FAST COMPANY (noun) def. a seasoned gambler
My father was a great poker player and every few weeks or so he’ll pull out the chips, and we’d have a go at it. For a nine-year-old, this was the height of crazy fun.
We’d play Aces Are High. I had absolutely no concept of the game’s rules—and I still don’t —but it was always entertaining. Just doing anything with Daddy was fun, no matter what. I’ll tell you sometime about the trip my family took to Matamoros to celebrate my high school graduation. Let’s just say memories, as well as Tequila, are made in Mexico…
I must have been marked by Aces Are High since I named my new undercover Texas Rangers unit Smokin’ ACES(Ammunition, Contraband, and Explosive Suppression). The Entangled Suspense stories, TEXAS HOLD’EM, FOLLOW THE COWBOY, and WILD CARD, are titled after specific poker games, as well. It just seemed appropriate considering that ACES pose as a rogue motorcycle gang.
TEXAS HOLD’EM is probably the most well known poker game of these three. Google the rules and you’ll see that it’s really pretty simple. People in Texas love it.
I sat outside to work today near a little café, and a table of four grandmothers were seated nearby. They played through breakfast, lunch, and then an afternoon snack, their hands flying as they smacked down those cards. They took a break about the time I left, one of them sticking a wad of cash into her purse for safekeeping!
At the end of the day, these Texas men are good, honest people who love their women and will do anything to make them happy.
Heroes like that really do exist. My daddy was one of them. Ask my momma and she’ll tell ya.
Here’s an excerpt from TEXAS HOLD’EM. Hope you enjoy it.
The ear-splitting roar of the Harleys echoed against the spreading mountains, a cloud of dust marking their progress. They reached the stone house after another thirty minutes and turned off their engines, the sudden silence as deep as the darkness. The mesquite trees smelled like heaven after the smoky bar, their hollow shadows leading the men toward the windows warm with light.
Santos made it to the living room and stopped before a ratty couch where he lowered himself to the cushions, every muscle in his body crying out. He was doubly glad the ranch was so isolated; if his newfound best friends could see him right now, they would have wondered just what kind of bad-ass biker he was. Of course, if they knew the real truth, more than Santos’s reputation would be at stake.
Biker gangs and Texas Rangers didn’t normally mix.
Timothy Santos had never been the kind of man who cared about normal, though, and even if he had, it wouldn’t have stopped him now. He and his undercover team had come to Rio County to stop the violence that had taken control of west Texas-and he was there to make that happen, no matter what it took, including cutting some corners that might have made other officers uneasy. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d broken one law to keep another one, and it wouldn’t be the last.
That was the only way to catch someone like El Brujo. Santos had been chasing the brutal cartel leader, whose real name was Pablo Ortega, for two years from behind a desk when he’d learned some of the west Texas motorcycle gangs, including the one they had tangled with tonight, provided muscle for Ortega. Convincing the powers-that-be to let him take the investigation undercover, he’d handpicked a group of agents and formed ACES, the Ammunition, Contraband and Explosive Suppression team. In the field, they’d become Smoking’ Aces, a renegade biker gang.
Three months into the operation, the shit had hit the fan. Santos’s deepest placed informant had gone silent.
They called her ‘Lilith.’ Only Santos knew her true identity. He’d tried so hard to forget who she really was he never thought of her real name. In every way that counted, she’d become Lilith to him. Since he’d arrived in Rio County, that task had become a lot harder.
Ortega was behind her silence. He had to be. She’d pushed the situation to the edge just like she’d told Santos she would and she’d fallen over. If she’d been lucky, Ortega had killed her. Santos didn’t want to think about the other possibilities.
His main goal now was to recover her. He would have done the same for any member of his team because no one got left behind on his watch. No one. Santos would find her or die trying.
He didn’t notice the blood trickling down his arm until the wetness reached his fingers.
Jessie Delacourt, the only woman on the team, muttered “Good grief…” then turned and stomped toward the kitchen where her own first aid kit was kept. A former medic in Iraq, she hadn’t been at the bar tonight because Santos had sent her and one of the others to Presidio the day before. They’d gone to investigate a tip that had, unfortunately, turned out false. The whole team was frustrated and angry.
When Jessie returned and saw Raymond Bentley’s face, she motioned him over to the couch as well. Why the hell couldn’t they do their jobs without getting beat-up, her disgusted expression said. If she’d been there, she could have put Nasty down for good and not even broken a sweat.
Bentley shuffled over and sat down beside Santos. The agent’s ginger hair was spiked with dirt and since he’d started the brawl tonight, his face was almost as bloody as his boss’s. His job for the team was to handle the biker angle and keep their cover intact. Jessica cleaned him up first, ignoring his protestations that she was hurting him as she swiped his face with alcohol.
“Grow up,” she said, slapping a bandage on his temple. “You sound like a little girl. What’s wrong with you people?”
Santos kept his silence when she turned to him and finished what the other women had started, cleaning his wound then wrapping it again, this time with a sterile bandage. “You should go get some stitches.” Her voice was gruff.
“Yeah, I should. I should do a lot of things, but I don’t.”
“Well what about a tetanus shot? Which was the last time you got--”
Santos interrupted her with a dismissive way and glanced around the room. “Nothing counts right now except getting our source out, safe and sound. That’s what we’re here to do and we aren’t leaving till it happens.”
The others murmured their agreement as Bentley bumped his knuckles with Santos’s fist. He winced and held back a groan. Picking up the first aid supplies, Jessica headed for the kitchen with Austin Wills, another agent, following close behind. The smell of coffee wafted out a few minutes later and when they reappeared, they carried a full pot and five mugs.
Jessica passed out the cups and Austin filled them. Bentley sipped the coffee then set the mug down and scrubbed his face with both hands, his beard rasping in the silence.
“What a night… We ought to get a medal for putting up with this kind of crap.”
Sitting at the other end of the couch from Santos was Joachim Guillermo. At Bentley’s words, Santos felt Joachim go still. In charge of their drug investigations and a crack sniper, the black-garbed agent saw everything and spoke rarely, his glittering eyes hooded with secrecy. He was deadly and efficient and Santos was halfway afraid of him. Jessie picked up his tension as well, looking at him nervously from her seat at the kitchen bar.
It wasn’t Joachim who reacted first, though. Before anyone realized he was even moving, Austin Wills slammed down the coffee pot on the rickety coffee table in front of the couch, making the rest of them jump, his Texas twang deepening as his anger got the best of him. His specialty was gambling and his hands were a blur when he dealt the cards.
“We knew the risks when we signed on.” His spoke hotly. “If you have a problem with that, you should hit the road.”
Everyone stared in surprise. Austin and Bentley were like brothers.
Bentley held his hands up. “I didn’t say I had a problem, shithead. All I meant was--”
Ignoring his friend’s words, Austin took two steps toward the other man, his face fierce. “You’re about to have a real problem, buddy, and I’m it--”
Before they take a swing at each other, Santos intervened, his voice sharp but weary. “That’s enough. Take it outside or shut the hell up, both of you.”
The two men fell quiet, the angry glares they exchanged continuing the argument albeit in silence.
As he wearily massaged his forehead with his thumbs, Santos wondered how long Smokin’ ACES could survive. They were down to the bare bones, their nerves shot, their judgment slipping. It’d been three weeks since they’d learned anything useful and six weeks since he’d heard from the woman he’d planted so deeply.
If ACES’s cover was blown, the bikers would kill them and if the cartel found out, they’d end up wishing they were dead.
The time had come for him to talk to the sheriff.
Texas Hold 'Em by Kay David
Book #1 in the Smokin' Aces series
Part law enforcement. Part criminal. And all deliciously bad...
Working undercover as part of an elite team of Rangers disguised as the Smokin’ ACES biker gang, Timothy Santos walks the thin line between law-enforcer and law-breaker. With one of his informants missing—and possibly dead—at the hands of vicious cartel leader El Brujo, Santos will do whatever it takes to find justice. Even if it means heading to Rio County to look up his former lover…who’s not only the sheriff, but Santos’s only lead.
Rose Renwick is not happy to see Santos. In the past, their chemistry had been explosive—raw, sensual, and unforgettable—but she’d been burned. Now Santos is back in town, looking just as lethal and as irresistible as she remembered. But Santos wants something from her—and suddenly Rose’s family is in danger and her town is under attack. The only way out is to trust the one man she swore never to trust again. Ante up...
Living in such diverse countries as the United Arab Emirates, Argentina and Bolivia has made Kay appreciate her own great home in Texas while allowing her to add intimate details to her books of the exotic settings she knows firsthand.
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