Paying the Piper

Book Cover: Paying the Piper
Part of the Short Stories series:
Editions:Digital: $ 1.49
ISBN: 978-1-61372-488-0

Michael isn’t used to casino blackjack dealers telling him to cash in, but that’s what Daniel Aldaine does, recognizing the group of men waiting to collect what Michael owes them. He even fronts Michael the money he’s short to get the goons off his back. It’s the beginning of the best relationship Michael’s ever known, but a problem he doesn’t even recognize he has could end it all.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artists:

I’VE never liked those old love story movies where the girl decides she’s had enough and the guy has to chase her down at the bus stop, the train station, or the airport to beg, plead, and grovel to get her to come back and give him another chance. This is not one of those love stories anyway; first, because neither Daniel nor I would ever cop to being the girl in this relationship, and second, because I refuse to grovel. He can leave. He decided he’s had enough, and so fine. He can fly back to Queven, or wherever the hell he came from, and I will just go on with my life.

His plane will take off in thirty-six hours. I don’t know where he is right now, and I don’t care. Except I know where he’s not. He’s not at the apartment. Most of his stuff is gone too. And he’s not at work. That’s where I met him, eight months, seven days, five hours ago. Not that I’ve been counting.


He works at the casino dealing blackjack. He’s a good dealer. The way his fingers dance over the cards, slide the chips around, it’s something else. I don’t really have a hand fetish or anything, but when you’re as far back as I was that night, and those hands are the ones dealing the cards that will determine the fate of your kneecaps, you tend to notice. And I did, believe me. I watched those hands closely as they dealt out my fate. And I won too. For the first time in I couldn’t remember how long, I won. Thing is, I would have kept going, lost it all in the end, but he stopped dealing. When I looked up, that’s when I discovered his eyes.

“You should cash in,” he told me quietly.

I laughed at him and tried not to pay attention to the eyes or the hands anymore, definitely ignored the accent because that would set me off, and I made a motion with my fingers over the table. “Just deal.”

He hesitated, and I had to look into those eyes again.

“Isn’t telling a customer to cash in just a little bit against your job description?”

He smiled, the most disarming of all disarming smiles, and jutted his chin out, past me to a knot of men at the far end of the room. “They’ve been watching you.”

I turned to look and had that dropping sensation in the pit of my stomach you read about in suspense novels. My hands went clammy, sweat popped out on my upper lip, and my whole body seemed to turn a little jelly-like around the edges.

“Just cash in, give them what you owe them, and call it a night.”

“That’s a good idea.”

He nodded and dealt the rest of the table back into the game. I gathered up my winnings and headed for the cashier. They met me there, collected all I had, which was just about what I owed, and ushered me out into the street, around back, probably to collect the rest out of my hide.

I might have lost my kneecaps, and my mobility, if Daniel hadn’t taken a smoke break at that moment. Right from the beginning, his timing has been impeccable. He approached me with a smile and a nod to the “gentlemen” with me and pulled out his wallet.

“Glad I ran into you, finally. Got paid, so, here.” He handed me a wad of bills while I tried not to look as confused as I felt. I didn’t know this guy from a hole in the ground, and he was handing me a fistful of money like we were old friends.

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