Prince Ever After(2)

By: A.C. Arthur

The first man who had spoken was Nelson Magloo, a fifty-something-year-old man who favored fedora hats and gold pinkie rings. Last year, Magloo and his twenty-one-year-old wife, Isla, had built a mansion on the eastern side of the island. Magloo was an oil tycoon from Nevada who’d just recently found out he’d inherited stock in the old Chapman oil refinery on the island.

The second man to speak was Henri Jauvian, a French businessman vacationing on the island in secret with one of his many mistresses.

Also in attendance were Reece McCallum, famed NASCAR driver; Kip Sallinger, owner of the Moonlight Casino; and Hugo Harrington, one of Roland’s father’s oldest friends. The group had been assembled by invitation only and Roland was honored to join them. He would also be honored to take every dime they each brought to the table.

“Who’s dealing?” he asked when they all continued to stare at him.

“That’s right,” Reece remarked with a crooked grin. “Can’t expect the royal prince to deal the cards for us.”

“I can deal cards just fine,” Roland told him. “Just as I can take your money without a second’s hesitation.”

“Cocky bastard, ain’t he?” Kip said with a chuckle that made his rotund upper body vibrate.

“But he can’t play no better than his granddaddy could,” Hugo added and took another puff on his cigar.

Roland was used to cigar smoke. His father kept a humidor on his desk and two in his private suite. Rafferty DeSaunters loved few things in life, his children and his cigars being among them.

“Josef couldn’t play worth squat,” Hugo continued after the cards had been dealt.

Roland held his cards loosely as he sat back in the chair. “And yet, he beat your father and a much younger, healthier and cockier you, on more than one occasion.”

The others laughed and Hugo frowned. “I won plenty. My pappy, well, he was another story,” Hugo quipped. “Now pony up fools. I’m in for three.”

Reece whistled. “Three thousand dollars. Hugo, you hit the lottery or somethin’?”

“No lottery here on the island. Good ole Rafe don’t like gamblin’ too much. I was surprised as the rest of the islanders when he let you come down here and open up that big shiny casino,” Hugo said to Kip.

Roland remained silent as he continued to contemplate the cards in his hand.

He didn’t comment on the subject at hand because he knew how his father felt about gambling. Roland’s sitting there at this very moment had a lot to do with Rafe’s misgivings on the subject. The DeSaunters family history, where gambling was concerned, was no secret, no matter how much Rafe wished it were.

Josef Marquise DeSaunters was not only known for leading the revolt against Marco Vansig and thus taking control of Grand Serenity in the late 1950s, but for his luck with the cards. Before the plan to take back the island had ever entered Josef’s mind, he was a hustler. Or, at least, that’s what Roland liked to think, because a good high-stakes card game was not the only venture that his grandfather excelled at. Josef could talk a woman out of her fortune. With his root-beer-colored eyes and movie-star looks, Josef would likely have the woman naked in bed while at the same time be emptying her bank account. He was good-looking, charismatic, fun-loving and, above all, courageous. All traits Roland felt blessed to possess himself. On more than one occasion he’d wondered what it would have been like to be Josef’s son, instead of Rafe’s.

Rafferty DeSaunters walked the straight line. He made the right decisions, did the honorable thing, said the perfect words and fought the good battle. He was, in every sense of the word, born to be a prince. Roland, on the other hand, was not. Or, at least, that’s what the press said.

Roland set his cards facedown on the table, reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a wad of cash. He counted until he’d matched Hugo’s amount.

“I’m in,” he said somberly and placed the remaining bills back inside his jacket.

“Yeah, I’m just feelin’ lucky tonight. Real damn lucky,” Hugo said.

Hugo held his cards tight and was grinning as if he knew he held the winning hand. Roland almost smiled at that thought. Instead, he remained silent, watching as the others studied their cards and made their moves. There had been no reason to go over the rules for this game; they’d all played at this level before. The secret, all cash, no-holds-barred level. There would also be no tell signs, Roland thought as he looked across the table to Reece, who was still studying what he’d been dealt. They were all professionals, which meant each one of them was just as good at bluffing as he was at winning. At least, four of them were.

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