A/N I'm not updating as frequently as I'd like, but I am trying to improve on that. As a side note that will probably interest no one besides me, the World Series of Poker is actually taking place in Vegas right now. Last year the winner of the main event won over $8,700,000. Not too shabby for a couple of weeks of work. Thanks as always for reading/review - it is as always appreciated.

I'm an idiot.

A bloody idiot who is in completely unfamiliar territory.

When I first read Naomi's note, I was crushed. Everything between us had been going so well and then out of nowhere she's leaving town with Darcy. Perhaps she didn't owe me any explanation, but her actions felt like a giant bucket of ice had been tossed on my head. Perhaps that wasn't the logical way to react, but I can't help how I feel.

It seemed like strange behaviour for her, although in retrospect I guess Naomi suddenly disappearing is something I experienced the very first time we met. I should have seen it coming.

I moped around the suite for a few hours before Katie started bitching at me that I was acting like a lovesick fool. Apparently, there could be any number of logical reasons why Naomi had to leave and I was refusing to see what they could be. Besides, I should take it as a good sign that she came by to tell me she wasn't going to be around for a few days. That made sense to me at the time, but on the other hand, I refused to accept that I was overreacting.

I think what got me most of all was how much I missed Naomi, but I kept that to myself during Katie's rant. I couldn't handle how my sister would make fun of me for that.

For all my bravado about how in control of my emotions I am, the first hint at something awry between Naomi and me and I'm acting like a hormonal teenager. It's kind of sad actually.

These swings of emotions are so new to me that I don't know how to react to them. I'm so used to things being calm and steady that the sudden roller coaster ride I find myself on is causing me a lot of uncertainty.

Which brings me back to my original point.

I'm an idiot.

A Naomi-obsessed idiot who is so preoccupied about why she disappeared that I don't know what to do with myself. I talked so much about how I'm in this for the long haul and had all these grand ideas of where we were headed. Then, at the first sign of things not going the way I want them to, I write everything off completely and start to sulk.

Pretty mature of me.

If only she'd send me a message besides that note, it might help. I've thought of texting Naomi, but I don't know what I would say and I don't want to come across as needy.

We're not anything formal to each other, but my feelings for her run a lot deeper than I care to anyone, least of all myself.

Because I have no clue when she's coming back, I've had nothing but time to kill and thoughts to go over to fill up time. It's enough to drive me crazy.

Fuck it.

I'm so sick of everything in my head being stuck on a continuous loop that I'm just not going to do it anymore.

Instead, I'm going to turn to the one thing I know can give me my sanity back.


My trusty old friend that hasn't let me down yet. Whenever I've needed just to lose myself in the game so I don't have to think about what's bothering me, she's been there. Not to mention I've got a pretty big tournament coming up that I need to prepare for.

I guess that's the other thing that baffles me about the timing of Naomi and Darcy going away. It's odd because I'm almost positive that Darcy wants to make a good impression at such an important event. Most pros don't take off right before the biggest tournament of the year. They're working on their game and preparing for the grind that comes with it.


I said I wasn't going to obsess anymore so I'm shutting off all Naomi-fueled thoughts for the time being. I realize that's not exactly realistic but I am going to try.

I spent yesterday being on the receiving end of a Katie lecture and while her points are valid to a degree, it didn't help me much. Thankfully, she and Effy have plans with Cook today and that leaves me to go play a warm up tournament without having to listen to her advice. I know Katie has my best interest at heart, but there are times that I wish she'd take things down a notch.

I decide to leave my phone in the suite so I'm not compulsively checking it every few minutes to see if Naomi has sent me a message. Not that I would do something that juvenile or anything.

It will be good for me to get back to poker and how comfortable I feel playing it. Spending time with Naomi has made me feel off kilter - not necessarily in a bad way mind you - and getting me back on even ground will be a welcomed relief. It's not that I'm unhappy that she walked back into my life, but I haven't really felt like myself for days. It will be nice for me things to return to normal.

Even if that normalcy is just an illusion and a temporary fix.

I check my appearance in the mirror before I go and once I'm satisfied that I'm at my best, I head out the door. I feel a sense of relief as I walk towards the lift. This is exactly what I need to get my head screwed back on straight.

So to speak.

While I wait for the tournament to begin and seat assignments to be announced, it dawns on me that since Naomi and Darcy have gone away, Tony has pretty much disappeared as well. He's sent me a couple of messages, but usually when we're in town together, he's a very prominent figure in my day-to-day life. I guess I didn't notice his absence before because everything has been about Naomi and why she left.

I can't explain it, but my gut is telling me that I should be concerned about this new development. Rationally that shouldn't be the case. Tony has been nothing but a great manager to me and there's no reason for me to think anything has changed.

I guess a part of me feels that if he fancies Darcy, there must be something wrong with his judgment. Suppose that makes me a bitch. Oh well. She's been nothing but horrible to me since that night we first met and clearly she doesn't think Naomi should be involved with me.

Wow, I've already broken my resolution to not focus on Naomi. It only took about three seconds for that to happen.

Luckily, before I have a chance to continue down a Naomi beaten path, I hear a voice behind me that is surprising yet, very welcoming. "Emily, hey."

I turn around to greet my friend. "Cassie!" I give her a hug that she returns. "What are you doing here?"

Cassie gives me an amused look. "Well, this is the place where a lot of people play poker. Yeah?"

"You git," I say as I swat her shoulder. "I thought you weren't arriving until later this week."

"I figured I had time to kill so why not come early," she explains while looking around. "Besides I thought it be fun for the two of us to hang out together."

I met Cassie a few years ago, right as I was starting out my poker career. I love watching people play against her, because much like me, they severely underestimate her ability to play at a high level. Cassie can come across as flakey and not really all there, but let me tell you that couldn't be a more inaccurate impression of her.

Yes, she's had her issues and there's still stuff that Cassie deals with, that can't be denied. But when the game starts, much like me, all the bullshit that she has in her life is simply forgotten. Although she doesn't get to play as much as she'd like, she is definitely someone to keep your eye on when she's at the table with you

You'd think there would be some kind of rivalry between us. We're both around the same age and because female poker players are still in the minority, we don't often get the attention that we'd like. In regards to our skills anyway. But the two of us hit it off immediately. There's no pretense where Cassie is concerned and that's a quality I really like about her.

There were lots of rumors about Cassie going around when I was becoming a more serious player. There were stories of her odd behaviour and the reasons behind that behaviour. Everyone seemed to be talking behind Cassie's back and getting a lot of pleasure in doing so. I think that's one of the reasons we connected pretty quickly. I paid no attention to the gossip that I heard and she really appreciated that.

It's not surprising that we found ourselves in bed together not long after we first became friends.

We were celebrating my first final table appearance and even though I didn't win the tournament, I finally felt like making such an unconventional career choice wasn't a giant mistake. We went to a club and partied until the wee hours of the morning. I consumed more drugs and alcohol than I normally would, but that's not the reason I chose to sleep with Cassie. We got along well, she was easy on the eyes and I knew that she'd never want or expect anything more from me than I was willing to give.

Being with Cassie was fun and easy and nothing has changed in the years since we first got together. We've drifted in and out of each other's lives without any drama of any kind.

Just the way I like it.

It might seem strange that neither one of us has ever felt the need to for more out of our relationship. But until very recently I never thought I'd be the kind of person that wanted something beyond casual sex. At least for now. As for Cassie, well, I don't think she could ever trust anyone enough to let them in all the way with her. As much as we're close in our friendship, there's still a part of her that she keeps locked away tightly. Our arrangement has worked out pretty well for both of us.

So far.

Naomi may have disappeared to parts unknown, but that doesn't change how strongly I feel about her. And as much as I enjoy messing around with Cassie, that can't happen now. It doesn't matter that there are all these unanswered questions surrounding what's happening with Naomi and me. Even if the worst happened and I never heard from her again, I wouldn't feel right about being with Cassie right now.

I've never really had to say no to Cassie before so I'm not quite sure how to handle things. "Cass, about hanging out…"

"So, Emily has met someone, has she?" Cassie asks rhetorically before I can get out what I was trying to say. She doesn't seem upset but her tone does suggest that she's somewhat surprised about this new development.

"Is it that obvious?" I inquire. Yet again someone has seen through me where Naomi is concerned.

"You should see how your face changes when you started thinking about her." Cassie tells me proving once again that her incredible ability to read a person doesn't only apply to the poker table. "I'm surprised I didn't notice it before."

"Before? You've only been speaking with me a few minutes," I laugh nervously because it's kind of scary how much Naomi is invading my thoughts even when I'm trying to think of anything else but her. "You're just giving me a hard time."

Cassie smiles at me, "Apparently I won't be giving you a hard time at all."

This time my laugh is genuine. "Sorry about that, I know how disappointed you must be."

"She must be pretty special," Cassie remarks wistfully.

"She is," I agree quickly even though I'm still unsure of where things with us are going.

"You should see how you look right now," she teases and I'm so glad that she seems to be genuinely happy for me. Well, as happy as Cassie can ever truly be. "You're in big trouble."

She has no idea how accurate her statement is.

I spend the next few minutes giving Cassie a brief rundown on the events surround a certain blonde and how she's affected me. I tell her the whole truth, including my very brief meeting with Naomi years ago.

"Be careful, Emily," Cassie warns me cryptically. "I don't want to see you get hurt."

I don't have a chance to question Cassie on why she thinks I'm going to get hurt. She's been given her table assignment and the tournament is set to begin shortly. The incredible feeling that I get from being around Naomi or daydreaming about her is slowly being replaced by warning bells and caution signs.

All I can think as I make my way over to my table is how I don't like this change.

I don't like it one bit.

Once I get settle into my seat, I take a moment to assess the people at my table. I don't think I've played against any of them before which can be both an advantage and disadvantage. There is one empty seat but there's a chance that it doesn't belong to anyone.

I can already feel myself getting into game mode, which is a good thing. That means I can shut the world out and just enjoy myself.

It's about that time that the chair across from is no longer vacant. I make eye contact with the man sitting down and the look of utter contempt he's shooting at me is confusing. It takes me a few minutes to place his face and when I realize who he his, I inwardly groan.

"Enjoying my money, bitch?" He sneers at me much to the surprise of everyone at the table, with the exception of me.

I'm convinced the bigger a man's ego, the smaller the size of just about everything about him.

"You have no idea," I reply back with a startling amount of satisfaction. I would normally let a remark like that go, but I don't really feel like doing that now.

"Don't worry, honey, I'll try and go easy on you today," he replies. This guy has no reason to be so sure of himself considering the last time we played together I took most of the money he was playing with. "Wouldn't want to make you cry."

I should really ignore him because that would make him even more pissed at me. "Eat, shit."

The asshole starts laughing, "Please like I'm going to listen to you." This guy must be drunk or high to be trash talking me. Or he's just really, really stupid. "Everyone knows that the only place a woman belongs is in the kitchen or on her knees."

He might not be so offensive if there was another woman at the table with us, but that's not the case so I'm going to have to fire back. "Tell me, is the size of your cock in direct correlation to the size of your teeny tiny brain?"

Although my reply earns a few laughs, the guy doesn't seem at all phased by my response. "Wouldn't you like to know, sweetie." He is so off putting that even if I was straight, I would never find him attractive. "On our next break, you want to give me a try?"

The cards are starting to be dealt, but I don't give a fuck. "Not if you were the last man alive."

I should be thinking of my strategy and the table image I want to project, but this tournament is the furthest thing from my mind. I'm so angry and all I want to do is shut my opponent's idiotic mouth up.

"That's right, you're a dyke," he responds earning him a warning from the tournament director. He pretends to apologize but we both know he's full of shit. "I guess you've never had the pleasure of being with a real man," he continues once the director is out of earshot. "Maybe what you need is a good fucking and then you'll realize what you've been missing all this time."

I am seething, but don't give him the satisfaction of saying anything back. I need to figure out I can humiliate the sexist jerk that just winked at me.

What an asshole.

I'm out.

I can't believe it.

I'm out of the tournament and I was pretty much the first person eliminated. And guess who had the pleasure of getting me out? I've never really come close to punching anyone I've played against, but today I was seconds away from doing just that.

He deserved it too.

His verbal attacks against me were pretty much non-stop but he kept his comments clean so there really wasn't much I could do about it. It's not like I've heard worse, but for some reason I couldn't shake how he was hounding me. Every pot I went in, he was there too. Every time I tried to make a move, he would make a move back.

I usually have the patience to deal with being targeted, but I snapped. I fucked up and as much as I'd like to blame his actions for me being out of the tournament, I only have myself to blame.

Or more accurately, my emotions.

The rumblings of there being something wrong with my game have already started. Two early exits are cause for people to start talking. Nobody knows that I blew the first one on purpose. This is definitely not the kind of attention I need going into a tournament I want to win so badly.

What I did today was so stupid and reckless. I knew I was going to lose but I wanted to beat that guy so badly and wipe the smug expression of his face.

Whatever is wrong with me I need to fix it immediately.

Unfortunately I don't think it's as simple as that.

It's amazing what night out can do for a person's mood. Cassie didn't fair much better than me, but unlike me, she didn't seem too fussed by her loss. The two of us met up with Katie, Effy and Cook and all of us got wrecked.

It felt so good to let go and just leave the angst of the last two days behind me. I didn't care about anything as I let the music and the MDMA take me far, far away from my troubles. It was wonderful.

Nothing happened between Cassie and me, but that doesn't mean she went back to her suite alone. I did and even though I still haven't heard from Naomi I'm starting to feel ok with just letting the chips fall as they may. I can't control how I feel about her or what's going to happen, for the most part, so fucking up my professional life isn't a smart strategy.

I'm waiting for Katie and Effy to get ready so the three of us can go shopping together. Not really my ideal way to spend the day but I do miss hanging out with them and I have nothing else planned. I've left the two of them up in my room while I wait for them in the hotel lobby. They're taking forever and it's easier for my sanity to leave them be.

I'm so busy people watching that I don't notice at first that Naomi and Darcy are walking towards me. Nor does it register right away that Tony is behind them. I don't think any of them realize I'm here, but my eyes haven't left Naomi's since the second my mind caught up to what I was seeing.

My stomach drops, then lurches and then I get a serious case of butterflies. There's so many things I want to say, so many questions I want to ask her, but most of all, I really just want to kiss her like I've been thinking about since she left.

Christ, she's stunning.

I stand up to get Naomi's attention and when she makes eye contact with me, she stops.

And so do her two companions.

Her eyes look so cold and distant, I've never seen them look like that before. There are no smiles from her and I don't think I'm about to have a joyous reunion with her. Call it a hunch. I glance ever so quickly at Tony and Darcy and the two of them look just as enthusiastic to see me as Naomi does.

Any kind of greeting I might have had has died on my lips.

"Come on," Darcy says as she tugs on Naomi's arm.

Because Naomi doesn't seem capable or willing to tell her sister off, she goes leaves without so much as one word to me.

I don't think gutted is a strong enough word to describe how I'm feeling now, but it's pretty damn close.

Hours later I'm still in my hotel suite trying to figure out what kind of game Naomi is playing. I mean that has to be the reason behind her hot and cold attitude. Because nothing else I've come up with makes any kind sense.

I faked a headache with my sister and Effy so they left without me. I'm not sure either one of them believed me, but they did leave me alone.

I can't remember ever feeling this shitty about anything. Well, aside from my mother completely rejecting me as a person. I don't quite think I'm over that yet.

I've had this lump in my throat since Naomi bolted from the hotel lobby and I can't seem to get rid of it.

I continue wallowing in my misery because that seems the appropriate course of action to take. I don't really feel like talking to anyone so when my phone rings I come very close to ignoring it.

But then I see who's calling.

It's Naomi.


I know I shouldn't answer her call. What could she say to me right now anyway? Despite what my brain is telling me, it's my heart that wins out in the end.

"Yeah?" I breathe into the phone as I try not to wildly speculate on why she's ringing me.

She doesn't respond right away, but before I hang up to save myself from getting even more hurt, she speaks. "Take me somewhere."

There are so many ways I should respond to that. A lot of those ways that involve yelling, telling Naomi that she has no right to be asking me this, or general anger at the way she's messing with my head.

But I want to stop feeling so shitty and maybe get some kind of explanation from her. If I'm being really honest though, I'm weak enough to give in if it means things can go back to how well they were going before she left. It's like I'm under some kind of spell that prevents me from acting with thought and reason. "Where do you want to go?"

"Anywhere," she replies immediately.

Whatever is the right or wrong thing to do right now doesn't matter.

I need to see Naomi again and if that makes me sad or pathetic so be it.

"Meet me in the lobby in half an hour." I tell her.

She disconnects our call without saying anything else and that leaves me with thirty minutes to figure out where I'm going to take her.