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She threw the token onto the pile in the center of the table.
Chisholm froze. “You serious?”
“I’m always serious,” she said, letting an amused smile curl one corner of her mouth as the eyebrow above it raised. “Even when I’m playing.”
“Especially when she’s playing,” chimed Davis. He’d folded on the previous round, his tongue, and his wisdom, loosened by whiskey. A tight player when he was sober, Davis had dropped to two gold pieces after ordering his fourth glass. “Serious like a dog star…”
Chisholm shot Davis a glance to shut him up and leaned into the light to pick up the small figurine.
Brass. It was polished so smooth it almost felt soft. Meredith watched him fondle the form, a miniature of a Nazaraik, perfect in every detail. Down to the toenails. Meredith had studied the token for hours under a jewelers loupe, the craftsmanship was as spellbinding as the magic itself. She understood what Chisholm was experiencing; she could almost feel the surface glide against her own skin as she watched him roll it between his fingers.
Meredith had collected many treasures on her travels, but the Nazaraik certainly ranked among the rarest. An hermaphroditic pleasure slave, bound to the tiny statue by some curse or indenture. The token gave the owner complete control over the spellbound Nazaraik to which it was tied.
“I don’t have anything to see this with.” Chisholm said, lowering the figure back to the pile. Meredith noted that he didn’t actually let it go.
“You have the Arken.”
“My ship?” Chisholm guffawed. “Well, first off the Arken isn’t worth this much.” He raised the figure and leaned back in his chair, his face swallowed in the relative darkness. Light glinted off the token as he continued to roll it at his fingertips. “And she’s my ship.”
“Do we have a bet?”
The Nazaraik was rare to be sure, but it was one of many pleasures in Meredith’s collection. A pleasure she’d tasted. It was a pleasure to burn. Meredith was hungry for novelty. Just throwing the token on the pile had raised the stakes enough to get her heart moving a beat or two faster. If she succeeded in wresting the ship from Chisholm’s landing bay in a hand of cards, the rush of the win would be a pleasant hit to her endorphin starved system.
Chisholm leaned back to the table and gently placed the statue back on the pile. Then he pulled the Arken’s fob from his pocket and tossed it down next to the brass figurine.
Meredith let her smile spread.