"I call." He had an unbeatable hand, well a hard to beat one anyway. He tossed enough chips into the middle of the table to cover his call. His boys would laugh their asses off if they knew who he was hanging with tonight. Eli was having a good night, though. He could stand up to a bit of ribbing for the kind of dough he stood to make off these clowns.
"One, two, three." Normally discreet to a fault when she wanted to be, put alcohol in her and she was a regular motor mouth with little to no volume control. He closed his eyes, rubbing the top of his freshly shaved head with the palm of his hand. Hopefully the others thought her rambling meant nothing. Of course her counting three of a kind did not mean it was aces. If she blew this hand he was getting rid of her there and then. There was no reason for her to be here if she was not going to play cards.
They had all anted up when he opened his eyes so his prayers had been answered. Either they hadn't heard her or took her words to be the ramblings of an intoxicated girl. "Read ‘em and weep, boys." He placed a kiss to the top card, the queen of hearts, before laying his cards on the table. He fanned them out so the other three could see what he had. His hand consisted of three aces and a second queen giving him a pair of them. It was his best hand of the night.
"I think Eli won." Veronica's speech was a little slurred but it was her bubbly tone of voice that annoyed him. He hated to admit that she was cute even if this was a side of Veronica Mars he had never seen.
It had been a while since any of them had left the table and he needed to stretch his legs. He slid his chair away from the table for a much needed bathroom break. Maybe there was still some of that fine 09er food in the kitchen. His grandmother was a good cook, but what he sampled tonight even put her to shame. He was not prepared for the pretty blonde to seat herself on his lap. Her arm slid around his neck as if they were intimate lovers rather than friendly comrades. He had to remind himself it was the alcohol making her act this way.
"You won," she said with a soft giggle. "That was a good hand, wasn't it?"
"I did and, yes, it was a very good hand." He glanced at the others who were looking at them expectantly. Expecting what exactly? For him to take advantage of someone who was drunk? If he didn't do something would she move onto one of them? He was not sure any of them would let her not being completely in possession of her faculties stand in their way. Duncan, her ex, was glaring at him. Eli recognized the look because he had honed a death stare of his own over the years. He had never been on the receiving end of one under these circumstances though.
Her fingers toyed with his earring causing her thumb to graze his earlobe. His eyes fell closed at the contact. He forced his mind to remain clear and focused. She was intoxicated. This was Veronica. Her three boys here would be all over him if he tried anything inappropriate. Not to mention her father who Eli was sure was somewhere at the shindig in the main house. She was off limits, but as she got cozier on his lap it was difficult to remember that.
"You smell good." She leaned closer to him looking at the skull and cross bone earring. The skull had two diamonds for eyes.
"V," he whispered. His arms went around her when he felt her weight shifting on his lap.
"Why don't you two get a room," Logan said. "Some of us are here to play cards. Not snuggle with our honeys."
No one else said anything. Eli was not really in a position to not claim her as his honey. If he did that would make her look bad. And it would make the three of them wonder why under the influence she chose him over one of them.
"I never knew Veronica was into riff raff. That explains a lot," Logan continued. Eli was not sure who Duncan was getting more pissed at. Logan for what he was saying about his ex or Eli for having said ex on his lap snuggling up.
He stood then, supporting her as she slid off his lap. "Come on, Chica, let's get some fresh air."
"A hose might be what you need. She seems pretty clingy to me. When a girl interferes with her guy's card playing and he does nothing about it something's seriously wrong."
"Enough," he finally said, glaring at Logan. They had come to some sort of odd understanding during their joint detention. But he would not stand by and let him diss Veronica. Or any girl. Why wasn't her ex standing up for her? Was he that much of a coward? The glares he was shooting Eli's way told him the boy's feelings ran deep and hard for Veronica.
He draped an arm around Veronica's shoulders and led her out of the pool house. He really needed to take a leak, but she needed to walk this one off more urgently. She stepped away from him and took a swig from the Jack Daniel's bottle. He was surprised to see no one from the party out by the pool. Hopefully there would be some food left. It wouldn't sober her up but it would help a little.
"Don't you think you've had enough?"
"No way," she said. "I think, in fact, I haven't had enough. Come on, Eli, loosen up. Where's your sense of adventure?"
She set the bottle of J.D. on a poolside table after he declined when she offered him the bottle. He wondered what she had planned now. He never knew with Veronica. His attention was diverted from the blonde to the bottle curious how much of the amber liquid she had taken in. Enough, he realized. He turned his attention back to her, catching her midway into removing her top.
"Come on, V, what are you doing?" They were the only ones out there but that could change at any moment. He had never seen her like this, on the verge of being out of control. It was the one constant since he had known her. She was always in control. Calm, cool, collected. She was far from those things tonight.
"Have you ever been skinny dipping?" She let her top fall to her feet on the pool deck. She had a sports bra on so he was not in trouble yet. Not completely anyway but he knew he was on a slippery slope. His eyes fell closed, mentally counting to ten. He sensed her come closer before he got to the number three. The heat of her body nearby made him hyperaware. Her hands encircled his upper arms and he took a deep breath. He had not gotten to number five and he already forgot what it was he was trying to do.
"You're a strong one, Eli," she said as her fingertips grazed his biceps. "Come on, have some fun." She stood on her tip toes, increasing the pressure against his arms ever so slightly and blew in his ear. "Or would you rather be in there playing poker with the boys?"
"If you weren't drunk."
"Drunk? I'm not drunk."
"Right. You come onto me every other day of the week."
"Maybe I just noticed what a good looking guy you are."
"Right, Girl. I know you better than that."
"You just think you do."
"V, come on. You'll hate yourself in the morning and I don't even want to think of what your opinion of me would be."
"Is the thought of kissing me that bad?" She leaned closer. She was not listening to him at all. He spotted Logan and Duncan watching from the pool house. Eli wondered how much they had seen. Not that it mattered. The key was getting Veronica out of here. Kiss the girl or let her get ridiculed by the likes of Logan Echolls because he witnessed her getting rebuffed. It was a tough call, but Eli did not believe in sullying a girl's reputation unnecessarily. And, oddly in this case, kissing her would probably do the least damage.
He had never let himself think about kissing her or what it would be like. Oh sure when they had first exchanged words he had thoughts that were far from pure or gentlemanly. He never would act on them, though.
"All right, V, we play this one your way. And then we go find you some strong black coffee and some food." He was putting off the inevitable, hoping she would turn around and walk away. Logan would never be the wiser, he would never know what they were doing or talking about.
She giggled. "Deal."
"The bottle stays here by the pool."
"If you insist. What's the matter, Eli? You scared of little ol' me?"
He scoffed with a shake of his head. "Of you?" He was not scared of anyone, certainly not a wisp of a girl like Veronica. No matter how smart and cool a cookie she might be. He was not sure what she wanted from him tonight was the problem. Hell, he wasn't even sure what he wanted. He had come here to play cards and get his money back not play games with her.
"You talk too much."
"I talk too much?" He had barely gotten a word in since they'd stepped out of the pool house. What conversation was she listening to?
"Yeah, you don't seem to take a hint."
That did it. He grabbed a hold of her and brought her to him. It wasn't often a girl called his prowess into question. He had to squelch that before she got out of hand. She gasped and he took her mouth then. He had intended on a brief kiss, little more than a peck that was more brotherly in nature than anything. He had not counted on how warm and inviting her mouth would be. He released his hold on her arms and slid his hands around her waist. She made a soft mewling sound against his kiss and he closed his eyes, forgetting for the time being that they had an audience.
His lips fit against hers in a comfortable way. She was accepting and pliant as he deepened the kiss. His hands remained at the small of her back. She would never know how difficult it was for him to stop them from going lower, to cup her ass and bring her against him the way he wanted her to be just now.
Her lips parted and she darted her tongue along the length of his lower lip. He was torn between desire and doing the right thing. He had to stop this before it went any further. She would never forgive herself tomorrow morning. She would never forgive him tomorrow morning. He liked Veronica and now that he kissed her he suspected maybe there was a little more than like to what he felt.
He drew away and saw that her lips were still puckered expectantly. She was tempting but drunk he reminded himself. That doused him better than a cold shower could any day.
"Come on, Chica, let's find you some food." He bent to retrieve her top from the pool deck and handed it to her. He didn't need anyone thinking anymore happened than what did. His eyes darted to the pool house. Logan had a bemused look on his face. Duncan looked as if he was going to come out here to kill Eli any second. Let the boy try. He needed to burn off the steam from that kiss somehow.
"Okay," she whispered as she struggled to get her shirt back on. He steadied her and helped her pull the shirt over her head and shook his head slightly at how drunk she was. Hopefully, she wouldn't remember kissing him. Mentally, he went through the contents of his emergency booty call list as Veronica made an effort at putting herself together. One look into those eyes told him she would remember. And until he knew how she would react, how things would be between them he wouldn't be calling any other girls. He respected her too much to kiss her like he just had and move onto someone else as if she meant nothing.
"Which way to the kitchen?" he asked as they walked toward the entrance to the house. He offered her his hand, hoping she would take it so he could be a steadying force for her as she tried to walk through a houseful of other intoxicated people. Most were probably in worse shape than she was.
"Um, this way," Veronica said. She looked at him with a smile as she took his hand, pointing in the direction of the kitchen with her free hand. Whatever happened tomorrow Eli suspected they would be all right.
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