General Fiction posted August 26, 2015 Chapters: 2 3 -4- 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Michael sets off for the game after dinner

A chapter in the book Anthony

Welcome Aboard Part Two

by alexisleech

From the previous chapter

Anthony nodded in agreement. ‘It certainly has. Just being a good poker player isn’t enough to make you a winner these days. Intuition is your most valuable asset, especially when you’re playing with outsiders. How did you hear about the game in the first place?’

A look passed between Alisha and Michael before he answered. ‘I heard about it when I was playing in Nice last week. There was a friend of this Anderson guy playing at one of the casinos, and he suggested I might be interested in the game tonight.’
Although he couldn’t put his finger on the reason why, Anthony suddenly felt uneasy…

In an effort to change the subject, Anthony asked Alisha if she’d enjoyed her stay in Monaco so far. She admitted she hadn’t seen much other than the Marina and the beach, but said she’d enjoyed people watching every time she went out.
     Anthony chuckled. ‘I know what you mean. When I first moved here I used to spend hours down at the Marina watching the world go by. Not only was it entertaining, it reminded me of home.’
     ‘Home?’ Alisha asked with a raised eyebrow. ‘I thought this was your home?’
     ‘Yes, it is, but I enjoy seeing my family in Italy as well.'
     ‘So, how long are you going for?’ Alisha asked as she set her glass back down on the frosted surface of the table. ‘Michael told me your family lives near Naples ... Is that where you’re going at the end of the week?’
     After topping up his glass, Anthony put the bottle back in the chiller. ‘Normally, but I’m going to view some property near Rome, so I’ll be going there first. After I’ve got my business out of the way, I’ll be indulging my mother’s need to introduce me to every single Italian girl she’s come across since my last visit. She's convinced that finding me a good Italian wife is the only way to make me settle down and give her grandchildren she can see on a regular basis.’
      ‘Is that why you're looking at property there?’ Michael asked.
     ‘No. The properties I’m looking at next week are for my portfolio.’
     ‘Yes, my property portfolio. I’ve been buying cheap properties in Italy since the prices started to dive. It’s a lot safer than gambling, and it brings in a healthy return because I let them all out.’
     Alisha looked impressed and glanced over at her husband. ‘I wish you'd done something like that, Michael. I’m sure we'd be a lot better off now if you had. Does it cost a lot to get started?' she asked.
     Anthony was just about to answer when Maria, Ricky’s sister, appeared with a steaming bowl of pasta in one hand and salad in the other. ‘This lady makes the best seafood linguini I’ve ever tasted,’ Anthony boasted as the aroma filled the air. ‘Ricky and I do well enough with regard to our day-to-day cooking, but his sister outshines both of us when it comes down to making something special.’
    Marie smiled at the compliment, and after she’d placed the bowls on the table, she retrieved the butter from the bar fridge and put it beside the sliced French bread in a linen lined basket. Satisfied she could do no more, she told Anthony there were creme brulees and assorted cheese in the fridge, before she left them in peace.
     ‘So, you were about to tell us how much it costs to get started in the rental property market,’ Michael reminded Anthony as he offered the pasta bowl to Alisha to help herself. ‘I certainly have to find another way to earn a living. The stakes seem to be getting higher and the events fewer these days. Playing poker is nowhere near as lucrative as it was ten years ago.’
     Anthony started to help himself to Pasta after Alisha finished and passed him the bowl. ‘I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know how much you would need now, but I started with about two hundred thousand after I had a good win in Paris. Like you, I was beginning to lose too often, so I thought I’d better start putting something aside for a rainy day. As it happens, it was one of the best decisions of my life. After I let the first two out, I used them as collateral to buy another three, and before I knew it, I had forty-five properties. My portfolio is now worth over four million, and I’m collecting enough rent over and above paying the mortgages to fund a reasonable lifestyle.’
     Michael burst out laughing. ‘Reasonable! I would have thought living on a yacht like this and being able to travel the world when you like is more than just a ‘reasonable’ lifestyle.’
     A conceited grin stretched across Anthony’s face. 'To be honest, the yacht was the best investment I ever made. If I want to move on, I just have to pull up the anchor and set sail, not that I’ve ever wanted to. I’m not confined to living anywhere in particular, and apart from the cost of my mooring, the yacht costs very little to maintain. Everything runs off solar power, including the desalinator, and we can use the sails if we need to conserve fuel. I could be away for months if I wanted, and at very little cost.’
     ‘It sounds like my idea of heaven,’ Alisha admitted. ‘I hate the idea of being confined to one place. Do you never get the urge to do exactly that … set sail and go wherever you want?’
     Anthony hesitated before he answered. He had, especially after his divorce, but the need to settle down had started to niggle at his subconscious of late. Sure, his business meant he could pretty much do what he liked, but he needed an anchor greater than the one on his yacht. He needed a reason to return to one place, and apart from his family in Italy, he was yet to find anything that made him want to connect with anywhere in particular.
     ‘It could be…’ he agreed. ‘Although I’ve never put it to the test. Knowing you can survive for weeks on end while you’re at sea is an interesting concept, but I suspect it would be pretty lonely.’
     After they finished their pasta, Anthony asked if they would like some cheese or dessert. Alisha said she would, but Michael declined the offer and looked at his watch.

     ‘I need to get going,’ he announced. ‘The game starts at nine, and I want to mingle a bit beforehand just in case I smell any trouble. Will you excuse me?’
     If Anthony was annoyed at Michael’s early departure, he didn’t let it show. ‘Would you like Ricky to give you a lift? He has to drop his sister back home anyway, so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.’
     Michael looked grateful.  ‘That would be great … as long as it doesn’t put him to any trouble.’
     He stood up before reaching over and giving Alisha a peck on the cheek. ‘I don’t think I’ll be that late, but you know how it goes…’
     Anthony assumed from their body language that this was a common occurrence. ‘Don’t worry, Michael. I’ll look after Alisha until you return,’ he assured him. ‘I’ll also tell Ricky not to lock up when he goes to bed, but if you could do it when you get back I’d appreciate it. You can never be too careful, especially at this time of year.’
     After Anthony found Ricky and asked him to give Michael a lift at the same time as his sister, he and Alisha watched all three of them get into the Lexus Anthony kept parked on the quay close to his mooring.
     ‘Would you like some port to go with the cheese?’ Anthony asked Alisha after the car drove off and they returned to the table.
     ‘Why not,’ she answered without hesitation.
     For the next hour or so they chatted amiably until Alisha stiffled a yawn. Sleeping in the van had been difficult, and the thought of sinking into a comfortable queen sized bed with fluffy pillows and fresh, crisp, white linen was something she'd looked forward to since she and Michael were shown to their cabin by Ricky. The evening had been relaxed and informative, and not once had Anthony said or done anything to make her feel uncomfortable. Little did she know, had she not been married, he would have been tempted to try and seduce her. The more they talked, the port making her relaxed and vivacious, the more he felt drawn to her.

     'Would you mind if I call it a night?' Alisha asked as the palm of her hand tried to cover another yawn. 

     Anthony assured her it was fine. It had been a long day and he was ready to hit the sack as well. After Alisha stood up, she thanked Anthony for a wonderful evening before making her way towards the steps that led to the cabins below. Although he was tempted to follow her, Anthony stayed on the deck for a few more minutes and finished his port. Saying goodnight as they stood at their cabin doors might have been awkward, and he didn't want anything to spoil what had been an enjoyable, albeit frustrating evening. There had been moments when their eyes had met and he was sure she felt as attracted to him as he was to her.

     After he picked up their empty glasses and put them beside the sink in the bar, Anthony made his way to his cabin. Although he was still concerned about the mysterious game Michael had gone to, he assumed he had enough sense to leave if it turned out to be crooked. Anthony just hoped he remembered to lock up when he got back…


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