02 – The Discard

Continued from The Shuffle

“Cards are war, in disguise of a sport,”

Essays of Elia, Charles Lamb

******

The first hand went surprisingly fast, Grissom’s three aces easily beating Sara’s pair of sevens.

“It’s a bit more challenging with more players,” he offered as he gathered up the cards.

“Yeah, I can just see it,” Sara replied with a snort of disbelief, “us playing strip poker with the rest of the team. Besides, I’ve already seen Greg naked.”

Noting her apparent lack of enthusiasm regarding the latter, her husband intoned, “Not all that keen on repeating that particular experience?”

“No offence to Greg, but not really, no. And I doubt he’d be all that keen on another month of dumpster duty.”

Another?”

Sara let out an exasperated sigh.  “We’ve been over this before, so don’t play dumb, Gil. It doesn’t suit you.”

Choosing to ignore this he said, “And you forget I’m not boss anymore.”

“Still not sure that would make a difference,” she replied before nonchalantly and without any protest slipping off her short-sleeved over-shirt.  Fair was fair after all.

Grissom was about to provide some sort of clever rejoinder, but having peered up from his shuffling just in time to catch sight of her first discarded garment plunging haphazardly to the floor, he said instead, his expression and voice rife with bemusement, “Haven’t you started from the wrong end, dear?”

Sara only beamed. “Loser’s prerogative.”

*******

“So whatcha got?” she asked, gleefully splaying a full house on the table.

“A pair of nipples.”

There was a momentary stretch of stunned silence, both of them equally if differently taken aback, before Grissom hurriedly corrected, “Nines. I mean nines.”

His wife had a hard time concealing her smirk. As she’d rather rapidly lost a series of hands, by now, Sara’s cards weren’t the only thing on display. So considering her current state of dress — or rather undress — perhaps the flub was wholly understandable. But that didn’t mean she was above teasing her husband over it.

“Wow,” she began, her voice alight with amusement. “That one would have done Sigmund proud. Although, from that blush, Gil, I would have guessed flush.”

In this, her observation actually didn’t contain the least bit exaggeration. Embellishment of any sort was entirely unnecessary. For Grissom had indeed gone several shades pinker in a way Sara had never quite observed him do before.

It was an intriguing, if utterly unexpected development.

Usually cool, calm and collected as he was, particularly when it came to cards, flagrantly flustered was not a state Gil Grissom was frequently found in. But tonight, that slip and coloring of his was only the most obvious manifestation of what Sara had in the course of their game observed to be an ever-evolving perturbation, one which only seemed to grow more and more the less and less she was wearing.

It fascinated her to no end.

For in poker as in life, Grissom had a history of keeping his cards close to his chest. Thus that poker face of his was practically the stuff of legends. During all their years working together in Vegas, Sara had watched him stare down the worst of suspects all without batting an eye, so she knew it took a lot to faze him.

Well, most of the time. Apparently his lack of tells didn’t apply to strip poker.

The change had been almost imperceptible at first. A slight slip of that intent, intense, usually unreadable placid mask of his. Then he went quiet. Although this didn’t come as much of a shock to Sara, cognizant as she was to the fact that Grissom preferred to listen rather than talk while he played. It was a habit which had frequently proved profitable in the past, him having picked up quite a few interesting tidbits during his games with Sheriff Montgomery and the various other members of Vegas’s old guard. And she did have to admit there was some truth to his oft-repeated assertion that it was hard to observe anything with your mouth moving.

Except precisely how much could he possibly observe — and poker was after all at it’s heart a game of observation — with his nose so steadfastly planted in his cards?

Grissom certainly hadn’t started the game that way. Instead, he’d sat back, at ease and relaxed, his blithe laissez-faire front only betrayed by the steely glint in his eyes. But that all changed once Sara whipped her tank top over her head. After that, he seemed to have trouble keeping his eyes from repeatedly drifting lower, lower, then lower still, before they rapidly flicked back up to hers again.  Then as soon as he’d noticed she’d noticed this, he resolutely fixed his gaze on his cards.

Which puzzled Sara slightly, his gaze as well as his rigidly focused attempt not to look. After all, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen it all before and more, and just that morning.

If she had asked him what it was exactly he found so discombobulating, Grissom would have had to say it was that peek, that hint of what he knew lay beneath that was so maddening. But she didn’t ask and he didn’t volunteer.

So Sara was left marveling over just how full of surprises her husband was.

Although this actually came as no surprise, as she’d frequently found him that way. Like when he called and asked her to come to Vegas that first time. Or told her he’d been interested in beauty ever since he’d met her. When he sent her that plant. The first time he said he loved her. And then there was the day out there with the bees when out of the blue, he’d suggested they get married. And she wasn’t about to forget that afternoon not all that many weeks ago when he showed up in Costa Rica just to be with her.

And tonight when she suggested cards, she hadn’t actively set out to fluster him. Maybe rib him a little. More than a little.

Her quip of “You’re on a streak,” just before she reached back to unclasp her bra had indeed been pure tease.

At least then he’d had enough presence of mind to deadpan, “I’m not sure that’s a term you want to be bandying about. All things considered.”

But Sara hadn’t anticipated him becoming quite so distracted.

Sure she had heard him make mention of her being a distraction frequently enough. But Grissom was usually pretty good at keeping his distraction as well as most of his thoughts and feelings to himself. Sometimes a little too good.

But this was an entirely new species of distraction.

Not that she wasn’t going to take full advantage of it. Sara didn’t cheat. Didn’t believe in cheating, especially not in a friendly game of cards. But she wasn’t immune to evening up the odds a bit or taking advantage of an advantage she hadn’t expected to possess, at least not to such a profound degree.

But her losing had left her with just that: a real advantage.

And of course she couldn’t quite resist the temptation of heightening said distraction either.

Perhaps she too openly relished in the prospect, as her unaccustomed gaiety caused her husband to ask, frankly perplexed, “Since when are you so keen on losing?” Sara certainly wasn’t usually so gleeful about the eventuality.

It was just good to see him squirm a little. Well, actually a lot.

Besides, if you couldn’t tease and flirt like hell with your husband during your honeymoon when else could you?

So that was why and how Grissom ended up having to finally ante up. Having recovered some slight measure of composure post gaffe, he bent to undo the laces to his boots.

“Shoes one item or two?” he asked.

Sara only laughed, “Since when are you shy?” in return. He simply waited for her to reply. “One.”

He didn’t look up, but his suddenly, incredibly flippant, “In a hurry to lose then?” left her the one momentarily taken aback.

Ultimately, it was simply a matter of Grissom electing to own up to his embarrassment rather than continue to shy away from it. It was silly not to. She was his wife after all, and although it was admittedly embarrassing to get caught doing it, being able to openly leer from time to time was technically permissible within the bonds of matrimony — or at least should be. Besides, there was just something about having her sitting there so very nearly naked, yet so very out of reach which proved tantalizing to say the least. That and there was no resisting that flirtatious playfulness of hers. It was literally infectious.

At the moment, Sara wore an impish sort of grin and not much else as she chose to shuffle the deck not once, twice, or even three or four times.

When she started on a fifth, he asked, “You intending to shuffle the spots off those cards?” To which she shot him a blank look.

“Deal, Sara.”

Giving the cards a sixth and final shuffle before swiftly distributing them, Sara countered, “And here I thought you believed in being thorough.”

Grissom tried and failed to turn his splutter of a cough into a laugh. A response due to a certain, though rather small, degree to her bald-faced innuendo, but more so because his wife had opted after picking up her cards to lean forward and rest her arms on the table in such a manner there was no way to miss how the last couple of days at the beach not only had further lightened her already honeyed hair, but had also deepened her usually fair skin and heightened her freckles. Or the fact that the cool night air was having a rather conspicuous effect on certain parts of her anatomy.

“Chilly, dear?” he inquired solicitously.

Sara shook her head, proffering him what he knew to be a wholly way too oblivious, “No, not really. Why?”

He made no reply. There was no need.

For a while now he’d suspected Sara was not only not above, but in fact definitely out to play dirty. When after she lost the next hand and proceeded to pop the snap on her khakis and shimmy them down over her hips and the shoes and socks she was still very much wearing, he was certain she was.

His own socks had come off rather rapidly after that.

But his three of a kind beat her two pair and Sara rose to slip off her ever practical and yet somehow still sexy as hell plain cotton underwear. She made no show of it, but Grissom fumbled his shuffle anyway, causing the cards to explode from his fingers and all over the floor.

As she bent to help in the retrieve and recovery process, Sara couldn’t help but chuckle, “I didn’t realize we were playing fifty-two card pick up.”

Her hilarity, however, proved only temporary. For she could feel his eyes caressing her even before she fully turned around.

There was certainly nothing hidden in the way he was looking at her now. Sara simply lacked the words to describe it. But then she’d always had. No man but he had ever really looked at her like that. Not that she’d wanted general admiration. Mostly, she just wished for that of the man in front of her, who was now, happily her husband.

Still, she colored. Though after a moment, she rallied sufficiently in order to let out a coy, “See something you like?”

And it was Grissom’s turn to grin.

Continued in The Reveal

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