It's not like Emma was looking for Hook. Not really. It's just that it’s kind of hard to avoid someone if you don't know where they are. So, she kept a casual ear open for mentions of his name. Casually. And someone might have casually mentioned in passing that he might be playing in a tournament in Deadwood. Obviously she had to come here and check it out - to make sure her informational sources were accurate. Or something.
It isn't like she's going to let him see her. That would be incredibly counterproductive. She did take the guy for a few grand after all. Not that it didn't kind of serve him right because w ho the hell keeps that kind of cash on them? But still… better if he never actually sees her. She did the jail thing once. No intentions of going back.
Then again, she has been doing a lot better at the tables since their little encounter. Honestly, at the rate she's winning, she'll have enough money saved up for her entry fee for Vegas a month ahead of time. It's almost like robbing him ( kissing him ) changed her luck for the better. Gamblers are nothing if not superstitious creatures. Maybe, possibly, one more rendezvous and a little bit more good luck will rub off on her. Yep. Luck. That’s what she wants to rub off.
Besides, he was winning last time. That really chaps her ass. Like she told him, she was having an off day. A good run of bad luck. She needs a rematch to settle the score. Take him down a notch. He really is too damn cocky for his own good, all that swagger and smirk. Except that his swaggering, smirking self doesn’t seem to be here.
Emma turns slowly on her bar stool, swirling the teensy plastic sword piercing the olives in her dirty martini and holding in her huff of annoyance as she surveys the gaming tables, once again finding them Hook-free. Hookless? Whatever.
Emma lifts the little sword to her mouth and slides an olive off with her teeth. Maybe her timing is just off. It looks like a few of the tournament tables are on a break between rounds, but she’s getting antsy. Maybe she should down the rest of her drink and head to another casino. She’s wearing her favorite little red dress tonight, the one that hugs every curve. She is here to work after all. It’s not like she wore it for anyone in particular. It’s for the marks. It shouldn’t be hard for her to pick up a few-
“Now be a good girl and play along, because you bloody well owe me.”
Emma nearly chokes on her olive and that’s probably the only thing that keeps her from whirling around and punching Hook in the face. How the fuck did he manage to sneak up on her?
She coughs, clearing the traces of olive from her windpipe, and the hot breath on the shell of her ear turns to a quick peck on the cheek. She’s furious that he got the drop on her, but she doesn’t know what kind of game he’s playing yet, so she reins it in. Hook steps around to face her, a wide, innocent smile curving his lips, though his eyes are deadly serious.
“Darling, so sorry for startling you, but I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I was just telling these nice gentlemen here-” he gestures to the pair of brutes walking up behind him, “that I couldn’t possibly play a hand without my favorite lucky charm.”
Emma gives him a saccharine smile. “Would that be the blue diamonds or purple horseshoes?”
Hook barks out a forced laugh. “Ha! See boys? That’s why I love her. That delightful sense of humor. Now, if you lads will excuse me for a moment, I’ll join you at the table presently.” He claps one of the men on the shoulder and they amble away to take seats at one of the poker tables leaving Emma and Hook alone.
Hook watches them go, making sure they’re settled and not paying attention to him anymore before he turns again to Emma, that familiar smirk back in its rightful place.
Emma's vapid expression falls away, quickly replaced with an annoyed glare. “You’re pretty damn pleased with yourself, aren’t you?”
"Careful, sweetheart , they could look our way at any moment," Hook warns with a wicked grin. "And yes, I rather am. Fancy seeing you here. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Panic flashes through her at the question. Oh, you know, just low-key stalking you so I’d never have to see you again which is completely logical and not at all creepy. She hopes he can’t read the real answer on her face, but thankfully he chooses that moment to reach out with his hook and brush a lock of hair back from her shoulder. The easy familiarity of the gesture irritates her - irritation is much easier to deal with than the way his stupid blue eyes are doing things to her stomach - so she deepens her scowl and does what she does best: deflect and distract.
"Oh, no. No. We're not talking about me right now. What kind of scam are you running on the Big and Scary twins?" She gestures subtly with her almost empty drink to Hook's companions. Tall, broad and with matching ginger hair indicating some kind of familial relationship, each man looks as though he could bench press a horse.
"The Stabbington brothers over there - and yes, so help me that's their true surname - seem to think I owe them the opportunity to win back the considerable sum of money that they lost to me over a game of dice."
"Were said dice loaded?”
He cocks an eyebrow and shrugs. “Not that they know of.”
“And this all has what to do with me?" Emma crosses her arms beneath her breasts and doesn’t miss the flicker of his eyes down to her cleavage.
"Well, first of all, I'd like for them to be thinking about your neckline rather than their cards when you come over and kiss me on the neck in a few minutes."
"And then?" Emma didn’t miss the brightening of his expression that she hadn’t outright refused his scheme.
"And then I'd like an extra set of eyes on them to make sure they don't attempt to live up to their name when I win again."
Emma nods. "So you want me to watch your back while they’re watching my front. Got it. And you couldn't have just asked me without scaring the shit out of me first?"
Hook narrows his eyes. "Given the nature of our last encounter, I didn't wish to give you the chance to get away. You do owe me, Swan, and don't think I'm taking my eyes off you for a second."
Emma fixes him with her most sarcastic smile. "I'd despair if you did." She huffs a sigh. "What if I’m not interested? You don’t really have me in a helping mood right now, pal."
"I suppose I could report you to security and get you banned from every casino in town."
Emma's eyes widen and she lowers her voice to a threatening hiss. "You wouldn't dare."
"Oh, I'm quite daring, love. Don't you doubt that. But…” He pauses, letting his eyes roam over her face, studying her. “I think you are interested, and I'd much rather work with you than against you. I propose a bargain. Simple, really. You help me and I'll give you a cut of whatever I win."
"Not a chance. 80-20. My 80, your 20 to be clear."
"Not worth it. 60-40."
Hooks features twist into a tight-lipped grimace of annoyance. "If we stand here arguing, you'll be getting 100% of nothing, as will I. Although I may get the parting gift of a broken limb from our friends over there. I'm already down one appendage, I'd prefer to keep those that remain in top form."
Emma leans back against the bar and slowly sips the last of her cocktail. "Then quit arguing with me and give me 40%."
Hook drops his head in defeat, and Emma beams knowing she’s won. He lifts his eyes to hers again, and she’s sure he’s trying to be all commanding and intense, but she can see a hint of mirth dancing in those baby blues. The bastard is actually looking forward to this.
"Fine. But you'd better earn it, love. I need you to be quite convincing as the adoring girlfriend. Feel free to let your hands wander. Don’t be afraid to, you know, really get into it.”
He says it with a scrunch of his nose that has Emma rolling her eyes, but some traitorous part of her is kind of looking forward to this, too. She’s a gambler for God’s sake, the prospect of a little danger and intrigue fires up her pulse. She hasn’t run a two-person job since…
And just like that the spark fizzles out. Hook seems to notice the change, but doesn’t comment, only cants his head to the side in question. Emma braces herself, her old defenses rising, but he doesn’t ask. He just snaps his own mask back into place, and gives her thigh a squeeze as he leans in close to her. Her heartbeat begins racing again, but this time for a very different reason.
“Now be a good lass buy us another round. My tab’s open, and I’ll have anything with rum."
Emma has to admit to herself (though certainly not to him ) that she really did enjoy their little game. After getting the drinks, she’d gone with his original request and sashayed over the table, bending very deliberately at the waist to set the glasses down. Rather than immediately taking her seat next to Hook, she’d moved behind his chair, leaning down to loosely drape her arms around his neck and letting the fingers of her right hand slide inside the open collar of his shirt. Not too far - just enough so she could feel the increasing thrum of his heartbeat when she nuzzled into his neck and grazed a kiss across the corded muscle of his throat. He’d swallowed hard as she drew back, her nails scratching through the coarse hair on his chest as she retracted her hand. She’d smiled to herself at that, and couldn’t help leaning close one more time to whisper in his ear, “ For luck .”
Watching Hook play without having to be concerned about playing against him was truly educational. His powers of perception impressed her, and the few tells and signals he seemed to miss, she was able to silently communicate to him with a subtle glance, brush of her hand or nudge to his leg. He never ignored her cues, either, trusting her instincts as much as his own. Well, except that one time…
“Why the devil did you make me throw that last hand, Swan? I had them!”
It’s hours later and with several hundred dollar bills tucked into her bra, Emma sits next to Hook at the bar for a celebratory drink.
“I didn’t make you do anything. You chose to fold-”
“After you slid your hand up my leg all the way to my-”
“You said feel free to let my hands wander.”
Hook leans toward her and raises a dark eyebrow in challenge. “And how is a man supposed to concentrate when you’re taking such liberties with him? You knew I would fold.”
Emma leans in as well, propping her elbow on the bar. “I knew you needed to fold. You’d won too many hands. I’d already sweet talked the one with the gold teeth into backing down when he started reaching for the knife in his boot. I didn’t want to have to schmooze the one with the eye-patch, too.”
Hook laughs lightly at that. “You were bloody brilliant, Swan. Those dolts were powerless against you.”
He’s practically beaming at her with something that looks almost like pride, and Emma has no idea what to do with that. She doesn’t know what to do with him at all. He’s her competition, but here they are working together - pretty seamlessly if she’s honest about it. And what’s with all this supportive crap? She’s used to guys wanting something from her, to use her to stroke their ego or their cock. But this guy? She can tell he’s attracted to her, but all this other stuff - the listening to her, the actually seeming impressed with her - it’s confusing and unsettling.
To make matters worse, he’s just as likable, kissable, fuckable, everything- able as she remembered, and lord, has she been remembering. As much as she tries NOT to think about it, their kiss drifts into her mind at the most inopportune times. Like right now.
She takes a sip of her gin and tonic (no more olives for her tonight), and brushes off his compliment. “Yeah, well, you’re lucky I saved your ass.”
“Cheers to that.” He raises his glass and she clinks hers against it, but before he drinks, he asks, “How did you know he had a knife in his boot?”
Emma had been waiting for this question and times her answer just as he’s taking his sip of rum. “I was playing footsie with him under the table.”
Hook half chokes on his drink and splutters, “You what?”
Gotcha. Emma shrugs, letting a little of her internal gloating show on her face. “Hey, you told me to keep them distracted. You were no help at all.” She flicks her wrist to backhand him on the shoulder. “You kept antagonizing him! You’re a really shitty damsel in distress, you know that?”
Hook chuckles, rubbing his hook gingerly over the imaginary bruise she’s apparently left on his arm, then leans closer and waggles his eyebrows suggestively. “Ah, but I make up for it with my many other talents.”
His voice is laden with innuendo, and it’s cheesy as hell, and yet it’s all Emma can do to stop herself from shifting in her seat at the mental images he inspires. She manages to limit her outward physical response to a dramatic eye roll. “Hm. At least you won enough money to make this worthwhile.”
“Aye, that I did. You know, I don’t mean to upset you Emma, but I think we make quite the team.”
Emma stiffens at the word ‘team’, unwanted memories from her past returning for the second time tonight. “I work alone. This was a-”
“One-time thing? I seem to have heard that before.”
Emma ignores him, trying to change the subject. “What were you doing playing absolutely-not-loaded dice with those guys anyway? I thought you were supposed to be here for the poker tournament.”
She sees the change in his expression the second her words register and clenches her glass until her knuckles turn white, cursing herself internally for the slip.
“And how would you know I was entered in the tourney?”
Emma presses on. “Why loaded dice? I thought you never cheated. All that bullshit about good form?”
His brows furrow in offense, and Emma relaxes a little, thinking she’s successfully diverted him again. “I don’t consider good form to be bullshit, Swan, and I never cheat at cards. But... “ and here he gives her a rather pointed look, “some pickings are a bit too easy to pass up.”
“And speaking of easy pickings…” Hook looks disdainfully at the half-empty glass in his hand. “This swill is hardly worthy of our celebration, but I did happen to appropriate a very fine bottle of top shelf rum from a storage closet round back that someone had thoughtfully left unlocked.”
“Stealing rum? Loaded dice? You really are a pirate.”
Oh, and there’s the smirk, this time with added smolder. “What do you say, Swan? Fancy a nightcap?”
A little thrill runs through her at the prospect. Nope. No way. Definitely not. Terrible idea. “Yeah.” A small smile tilts the corners of her lips. “I mean, we need to keep up our cover act in case those goons are still around. We should at least be seen going upstairs together.” Dammit.
He answers with a dazzling grin and neatly steps down from his bar stool, extending his hooked arm to help her do the same. She grasps the hook and alights from her stool, but for a split second she sees emotion flash behind his eyes, gone before she can decipher it. He seems frozen in place, his face a blank slate. It takes her giving him a little tug with the hand still holding his hook to get him moving.
“Come on, pirate. Show me to the rum.”