As the tall machine in front of him sang - spinning its three illumined, decorated reels – Ellis grabbed for the cold bottle resting on the stand at his side and took a small slip.
Cherry. Seven. Orange.
Licking at the taste of beer on his lips, the young mechanic reached for another quarter and let it slip into the silver slot at the side of the machine. As the cylinders danced around and around once more, he turned slightly in his chair and scanned the room. A good distance away, Nick sat at the same poker table he'd been engaged with for nearly three hours. Dressed in a black suit and crimson tie, his lover was the typical picture of calm and composure that Ellis had come to know well. What the southerner didn't know very well was the game of poker but judging from the pile of chips in front of the familiar ringed fingers it appeared that things were going well.
Hearing a chiming at his side, Ellis turned back around in his chair as the blinking yellow machine began spouting random colors and started releasing quarters into the waiting tray near his knees.
"Oh, hell yeah!"
Leaning down, Ellis gathered the silver coins in his hands and moved them into the small, paper bucket at his feet. When the machine stopped dispensing quarters, Ellis had made 47 dollars that quickly made him forget he'd already put nearly that same amount into the machine at the start of the evening. Grinning, he turned to see if he could meet Nick's eyes but found the older man to be unflinching within his own game.
Deciding in favor of another beer Ellis quickly finished the remainder of his bottle and headed up to the cashier, exchanging his coins for bills. Grabbing another beer from the bar the young man then walked slowly up to the table where Nick was playing. He knew better than to try and get his attention; as effortless as his partner made his skills look, Nick was actually intensely focused and more than likely wouldn't even see him. All that existed to the seasoned gambler were the other people sitting around the green felt.
Nevertheless, Ellis walked slowly by table and couldn't suppress the small laugh of surprise that escaped his lips as Nick not only briefly met his eyes but also winked at him before turning his attention back to the game.
Things must have been going well.
Really, really well.
Finding the slot machine he'd left was now occupied, Ellis opted to instead walk around the spacious casino. It was the first time he'd been to Las Vegas and all though he missed the peace and quiet of their New England apartment he had to admit that all the glitz and glam was exciting. There was always something going on, always something to do, and never enough time to do it all. Nick, of course, knew the city like a second home.
Flying them both of out for a vacation (very near their anniversary although the older man refused to acknowledge it) Nick had made quick work of showing Ellis his favorite sites around town – mostly consisting of different bars and gambling halls. Tomorrow, he'd made Nick promise to take him to the Speedway which he'd agreed to do in exchange for certain favors that made the younger man blush just to think about them.
He wondered briefly if it was strange that after all these years together Nick could still make the heat press against his cheeks before a strong hand came to rest squarely between his shoulder blades, steering him toward an unknown location.
"Nick?" Ellis questioned, turning his neck to find his partner directly at his side.
Ellis' eyebrows furrowed as he allowed Nick to lead him into the nearby bathroom, locking the door after checking for fellow gamblers and finding none.
"Nick? What are you doing?"
"Take off your clothes."
" . . . what?"
"You heard me," Nick stated. "Strip."
Laughing, Ellis bent his elbows to allow his hands to rest on his hips.
"You should at least buy me dinner first, darlin'."
Coming forward quickly Nick reached out and tore at the younger man clothes, skillfully avoiding his lips as he unfastened the southerner's jeans and pushed them down, roughly removing his work boots, before reaching for base of his shirt and pulling it over his head.
"Nick!" Ellis exclaimed. "Slow down."
Again, the younger man tried to connect their mouths but instead found himself kissing his partner's jaw as he moved away and began to shed his own clothes. Ellis watched as the tie, jacket, shirt and pants were gathered into Nick's arms (he'd never let those clothes touch the floor of the public restroom) and then extended to him like a gift.
"Put these on," Nick said simply as he pushed his clothes against Ellis' bare chest and removed his dress shoes.
Confused, Ellis watched as Nick then re-dressed himself in his jeans, t-shirt and boots. The mechanic scarcely had a moment to admire the way his jeans clung to his lover's legs before Nick was turning to the mirror and running a quick hand through his hair, reaching into the pocket of the borrowed jeans and pulling out the keys to their rental car.
"Meet me out front in two minutes."
"Nick? What the fuck?"
Coming toward him, the older man grasped him by the sides of his neck and kissed him quickly.
"Two minutes or you're walking back to the hotel."
With that the older man turned, unlocked the door and rushed out of the bathroom.
"What the fuck?" Ellis repeated to the empty room as he quickly dressed himself in Nick's clothes. Well, as best as he could. He didn't bother with the tie, instead opting to sling it loosely around his neck.
Opening the door to the bathroom, Ellis made his way to the front door but gasped when he was spun around swiftly. A large, well dressed man stood before him seemingly seething with anger that drained from his face when he made eye contact with Ellis.
"Shit," the stranger said. "Sorry, sir. I thought you were someone else."
"S'alright," Ellis said, flustered. "It's fine."
Nodding, the stranger turned and scanned the room as Ellis shook his head and moved faster to the door. No sooner had he stepped out into the dry night air than Nick drove up in the borrowed black BMW and unlocked the door. Before he had time to fully close the door Nick was peeling out, speeding toward the highway.
"Nick, what the HELL did you do?"
Smirking as the car came to rest at a red light, Nick leaned over and pulled Ellis toward him with a hand on the back of his neck. This time, their lips met. They breathed into one another, moving their mouths heatedly until Ellis was forced to pull back to catch his breath.
"Let's get back to the hotel so I can let you start convincing me why I want to go out to that hillbilly racetrack tomorrow," Nick whispered against him. "Then I'll convince you why you need to get better at poker."