By Philip Ardagh; Tig Sutton

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Mom elbowed him. " Owen still looked worried about me so I made myself smile. "I do. Go kick that guy's butt. " His face relaxed and he nodded. "Will do. " I shook my head. " "You know him better than I do, but no. Not at all. " I looked between her and Mark, who looked interested in the question but also a little resigned. No doubt he'd realized when Owen announced his plans that he and Wendy would be stuck with me for the evening. I didn't want to get in their way. "We," I said, emphasizing the word, "aren't doing anything.

He grinned at her then said, "I hope you all enjoy it as much as my lovely friend here. " He announced everyone and we clapped as instructed, then he said, "One of my favorite duties as captain is performing weddings, and we have a full roster of them this time out. " Couple after couple, he called names and we clapped as they stood. I noticed how differently the couples reacted: one bride-to-be snapped at her fiancé when he didn't stand quickly enough, one stood so close to hers that I wondered if they'd been glued together, and the members of another couple made crosses of their fingers at each other simultaneously as if warding off evil before bursting out laughing.

We watched as the dealer laid down a fifth card next to the four face-up on the table. " Was he risking a hundred dollars? Two hundred, even? I didn't know how worried to be. " I whispered to Austin. "Greens are twenty-five bucks, orange fifty. " My stomach twisted so hard it hurt. There had to be at least twenty green chips there, and ten orange ones. Plus whatever the rest were worth. This was so much worse than I'd imagined. What was Owen doing? I took an involuntary step forward, but Austin took gentle but firm hold of my upper arm.

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