Disclaimer: Any Twilight characters that may appear in this story belong to Stephenie Meyer. The remainder is my original work. No reproduction is allowed without my written consent.
The Ace of Spades
Chapter Two—A Shattered Queen
I took another long pull from my Bacardi Coke and watched my brother's hand caress the small of her back as he leaned in to whisper in her ear. It could have been a coincidence. I was sitting in a corner under the shadow of walls and meandering people. There was no way Edward could see me. Still, he knew I was here. This was my bar, and he was parading his prize. It was revolting. It made me proud to call him my brother.
He had dressed her up, traded her casual street clothes for a sexy little black dress that showed off how spectacular her ass was. Her hair hung in loose curls down her back and her plain face had been transformed by the stroke of a make-up brush. She was fucking hot, and he knew it.
They had snagged a pair of coveted stools along the crowded bar, the perfect stage for Edward's production. When Bella excused herself and walked away, I decided to step out of the audience. I took the empty seat beside him, and the fact that he only looked mildly surprised to see me confirmed he had been deliberately flaunting his winnings.
"What the hell are you doing here with uber-bitch?" I asked.
"Didn't I mention that I'd been seeing her the last few weeks?" Edward replied, knowing full well he hadn't said a damn word. I glared at him, and he shrugged. "What can I say? She's absolutely fascinating."
I purposely relaxed my face and let my eyes wander, giving off an air of boredom. "Is she?" I asked.
I shouldn't have been so curious. She was one girl and probably a lousy fuck at that. So what if she had turned me down? There were plenty of willing opponents for me to sink my dick into. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't been able to walk away on my own terms. Or, better yet, that she had noticed my socially defective brother and chose him while I was standing right in front of her with my cock on a silver platter.
"Yes," Edward said simply.
I ignored the urge to shake a better answer out of him and motioned for the bartender to fill my drink. Edward sighed, and I wanted to punch him. For the past month, I had been able to think of nothing but Bella Fucking Swan, the nagging bitch. If I wanted a drink, I would have a fucking drink.
"She still have that stupid, one-song'd iPod?" I asked.
"Yes, but I fixed it for her."
"She didn't want it fixed," I argued, dropping my feigned disinterest.
"She wanted it fixed. I'm pretty certain she didn't want you to be the one to fix it. She wasn't very impressed by you. Of course, you know this already, judging by your last encounter," he said, enjoying his humor.
I frowned. "I am not amused."
"Yes, you are," Bella countered from behind me. I turned to see a broad smile on her face.
My lip twitched at her cantor. I supposed, if nothing else, she did have a certain wit about her.
"Hello, Bella. You're looking quite stunning tonight," I said, hoping I sounded more sarcastic than sincere.
"And you are in my seat," she responded.
"I don't see any red sweater," I quipped, referring to our last meeting.
She smiled even wider. "I see you're just as bad at taking a hint as the last time we met."
I turned back to Edward in mock-offence. "You're going to let her speak to me this way? I'm your brother! Make her stop."
He laughed. "Trust me. It's highly unlikely I'll be able to make her do anything she doesn't wish."
"As a mule."
"Will you two please quit talking about me like I'm not standing right here?" Bella demanded with a frown on her face. "And, J, get the hell out of my seat."
I sighed heavily, stepped away from the bar, and said, "I see you've managed to learn my name."
"I'm dating your brother. It was bound to come up in conversation," she said as I helped her onto the stool. My hand drifted south before I realized where it was going, but Bella didn't seem to notice. "Although, it does seem particularly pretentious to request a singular letter of the alphabet be devoted entirely to your name. Then again, I would expect nothing less from you."
I rolled my eyes. I was named for my father, a man I despised on levels unknown to most of humanity. Of course, I would rather not go by his name.
"So, Bella, now that you bring it up, why are you dating my loser brother?" I said, only half-joking.
"He's hardly a loser, especially if you're the basis for comparison."
I smirked at her dig. "Convince me, then. Why is my brother so much better than me?"
"For one, he's hotter."
I scoffed; we both knew that wasn't true.
"He's smart and funny. He's got a great vocabulary—"
"Vocabulary?" I interrupted in disbelief. If I didn't know my brother so well, I would bet that was a euphemism. "You like him because of his vocabulary?"
"Well, yes. Vocabulary is key. He stimulates me." Okay, even knowing my brother, that sounded dirty. "He can talk to me about anything. He makes me think and defend my point of view," she said emphatically, as if this was imperative for me to understand.
Edward was looking entirely too pleased with himself.
"And," she said after a moment's thought, "he's a great kisser."
At this, I outright laughed. Edward a good kisser? As far as I knew, Edward hadn't so much as pecked a girl on the lips before he met Bella, hardcore virgin that he was.
When I came out of my hilarity, it was to find her glaring at me. "You think I'm joking?" she asked.
Before I could even think to answer, she grabbed Edward's face in an explicitly brazen move and pulled his lips to hers. At first, Edward seemed as taken aback by her forwardness as I was, but he quickly found his rhythm. It was slow and languid, and it disturbed me that I seemed incapable of looking away. This was my brother, and I was watching him tongue a girl like a gaping fool.
Damn… her tongue. I could totally see her tongue dart in and taste his mouth. Fuck me if my cock wasn't standing at attention watching this shit. I couldn't help it; all I could see as Edward kissed his new girlfriend were my hands, my tongue, and my body aligning with hers.
Bella pulled out of the kiss and smirked over at me. "See?" she said. I swallowed, unable to respond. She placed her hand on my shoulder and leaned in. My heart did a fucking summersault. "With that, I think I need to go to the ladies room. Excuse me, J."
There wasn't a chance in hell that I imagined Bella's body hitting mine in all the right places as she slithered off her stool. Even after her feet were firmly on the ground, Bella's ass pressed into my hard-on and lingered there for a beat longer than was completely necessary. She giggled softly and gave me a secretive smile. "You have something in your pocket."
Definitely not my imagination.
Her hips swayed seductively as she walked away, and I felt like I could slap myself for not seeing it sooner. Bella was a goddamn genius.
The night in the restaurant replayed for the millionth time inside my head, but the fog had been lifted and I could see the film for what it truly was. She had seen it all before — a man picks up a girl, fucks her, and dumps her. After a player has had his opponent, what use is she to him then? I had been under the impression that our game had ended when she sent me away, but I was mistaken.
This was the ultimate game of Spade's Triad and Bella was the player, not I.
Bella hadn't been refusing to play; she had been making the most daring bluff I'd ever seen. She had pretended not to want me, dangled her number in front of my face, and then gave it to my brother — someone who couldn't possibly measure up to me, but also someone who would guarantee another meeting for us. She had found a way to keep me interested.
So deep in thought was I about my revelation that I almost missed when Edward said, "I'm sorry about that. She can be a little… uninhibited when she's had a couple of drinks."
"What are you talking about?" I asked and prayed like hell he hadn't just seen his girlfriend rubbing herself all over my cock.
"The kiss," he said. "But now you can see how very fascinating she is."
"Yes, I can see that," I replied, and there was not one untrue or sarcastic word in my statement. She was a truly exquisite creature. Devious, cunning, and almost malicious to a point. My true equal, my match in every way.
When the time came for us to show our hands, I knew without a doubt she would be my Queen of Spades.
It became an obsession to watch the two of them together. It was almost stalker-like in a way.
Bella had asked Edward if she could come over to our house more often. She had claimed she wanted to get to know me better, that I was his only family and what was important to him was important to her. He had eaten that shit up like a baby with pumpkin pie, asking her to come over every day. And every day, our game would resume.
Bella could play Edward like a fiddle. To him, she was sweet and charming, the ever-attentive girlfriend. Her acting was flawless, her character never breaking. Still, she was easier to read now that I knew the game.
The first day she came to the house, she had sought me out to explain herself. "Look, J, we need to at least attempt to get along for Edward's sake. He looks up to you, heaven knows why," she quipped sarcastically, "and if I'm going to be a part of his life, it means I'm stuck with you, too."
I listened to her with a leer and a cocked eyebrow. It was a brilliantly concocted story, one that even I had found trouble in seeing through at first. But that was why she was my Queen.
"All right, I'll play nice," I responded.
The double entendre of my words registered on her face, and her startled eyes soon softened with her rising smile. "That's all I ask."
Bella continued her little charade with my brother, playing our game even though she knew I was aware. I loved that about her. On more than one occasion, she had caught me watching, and I had to control my breathing as she stroked Edward's arm and whispered sweet nothings just loud enough for me to hear. She would talk to me through him, kiss me through him, make me want her through him.
"That night I met you in the restaurant," Bella had said, turning her head slightly in my direction but keeping her gaze on him, "I couldn't take my eyes off you."
Poor Edward was completely oblivious to our game. The perpetual loser actually thought he'd won her, though I could hardly blame him. Bella was an excellent player. It was only when the two of us were alone that she'd let her mask fall.
"Why, Bella, you're looking quite stunning today," I greeted her. It had become our routine hello.
She frowned a little, a bizarre reaction to my compliment. But it wouldn't be Bella if I could predict her reactions. "It doesn't sound right when you say it."
"Bella, I know you take great pleasure in our little games, but must you make me work so hard at decoding your insults?" I pouted, propping myself against the counter next to her, close enough to smell the fragrance of her hair.
"My name," she clarified, looking up at me. I could see every fine detail in her perfect face. How I had ever thought her ordinary, I didn't know. "Only my friends call me Bella. It sounds weird when you say it."
"You don't consider me a friend?" I asked, pretending to be insulted.
She laughed a little and said, "Oh, you are very different from a friend."
"In what way?" I prompted, aware of the intensity in my voice and stare. The tension of our unspoken game was always heavy around us, and I found myself caring less and less about my poker face.
She smirked. "You are less than a friend in some ways, but more than a friend in others."
My breath hitched at her answer, and I felt my hands begin to tremble. More than a friend.
She placed a gentle hand on my arm to still me and said in a breathy voice, "Either way, I think you ought to call me by my given name, Isabella."
"Isabella," I repeated quietly. It was a name fit for royalty, a name that truly represented the essence of my Queen of Spades.
Isabella had already won. She owned me completely, but she was the master of our game, and when we laid down our cards would be entirely up to her. I just had to hold on until she was ready to cash out.
By day I would watch her, haunt her, and by night, I would take myself in hand as I thought of our fun. With each stroke, I'd imagine an encounter we'd had, the way her face had looked and the way she'd spoken to me. As the pressure swelled, I would think about Isabella at home in her bed, touching herself to the thought of our game. I'd imagine that as her hips bucked in ecstasy, her thoughts were of only me.
When I was on the verge of coming, I often let my mind wander to the future. I allowed myself to think of what it would be like when our game was finally over, when I'd get to hold her in my arms and make her scream my name — when I'd finally get to bestow upon her the coveted Queen of Spades.
"Isabella," I whispered every time I came. The pleasure brought by Isabella, even if by my own hand, was incredible — enough to satiate my hunger for other opponents.
Every morning when I saw Isabella, she'd give me that all-knowing look as if she knew what I had done the night before. I'd smile right back at her and wink, the vision of her hand between her thighs at the forefront of my mind.
Our game was the best I'd ever played.
There was only an allusion of guilt when I thought of what would happen with my brother after the game ended. Though he had started their relationship as a dig to my ego, he did seem to be forming a genuine attachment to her.
I shrugged this aside easily, reminding myself that I'd never felt bitter when he'd shown off a particularly high score he had gotten on an exam. Grades versus Girls was what it always boiled down to with us. He certainly wouldn't begrudge me my winnings just as I had never resented his.
It wasn't until three months after our little game started that the vestiges of guilt I had been pushing back hit me full force.
I was sitting in the darkened kitchen, spying on the two of them through the cracked kitchen door as they sat watching a movie. He was laid out along the length of the couch with his head in her lap. Their fingers were tangled together on his chest, and Edward seemed far more interested in counting them than focusing on the movie.
"Are all five of them still there?" Isabella asked, glancing down at him with such a disgustingly affectionate look that my stomach turned. This was part of our game. She liked me to watch. I could sense her eyes darting to the kitchen door to search me out.
"Yes," Edward said with a little chuckle. "You must forgive me. I do love your fingers."
Isabella laughed at some joke I could not hear in his words. "Yeah, I kind of got that impression the other night."
I felt something clench tightly deep underneath my ribs — a painful mix of jealousy and shame. She couldn't actually be doing things with him. That was beyond fucked up, even for my Queen of Spades. Edward was a virgin. Bullshit that it was, he'd been "waiting for love." He deserved better than losing it as a casualty of our game. I didn't want a heartbroken brother on my hands when it all ended and she left him.
"Have I thanked you for that by the way?" he responded, and I could hear the smile in his voice.
"I think returning the favor was an excellent thank you."
By the light of the TV, I could make out the grin she wore as she stared down tenderly, almost lovingly, at my little brother. She was a good pretender.
I could hear a quiet devotion in the way Edward mumbled to her something I could not hear. It wasn't until she spoke (quite a bit louder than he) that I understood the meaning of his whispers. "I love you, too," she'd said, and just like that I realized how fucking depraved this whole situation was.
Edward was kissing her now quite passionately while, even in an admission of love, she was playing our game. I suddenly felt ill. A little harmless flirtation, some kissing, was nothing. Edward could get over that when the time came. But love? He would be devastated. I had to end this.
But how could I? In Spade's Triad it was always the player who ended the game, not the opponent. If the opponent ends the game, the player loses, and I did not want Isabella to lose this game, afraid that along with it I might lose our future.
I looked back into the living room at Isabella and my brother, still kissing with ruthless abandon. Now that I thought about it, rationale might suggest that the longer I allowed the game to continue, the more likely Isabella would be to form an attachment to my brother. What if she ended up falling for him and decided the game wasn't worth it? What would I do then?
My conviction to end the game was growing stronger by the second. The final nail in the coffin came as I saw Isabella start to unbuckle Edward's belt. She must have thought it very amusing indeed to force me to watch her giving my brother a hand-job, but the only dick I wanted her hand on was mine.
Before I had a chance to change my mind, I marched into the living room and announced, "Isabella, I need to speak with you."
She broke away from her passionate kiss and looked at me, before glancing at Edward between her legs and saying, "Um, now's not really the best time."
"Please, Isabella. I need to speak to you now." I gave her one of our meaningful looks.
"Does it really need to be at this moment?" Edward growled in frustration, shooting me a deadly glare.
"Yes. In private," I said emphatically.
Isabella sighed and started disentangling herself from my brother, who appeared to want to make it as difficult as possible for her to do so. She whispered something too quiet for me to hear and pecked him once on the lips. Edward simply nodded in response and placed a soft kiss on her neck before moving so she could come with me. She knew how to play him so well, and this time I did not love the sickening twist of my gut.
I took her through the kitchen and into the backyard. It was dark outside, but it was important that Edward not hear us. He could never know of our game. She needed to let him down as gently as possible — I owed him that much.
I took a deep breath and ran a hand through my hair, trying to find the best way to approach this. "You win," I said.
She stared at me for a couple of moments with raised eyebrows before saying, "Won what?"
My heart was beating rather loudly in my chest, and I feared she could hear it from where she stood. I reached into my back pocket and grabbed my wallet. With shaky fingers, I pulled out the card I had been holding onto since my father left me my first deck of cards over fifteen years ago.
I had imagined this moment so many times, but now that it was here I couldn't remember the words I'd repeatedly fantasized saying to describe my loyalty and my admiration for my Queen of Spades.
Instead, I lamely said, "I want you to have this."
She took the card from me and examined it as I waited with baited breath for her reaction. "Um, thank you?" she said, clearly confused.
"In Spade's Triad, you give this card only to a woman of strong skill and intelligence," I tried to explain.
"Uh, thanks, J. That means a lot," she said awkwardly.
We stood there for a few uneasy seconds before something dawned on me. "You have no idea what Spade's Triad is, do you?"
"I can't say that I've ever heard of it before," she said.
I was both surprised and impressed to hear this: Surprised because she had been playing my game so well without even knowing it; impressed because apparently she had come up with a game of her own.
"It's a game," I told her, excited to let her in on this part of my life. Isabella was the only person that could truly appreciate the brilliance of Spade's Triad.
"Game?" she repeated slowly.
I nodded and proceeded to explain the rules of the game to her. She listened with rapt attention, a small crinkle in her eyebrow. I loved that she found it so fascinating.
"I can't tell if you're kidding or not," she said as I explained the rating system.
I laughed and said, "The Queen of Spades is only bestowed upon a woman that is truly amazing. She is your match, the queen to your king."
"And now you're scaring me a little."
"Isabella," I said, taking a step toward her. "Never have I met your equal in strategy, skill, and wit. From the moment I realized your brilliant ploy to get me to fall for you, I knew you were my match."
Isabella stared at me for several never-ending seconds before saying in a dangerously controlled voice, "Do you think I feel something for you?"
I was surprised by her harsh tone and wondered at its cause. "Of course—"
"No," she cut me off, palm raised in a halting gesture. "Are you really so arrogant that you've managed to convince yourself the only reason I've been with your brother is to get to you?"
I remained silent, sure that she was about to laugh and tell me how clever I was for figuring out her game. When I didn't respond, her composure seemed to shatter. "You unimaginable asshole," she hissed.
"I-I don't really understand what's going on here," I whispered as my heart nearly beat out of my chest.
She snorted. "What's going on here? You just told me that you created a game solely for the purpose of getting into women's pants, believed I was playing a game to get into your pants, and gave me this card because you want to fuck me!"
"No! I gave you that card because I love you!" As I spoke those words out loud, I knew they were true. They had been true since the moment she became my Queen of Spades.
She stared at me in blatant shock. "Love me? You don't even know me!"
"But I do know you!" How could I accurately describe the hundreds of hours I'd spent simply watching, entranced by her every word and move?
"You've said yourself that you believed me a liar in my affection for your brother! If you can't see how adamantly I love him, then you don't know me at all!"
It was like a stake had just been shoved into my heart. "But I—"
"How could you ever think that I could feel something for you compared to him? Edward is ten times the man you are."
I shook my head in disbelief. "It's not like that."
"It is exactly like that. You think I don't know about the bizarre contest you imagine you have with him? He gets the grades and you get the girls? It's all bullshit. Edward never gave a flying fuck that you slept around, no matter how much you bragged about it. As a matter of fact, it disgusts him. And that's what makes him so much better than you. He saw me as a person, for who I am, not just a fucking number."
"I don't just see you as a number. You are so, so much more than that!"
A slightly hysterical laugh tumbled from her lips. "You think I don't know that? You think I don't know that I'm worth more than just a quick fuck in the restaurant bathroom?"
"But the game!" I argued back. "It's been months and months of the game! The looks! The gestures! I didn't just imagine that. I know I didn't!"
"You are fucking deluded," she said.
"You said yourself that I was more than a friend!"
She looked confused for a moment, as if she were searching her brain for the source of that statement. I could tell the moment she found it because she snorted and crossed her arms over her chest. "Do you ever just listen? I said you were more than a friend in some ways. As in a brother who teases me relentlessly, jokes, winks, and plays, who accepts me as a part of the family — as his brother's girlfriend!"
I stood there stunned, unable to speak. A brother? Her actions could not have possibly been interpreted as that of sister to brother.
"I get it now. I guess I'm the one who's deluded to think you could ever see me as something more than a piece of ass!" she hissed.
"Don't," I growled lowly, her words hitting a nerve. "Don't debase my feelings for you like that. I love you." Though those last three words were a mere whisper, I said them with as much feeling as I could muster. I needed her to believe this one thing even if she was going to walk away from everything else.
She stared at me for a long moment before saying, "Perhaps you should know what it feels to have your feelings discounted so easily. You love me? Well, I love your brother. I have only ever loved your brother. And this is what I think of your love." She held out the Queen of Spades and ripped the card in half. It felt like it was my heart she was tearing as she ripped the card into fourths and eighths. She let the pieces fall to the ground before fleeing toward the house, toward the arms of my brother.
In desperation, I reached out and grabbed her wrist to stop her. "Wait, you aren't going to tell him about this, are you?"
"Tell him? Tell Edward that the older brother he loves so fucking dearly has been imagining that his girlfriend would fuck him three ways 'til Friday? I don't think so. And I hope to God you never tell him either. For some reason, he actually looks up to you. He admires you, fucking waste of space that you are." With that, she yanked her wrist out of my hand and fled back into the house, leaving the ripped-up pieces of my heart to be carried away by the wind.