last time and put them down. “We shouldn’t have kept you this late.”

“Nonsense,” Kevin smiled. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”

They were in Tricia’s parent’s kitchen sitting at the kitchen table. In addition to Tricia, Kevin and Caroline Tricia’s dad and his friend Hank were there still. Her father had called his poker buddies when Tricia had called to borrow his chips and he’d told her to come over and use them. A couple of them had come, only Hank was still holding on. Matt had left a couple of hours before taking Mary Beth home on his way.

“We appreciate the chance to learn Hold’em from a pro,” Hank said. “I think I have a decent handle on it. I’m not too stubborn to try to learn more from some of the books you recommended either young feller.”

Tricia smiled slightly, wondering if her father would also try reading any of the books that Kevin had recommended. She had already read a couple of them. Several of his friends had totally blown off the idea that they could learn anything about poker from a book, saying that they’d learned what they had through the school of hard knocks and saw no better way than that.

“Thank you Hank,” Kevin said standing up and stretching. “I love the game and I love to teach it. Personally I think I make a better teacher and coach than a player. The books will help. I promise you that. But in a way your buddies were right, there is no substitute for lots of practice.”

“I think we’ll be practicing Hold’em plenty during our weekly games now,” Hank said.

“I hope you enjoy it. I also hope that you all will let Tricia play with you some. She can teach you all a lot about hold’em if you let her and I know you all can teach her a lot about seven card stud.”

“I’m not the ogre she has obviously told you I am,” Tricia’s father said to Kevin. “I don’t know if you convinced any of the others that Hold’em is a good game too but between the three of you I know you convinced the lot of us that women can play good poker.”

Caroline smiled at that. “I’m glad to hear you say that Jerry. Your daughter stands to have a very promising future in poker if she chooses. I hope you’ll feel proud of her.”

“I do,” Tricia’s dad said gruffly. “I raised her and her brother as well as I could but I’m willing to admit now that maybe I could have done some things different. Age sometimes brings wisdom. Maybe that’s why I’m having so much fun with my grandson.”

Tricia felt her eyes tearing up and moved over and gave her father a hug that visibly embarrassed him.

“See now?” her father said. “That is the problem. You women are do damned emotional all the time.”

Hank, looking uncomfortable, grunted agreement.

Kevin was just grinning. “You’re right about that Jerry but you know there is nothing us mere mortal men can do about it and I for one don’t know that I want to try.”

Tricia let go of her father and he stood up.

Kevin reached over and they shook hands. “It was great meeting you sir. I hope to see you again soon. Maybe you will get a chance to accompany Tricia to one of the tournaments and see her in action.”

“I’m sure we will,” Tricia’s dad said to Kevin. “It was nice to meet you after hearing her talk about you. I feel better about her running off to play these tournaments now that I’ve met you and Caroline.”

Once Kevin, Caroline and Tricia were in the car heading back to Tricia’s house Tricia looked over at Kevin. “Thank you for doing that. I think you actually changed some stubborn old minds tonight.”

Kevin smiled and reached over to ruffle Tricia’s hair. “I honestly enjoyed it Tricia. I also do love to teach the game.”

“And he made not only your husband but your parents feel a bit better about you playing tournament poker and taking trips a few times a year,” Caroline said, smiling. “That was a big part of what he hoped to do. You had to have guessed that.”

“Of course I did,” Tricia said.

“Honestly that was only part of it. Since we had to be in town anyway even if you had decided you could not play any more tournaments I’d have visited you.” Kevin said.

“I know that too,” Tricia said with a smile. “Caroline was teasing, at least a little. I’m learning that you can be teased.”

Kevin gave a theatrical sigh. “I knew it would be dangerous to get you two together.”

Tricia and Caroline smiled at each other and laughed.

“Do you think Mary Beth will really go with you to Turning Stone?” Caroline asked.

“Well it surprised the hell out of me when she came up with that,” Tricia admitted. “She did seem to like the game. Now maybe she will actually play a couple of the sites I downloaded for her months ago.”

“Make sure she takes it easy,” Kevin said. “It’s not long until that event and there is no way she is really going to be ready for tournament play even on that level. If you can keep her to small cash games it would be best really.”

“Oh come on Kevin,” Caroline said. “I got the feeling that Mary Beth is pretty realistic. She will know she’s not really ready but if she wants to try a tournament it’s not going to break her.”

Tricia nodded. “I think she wants to go to keep me company and to see what it’s like and also to get away from Dutch for a while. I know he’s driving her nuts right now. I’m wondering how much of a stink he will make over this.”

“Not much if he’s smart,” Caroline said. “If you ask me Tricia your friend is near the breaking point. She doesn’t sound like she’s going to take too much more crap from her husband before she snaps.”

“Yeah. I’m a little surprised that she hasn’t just pretty much said ‘screw you’ and rented the space she’s been looking at for the retail part of her decorating business. I guess it’s too many years of buying into what Dutch is trying to sell her about her place being at home.”

“That’s crap!” Caroline said heatedly. “Hell I have all the respect in the world for her staying home to raise her kids. So many women just can’t these days. They are old enough to stand on their own two feet most of the time now though and so is she. Now it’s time for her husband to grow up.”

Kevin was smiling. “Calm down Caroline. Nobody in this car is about to argue with you.”

She turned to glare at him and the smiled and chuckled. “Yeah I know. It just burns my butt the way he treats her.”

“Really?” Kevin asked. “I never would have guessed.”

Tricia giggled as Caroline reached over the seat to smack Kevin on the shoulder.

“The question is how do you feel about her going Tricia?” Kevin asked.

“I think it will be fun,” Tricia said. “I’ve never had a chance to take that kind of trip with a girl friend. You said Jaime won’t be there, right?”

Kevin shook his head. “He will be in New Orleans at the circuit event there.”

“Why didn’t you suggest that for me?” Tricia asked.

“Maybe I wanted Jaime to be able to focus,” Kevin said with a grin.

Tricia looked in shock at Kevin. “Did I distract him that badly?”

Caroline chuckled. “Be careful how you answer that one Kevin. If you say she didn’t distract him then she’s going to have her female pride hurt and if you say she did then she’s going to feel guilty.”

Kevin laughed. “Oh you distracted him big time Tricia but don’t feel guilty. I honestly don’t think it affected his play. Besides he is going to have to learn to play through all manner of distractions.”

“So then why did you say I should go to Turning Stone for that tournament? Because it’s smaller, and cheaper and the players will be lower quality?”

“Those are some of the reasons,” Kevin admitted. “They aren’t the most important ones though.”

“You just got back from a two week trip not all that long ago. It was your first ever experience and it was pretty intense. I think it will be good for you to be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond for now.”

“More like a shark than a fish,” Caroline muttered.

“Don’t swell her head up,” Kevin chuckled. “Seriously Tricia I think you have a good chance to cash in any of the events. I want you to play to win though, not to cash. The buy-ins are relatively small, the total of all of them won’t ding what you brought home from Indiana. If you cash high in even one though you can make enough to pay for the whole trip.”

“That’s another part of it,” Caroline said. “If you go to New Orleans you’re going to just about have to fly. Hotels are expensive. Hell the place is just getting put back together from Katrina. You’d probably need a rental car because you won’t get into the main hotel. I think you’ll be very happy with Turning Stone Tricia. Honest.”

“So you agree with Kevin that this is best for me?”

Caroline nodded. “Not that it matters. He’s your coach not me. Hell he’s MY coach. I’m not going to second guess him.”

Kevin laughed. “The hell you aren’t. You do it all the time.”

“Not about how you handle other players.”

“Ok good point,” Kevin conceded. “Tricia just go and have fun. Take it seriously but don’t forget that you’re primarily there to enjoy yourself. You’ll have a friend along. Have fun with her. Can I ask you to email me regularly about how you’re doing?”

“Well sure, I guess,” Tricia said. “If I can get internet service anyway.”

“You’re resourceful. You’ll manage.” Kevin said. “I’ll swing back through here on my way to Vegas and we’ll have a couple of days to go over some things. I’ll let you know the details of that when I have a better handle on that part of my schedule. Does that sound ok?”

“Of course!” Tricia said. “You’re really going to stop by just to see me?”

“I don’t really understand why you have such a hard time with that,” Kevin said shaking his head. “Yes I will. And if we get a game up with your Dad and his buddies so much the better.I want you to hold them to their word of letting you play. Don’t you dare take it easy on them either. They won’t take it easy on you when they’re teaching you stud I don’t think.”

“You don’t think they will stop inviting me if I keep beating them at Hold’em?” Tricia asked.

Kevin shook his head. “No, at first they will ascribe it to luck. By the time they figure out you are really good they’ll be hooked on having you play. The real fun will be when you start beating them at seven card stud.”

“You think I will?” Tricia said, “I found out tonight how much I don’t know about it that I thought I did.”

“Well you read through that book and practice a bit online. Think it through like you do hold’em and you’ll be fine. Remember though that they do have years of experience and no formal training. From what I saw they are great on later streets. Learn from that but use your judgment as well.”

They were just pulling into Tricia’s driveway. She turned to Kevin as the stopped. “Thank you for everything.” She leaned over and gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek.

Caroline hugged Tricia after they got out as she was about to get into the front seat that Tricia had just vacated.

“Have a good time in New York Tricia. I hope you knock ‘em dead. Take care of Mary Beth too. Make sure she has a good time. She could use a break.”

“I will do all that,” Tricia said returning Caroline’s hug. “Have a good time in Europe and tell me all about it next time I see you. Thanks for coming.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it,” Caroline told her climbing into the front seat.

Tricia stood on the front porch with the door open watching them drive back down the driveway. After the lights of the car were gone she stood there for another couple of seconds then gave a contented sigh and went into the house.

Chapter 46

The waitress brought a full pot of coffee to the table and Tricia snatched it up and filled Kevin’s cup.

“Ok, there!” She said glaring at him, “Now you’ve got coffee. No more excuses. Spill it, what are you up to?”

Kevin took a sip of coffee. Then he looked at Matt who was looking somewhat amused at Tricia. “You know patience is a great virtue for a poker player. Obviously that is a lesson that your wife will have to learn yet.”

Matt smiled. “Good luck teaching her. I’m pretty sure she regards patience as a four letter word.”

“Enough you two or you’ll hear some four letter words,” Tricia said. “What are you up to Kevin?”

“I hope your feelings aren’t hurt,” Kevin said looking at Caroline. “It would seem that visiting a friend is not enough for her.”

“You know that’s not true,” Tricia blurted out. “But you’ve as much as admitted that there is something more to your trip here.”

“Kevin I know you are enjoying watching her squirm but you’ve drawn it out long enough.” Caroline said with a smile.

“Ok,” Kevin said putting his cup down and leaning forward slightly, ready to get down to business. “Matt have you and Tricia discussed whether she is going to play any more tournaments?”

Matt nodded. “I’m all for it as long as we can arrange for Matty to be taken care of. It worked out well this last time and I don’t just mean because she won good money.”

“I can’t believe you let her just go off like that for two weeks,” Dutch said. “All things considered I mean.”

Tricia and Mary Beth both turned to glare at Dutch. It was clear he was referring to the thing with Jaime. That made Tricia feel slightly guilty but in the end she had mostly behaved herself she thought.

“Maybe Matt is capable of growing a little. He’s learned to trust her again and he loves her enough to let her do something that is important to her that she is good at and that she enjoys. Honestly Dutch your thinking is so Neanderthal at times!”

Dutch appeared to be going to retort when Matt spoke up, obviously heading off the coming argument between Dutch and Mary Beth. “That pretty much sums it up Dutch. I see no harm that came out off letting Tricia go to that tournament thing. She does seem to do well at it and obviously enjoys it since she talks about it constantly. I’ve got no problem with her making some extra money either.”

When it looked like Dutch was going to respond to that Mary Beth hissed at him to let it lie.

Kevin had been watching the byplay and continued now. “Tricia showed me a lot I liked in her play during the short time I got to spend with her Matt. She’s got a lot of potential and she does obviously enjoy the game. Obviously she can’t do the tournament circuit like many players do but there are also many who just play selected events. “

“I really did come here mostly just to visit her since I had to be in town anyway. Caroline and I was talking about it though and came up with a tentative list of events in the coming year that might be good for you Tricia. We found something every month or so but from what you’ve told me of your home life and all I’d recommend maybe playing 3 or 4 events over the next year. Few of them will have you away from home more than a week at a time. There are also some things scheduled at casinos that you’ve said you and Matt have driven to for a weekend. I’d suggest you supplement your schedule with those.”

“Really? That sounds great,” Tricia said. “I wondered what I was going to do about figuring out what I should play next. I talked to Matt about maybe getting to Vegas for the WSOP, at least for part of it.”

Kevin looked at Matt who shrugged. “Neither of us have ever been to Vegas but from what she told me it made sense. That is the biggest event there is.”

Kevin nodded. “That it is. Were you thinking about making it a kind of family vacation?”

“Would that be a problem?” Matt asked. “I mean would it keep her from playing well or something? Are you going to suggest it would be better for her to go alone?”

Tricia heard the suspicion creep into Matt’s voice. A glance at Kevin and she knew he’d picked up on it as well.

“Actually for her first trip to Vegas I think a family type trip might be good. Matty is old enough to get something out of it I’d think. There is some kid type stuff there too. You might even want to think about having your parents go with you as well Tricia. They’d probably enjoy it and they could watch Matty part of the time and give you two a night or two on the town.”

“Oh,” Matt said, obviously surprised by the answer. “The thing is I’ve got a lot on my plate right now and I don’t think I can get away this summer for long enough.”

Kevin smiled. “Just as well. I was going to gently try to encourage Tricia to wait until next year. I could see that the circuit event nearly overwhelmed her at times and the main event is an order of magnitude more intimidating. Isn’t that right Caroline?”

Caroline nodded. “I still remember my first time there. It was amazing. Heck every year it seems to get bigger now. If you can I’d get a bit more experience under your belt Tricia.”

“Oh,” Tricia said not sure if she was feeling relief or maybe a little hurt at being told she wasn’t quite ready.

“Before you start feeling all inadequate and like we think you’re not ready,” Kevin said smiling when the look on Tricia’s face told him that he’d read her reaction right. “I have a suggestion that I think you’ll like.”

“Ok, I’m listening.” Tricia said.

Kevin pulled out a brochure and slid it over to Tricia and Matt. “There is a tournament series upcoming at Turning Stone Casino in New York. It’s a nice place and the tournaments will be good practice for Tricia. The buy ins are reasonable and the number of entries will guarantee a very nice prize pool. The one thing wrong that I don’t like about it is that I’d have liked to be there but I’ll be in Europe and then have to go right to Vegas after that.”

Kevin then looked at Matt. “I’m hoping, Matt, that if Tricia is willing you’ll be agreeable to me coaching Tricia a bit. The tournaments I selected with the exception of this one are ones I plan to play at least part of.”

Tricia’s eyes got wide. “You’re serious? Can I afford your coaching?”

“Since it’s not going to cost you anything up front then yes I think so.” Kevin said. “We can hash out the details but some of the time I’d like to have a piece of your action. The only thing my help will ever cost you is some time and part of some of your winnings the times I buy some of your action. You’ll find I’m not hard to live with. I’m doing this mostly as a friend but you’re familiar with people I’ve got similar deals with. You will have a chance to talk to them more about it if you want. There will be nothing binding. If you decide you want to handle your own action and keep all your profits then so be it.”

“What’s in it for you?” Matt asked somewhat suspiciously.

Kevin shrugged. “Well corny as it may sound, friendship. I know lots of poker players but there are few I really like spending that much time around. Also I do hope that Tricia and I can make a dealthat will be mutually beneficial. I can lower her downside risk without lowering her upside reward all that much. It’s all pretty standard stuff. There are not many tournament pros that pay all of their own buy-ins. I certainly don’t. I’ve also got connections that down the way could mean some sort of sponsorship deal. It’s too early to worry about that though.”

Matt looked at the brochure that Tricia was looking at. “Is all that something you think you’d want? I guess you know more about it than I do.”

“I know I like playing poker,” Tricia said. “And I know I have a lot to learn yet. These tournaments look good and if we can arrange for Matty to be taken care of then I’d like to do it. I don’t know about the whole sponsorship thing, that seems a bit too serious.”

Tricia realized as soon as it was out of her mouth that her last statement had not sounded right. Before anybody could say anything, but not before there were some surprised looks, she quickly spoke up again.

“I didn’t mean I’m not serious about poker,” She tried to explain. “It’s just that something like a sponsorship deal seems to be a bit much to expect at this point. I just won’t have time to play more than a handful of tournaments at the most for many years to come. I want to learn all I can and be the best I can be but I think I need to take it in small, manageable steps. Heck even doing as well as I did in my first one overwhelmed me a bit. I’m just a wimp I guess.”

Both Kevin and Caroline chuckled but it was Caroline who said, “I don’t think it makes you a wimp. I think it makes you honest. You seem to have a good grasp on your limitations but you don’t let that hold you back much. You’re not afraid to stretch it seems to me but you are careful not to stretch too far too fast. I’d say that is a good thing.”

Kevin nodded. “Definitely it’s a good thing. It’s part of why I was going to dissuade you from attending much, if any, of the WSOP this year. You’ll be far more seasoned and ready next yearif you can work it into your schedule then.”

“I think the waitress is getting anxious to have her table for other customers,” Dutch said earning a dirty look from Mary Beth. It had been a poorly veiled attempt on his part to get to leave.

Tricia thought he had a point though and realized they’d spent a long time talking after dinner.

“Dutch is right, we should let them have their table,” Tricia said earning a surprised look from Mary Beth. “Why don’t we all go back to our house. Unless you all have something else you need to do.”

Dutch looked like he was going to say something but Mary Beth’s elbow stopped him. Matt took one look at Tricia and the protest of work in the morning never made it past his lips. He looked at Kevin and Caroline, obviously in hopes they would say they needed to go.

“I’d be happy to if it’s not going to be a problem,” Kevin said.

“Of course it’s not!” Tricia said. “I thought it might be a late night which is why I agreed for Matty to stay with my parents. I just wish there was a casino close enough we could all go play poker.”

Caroline chuckled. “Yeah, no worries about you being serious about it are there?”

Matt laughed as they walked out of the restaurant. “No you have no worries on that score. She tries to talk about it to me all the time only I usually have little clue what she’s talking about. I play a little but I admit she’s gone way beyond me.”

In the parking lot Kevin took the keys to the rental car out of his pocket and handed them to Caroline.

“Why don’t I drive back with Matt. It’ll give us a bit of time for a talk. Tricia can ride with you Caroline and make sure you get back without getting lost.”

Caroline stuck her tongue out at Kevin and they both laughed.

“She’s only seen the drive once and that was in daylight. You can’t expect her to find her way back in the dark.” Tricia said.

Caroline chuckled and looked at Kevin.

“Her sad secret Tricia, is that while she was a top notch lawyer and is a great poker player she cannot find her way out of a paper sack without getting lost at least once.”

“Oh be nice Kevin,” Tricia said. “It can’t be that bad.”

Caroline laughed. “I’m afraid it can. I constantly give thanks for the invention of GPS navigation systems and even then I still get lost sometimes.”

Kevin steered Matt toward his work truck and was already talking to him as Caroline and Tricia started to get into the rental car. Mary Beth came scurrying over.

Chapter 47

“Mind a hitchhiker? Old fuddy duddy putzed out and just doesn’t want to go and frankly I don’t want to go home with him right now.” Mary Beth asked.

“Well you know it’s fine with me,” Tricia said. “I’ll drive you home later.”

“Thanks!” Mary Beth said piling into the back seat.

As Caroline drove out of the parking lot, following Tricia’s directions Tricia said. “I told Caroline and Kevin how Dutch doesn’t want you to do the decorating thing. I still can’t believe how he’s being about it.”

“I’ve heard it too many times,” Caroline said. “I hope you will be able to work it out with him. Maybe it’s not my place to say so but you deserve the right to do what fulfills you. He should be proud his wife is good enough at it to open her own decorating business and has enough drive to want to.”

“Thanks,” Mary Beth said. “I swear he believes that women should be kept barefoot and pregnant. We had three wonderful children who are for the most part fully grown now. My starting this business full time will not take a thing away from them at this point.”

“At least you got the children in,” Caroline said wistfully. “My main regret in my life is being too busy to make time to have children until it was too late.”

The mood in the car was feeling very somber until Mary Beth smiled, leaned forward to put her head between Caroline and Tricia and said, “Ok enough of that gloomy stuff. I wanted to ride with you girls to hear about the wild stuff that happens when you go to these tournament things. Tricia hasn’t told me nearly enough. I want dirt and I want it now.”

“Mary Beth!” Tricia shook her head. “You’re terrible. I told you there were a couple of parties but while some of us drank more than we should have as far as I know nothing really terrible happened.”

“Did she do anything embarrassing Caroline?” Mary Beth asked.

Caroline chuckled and said, “Well she didn’t do a thing to embarrass me.”

“You know what I mean!” Mary Beth said. “I’ve seen her drunk but it was just after something that happened a few years ago and she wasn’t in a mood to do anything fun. I want to know how she is when she’d drunk and happy.”

“I told her about Jaime,” Tricia said to Mary Beth.

“Ohhhh ok,” Mary Beth said. “But I still want dirt. Did she kiss anybody?”

Caroline chuckled. “I wouldn’t tell if she did. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

“But you weren’t in Vegas. You were in Indiana.”

“The principle applies none the less,” Caroline said.

“Nothing worth telling happened Mary Beth.” Tricia. “Not to me anyway. I don’t know who else might have hooked up and spent a night or more with somebody.”

Mary Beth looked at Tricia and said, “I know you pretty well, the way you said that makes me suspicious. Come on. I’m a boring housewife with no frigging life. I need to live vicariously through somebody!”

Caroline smiled. “Sometimes boring is not that bad. Tournament poker has been very aptly described as hour upon hour of boredom interspersed with a few moments of sheer terror. When it comes right down to it Mary Beth it really is hard work.”

“So you go to parties and nothing happens? Why do I not believe that? You don’t play all the time. Surely even poker players need sex.”

“Well of course we do,” Caroline said. “Some of us don’t get much of it but we need it.”

“You’re good looking, smart and seem fun,” Mary Beth said. “I bet you get plenty.”

“We all have our emotional baggage and sometimes mine gets in the way,” Caroline said. “But just to give you a bit of a thrill I’ll tell you that after the party following Tricia’s performance in the Ladies event I did not go to bed alone.”

“Well good for you!” Mary Beth said.

Tricia was looking at Caroline. She knew very well that it had been Rick that she’d hooked up with and was dying to ask for more details and if they were going to see one another again but didn’t want to in front of Mary Beth in case Caroline didn’t want to talk about it.

The conversation came to an end when they pulled into the driveway at Tricia’s house and got out to go into the house. Matt and Kevin pulled up right after and also got out.

“So what did you two talk about all the way home?” Tricia asked curiously.

“Guy stuff,” both Matt and Kevin said simultaneously. They then looked at each other and laughed.

Three sets of female eyes rolled and Caroline said, “I’m not sure it was a good idea to leave your husband alone with him Tricia. He is an evil influence at times.”

“Not at all,” Matt said, then he looked at Mary Beth and said, “Dutch weaseled out of coming?”

She nodded and shrugged.

“I don’t know what’s with him lately,” Matt said. “Well lets not stand out here. Come on in the house.”

Tricia followed wondering what Matt and Kevin had talked about that had Matt in a seemingly good mood about having visitors that were not his hunting or fishing buddies. She thought it would have been more in character for him to suddenly remember some forgotten detail at his office he needed to check on and make an exit similar to Dutch’s.

Once inside Kevin turned to Tricia. “I hear you’ve never tried to teach Matt to play poker. Why not? You might enjoy playing together.”

“Don’t blame me,” Tricia said defensively. “I have tried to get him interested. Some of his buddies play and I even suggested having a game here.”

“Honey,” Matt said quickly. “I know I didn’t used to have much interest but after you went to that tournament thing and I heard so much about it I wouldn’t mind trying to learn to play I think.”

“Fine with me,” Tricia said.

“That’s better,” Kevin said. “So break out your chips and lets see what we can do. Would you like to learn to play too Mary Beth?”

“Sure,” she said, “Why not. Maybe I can get good and Tricia will take me with her when she goes to tournaments.”

“Maybe,” Kevin said with a grin.

“There’s only one problem,” Tricia said. “No chips. Since I could not get Matt interested I’ve never bought any chips, not even the cheap plastic ones. I don’t suppose you just happen to have some with you do you Kevin?”

Caroline laughed and Kevin shook his head. “A good chipset is a bit heavy to lug around when you’re traveling. I just assumed you’d have chips.”

“The closest chips I know of are at my parents. I got my dad a good chip set last Christmas. He and his buddies were using those old cheap plastic things. Dad insisted they were fine but mom has told me that his buddies really like the new chips.”

“I bet,” Kevin said. “Do you think he’d lend them to you? Is it too far to go?”

“It’s only a few minutes away and I have no idea if he’d lend them to me. I’ll call and ask if you’d like.”

“Unless you don’t feel like playing a bit of poker I’d like you to try.” Kevin said.

Tricia pulled out her cell phone and made the call. She hung up smiling and shaking her head.

“Well?” Matt asked, what’s so funny?”

“He says we can’t borrow them but we can go over there and use them as long as we include him.” Tricia told him.

“Well that sounds reasonable,” Kevin chuckled then looked at Tricia, “did you have other plans for this evening?”

“I had no definite plans,” she admitted. “I didn’t know what you and Caroline would want to do or even exactly why you were coming. I’d like to take a shot at teaching Matt and Mary Beth to play.”

“Well then lets go,” Kevin said.

They piled back out of the house and into Kevin’s car and Tricia’s car. Matt drove Tricia’s car this time with Mary Beth and Caroline riding with him. Kevin had Tricia ride with him to give him directions.

On the short ride Kevin had a brief chance to talk to Tricia alone.

“You and Matt seemed to get along ok,” Tricia said. “I have to tell you I’m surprised. Maybe he is starting to trust me again.”

Kevin shrugged. “I did my best to charm him and to appear as harmless as possible. He was a bit suspicious though and was asking about who you’d met there and the parties and things like that. He was definitely fishing for information. I didn’t give him anything useful. I take it you have not told him about Jaime being there?”

“Good Lord no!” Tricia said. “I’d never get out of the house again if I did.”

“You may be right,” Kevin said with nod. “He’s being friendly but there was an undercurrent of suspicion and it’s really still there. I think he may be willing to give me the benefit of the doubt but that’s mostly because I think he thinks I’m too young for you.”

“Well you are,” Tricia said.

“I bet I could change your mind,” Kevin said softly.

Tricia looked at him in shock. “Kevin! You’re joking right?”

“Well yes and no but don’t worry. You are safe with me.” Kevin grinned. “Your Matt has almost as much of a macho streak in him as his buddy Dutch does. That guy seems to be a real piece of work.”

“He’s a jerk.”

“That’s what I said,” Kevin chuckled. “I just said it nice.”

“Is this really what you want to do with your free time?” Tricia said. “Spending it with me like this?”

“Why not?” Kevin asked. “Dinner was good and for the most part the conversation was good. I will admit that I’d not choose Dutch as a dinner companion but I liked Mary Beth. Matt has certainly been civil and really I can’t blame him in some ways for being a bit suspicious.”

“But now you’re going to my parents to play poker on the kitchen table. How fun can that be for you?”

“Do you know how often I get to do that? To play a totally casual game with friends in a fun, family atmosphere? Being on the road so much gets old. Don’t worry about me, I’m going to love it.”

“And what about Caroline?”

“She will be fine. She needed a break. She was close to burning out. Don’t let this go to your head but she’s almost as good as you are. She’s easily good enough for what she’s going but she pushes herself very hard, too hard sometimes. I dragged her on this trip to try to get her away from the grind and to try to get some one on one coaching time with her. I’m finding she’s got a great mind and she’s actually given me some good insight on some things.”

“Are you two…”

“An item?” Kevin smiled and then shook his head. “No we’re not. This with her is purely business just like with you. Business with a side of friendship. Actually you may not want to hear this but she and Rick seem to have hit it off very well.”

Tricia shrugged. “I wondered if it was just that one time. I somehow didn’t think so. Don’t tell him but in a way it’s a relief. I don’t regret what happened with him but I think I would have if it continued.”

Kevin nodded understanding and the conversation ended as they pulled down the long driveway to Tricia’s parents’ house.

Chapter 45

“We’ll take our rental. I’ll drive,” Kevin said as they headed for the car as Tricia’s parents with Matty in the back seat drove off.

“But you don’t know where you’re going,” Tricia pointed out. “Wouldn’t it be easier if I just drove?”

“Humor me,” Kevin said opening the doors on the passenger side for Tricia and Caroline. “I’m sure you can direct me.”

“I’m beginning to see that the man is a bit of a control freak,” Tricia said sliding into the front seat after Caroline slid into the back. “He must be a joy to travel with.”

Caroline chuckled. “Actually he’s not bad. He let me have the window seat on the plane and he didn’t snore when he slept. He’s not a control freak exactly he’s just particular when he has a plan and right now I’d say he has a plan although I have to admit I have no idea what it is.”

As they drove out of the driveway and onto the road Tricia asked. “So what is the plan you have?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kevin replied, eyes on the road, a faint smile playing over his lips. “I’m here to visit a friend after a day of taking care of business. It’s a shame my friend doesn’t trust me.”

Tricia looked at him to see if he was serious and when he looked over long enough to smile at her she knew he wasn’t. She also knew she wasn’t going to get any more out of him the way she’d been going so she decided to try something else.

“What was that with my dad at the end? I think I told you that he thinks Hold’em is stupid.”

“I don’t think he thinks its stupid so much as he doesn’t think it’s poker. In part I think that is because it’s different from what he has spent years doing. That is natural.”

“What was that stuff just before we left though?” Tricia asked. “It sounded like you were trying to get him to ask me to play with him and his buddies.”

“Well it would be good for you.” Kevin said. “How much seven card stud have you played?”

“Well we grew up playing off and on,” Tricia said. “My dad taught my brother and he taught me. Knowing what I know now about Hold’em though I know I don’t know that much about seven card stud strategy. I’m sure I could learn though.”

“I’m sure you could and I think you would probably enjoy it. Eventually you should learn as many different variations as you can. Don’t rush into it though. Until I met your dad I was going to suggest that you learn Omaha and then get into Omaha eight or better. I think though that you might as well work on seven card stud.”

Caroline leaned forward. “You’re up to something Kevin. I know the signs.”

Tricia looked at Caroline and then at Kevin who smiled. “Well I always like to see old barriers broken so I’d like to see the old guys allow a lady into their game. I think it would be good for you Tricia and I think it would be good for them. I’ll bet you that they will have you teaching them Hold’em in short order.”

“You think? You don’t think they are all like my dad?”

Kevin chuckled. “Oh I imagine most of them are, or worse. I think though that they really will want to learn because they’ve seen it on TV by now and are curious and probably thinking that it looks so easy that they ought to be able to do well.”

“I don’t see my dad inviting me to play,” Tricia said.

“Want to bet?” Kevin asked, smiling.

Tricia looked at him appraisingly. She knew her father but she was also coming to know that Kevin seemed to be able to read people very well so she decided that betting against him would be a bad idea. She just shook her head and concentrated on giving him directions to the restaurant.

When they pulled into the parking lot Tricia said, “Now I know it’s not the fanciest looking place but the food is great and there is plenty of it. It’s also one of Matt’s favorites and I thought that might be best in this case.”

“It looks interesting,” Kevin said getting out of the car and reading the sign over the front door. “The Friendly Farm, family style dining. What exactly does that mean? That we can argue like we’re related?”

Caroline rolled her eyes and Tricia giggled.

“No silly.” Tricia looked at Kevin and decided that he really didn’t seem to know what it meant. “You really don’t know do you?”

He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

“Well here it means you order your entrée and they put that and the sides of the day on the table in bowls, like you’d get if you were eating at home.” Tricia told him.

“At home my mom never took orders for our entrée,” Kevin said. “She just said, ‘tonight is meatloaf, or tonight is fish’.”

Tricia smiled. “Well I admit the part about ordering individual entrees is not a lot like anybody’s family life I ever knew either but it’s good food at good prices and the atmosphere is nice. I think you’ll like it. They also don’t rush you in and out so if we take some time to talk over dinner you won’t have a waiter trying to get you to leave so he can fill his table with new customers.”

“I’m sure it will be great,” Kevin said. “It smells very good and that is reminding me that lunch was quite a while ago and was hardly served family style.”

Caroline laughed. “That’s for sure, it was scarfed from a busy McDonalds between meetings. I’m ready for some real food.”

Tricia was looking around for either Mary Beth’s car or Dutch’s but didn’t see either in the fairly crowded parking lot. “Before we go in there is something I didn’t get a chance to tell you.”

“Uh oh,” Kevin said, “That sounds ominous.”

Tricia smiled and shook her head, “It’s not that bad. It’s just that I invited my friend Mary Beth and her husband Dutch also. I hope that won’t be a problem. They’re having some problems and I feel sorry for her. She is really into decorating and wants to start her own business now that her kids are old enough not to need her around all the time. Dutch seems to have this Neanderthal attitude that it will look like he can’t support his family if Mary Beth goes to work now. She has really been down and I just hoped getting out would cheer her up.”

“The more the merrier,” Kevin said.

“I’ll even be nice, “ Caroline said with a smile, “And not rip her husband’s face off if he spouts that attitude in front of me. I’ve heard that so much and I’m so sick of it. I hope that your friend knows she’s not the only one dealing with the problem.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t help much in this case to know you’re not alone.” Tricia said with a sigh leading them into the restaurant.

A hostess came up and greeted them warmly.

“Thank you,” Tricia said. “I have reservations for six people. The name is Bateman.”

“Oh yes! Some of your party are already here. I’ll show you to them.”

Looking out over the restaurant she saw Mary Beth standing up waving from a back table. Even from that far away she could see Dutch trying to get her to sit down as people were turning to look at her. Mary Beth, of course being Mary Beth, was oblivious to the fact that she was attracting the attention not just of Tricia but of everybody in the restaurant.

Tricia had to smile. “I think I can find them on my own. Thank you.”

The hostess giggled. “I guess you can.”

As they moved through the restaurant toward the table Kevin, in an amused voice, said to Tricia. “I think I’m going to like your friend.”

“Yeah I think you are. You’ll be dangerous together because I think you’d do that kind of thing.”

Caroline chuckled. “She’s got you pegged Kevin.”

“And your point is?” Kevin asked innocently.

“Remember she’s married Kevin,” Tricia said, only half joking. “She’s gonna really like you too and right now I am afraid she’s a bit vulnerable.”

“I will try to restrain myself,” Kevin said so formally Tricia looked quickly to see if he was angry with her. He grinned down at her and quietly said, “Don’t worry even if she throws herself on me I will turn her down gently. Will that suffice?”

“I didn’t mean you’d try to seduce her or for that matter that she’d try to seduce you, as far as I know she has never cheated on Dutch. It’s just that I think there may be a bit of an attraction there.”

“I think what she is saying Kevin,” Caroline said with a smile, “is that she thinks your hot and knows her friend will think so and is worried about it. Isn’t that about it Tricia?”

Tricia found herself gaping at Caroline and then realized that mostly she was having her chain pulled. She shook her head and motioned them toward the table. “Come on you two. I swear it’s a good thing I like you guys.”

She heard Kevin chuckling behind her but didn’t turn around so he would not have the satisfaction of seeing her grin.

Mary Beth hugged Tricia and Tricia said hello to Dutch. She then introduced them to Kevin and Caroline.

“Excuse my wife for the greeting,” Dutch said. “She seems to like to do embarrassing things.”

“Honestly Dutch!” Mary Beth said. “I just let them know where we were sitting. It’s no big deal.”

“Nothing to excuse Dutch,” Kevin said. “I like a person who knows what they want and does what they have to in order to get it. We found our way here so it worked out.”

Tricia looked sharply at Kevin, knowing he was taking a dig at Dutch because of what she’d told him. A look at Dutch showed that it went over his head though. Mary Beth had not missed it and was looking at Kevin appraisingly making Tricia wonder if it had been a good thing she’d warned Kevin to behave.

“No sign of Matt yet I suppose?” Tricia asked.

Mary Beth looked like she was going to answer but then Dutch shook his head and said, “Not yet. He’s been hard to pin down lately. Always says he’s working. Are you two having a problem again or something?”

“Dutch!” Mary Beth glared at her husband.

“Excuse him,” She said, looking at Kevin and Caroline, he sometimes engages his mouth before his brain.”

“I just meant I haven’t even been able to pin him down for a fishing trip. That’s not like him.” Dutch said.

Mary Beth had a look on her face that Tricia didn’t understand and could not characterize when she said, “He’s just focusing on his business I’m sure. At least he doesn’t mind Tricia following her dream to play poker.”

Tricia didn’t think what she said had anything to do with the look she’d had on her face but knew she had to head off what she was afraid was about to be a Dutch and Mary Beth argument.

Kevin apparently had the same idea and was drawing a breath to say something when Tricia spotted Matt coming through the restaurant.

She popped up. “Speak of the devil here comes Matt now!” She took a few steps out to greet him, giving him a hug and kissing him when he bent toward her.

“Thank you for coming on time sweetie. I know it wasn’t convenient for you.” Tricia said to him quietly. “Come meet Kevin and Caroline.”

Shaking hands with Kevin Matt said, “So you’re the man who was such a big help to Tricia at her tournament. She’s told me that she owed a lot of her results to you.”

“I’m glad to meet you,” Kevin said shaking Matt’s hand, inwardly grinning when Matt squeezed hard while shaking his hand, he could see that testosterone was going to be running deep at the table tonight. “She owes her results to the hard work she put in learning to play poker. I didn’t do much at all really.”

Matt shook hands with Caroline and they all sat down. They made small talk while the food was ordered and they ate.

After they had finished and were sitting back, comfortably full Kevin held his hand out to Caroline and said, “Let me have that package. I think Tricia may want to share it with her husband and her friends.”

Caroline pulled a flat gift wrapped package out of her purse and handed it to Tricia.

Tricia took it curiously and unwrapped it with Mary Beth hanging over to get a good view.

Inside the gift wrap there was an envelope.

“It’s the pictures I took or was given from the time you were there, I got all I could that had you in them Tricia,” Kevin said.

Tricia panicked then. Could Kevin have actually included pictures of Jaime as well? Surely he wouldn’t have done that. She couldn’t remember if she had told him that Matt might well recognize Jaime from pictures she’d had back then. She looked at Kevin and the look he gave her assured her that he had been discreet.

They went through the pictures. While there were none of Jaime there were some of Rick and that made Tricia a bit queasy but she knew Matt would not think anything of them. None of the pictures had her draped all over Rick or anybody else. Several from the party after her ladies event finish though made it obvious that she was feeling very happy.

Tricia was afraid Matt would not like that but he seemed amused. “Well now I see why you said you had a bit of a hangover. Just from the look of you in these pictures I bet it was a doozy of a hangover. I’m proud of you dear. I thought we were both too old for that. Maybe there is hope for me yet.”

“I’m afraid you’re never too old for a hangover,” Caroline said. “I’m also afraid that you’re never old enough to remember that if you party too much you will pay. I woke up the next morning feeling about the same only I had to play a tournament.”

“I want to point out,” Kevin said, “That there are far more pictures there of people playing poker than partying. It is, believe it or not, hard work though and blowing off steam occasionally is a good thing.”

“Well I’m sure Tricia appreciates the pictures,” Matt said. “She loves to make scrapbooks of everything and every event. I’m sure she will have one made with these soon.”

“Surely you didn’t come visit me just to give me these pictures Kevin,” Tricia said. “I’ll buy that you came to visit a friend because you were in town but I know you well enough now to know that you’ve got something else up your sleeve. Spill it.”

Matt frowned and looked over at Kevin.

Kevin held up his hands. “Ok well there was one more item I wanted to bring up and now is about as good a time as any. As soon as I can flag that waitress down and get some more coffee I’ll tell you all about it.”

Chapter 43

“So who is this guy and why is he coming?” Matt asked that night when Tricia told him about  Kevin James’ upcoming visit. “Are we going to have your poker buddies traipsing through here all the time now?”

“Excuse me?” Tricia asked, feeling herself getting angry. “Considering that I spend a good bit of football season cooking and cleaning for you and your buddies I don’t see how it hurts if some of my friends drop by every now and then. I only asked you to be polite. If you don’t want to be bothered then we’ll just stay out of your way.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Matt said looking uncomfortable. “It’s not that I don’t want to be bothered. It’s just different is all. You’ve never done that kind of thing, had people come visit like that I mean.”

“Well maybe it’s time I did,” Tricia said. “I can’t see why it should be a problem. Kevin and Carolyn are nice people and were both very kind to me when I had hardly a clue what was going on. If they think enough of me to stop by and visit then I’m tickled pink. I’m sorry you don’t share my enthusiasm.”

“I’m sorry Tricia,” Matt said, sounding to Tricia like he might actually mean it and not be saying it to avoid a fight. “I’ll be glad to meet your friends.”

“Good because I was thinking of taking them out to dinner. I called mom and she and dad will come pick Matty up to spend that night with them sometime after I’ve gotten a chance to introduce Matty to Kevin and Carolyn.”

“You’ve really planned this out haven’t you?” Matt asked.

Tricia knew he was thinking this was not like her. Since she’d gotten back her tournament she’d found herself being much more proactive about some things. She thought that it had been good for her to have to function completely on her own. She was aware that Matt would be unlikely to share that feeling, much like Dutch didn’t like the idea of Mary Beth owning her own business. Why, she wondered, did too much independence on their wives parts seem to scare these guys? She shrugged mentally knowing that it was the way it was and she just had to play the game and try not to look like she was capable of too much independent thought.

“I mentioned it to mom and she suggested we might want to go out to dinner and have time for adult conversation and volunteered to take Matty for the night. She pointed out that he will start school in September and they won’t be able to do that as much.”

“Does that mean you’re not going to go to any tournaments while he’s in school? They’re only a couple miles away, in the same school district. I’m sure a bus could pick him up there if he stayed with them then.”

Tricia looked at Matt in surprise. “You’ve been thinking about it. I’m surprised. Does that mean you’re having second thoughts about me going to another one?”

Matt smiled a smile that told Tricia he thought she had totally missed the mark. “You should give me more credit. I have been thinking about it but have been thinking about how it can work even though Matty is starting school in September.”

“Okay. Well thank you,” Tricia said. “You know Matty could stay here and you could see him off to the bus before you go to work. It would not make you that late, if it made you late at all. He’s only going to be in Kindergarten. It’s going to be tough on him and I worry about it.”

“He’s going to be fine Tricia,” Matt said. “Ask him yourself, he’s looking forward to it.”

“I’d rather he got to stay here with you at least most of the time when I go play a tournament. I think he ought to be with one of us as much as possible. You can see what I’m saying can’t you?”

“You know I agree,” Matt told her. “Why do you thinkI wanted you to quit work and stay home with him when he was born?”

Tricia shrugged. “At first I thought that but lately I’ve been wondering. Talking to Mary Beth and listening to how Dutch is making a fuss because she wants to make her decorating business official and get a storefront and all. I guess I thought you might be feeling like him.”

“Dutch can be a putz at times Tricia. Trust me I am not too proud to have my wife make part of our income. Hell I’m all for you winning some big tournament and making more than I do if that’s what happens. I’ve told Dutch he’s an idiot for not letting Mary Beth do her thing. She’s good at it and I agree Dutch’s attitude ticks her off. I got an earful while she was decorating the sunroom.”

Tricia chuckled. “I guess you did. Do you think she was trying to sound you out to find out how you felt about me playing that tournament?”

“I know she was,” Matt grinned. “You gals look out for one another. You should try telling Dutch he needs to realize that this ain’t the old days and his ‘keep ‘em barefoot and pregnant’ attitude isn’t going to fly.”

“Like I’m going to try to tell Dutch anything,” Tricia snorted. They’d never really gotten along well and Matt knew it. Matt didn’t even always like Dutch that much although he tolerated him because of mutual friends.

“I know you aren’t. We both know he wouldn’t listen to you anyway. A bunch of us are supposed to go to the lake fishing in a couple weeks. Maybe I’ll try then.”

“Good luck,” Tricia said. “You were planning to tell me about that weren’t you by the way?”

“I just did,” Matt said. “I don’t know exactly which weekend yet. I swear it’s getting hard as hell to get people to commit to a date. Used to be you asked guys to go spend a week at the lake hunting or fishing they just said sure thing. Now everybody has so much going on it’s hard to set a date. Feels like working for some corporation, like that Dilbert Cartoon thing. Takes a lot of the fun out of it.”

“Aww you poor thing,” Tricia teased. “Why don’t you just stay home and spend a nice weekend with me then? Or we could go to one of the casinos.”

Matt seemed to miss her point all together. “We will get a date set. Its not that big a deal.”

“And will we get a weekend together sometime?” Tricia said. “It’s been a while since we had time alone.”

“We had that night when you came home from the tournament.”

“That was weeks ago Matt.”

“Was it that long?”

“It was,” Tricia said with a sigh. “You used to always want to get time together. You wanted more than I did. Do you know how long it’s been since you took me to a hotel for a romantic weekend? I swear if I didn’t know better I’d think you were getting your sex and romance somewhere else.”

Tricia held her breath having said that. She’d been thinking it but knew it was likely to set him off and had not really meant to say it, it had just popped out.

He surprised her by laughing. “You know better than that though. After what you did back a while you don’t think I’m going to do it do you? I’ve just been having lots of work.  Being successful is good isn’t it?”

“I’m thrilled that your business is going so well Matt,” Tricia said. “But if you can’t take the time to enjoy it then what good is it? You’ve got people working for you now. You’re not having to do all the jobs yourself. Surely you could take a weekend here and there for us to do something as a family or for you and I do have a romantic getaway. Or are you not interested in me that way any more?”

“Awww honey of course I am,” Matt said.

“Well if you proved it every now and then it would be nice,” Tricia said, biting her tongue before she pointed out that is what had caused her to dally with Jaime in the first place eight years before.

Matt came over to her and kissed her, then he ran his hand down inside her blouse cupping her breast. She felt herself grow instantly aroused.

“After Matty is asleep how about if I show you how interested I am.” Matt said, nibbling on her neck in just the right way to drive her crazy.

Tricia rolled her eyes, glad he could not see because she didn’t want to spoil the mood. “Matty has been asleep for half an hour sweetie.”

“Well then why are your clothes still on?” Matt said, fumbling with the buttons on her blouse.

Tricia giggled and squirmed, wishing it was safe to do it right there in the family room but there was a chance that Matty would wake up. “Not to be a party pooper baby but we better go in the bedroom. I’ll make it worth your while.”

She knew his eyes were following her as she began to strip walking slowly out of the room and into their bedroom. When she heard the door close she knew it wasn’t only his eyes that had followed her.


Mary Beth came by the next morning to drop off something for the sunroom that she and Tricia had talked about.

“You seem to be in an exceptionally good mood this morning.” Mary Beth said after she and Tricia had been talking a few minutes.

“Lets just say that Matt and I had a very good night last night,” Tricia said, slightly embarrassed.

“Ahh ok,” Mary Beth said.

Something about the way she said it made Tricia look at her harder. It hadn’t sounded quite right.

“Is something wrong Mary Beth?”

“Of course not what could be wrong?” Mary Beth said sounding so cheerful it definitely came out sounding fake.

“Are you and Dutch still having problems? Is he still trying to get you to not do the decorating business as a full fledged business.”

“Oh hell yes. He’s not going to change on that one I don’t think. I’m about to the point of just doing it. Screw him. If it embarrasses him to have his wife with her own business then he can just leave me.”

“Mary Beth! You don’t mean that. Besides he wouldn’t would he?”

“He threatened to.”

“That’s stupid!”

Mary Beth laughed. “Tell me about it. He swore if I disobeyed him and rented that shop on Conner Avenue I’ve been looking at then he’ll leave.”

“And all this because he thinks it reflects poorly on him if you are making money too?”

“So he says.”

“It’s hard to believe that he can’t see how stupid he’d look, hell how stupid he looks right now to anybody that knows about this.”

“Oh he knows he looks stupid. It’s apparently all my fault. If I knew my place then everything would be ok. He says he makes plenty togive us anything we want. I can’t get across to him that I don’t need THINGS. I want a life.”

“I’m sorry,” Tricia said. “What are you going to do.”

“I don’t know,” Mary Beth said looking miserable. “The thing is I think he’s actually stupid enough to do it. I really do love him and like being married to him. Most of the time anyway. Right now I may love him but damn I hate his guts.”

Tricia just nodded, not sure what to say.

Mary Beth wiped a hand across her eyes. “So girl what’s new with you? Tell me something fun and exciting. Make it up if you have to.”

Tricia chuckled. “I don’t even have to make anything up. Kevin James called and he and Carolyn Snow as going to be in town and wanted to come by and visit.”

“That’s the sexy younger guy from the poker game?”

Tricia smiled. “Well I guess you might think he was sexy. He is younger. He’s the guy I told you kind of took me under his wing and helped me out.”

“And now he’s coming to visit you. Is this Carolyn person his girlfriend? That’s a bummer. Maybe you could have snuck away for some fun.”

“Mary Beth!”

“Ok then maybe I could have snuck away with him for some fun.”

Tricia shook her head. “You wouldn’t, besides he’s way younger than you.”

“Hell maybe that would be good. Bet he has great stamina.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Tricia said deciding to get off this subject before she found out if Mary Beth was kidding or not. Tricia suspected she was just really pissed at Dutch.

“He and Carolyn are not an item. They have some kind of professional relationship is all. I have no idea why they are coming to visit. Maybe they are just being friendly. He did mention he had other business in town to take care of first. I want him and Carolyn to meet Matty. Then Mom is going to pick Matty up and I am hoping we can all go out to dinner. Would you and Dutch like to go too?”

“Why in the hell would you want to ruin a good evening by inviting him.”

“Mary Beth!”

Mary Beth shrugged. “But you don’t even like him. Hell maybe I even understand why now.”

“I don’t dislike Dutch. We just seem to be oil and vinegar is all.”

“Still, why would you want us along.”

“You’re one of my best friends. Why wouldn’t I want you along?” Tricia asked. She was surprised when Mary Beth’s eyes filled with tears and she started to cry.

Tricia moved over to sit beside Mary Beth and put an arm around her. “Don’t cry. What did I say?”

Mary Beth just shook her head. Finally when she composed herself a little she said. “It’s not anything you said dear. It’s me. It’s all me right now. Are you sure you want me and Dutch to go? I’ll see if he had plans although I can’t imagine he does.”

“I really do.”

“Ok well I’ll get back to you. You’re talking tonight?”

Tricia nodded.

“I should run. I have an appointment in a bit and now I need to redo my makeup. Shit. I’m looking forwardto meeting your new friends and hearing their take on your behavior at that tournament thing.”

Tricia chuckled thinking that Mary Beth was back to sounding like her old self. Tricia was still worried about her friend as she watched her get in her car and drive down the driveway.

Chapter 44

Waiting for Kevin and Caroline to come to the house Tricia was unaccountably nervous. She’s not gotten any more information about why they were visiting out of Kevin beyond “why can’t friends visit friends? We ARE friends aren’t we?” She couldn’t argue with that but even not knowing him even better than she did she knew there was something more. She began to have fears that one of them would let something slip about Jaime even though she’d told Kevin not to bring up that subject and he’d not even teased her when he promised they wouldn’t.

She heard a car winding it’s way along the driveway. Glancing over Tricia saw Matty focused on a building project in one corner of the sun porch. She let him be and went to the front door. Opening it she saw her parents car pull up to the front of the house. She momentarily felt disappointed and then smiled and went to greet them.

“So where is this mysterious friend you wanted us to meet? I thought he was supposed to be here by now?” Her dad said as he got out of the car and let her hug him.

Tricia had not told her parents who it was just that it was friends she’d met at the tournament. She knew her dad followed some poker on TV even if he didn’t view Texas Hold’em as “real” poker. He still maintained that seven card stud was real poker. She thought he might know who Kevin and maybe Caroline were and wanted to see his reaction. Besides if he didn’t know who they were then the names would not have meant anything anyway. She also knew she’d done it the way she did because it would bug him. He liked to have all the information she had right up front. He’d always been like that and growing up it had irritated her and been partly at the root of why her brother had left home when he did.

“They called a bit ago and said they got hung up ina meeting and then got hung up in traffic. They should be here any time.” Tricia told him.

Tricia’s mom hugged her as they walked to the house. “Wasn’t Matt going to be here too?” She asked.

Tricia rolled her eyes and replied, “He called too. He said he could not get away yet and that he’d meet us at the restaurant. I think he may actually do that. Good thing I didn’t decide to cook though he might not have come home at all then.”

“Give the man a break Tricia,” Her dad said. “He works hard to give you and Matty a good life. You have everything you want.”

“Except a husband dad,” Tricia said bitterly. “Things are not what I want most.”

Her father drew a breath to retort and her mother elbowed him saying, “Don’t start. This is a special time for Tricia. Try not to mess it up.”

Tricia looked over, surprised and then was even more surprised to see her father give in. He didn’t apologize but he did back down. She wasn’t sure if that was the most surprising thing or if it was her mother talking to her father like that. She did it very rarely and it generally, in Tricia’s experience, had little effect.

Once in the house her father said loudly, “So where is my buddy?”

Matty heard that and came running. “Grampa!” He grabbed his grandfather’s hand and began to drag him toward the sun porch. “I’m building a farm with my blocks and stuff, come see.”

Tricia watched her mother watching her father as Matty led him into the other room all the while babbling away about what he was building.

Her mom noticed Tricia watching her and smiled. “I wish he’d found it in his heart to be more like that for you kids. I guess it’s better late than never.”

“He wasn’t so bad really. I mean I think you guys raised us just fine mom.”

“I guess. I miss Andy though. It’s too bad he had to inherit your dad’s pig headedness.”

“I know you do,” Tricia said. She felt as sad as always knowing that her mom was suffering as much as she was at the split in the family even after all these years. Tricia still had hopes of healing it one day but had made no more progress than she ever had.

She was saved from trying to deal with the subject at a time when she didn’t feel like dealing with it by the doorbell ringing. She was startled to realize she’d uncharacteristically not heard another car come up the drive. She went to the door with her mom trailing behind.

“Hi guys!” Tricia said enthusiastically when she saw Kevin and Caroline standing on the front porch. She quickly gave them each a big hug and ushered them into the house. She introduced them to her mom and said. “They were so much help to me when I was so lost in a new place.”

“It’s nice to meet you Mrs. Rooks,” Kevin said with a big smile. “Tricia told us how lucky she was to have you and your husband to take care of her son while she was off gallivanting with us in Indiana.”

Her mom laughed. “She said you were a charmer and she is right. You can call me Addie.”

“Thank you Addie,” Kevin said. “And thank you for giving Tricia the opportunity.”

“Well I imagine she told you I had my misgivings. It just didn’t seem the thing for a mother of a young child to be doing.”

Kevin nodded. “She did tell us. I hope, though, that now that she’s back you have had at least a little bit of a change of heart?”

“Indeed I have,” Tricia’s mom smiled at Kevin. “And I bet she has told you all about it.”

“Actually she hasn’t,” Kevin said. “We’ve not had much chance to talk yet. So you feel better about your daughter the poker player?”

“I do. She came back so happy and I always like to see her happy. Having Matty with us was good for my husband and I as well.”

“And am I going to get to meet your father, your husband and your son Tricia?” Kevin asked.

“Of course!” Tricia said, “follow me.” She led them to the sun porch.

“Remember I told you I thought Matt was up to something while I was gone?” Tricia asked.

Kevin and Caroline nodded.

“This was what he was up to!” Tricia said. “He and his buddies built this for me and my friend Mary Beth decorated it for me. You’ll meet Mary Beth later at the restaurant. Matt will be there too. He could not get away yet but promised to meet us at the restaurant.”

Tricia then introduced Kevin and Caroline to her father and Matty. Matty’s main interest, not surprisingly, was showing Caroline and Kevin his latest building project.

Kevin was crouched down with Matty asking questions while Matty happily told him all about what he was doing. Tricia smiled seeing it and said to Caroline, “One day he’s going to make a great father.”

“Yes he is. Now we just need to find him the right girl.” Caroline said.

“Let two or more women get together and right away they start match making,” Tricia’s dad said with snort. Tricia was surprised to see him smiling though. “My daughter didn’t tell me her new friends were quite such accomplished players. I’ve seen you on a couple of poker programs on television Ms. Snow.”

Caroline smiled and said, “Call me Caroline please. In my case I found a second calling that just fits me. I had reached a point where I’d burned out on my law practice and frankly life in general. It wasn’t the best way to start a poker career but thankfully it has worked out fairly well.”

“Dad doesn’t think Hold’em is real poker,” Tricia said. “He is a seven card stud fan.”

“You can make a case for that,” Kevin said, standing up. “They are different games for sure even if they have their roots in the same place. Maybe sometime we can play a little seven card Mr. Rooks.”

“You don’t just play that new fangled hold’em like my daughter?” Tricia’s father asked.

Caroline started to laugh, tried to stop and ended up choking. After Tricia had thumped her on the back and she got her breath back she smiled and said. “He plays a wee bit of stud Mr. Rooks. Go on Kevin. If now is not the time to show it off I don’t know what is.”

Kevin shook his arm and pulled the sleeve of his dress shirt up enough to expose a gold bracelet which he took off and handed to Tricia’s father who turned it over looking at it.

“I guess I won’t insult you by asking if this is real,” Tricia’s father said to Kevin. “I’m glad you showed this to me before we started playing.”

Tricia reached over and took it from her father. She saw that she was holding a genuine World Series of Poker bracelet from seven card stud. She looked at Kevin in surprise. “I knew you were good but I confess I didn’t know you’d won a bracelet. You told me you’d won a couple of circuit event rings, why didn’t you tell me about the bracelet?”

“You didn’t ask,” Kevin said with a shrug.

“Is there anything else you haven’t told me?” Tricia asked, shaking her head.

“I’ve only known you for a short time,” Kevin grinned. “There is a lot I haven’t told you.”

“Smart ass,” Tricia muttered, smiling. “Any more of these?” She handed him the bracelet back.

“Well,” Kevin said. Then took one off the other wrist and handed it to her.

“This one is for a $2000 buy in hold’em event,” Tricia said wonderingly. “You’re a two time WSOP bracelet winner, have several circuit event rings and have made three WPT final tables and you are taking time to have dinner with me? Why?”

Kevin chuckled. “They are jewelry, that’s all. They show that I got luck a couple of times. You know very well that to win a big tournament you have to get lucky. You’ve done it yourself.”

“Well I didn’t win and it wasn’t that big a tournament and you didn’t win those just being lucky. It took a lot of skill.”

“But they are still jewelry,” Kevin insisted. “I’m just a regular guy. Ok so maybe I’m a bit better at poker than the average guy but in my opinion so are you. That is part of the reason I’m here.”

“And what is the rest of the reason then?” Tricia asked.

Kevin smiled. “I just happen to like you. Is that a problem? You told me all about your family and since we were going to be in town I wanted to meet them.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Tricia said. “I guess I thought somebody as successful as you are would be too busy to spend time with me.”

Caroline smiled. “You’re plenty successful in your own way dear. With a young child you could make a case for having no more time than we do. It would have been easy for you to decide you couldn’t spare time for two itinerant poker players who flew into town and wanted to take time away from your family and your responsibilities here.”

“But you were so nice to me. I am glad to spend time with you!”

Kevin smiled. “And you were nice to both of us. We are glad to spend time with you. Now are we going to be friends and move on?”

Tricia grinned and nodded. “Yeah but it still boggles my mind.”

“We’re just regular people Tricia,” Kevin said. “And not to rush things but I at least am a regular hungry person.”

“I’m sorry!” Tricia said. “It is time to get going. We’ll get there just in time for our reservations. Matty you may leave your stuff out. Go get the bag we packed for you to take to Gramma and Grampa’s please.”

“Ok mom,” Matty said, running off to his room.

“He’s spending the night with them,” Tricia said. “It just seemed like it would be easier.”

“Ok, but he seems very well behaved. Why not just bring him to dinner with us?” Kevin asked then looked at Tricia’s parents. “Does that mean you’re not coming?”

“Not this time,” Tricia’s mom said. “We enjoy having Matty with us. Until she went to that poker tournament we had rarely had the opportunity. You youngsters go have a good dinner.”

“Well it was nice to meet you both,” Kevin said. “I hope we get to see you again soon. And Mr. Rooks I still want that seven card stud game sometime. Do you have a home game you play?”

Tricia’s father nodded. “We have a group that gets together once a week usually. We’d love to have you come win all our money.”

Kevin chuckled. “Don’t be so sure. You all have been playing a lot longer than I have. Experience counts. I’m sure it’s just a fun game. I’d enjoy playing.”

“It’s just a bunch of old farts sitting around drinking beer, swapping old war stories and playing a little poker. That’s what the wives call it anyway.”

Kevin laughed. “And do you let your daughter play? I’ve not heard her talk about seven card stud.”

Tricia’s father looked a little uncomfortable. “We have never had a woman in the game.”

“I keep telling him that maybe it’s time they started,” Tricia’s mom said. “But that’s a little progressive for them.”

“Well I don’t want to rock the boat,” Kevin said. “But playing seven card stud with experienced players would be good for Tricia’s game. It will also knock some of the cockiness out of her since I’m sure you’ll all clean her clock for a while.”

“I’m cocky?” Tricia asked. “Where did that come from?”

“Hold’em is easier than seven card Tricia,” Her dad said. “I keep telling you that. Who knows maybe I can talk the guys into letting you play and you’ll find out your friend is right.”

Kevin was grinning and when Tricia looked at her Caroline rolled her eyes. Tricia got the feeling Kevin was up to something but when she started to ask he gave her the briefest of shakes of his head and she kept quiet as her parents left and Tricia, Kevin and Caroline got in the car to head to the restaurant.