Those of you who’ve been wondering what happened to Vicky and waiting for some actual poker action, this chapter’s for you.
I’d encourage any new readers to at least start with Year Two ch. 01 even if you don’t go all the way back to the original spa game series; I think it will make much more sense. Thank you to everyone who’s been reading, rating, favoriting, and commenting to this point.
Key to the Chips: Nickname: value, favor, color
Clouds: 1, Touching, White
Canaries: 2, Kissing, Yellow
Lipstick: 5, Oral, Red
Skies: 10, Sex, Blue
Grass: 25, Anal, Green
Doubles/Oranges: 50, Double, Orange
Fucked: 100, Forefit, Black
Vicky took a deep breath as she rode in the car with Robin.
She’d met Robin a few times last semester when she and Cyn had gotten closer. Cyn had admitted to Vicky the two of them were together, but apparently monogamy was not in the cards, based on the little she knew about where they were headed and what she’d picked up from Syl the previous week. She couldn’t blame Cyn; Robin had model body beauty that she could appreciate, even if her attraction to her own sex was limited. Assuming Cyn was at least bisexual, Robin was a definite catch, and Cyn’s lover wore a wrap-style burgundy shirt that gave the appearance there was one strip of cloth doing the job of covering and supporting both of Robin’s breasts and baring a lot of skin, leaving no possibility of wearing a bra covertly. She’d paired it with tight black slacks that made the contours of her body obvious in most positions.
Syl sat in the driver’s seat in front of Vicky and she had no idea what the smaller woman had on; when she’d pulled up it was in a white double breasted coat that looked almost military. She’d jokingly acted like a chauffer and nearly looked the part. The coat seemed like overkill to Vicky; the fall chill was definitely setting in when the sun went down but it wasn’t unbearable. Then again, Syl was so small and thin Vicky guessed she got cold easily. Unfortunately the coat hid whatever outfit she wore, though based on the wild rumors it was possible she had nothing on underneath.
Vicky was only frustrated because she’d had no sense of what to wear herself. Apparently any details that would have clued her in couldn’t be revealed until tonight. She’d opted for a tight, high-necked brown knit sweater and slacks similar to Robin’s, but hers were tan and not nearly as fancy; she still considered shopping primarily at places like Saks Fifth Avenue to be decadently wasteful; she couldn’t bring herself to custom order clothing from designers like so many Veretrumians apparently did. Last year for her birthday Cyn gave her a silk blouse custom fit for her. The one time she’d modeled it for Cyn it felt and fit like a luxurious second skin, then Cyn had casually mentioned it cost $3,000. After that, Vicky had carefully sealed it in a waterproof bag, packaged it, and shipped it home. As far as she knew, it was still in its package in one of her closets, and she still had no intention of taking it out.
They arrived at a large but not obnoxiously sized house after a twenty minute drive from campus to an area where civilization disappeared in a hurry. Vicky guessed it had been five minutes since she’d seen anything suggesting another house was even nearby. The house had a spacious yard fenced in with brick and iron with swinging gates that guarded entry to a true circular driveway, currently about half full of vehicles, though she couldn’t see if any others sat in the detached garage on one side. The yard was only bordered by a fence on the street side; all other boundaries were marked by dense trees and by the look of it the house’s plot had been carved out of a forest. It wouldn’t surprise Vicky at all to have seen deer or other wildlife wandering by.
“I’m going to take you straight to Cyn when we go in; they didn’t tell me the details but your situation needs special handling because you don’t have a trust fund.”
“Yeah, sucks to have new money I guess,” Vicky said, unable to keep the bite out of her tone.
“Hey don’t be like that,” Robin teased, “You’re here aren’t you?”
“For the moment,” Vicky said doubtfully.
She saw Syl and Robin exchange a look, then Robin shrugged and got out of the car. Syl escorted her into the house and led her through the foyer down some stairs to a very nicely finished and spacious basement that had all the hallmarks of a game room, though rather than multiple tables for pool, shuffleboard, and eating there was only a bar that didn’t seem to have drinks and a poker table with a wide berth. Stools and a small shelf ringed the outside of the room where several small groups of people milled around chatting or checking their phones.
Vicky was briefly relieved that her choice of outfit wasn’t going to make her stand out, but she tensed up again when she recognized some of the faces around the room. She didn’t know anyone else other than Cyn personally, but she recognized many of them by reputation. She was looking at Veretrum’s elite. Not necessarily in wealth, although she knew several people there had relatives with net worths that outstripped countries, but they were the social movers and shakers. Every student either wanted to be friends with most of the people in the room or vehemently disliked them. She only saw two people she didn’t recognize at all; a nervous gangly guy who sat shrunk back in a corner, and a slightly heavier woman with a very low cut shirt and loose almost bell-bottom like pants who didn’t seem to have bothered with any kind of makeup, somewhat to her detriment.
Her breath literally caught when Syl guided her over to the bar. Cyn wore a deep ruby red suit jacket with nothing or very sparse clothing underneath, meaning what wasn’t red cloth was cleavage basically until you got to her neck, but while Cyn’s chest was impressive, the man standing next to the bar stole the attention.
Vicky had heard and seen pictures of Vincent McCabe before but she’d never met him in person and he was intimidating in every sense. He held himself with perfect poise and posture, keeping one hand on the bar but clearly not leaning on it. He wore a high-necked almost military cut shirt and perfectly tailored pants of dark grey. The style suggested the intent was to blend in, but on him all they did was entice, hinting at the physique the clothes obscured and making it impossible to see more without obviously staring. He was clean-shaven but had a thin, pointed, aristocratic chin and expression that merely made him look like a young man waiting to be put in charge of something. His long red hair was pulled back in a ponytail and his blue eyes seemed to bore into hers.
“Miss Silva, glad you could join us,” McCabe said, his subtle Irish accent adding just enough to his words to enhance his exotic allure.
“Thank you,” she said. She was torn between bowing, trying to curtsey, and offering her hand, so ended up just standing motionless.
Vincent brought out a piece of paper with a lot of small, densely packed text on it. “If you want to consult a lawyer or financial advisor we’d understand but in essence this form sets up a trust that makes you and the spa as an organization the beneficiaries. I took the liberty of using some connections within my family’s purview to send a note offering you a position with a work-study program, requiring a two million dollar deposit for unspecified incidentals.”
“My father agreed to that?” Vicky asked, shocked.
“It’s unlikely he’s received the notice yet. Basically this is your out; he will undoubtedly call you to confirm your participation in this study before transferring the money. If you confirm, you continue to attend our meetings here. Otherwise, we part ways. I’ll leave you in Cyn’s capable hands to explain the nuances of what we do here.”
McCabe strolled off, which was the only verb Vicky felt was appropriate for his walk, being both poised and casual at the same time. When she looked back Syl had disappeared but Cyn was still there, glaring briefly at Vincent’s retreat before turning a warmer look at Vicky.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“A bit nervous,” Vicky admitted, “You look hot. I feel so underdressed.”
“You’re fine,” Cyn assured her, “I go all out because I’m the banker and it’s sort of become my thing. Now, let’s get to the details before we’re both busy.”
Cyn gave her the run down of the spa’s chips and economy, as well as the four games that occurred throughout the weekend.
“There’s a low limit, low stakes game in about forty-five minutes that you have to play in. That one is the shortest game and it also doesn’t have a lot of money flying back and forth; that’s why the beginners are put in. Then there’s dinner and the Friday night game. That one has slightly higher limits and decent antes; it’s by far the most popular game to play in. Saturday morning has higher antes and medium limits. I call that the practice game because most of the people who play aren’t as interested in favors and just want to play the game. That game lasts for a while, then there’s the Saturday night game. That one is high ante and high stakes. Unless you’re feeling really confident or you’re up for the possibility of anal on your second night, I’d avoid that game.”
Vicky felt her face blanch at Cyn’s description, and thought through everything she’d just learned. “Cyn…I’m not gay.”
“Well…what if, like, Robin wins enough of my chips?”
Cyn chuckled. “First of all, it’s more likely you’d have to worry about Syl taking your chips, but as someone pointed out to me multiple times when I was a beginner, these aren’t rape chips. If you don’t want to cash in a favor most people won’t push it, but even if they do, you can pay triple the cost to me, the bank, and get out of it. But that also puts more of your chips in play, so you have to be able to win them. Or you have to win someone else’s chips and trade, though unless you’re trading them their own chips that gets expensive too.”
“You don’t have to, but you have to,” Vicky said despondently.
“Look, Vicky, I’m not going to lie to you; if you’re not into the sex this is the wrong place for you. If there are one or two people you want to avoid, or if you’re dead set against being with a girl people will respect that, but if you reject all the girls and then put off the guys when they come around too you aren’t going to last long, in any sense,” Cyn said.
Vicky sat at the bar for a while in silence. She’d pulled out one of the blue chips with her name embossed on it under the large number five and the word “sex” ringing the exterior. After five minutes or so Cyn said, “I’m sorry Vicky. I told Syl this was a bad idea.”
“Well your whole problem with this place was that people don’t respect you and are busy manipulating each other, and the spa doesn’t really get rid of that, it just changes the parameters. But you have to be good at poker to be on top and get the respect. I mean, I can help you with that but it’ll take time. Really you should probably just head back to Veretrum. Or…home I guess…I mean, if you need to.”
Vicky looked up, annoyed. She imagined Syl told her about finding Vicky with one foot out the door. To her credit, Cyn looked worried rather than challenging; her concerns were sincere. Still, they irked Vicky; it was another example of her not being able to “cut it” in their world. Granted, she wasn’t good at poker; the only times she’d played were in her tweens with some friends goofing around during a sleepover or a regular hangout and no money had been involved, much less sexual favors. But she’d be damned if she was going to give up without trying.
Besides, if everyone in the place was into sex, maybe she could get a decent lay or two out of it.
“I’ll see you at the table, Cyn,” Vicky said. She made to stand and go but Cyn gently grabbed her arm before she turned away.
Her expression was a lot more intense this time and nearly scared Vicky. “There are some real players down there, including Vincent,” Cyn said intently, “Syl says you have some sort of an edge. Use it. Don’t hold back.”
Cyn let her go and Vicky nodded.
Vicky sat at the table, looking over the other players. Vincent and Robin both played, and that was the limit of people she knew; apparently Syl was sitting out until the next game. A very well dressed and coiffed older guy with Asian features and a very energetic attitude had introduced himself as Zach and also sat at the table for the game. Next to him were two other men; an average American looking guy with a bit of a swagger named Charles and a very alluring and quiet guy named Ammad, who looked exactly like his name would suggest. The final player for the game was Amy the no-makeup woman from earlier.
Cyn soon walked over with a rolling tray piled with chip holders and stood next to the dealer, who Vicky hadn’t noticed until just then. Cyn looked imposing in her suit and heels, with an icy expression that seemed to say “screw with me and see how well that goes for you.”
“New player selects the game,” she said, then turned to Vicky along with the rest of the table.
Vicky hadn’t been expecting it and panicked, blurting out the first card game she could remember.
“Five card stud,” she said.
She immediately assumed she’d made a mistake when she saw a lot of people around the table shift and wince.
“Is that not allowed?” she asked.
She’d been looking at Cyn but Vincent’s voice drifted across the table in answer.
“The stud games have more betting cycles than average. Even with low limit games, the sheer number of bets can get a lot more chips moving than many are comfortable with.”
He wasn’t condescending at all in his explanation and even seemed a bit encouraging, so Vicky was less nervous when she said, “Texas Hold’em then?”
Everyone seemed much more comfortable with that choice and Cyn announced “Two canaries and a cloud from Sylvia.”
The dealer soon began handing out cards. Vicky realized she’d started in the “dealer” spot in the rotation so she wouldn’t have to put up any money if she didn’t want to. She held a pair of twos when she picked up her hand and she brightened. She looked around and immediately saw an indulgent smile on Vincent’s face and a bit of a wince on Robin’s. Vicky flushed again when she remembered where the term “poker face” came from.
The minimum bet to stay in was two, which Vicky decided to pay with her white chips. More than half the table had opted to play, with only Zach and Ammad not putting up the chips. The dealer laid three cards on the table (Vicky remembered this was called the “flop”, and the cards in the middle could be used by anyone to form a 5-card hand). The cards seemed completely mismatched; one queen, one four, and one three, none of them of the same suit. Robin, who’d had the big blind, put a yellow chip up and Vincent followed, but everyone else other than Amy dropped out. Vicky stayed in on the theory that her twos were still worth something. The next card (the “turn”) was another three. Vicky tried to control her elation at having another pair, but she did add a third chip to her bet when it came around. That apparently scared Vincent out of the running, but Amy and Robin held strong. The last card was a jack and didn’t match anything else. Vicky put three chips down to start the bet, and both Amy and Robin called.
Vicky proudly displayed her twos, and the dealer announced the two pair. Amy tossed her cards without showing, but Robin looked at her apologetically and flipped over a three and a nine. Vicky’s face fell when she realized Robin had three of a kind using the threes she herself had been so happy about. She watched the pile of white and yellow chips slide over to the raven-haired girl. Then panic started to set in as she remembered what the chips represented. She frantically looked at her tray. She’d thrown ten chips into that last pot. Ten minutes of someone feeling her up.
Or, she realized, five minutes of making out if someone trades up the chips.
By the time she’d figured out someone could trade all the way up to having one of the ten chips they’d need for sex with her, the cards were dealing out again. Vicky folded without looking and sat in a kind of fugue state until she felt a small hand on her shoulder.
“Look at them the way you looked at me. If you don’t play, you can’t win them back,” Syl whispered in her ear.
Vicky looked behind her at the smiling, kind face of the waify blonde woman as she wandered away from the table. She took a breath and refocused on the table. She started focusing and really reading people the way she avoided most of the time.
The next hand was dealt and Vicky quickly studied Robin, whom she already knew. She could immediately tell Robin was ambivalent about whatever she had in her hand, but she still had a carefree attitude. She skipped around the table to Amy and saw resignation; whatever cards she held weren’t good but she was playing anyway. Zach folded, so she ignored him. Ammad was very guarded. It was hard for her to figure him out and it took her too long as the dealer prompted her to call or fold. She folded again, but watched the game more intently. Amy, Robin, Ammad, and Charles were still in. She refocused on Ammad and could see that he was doing the same thing; his attention wasn’t on his cards. She guessed he was probably doing something similar to her and trying to figure out how the other players operated. She moved on to Charles and immediately noticed he was tense. It didn’t take her long to figure out his focus was completely on the ante; it was one red chip with Noelle’s name on it.
As the hand continued the other players bowed out, leaving Robin and Charles facing off. Robin was still mostly casual about her play, though she’d bet fifteen chips so far, while Charles was intently focused on Robin. Vicky realized he was trying to read her and thought he might be unsure of his hand. When the hand finally ended, Charles had been sitting on three of a kind, but Robin managed a flush, clearly wiping him out.
Vicky picked her cards up for the next hand and saw two face cards – a Jack and a King. She didn’t know if it was smart for her to play without a pair, but she knew the face cards were high. She bet two more of her white chips, still unwilling to start throwing in yellow ones, though she’d have to if she didn’t win some of hers back. She was earlier in the betting cycle now so she focused on who stayed in. Robin folded this time. Amy was in but had the same affect where she seemed utterly disinterested in her cards. Zach opted to play and was focused on his cards, so Vicky thought he might have a good hand to start. Charles was in but his focus was annoyingly on her. Vicky guessed he was hoping to win enough of her chips for a favor of some level, and his eagerness turned her off. Ammad folded.
Vicky went back to check on Vincent, who was in, and nearly gasped. When she looked to read him, Vincent stared right back at her. She couldn’t read a thing off him; his face was a mask of perfect control. What’s more, she felt like he was reading her. She flushed but didn’t break eye contact, feeling oddly excited by the attention, and possibly the sense that she’d been caught doing something naughty, but she didn’t mind if it was him.
Her staring contest, (Or maybe nonverbal flirtation? a traitorous part of Vicky’s brain wondered) was interrupted by the flop. A jack, a four, and a king hit the table, giving her another two pair. Vicky was hesitant, having been burned by the same hand in the past. Zach bet a meagre two, and Vicky could tell he was still mostly focused on his cards and basically ignoring the ones on the table. She called his bet based on that. Amy stayed in, but Vicky was starting to think that would happen regardless of her cards. Charles also called, though Vicky could sense some desperation in his demeanor. Vincent called and Vicky had no idea why.