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.

~.o.~

The Ace of Spades

Chapter Three—The Deck's Destruction

Thick, salty tomato juice coated my throat and stifled my growl of annoyance as Edward said again, "I'm just nervous."

His incessant, almost neurotic questions and comments about losing his virginity were like a second sledgehammer pounding away on my skull, and my usual Bloody Mary was doing nothing to cure my hangover. Maybe I hadn't put enough vodka in it.

"I got that the first million times you said it," I responded sharply. "And, as I've repeated over and over and over, you're going to pretty much suck the first time. You're going to blow your load about three seconds after your dick touches her pussy. But whatever… you'll get better."

"What about her? I want to make it good for her," he said earnestly.

Resentment trickled through me as I said, "Don't worry about her. It's not as if she hasn't done it before. It's all about you tonight, little bro. You're finally becoming a fucking man."

"But she, uh, hasn't done it before," Edward said awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.

I didn't say anything as I let this morsel of information sink in. The woman I had thought I'd known — whom I'd worshiped — didn't exist. She wasn't a seductress. She was a fucking virgin.

"Well?" Edward prompted. "What can I do to make it good for her tonight?"

"I don't fucking know," I snapped, not particularly keen for this subject of conversation. Up until a month ago, I thought I was going to be the one fucking her. "From what I've heard, it hurts no matter what you do if it's her first time."

"From what you've heard? Don't you know? Haven't you ever…"

"Taken a girl's virginity? No." No girl had ever loved me enough to give me her virginity.

"But you said—"

"I lied."

Edward glared at me, then crossed his arms over his chest and said, "What the hell is your problem? You've been a complete ass-hat ever since that night and whatever happened between you and Bella."

"I've always been an ass-hat," I grumbled, opening the freezer and getting out the bottle of vodka.

"But not to me," he argued. "Not to this extent. What did I do wrong?"

"As I keep fucking telling you, you didn't do anything wrong," I said in a disinterested tone. I poured the alcohol into my glass, attempting to appear busy so we wouldn't have to have this conversation — again.

"Then what is it? What happened?" Edward pushed.

"Nothing happened!" I yelled.

"Bullshit. You're almost as bad a liar as Bella is."

Again, I didn't say anything. So she was a bad liar? I was only mildly surprised. I had spent the past thirty-three days since our altercation thinking of little else but the kind of person she truly was.

It had been hard trying to figure her out since her sudden departure and subsequent absence. I had to rely solely on my past observations of her, which were admittedly made through the eyes of an obsessed, perverted stalker. I had taken her and distorted her into a perverse version of who I'd wanted her to be. I had taken every innocent action, every facet of truth, and twisted it to fit my own debauched fantasy of the perfect woman.

What was worse, I did it to a girl who was truly good. For when I stripped away every fictitious thought I had, every fabricated truth I'd forced myself to believe, even I couldn't deny that the essence of her was divine. It was innocent, clearly virginal, and it sickened me.

It sickened me that she was so genuine. It sickened me that she was so nice and naive and fucking perfect. It sickened me that she truly loved my brother. It sickened me that she was going to let him caress her skin, suck her breasts, bury himself inside her…

The glass I held shattered as my hand clenched, drenching me in red. Growling, I grabbed a few paper towels to wipe my mess up. I could feel Edward's eyes studying me. He seemed to finally get that I wasn't in the mood to talk about it and left the kitchen without another word.

As soon as I heard him slam his bedroom door, I let out a deep breath and allowed my eyes to flutter close. I was immediately assaulted with image after image of him touching her, breathing her, fucking her, and I buckled under the weight of it all. My shoulders hunched, and I shuddered with heavy breaths, willing my eyes not to water and my body not to crumble.

I didn't understand. Just months ago, I was practically begging my brother to lose his virginity. Why now was I falling apart at the mere thought of it? Why now could I not accept it?

The answer was obvious, and yet I willed myself not to think it. Because if my mind came to the conclusion my heart already had, then I would have to face it, and I knew I wasn't ready for that.

I told myself again that I was not in love with her. I had been in love with Isabella, the fantasy of her. A fantasy that did not exist and never would. If I just kept reminding myself of that, it would become the truth.

I growled at myself in irritation. No matter how much I willed it, my heart just didn't seem to be in the mood to cooperate. I needed to do something about this. I couldn't keep living my life this way. Getting drunk every night to forget, and then passing out on the sofa, hoping to get a whiff of her scent.

I had yet to gain back any semblance of my previous life, and I hated that I was stuck being the emo asshole I had become since she left. I needed to go back to being the content, heartless asshole from before.

"How about a game of Spade's Triad?" I muttered to myself, a streak of pain embedding itself in my chest as I remembered the last time I had muttered those words.

I needed to forget. I needed to not think. I needed alcohol.

But tonight I would not pass out on the couch. Tonight I would go out and be J again, the fucking King of Spade's Triad.

I walked into the bar, content that at least everything here had stayed the same. I immediately started looking through the women. Deuce, three, five, eight — I didn't really care as long as she had a warm pussy that I could bury myself in.

I chose some faceless girl playing pool in the corner and then found a random stranger sitting at the bar with a deck of cards poking out of his pocket.

"How about a game of Spade's Triad?" As I said the words, I got a rather annoying nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that I shouldn't be doing this. I pushed it aside.

"Who's the opponent?" he asked, and I nodded toward to the girl.

"She looks a five at best, but I'll buy you a round of drinks if you nail her." I nodded and shook his hand before walking over to the girl to make my move.

She was easy, and I was happy for it because it meant I wouldn't have to bother making it any good for her when I was simply in it to forget.

I thought about taking her to the bathroom, but the moment the thought crossed my mind a voice reminded me: You think I don't know that I'm worth more than just a quick fuck in the restaurant bathroom? We walked to the girl's car instead.

I took the girl from behind and pretended it wasn't because I couldn't bear looking down and not seeing brown look back. As I plowed into the girl, I pretended I wasn't thinking about her every second of every minute. I pretended that I wasn't thinking of the caresses my brother was giving her, the pleasure he was bringing her. I pretended to not think about how she would moan and writhe underneath him. How she would taste. What her voice would sound like when she screamed out his name.

I was climbing closer and closer to that blissful edge, and yet somehow it seemed empty. In my fucked-up state, I allowed myself to drop one charade and replace it with another. For just one moment, I allowed myself to hear what my heart had been screaming. I allowed myself to imagine that I was with the woman I loved, not some faceless stranger.

It was passion and fire and natural.

Because I loved her, not the twisted fantasy version of her I had created. Where Isabella was cold and calculating, Bella was warm and pure. Where Isabella manipulated, Bella trusted. I loved her not because she played my game, but because she was everything I couldn't see in myself.

"Bella," exited my lips in a sacred whisper as I came, and I knew that somewhere else in the city, another man was calling her name.

A man who did not need to pretend.

I pulled out of the girl, mechanically tossing the condom into an empty plastic bag I found on the floorboard of her car. I reminded myself that I wasn't emo J anymore — I was strong and confident. I was the man that other men looked up to.

I pulled out my wallet; there was one last thing I had to do before I left this Godforsaken car. I reached in to get my cards, my hands trembling for some reason I couldn't figure out. I tried to focus on what number this girl was. A deuce? A three or four? Not a queen.

"I'm not a prostitute. You don't need to pay me," a small voice said, and I was suddenly filled with such a profound and terrible regret that all the cards slipped from my hand onto the seat.

I felt empty, ashamed, disgusted with myself. I felt suffocated. "I have to go," I said, scrambling to get out of the car.

I had thought that once I was outside in the cold, fresh air I would feel better, but it only felt worse. I needed to run, to get away from here. I tried not to think as my feet pounded the pavement, but a pair of haunting brown eyes seemed to follow me down each street and around every corner.

It was only when I reached my house that I realized what I was running from would never go away. How could one rid himself of… himself? I hated who I was. I hated the man I had become.

"Fuck!" I screamed out to no one, falling to my knees on the soft grass outside of my house. My father had planted these lawns before he left. Ever since, I had made sure to manicure and cut and keep them alive, a desperate attempt, I now realized, to prove to him that I was a better King than he. If he ever came back, he'd know that I'd been better.

But I was done. I grabbed handfuls and handfuls of the lush green grass and ripped it out by its roots. I never wanted anything to do with that man again, and, with each handful of grass, I purged myself of my past. I promised myself I would be a better man, one that would be worthy of Bella. With one more angry tug and that thought resonating in my mind, I found myself suddenly exhausted.

I knew it would be a long road ahead of me. I would need to quit the women, quit the game, and quit the booze. I would need to be better for her than any other man.

In the meantime, though, I would pick myself up off this ruined lawn and collapse on the couch, where I would hope to catch one last whiff of the woman who had changed my heart and soul irrevocably.