Slowly, but with precision, I make my way over, skating my gaze across the tables.
I take in each guest tonight.
At the far left is Matteo. He runs the East Coast mafia, and I do a lot of business with him. Beside him is his right-hand man, his cousin. I don’t care too much for him either, but he’s a necessary evil.
Alaric, Tobias, Mathis, and James are also in attendance. Even though they are some of the fiercest men around, they’re also the only clients I can tolerate.
To the left of them is just another rich pretty boy. I say this because that’s what he is, a trust fund baby who’s perfect to clean their money. Also known as Trent Aldridge.
He’s been coming for years, even though he sucks at cards. His motives don’t differ from my motives for being here. He wants to get more clients. Recently, Z mentioned he works in hedge funds, and apparently, he’s been funneling clients out of here.
Regardless of why he’s here, he’s harmless. I look at who sits next to him. I’ve never seen him before, and he stands out from the rest of the crowd. He looks older than my norm.
Like he could be my father. Or, better yet, Trent’s father. They have the same eyes, same coloring, and same hair. Trent is a younger version of him. Except Trent isn’t weathered. Trent does not look haunted. Interesting. Why is this man here? I need to monitor him.
I pull my gaze away, and my eyes land on the man I have been waiting for.
Looking at Z, I incline my head, and he nods his understanding. Hook, line, sinker.
“Welcome,” I say, all eyes on me. “Boris”—I turn to the man in question—“how good of you to come.”
AKA: The Butcher.
The man I hope to entrap tonight. He is one sick fuck. He and his friend are not clients. Even I have some limits. I don’t clean money for men who traffic women, but he is a means to an end.
Now to figure out a way to get him to tell me what I want.
To tell me about his organization and where his boss is.
That’s why he’s here. The best way to gather intel is to get him drunk, make him money, and wait for him to get comfortable. He might not disclose exactly what I’m looking for, but men talk, and all words are clues.
Like a game of chess, look for the advantage, learn to spot patterns, and then play the board in front of you. He’ll give something away and I’ll take it. I’ve waited too long for this chance to let anything fuck it up.
With a drop of my head, I give my approval to the dealer, and the game begins. From the sidelines, I watch, observing and gathering information about each person’s character. Especially Boris.
As the pot continues to grow, some players act reckless while others are more confident.
One server comes over and takes the drink orders. Most of the men have stopped playing to look at her. I glance over too. She’s pretty, but she’s not my type.
As the rest of the men sit out the hand, Trent’s father is apparently all in.
From where I am, I can see a line of sweat drip down his brow, and when I look at who he’s playing, I understand why he’s nervous. He’s playing Boris.
This is more than just fear that The Butcher might chop him up. This is something more.
This is desperation. Interesting.
I hope for his sake no one else notices. He needs the win. For the money.
Millions are in the pot.
Things will get interesting now. I step closer so I don’t miss a minute. He’s really sweating. It pours off him, and no one misses it. Trent especially.
“Father.” He tries to intervene, but his father doesn’t listen. Instead, he pushes forward on to his elbow, throwing more chips into the fray. The gleam in Boris’s eyes is predatory. He has him right where he wants him.
He’s all in.
Trent’s father looks toward Trent. He has no more chips to throw in. Trent shakes his head.
“Father.” Nothing. “Dad.” His eyes implore him to stop, to halt the insanity. He can’t, though. It’s clear as day in the old man’s eyes. He came to win. He needs to win.
“I have to,” he whispers to his son. “It will be okay.”
Father and son are at a standstill. A silent argument. Trent won’t win. I know men like his father . . . I had a father like that.
“So what’s it going to be?” Boris asks, pulling me from my inner thoughts and back to the present. I watch as Trent’s father fumbles around.
“I call.” There is no conviction in his voice. Boris leans onto the table, resting his elbows on the surface. Cocking his head, he lifts his eyebrow. “With what money? It looks like you are out of chips.”