Luke had a slight frown on his face. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Not a fan of things that spin?”
He shrugged and began to guide her with an arm held low on her back toward the nearest wheel. Her shirt dress was a sturdy cotton weave, but the warmth of his touch burned as if he were touching her bare skin. “There’s an approximate forty-seven percent chance of winning a bet placed on black or red, but low risk equals low reward. Playing a single number pays out the best, but the odds of winning are one in thirty-eight. Assuming the table isn’t biased, of course,” he said.
She stopped short, causing another couple to almost bump into them. The man started to give Danica a dirty look, but it turned into a nod of respect when he saw her companion. “How on earth do you know that?” she asked.
“There are thirty-eight numbers on an American roulette wheel. Thirty-seven if it’s European. It doesn’t take an MBA to calculate the odds.”
She smirked at him. “Your math skills are not in question. How do you know this much about roulette? Do you play often?”
“I prefer playing with money when circumstances can be better controlled.”
“That doesn’t explain why you can rattle off the statistics.”
His mouth twisted to the left. “I was given my first computer when I was ten. When I wanted to replace it with a newer one, my father decided to teach me one of his sporadic object lessons and told me I had to buy it myself. But he never told me how he expected me to come up with the money. So, I created an account for a gambling site using my stepmother’s credit card.” He smiled, but his gaze remained distant. “There were less restrictions on the internet then.”
Her eyes felt dry. She was staring at him so hard she forgot to blink. “You started gambling. At ten.”
“Eleven. Only to earn enough to buy a new computer.” He thought for a moment. “And maybe some peripheral equipment. I stopped when I reached the amount I needed. But to answer your question, I prefer games that require strategy, such as blackjack or poker.”
“What did your stepmother say when she discovered you used her card?” Her parents would have grounded her for at least a month if she had used a credit card without permission. Not that she could imagine doing such a thing in the first place. Her family always had food on the table, but money wasn’t plentiful. She didn’t get her first computer until a hand-me-down came her way during high school.
Luke paused. “She didn’t say anything,” he finally said. “I know I went to live with my mother, because I had the computer shipped to her house. It must have coincided with my father divorcing that stepmother.”
“‘That’ stepmother? How many have you had?”
“Three. Stepmothers, that is. Four stepfathers. So far.” Luke’s gaze continued to search the busy crowd. “There,” he said. “Empty seats at the third table from the left, toward the back.” He resumed guiding her through the throng.
Danica let him take the lead, her mind still processing the glimpse he let slip. She couldn’t imagine her parents with anyone else, much less multiple anyone elses. Yet Luke had—she did the addition in her head—nine parents, including his biological ones? No wonder he held such cynical views about marriage.
They took their places at the roulette wheel beside a woman who wore more diamonds than Danica had ever seen outside of a jewelry store. The woman raised her eyebrows when Danica squeezed next to her, but gave Luke a welcoming smile. He handed the croupier a slip of paper and received two large stacks of multicolored casino chips in return.
“Here,” he said, passing half of them to Danica. “When it comes to betting, I recommend the D’Alembert system. Start small and stay with even-money bets such as black or red. Increase your bet by one after losing, and decrease it by one after winning. You’re favored to come out ahead in the end.” He placed a chip on black.
She nodded and selected a ten-dollar chip for her first bet. The strategy sounded like him: smart, prudent, designed to minimize losses and maximize gains. But just as she was about to place the chip on the table, she drew her hand back. Then she swept all of her chips onto the number three.