ATC FOR "WHELAN'S MEN"

He jolted awake, which in turn woke her up as well.

"You okay?" She looked up at him.

"Yeah."

"Dream?" She reached up to rub his face.

"No, not exactly."

"What then?"

"When you said you weren't 'dealing, honestly'; you meant you weren't dealing, honestly, didn't you?"

"Matt, you didn't see him – and his boys."

"Honey, they could've hurt you."

"They were too busy drinking to worry about me."

"I wish you wouldn't do stuff like that."

She propped herself up on an elbow.

"And what exactly was I supposed to do? Let them ambush you? When his men saw him welch on his bet, they all left. That made it a little more even fight."

As right as he knew she was, it still didn't set right with him. He still didn't like it.

"How did you know you could beat him?"

The moment those words left his lips he regretted his choice of words.

She smirked at him.

"Really? Really, Matt?"

"You know what I mean."

"No. No, I don't know what you mean. Why don't you enlighten me."

"I just meant . . . I mean . . ." He knew anything would be fodder for her, no matter what he said. So, in his best interest, he smiled and closed his mouth.

"Good boy. Now, as to my dealing abilities, I'll let that slide. But, in regards to my men-reading skills, you should know by now that I can read a man at ten paces, and women at twenty! I can find out more about them in five minutes than you can in an hour."

"You're right. I just hate the chances you take . . . on my behalf."

"Okay, then next time, I'll just retire my room, let you be outnumbered six-on-one in the street, and see how that works out. That be okay with you?"

He was beat, and he knew it.

"Please don't. I need every advantage I can get."

"Good!" She lay down on her back, and pulled him with her. "Now how about you start paying your gambling debts, and show me just how appreciative you are for my help."

He placed his arms on either side of her head and began his repayment for her services.

"You just let me know when you've been paid in full."

"I think I'll put you on a payment plan."

"Yes, ma'am."

Hours later, she was snuggled once again in arms with a look on contentment on her face. He was still awake, once again replaying the scene from downstairs. She'd used her charm, usually reserved for rowdy customers, on him of all people. And, he had been none the wiser. She really did tell him the truth.

"I wasn't dealing, honestly."

He pulled her closer, and whispered into her hair.

"I'm glad you're my ace in the hole."

"That's a fact, Cowboy."

Another thought snapped into his mind. Smiling even broader, he hugged her close.

"Finally figured that one out too, did you?

Content in each other's arms, they waited for the sunrise.

A man, and his . . . Queen of Hearts.