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“Honey? Hey, it’s dad. I did it!”
“Yeah, it’s me,” her father, Cole Garr, said. “I did it. I won!”
“Seriously!? So you get to come out here to Las Vegas, right?”
“I do. And everything is paid for courtesy of All-in Poker. I signed up for their on-line tournament on a whim. I started winning and kept winning and before I knew it, I was playing heads-up for the on-line title.”
“What’s heads-up again?” she asked.
“It’s where you play one-on-one. Anyway, I had Ace-King the final hand and the other guy thought I was bluffing when I shoved and went all in. He called me and I paired my aces on the flop and that was it.”
His 24-year old daughter, Kendra, had no idea what he was talking about. She didn’t understand poker or even like it, but she loved that her father finally had a hobby he enjoyed. All she knew was he would be coming to Nevada and she’d get to see him. She understood it was for one of the biggest poker tournaments on the Global Poker Tour, but they’d still get to spend some time together. Kendra was already making plans and would ask to take a few days leave tomorrow morning as soon as she got to work.
While it was true she didn’t get home too often, she went as often as she could. The last time had been not long after she’d re-enlisted a little over a year and a half ago. Her father called her one evening and he just never called. Either she called them or her mom called her. She was concerned but not really worried when she heard his voice until it began to crack.
That’s when he gave her the worst news she’d ever gotten in her life. Her mother had been killed by a drunk driver on the way home from work that afternoon leaving them both saddened, stunned, and with no idea what to do or how to go about doing it. The ten days she spent back home in Michigan with her father for the funeral passed in a kind of hellish haze. Neither of them could think or focus on anything. The only reason they even made it through was due to the help of her two uncles who took care of all the details from meals to grocery shopping to paying bills to the funeral itself.
Kendra had cried when she left, but then she hadn’t stopped crying since he’d called. Now, some nineteen months later, she no longer cried at all, but she still worried about her dad living all alone in that big house in their small town of Sterling which was about 40 miles north of Saginaw.
Cole had always taken care of himself physically, a habit he’d picked up early life in high school where he played three sports followed by a four-year stint in the Army where served as an infantryman and then a Ranger. Working out and running—when it was warm enough—or swimming when it wasn’t—were second nature to him. Other than that though, he had no hobbies and only one real friend—his wife, Sharon.
A year ago, he’d forced himself to get out his iPad and for some reason, he thought Texas Hold ‘Em poker might be interesting having played a lot of seven-card stud in the Army. He downloaded a free app and started playing. At first, it was nothing but a way to pass the lonely hours at home after work. Initially, he only played on the one site, but he had so much fun he joined another and then a third. He was soon playing 12 hours a day most days that lasted well past midnight and never got tired of it. He did however, start getting good at it. Very good, in fact.
As he grew to enjoy the game more and more, he found himself wanting to do little else and three months later, Cole put in for and was soon approved for early retirement from the postal service. His job had always been a paycheck and little more. Now he had no interest in ever working and vowed to never work again.
At 43, the monthly pension was meager to say the least, and yet he managed to live well enough on it as long as it was supplemented by what was left from Sharon’s life insurance policy. As that began to run out, he decided to take a chance on playing in actual tournament down in Saginaw and ended up winning it. He’d taken home a little over five grand after taxes and he was hooked. He won another local tournament then finished second before winning a third time. All told, he’d pocketed a little over $15,000 doing something he’d do all day long for free.
And that’s when he learned about a site that offered a chance to win a seat at the Las Vegas Big Event to the winner of its on-line tournament. There was a $20 charge to play which was considered a fee, as playing on-line poker for cash had been illegal for several years. He didn’t make any money by winning, but he had earned a seat in the Vegas tournament and it had a very large prize pool. He knew he wouldn’t win, but if he could even cash—hang in there long enough to make the money cut-off after enough players were knocked out—he’d win at least $35,000. The winner would take home $3.75 million and the runner-up $1.75 million, and Cole now at least had a hypothetical shot at some real money.
In addition casino siteleri to never working again, something else he planned to never do again was date—let alone remarry. He’d said ‘until death do us part’ and meant it, but he’d loved his wife so much, his love lived on well beyond her passing. Many days following his wife’s death, he hadn’t even cared about living. And that’s when he discovered on-line poker.
He’d married Kendra’s mom, Sharon Cousins, right out of high school and they’d been the only people the other had ever really even dated and definitely the only other person either of them had ever slept with. Now he was almost 44, single again, and lonely to the point of despair.
Cole would never admit it, but there was another reason he planned not to date again and it was so embarrassing, he couldn’t even stand to think about it let alone discuss it. Back in high school he’d been considered a very good-looking guy and was also a pretty good football player. He was an even better wrestler, and if not for his looks and athletic ability, he knew the nickname a couple of the other guys sometimes used privately for him would have stuck—and spread.
They called him ‘TD’ which was um…short…for—tiny dick. He hadn’t given it any thought before the first time someone pointed and laughed during showers after practice. “Hey, man. Where do you keep the pepper and the tweezers?”
“Pepper and tweezers? What does that mean?” he’d asked naively.
“Well, that prick of yours is so small don’t you need pepper to cause you to sneeze so it’ll pop out and tweezers to grab it when it does just to take a leak?” The guy roared at his own joke and Cole had felt like his…tiny dick…had shriveled up and gone inside him.
Fortunately, no one else had been there to hear it and only one other guy ever said anything to him about it, but it caused a deep level of self-consciousness he’d largely been able to bury to set in deep in psyche. He’d never gotten over it and it got a lot worse when he joined the Army. That’s when they really let him have it. They came up with the moniker ‘Short Round’ for him from his first day in his first unit following basic training and infantry school. Here again, the only thing that kept him from constant harassment was that Cole was really good at his job. The kidding never totally stopped, but it wasn’t that ‘big’ of a deal because Cole’s shit was in one tight bag, tactically speaking.
Sharon had never seen another man’s penis and she wouldn’t be caught dead looking at one in a magazine or on line. As far as she knew, Cole’s was just like any other guy’s who was strong, athletic, and good looking. Besides, he was very skilled with other parts of his body and Sharon never went without her share of orgasms. There just wasn’t enough of him to do much of anything when it came to vaginal stimulation. He did however, give her a daughter and all of his love, so what more could a woman want? Well, any woman who didn’t know her husband’s nicknames had been ‘Tiny Dick’ and ‘Short Round.’
No, Cole would rather live alone than have to deal with the disappointing looks and half-hearted reassurances ‘things were just fine’ he knew he’d get from any other woman with whom he got intimate. Were he at least average in size, he’d love to eventually date again and maybe even marry someone else, but this internalized fear of ridicule was so deeply ingrained, he’d gladly live by himself. For now, he didn’t need a woman as he had not only a hobby but a passion that filled his days and dating was the last thing on his mind.
Poker had been invaluable in turning things around and winning this tournament almost made him feel like his old self again. Kendra could sense the change in his voice when they spoke. She hadn’t heard him sound this happy or excited since her mom was alive. And in six weeks, he’d be in Las Vegas where she’d been sent since re-enlisting for her first choice of duty stations—Nellis Air Force Base.
Kendra loved Nellis and she also loved Las Vegas. She wasn’t a gambler, but like most young, single girls, she loved to dance and party, and Vegas was the place to do both any time, day or night. As an added bonus, she’d not only made a new best friend there, she also had a new boyfriend, both of whom were fellow Air Force NCOs.
Kendra had recently made staff sergeant/E5, while her new best friend, Erin Collins, had just made tech sergeant/E6. Erin had been in the Air Force two years longer than Kendra but was five years older having not enlisted until she was 23. The two of them had hit it off immediately and were virtually inseparable.
Kendra’s new boyfriend, Jared Mitchell, was a male mixture of Kendra physically and Erin in terms of her personality. He was a CCT or combat controller, serving as an instructor on a three-year tour. He’d just made master sergeant, E7, and he wasn’t just hot, he was—as Jim Carey said in the movie—smokin’! He wasn’t all that tall, but he had piercing blue eyes and slot oyna a killer smile along with a body that wouldn’t quit and he was probably the nicest, most unassuming guy she’d ever met. Oh, and he was nothing short of amazing in bed as Kendra learned on their third date.
Kendra had seen him a couple of times before they met and heard he was some kind of hero. From 2003 until 2015, he’d done eight tours between Iraq and Afghanistan and had won the Silver Star in the latter country, saving a bunch of lives during an all-out assault on their position and also had earned the Bronze Star with “V” as well as two purple hearts. Kendra hadn’t even been outside the United States to this point—something that was just fine by her.
Other than Pararescue Jumpers or PJs, CCTs were pretty much the only enlisted members of the Air Force who got directly involved in ground combat and most folks outside that branch of the service knew very little about them. They were the guys who set up landing zones, called in air strikes, worked air traffic control in tactical situations, and a whole host of other missions.
They met because of Erin, whose only other real friend knew Jared, and she’d introduced them after a Commander’s Call one Friday afternoon several months ago. They’d hit it off immediately and after a third date, had started sleeping with each other. The only downside was that the new dating relationship left Erin as a kind of ‘plus one’ everywhere they went. But because Jared was so easy-going and laid back he never cared that Kendra seemed to have Erin in tow everywhere they went—with the obvious exception of the bedroom. Even so, he still smiled when he thought about the possibility of Erin sitting shyly in the corner of the room waiting for them to finish taking care of business.
Kendra’s leave was approved and the days dragged on until the six weeks passed and her dad landed at McCarran International Airport. She (and Erin) were there to meet him when he landed. Kendra was so excited she’d nearly bruised Erin’s arm from repeatedly squeezing it until she saw him.
“Daddy!” she hollered finally letting go of Erin’s arm. She ran over to him and hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m so glad to see you!”
“You too, punkin’,” he told her.
She took his free hand while he carried a bag in the other. Erin was standing there smiling uneasily when Kendra said, “Dad? This is my best friend, Erin. Erin? This is my father, Cole Garr.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Garr,” she said.
“Same here, Erin. And please call me Cole.”
“Oh, okay,” she said still smiling.
It was a little surprising these girls were best friend because Kendra was a very attractive, very outgoing girl while Erin was well…not. In fact, she wasn’t someone most guys would even call attractive. She was hardly ugly, just not someone most guys would even notice was in the room with them.
For a woman, she was very tall standing 5′ 10″ in flats. She wore plain, black glasses and kept her brown hair pulled back in a bun most of the time. As far as figures went, Erin’s wasn’t much of a figure at all. She had no real profile no matter which way she turned as her butt was as flat as her chest.
She was tall and thin and shy, but to her credit, she had a very nice smile and somewhere behind the thick lenses of her glasses were some very pretty eyes. She liked to say her glasses were so thick (even with Featherweight lenses) because she was always reading. Of course, reading didn’t cause astigmatism or myopia, and Erin had both in a bad way. But she did love to read and she was as smart and well-mannered as anyone Kendra had ever met.
Erin rarely dated even though she got hit on all of the time. That might sound counter-intuitive, but because the ratio of men-to-women in the military is so high, every female got hit on regularly no matter what they looked like. Erin just rarely ever hit back. She wouldn’t admit it, but she still technically a virgin and that wasn’t due to any religious convictions. The technical part was because of an incident that involved an older, male member of the family some years back and something about which she never spoke. It had had a profound effect on her and was at least part of the reason she kept her appearance the way it was—safe.
That aside, she’d also never met anyone she had ‘those’ kinds of feelings for—the kind that would let a boy get beyond second base. Even there, she’d only been that far twice in her life and in spite of the way it made her body tingle, she just couldn’t let anyone steal third let alone go all the way home. Erin often wondered if she ever would meet someone like that in spite of the way Kendra was constantly trying to set her up with one of Jared’s many friends. Erin played them all off finding one excuse or another to avoid going out with them and when that didn’t work, she’d flat-out say ‘no’ and Kendra would finally back off—for a while.
They were the female version of The Odd Couple. canlı casino siteleri Erin was the yin to Kendra’s yang. Erin kept Kendra grounded and out of trouble while Kendra did her best to force Erin out of her comfort zone, something Erin knew was necessary no matter how painful it might be. In turn, Kendra was careful not to take her so far out that she felt uncomfortable. However it worked, it worked.
“So where are we going first, Dad?” Kendra asked him.
“I should probably check in at the hotel and then go take care of registration,” he said. He put his arm around his daughter and said, “I know you well enough to understand that means you’ve got something planned for me, so why don’t you tell me where we’re going first?”
Kendra laughed and said to Erin, “I could never get away with lying to my dad. He could just bore a hole into my brain and see when I wasn’t telling the truth.”
Erin adjusted her glasses and laughed politely. Cole looked over at her and said, “Where are you from, Erin?”
“Me? Oh, I’m from the Seattle area, sir,” she replied.
“Where exactly?” he asked. “I was stationed at Fort Lewis for two years.”
“Really?” she said. “I’m from Lacey, just west of Olympia.”
“I know exactly where that is. Been through Lacey a bunch of times.” He pulled Kendra in tight and said, “Small world, right honey?”
She put her arm around his waist and said, “Yes it is, Dad, and I’m SO glad to see you!”
He was staying at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, the location of the tournament which was starting the day after tomorrow. He checked into his room which turned out to be a very nice, very large suite before going back downstairs and confirming his registration.
“Okay, punkin’, what’s on the menu?”
“Don’t freak out okay, Dad?” Kendra began saying.
“Uh-oh. I don’t like the sound of this.” He saw Erin quietly standing there adjusting her glasses again.
“I’m taking us all to LAVO which is one of the hottest clubs in Vegas!” she said with genuine excitement. “Who knows? You might even meet someone you like, Dad!”
He cut his eyes at his daughter then looked over at Erin again who was waiting to see his reaction.
“Kendra-ken,” he said using another pet name for her, “I’m not going to some loud club with music I don’t even recognize.”
“Come on, Dad! It’ll be great! We can dance, have a few drinks. It’ll be a lot of fun!” Her eyes were flashing with excitement. Cole’s not so much.
“Erin? Is this the kind of place a guy my age wants to go?” he asked looking for help.
She looked at Kendra who flashed her a ‘don’t you dare undercut me’ look so she replied, “I can’t really say, sir. I don’t know what you enjoy.”
“The Eagles, Elton John, Sting. You know, old-people music,” he told her with a smile.
Erin smiled back but didn’t speak. Kendra however, did. “Dad! You can listen to that stuff at home on your CDs for the thousandth time. You gotta try new things! Come on! Just this one time. For me? Please???”
“I like The Police,” Erin said out of nowhere.
“Hah! You see! It’s not just old fogey music, Ken. Erin likes Sting, too.”
“Yeah, but she’s almost as old as you!” Kendra said making Erin laugh.
“Right. Erin is in her mid-40s. Sure. And I’m 25.” Again, Erin laughed. “How old are you, Erin? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“Oh, I’m 29, sir,” she told him.
“You see, she’s not old,” he said to Kendra. He turned to Erin and said, “But if you don’t stop calling me ‘sir’ you’re gonna make me feel even older than I am.” He smiled at her and she nervously smiled back.
“Sorry, sir… Oops. Sorry…Cole. It won’t happen again.”
“So? Will you go with us?” Kendra pleaded. “I want you to meet Jared, Daddy. He’s really excited about meeting you. And besides, Erin will be there for moral support, right?”
“Oh, sure,” she said assuming that was an invitation.
“If push comes to shove at least you’ll have someone to talk to who thinks like she’s your age,” Kendra said ribbing her dad and her friend. “So will you?”
He made a kind of face by pursing his lips and rolling his eyeballs. “Okay, but I’m leaving at midnight if it’s as bad as I think. Deal?”
Kendra hugged her father and told him, “Deal!” She smiled at Erin and said, “That’ll give Erin a legitimate reason to leave early, too.”
Erin loved hanging out with Kendra—and Jared—but she didn’t usually care for the kinds of things Kendra did with the loud music being the worst of them. She didn’t mind going bowling or out for drinks and dinner, but the volume at these kinds of clubs was just too much for her. Still, it was preferable to spending the night alone with yet another book so for the most part, Erin gladly tagged along. Besides, now that Kendra was dating Jared, it gave her the opportunity to sit next to him for hours at a time and she could secretly pretend he was with her while Kendra was the one tagging along.
LAVO was only about five miles from the Rio and Cole loved to walk almost as much as he loved to run. The nights were warm and pleasant so a long walk was something to look forward to even if the high-decibel level wasn’t.
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