Claire scooped up her cards. She was strong in hearts, with aces in the three other suits. She glanced at Luca. He folded his hand. ‘Pass.’

That was no help. She wished he’d take the game just a little bit seriously, but a cricket match on TV had most of his attention. He’d agreed to partner her only after badgering from Max and Al. They were too serious, analysing every hand and regularly finding fault with each other’s tactics.

Al bid clubs. Max raised his eyes.

Claire had recognised their unspoken competition for her affections on the first night, when they’d tried to drink each other stupid. It made her variously amused, annoyed and just plain weary. ‘Six hearts,’ she said.

‘Seven spades,’ Max shouted as if bidding itself was a triumph.

Al passed, looking grumpy.

Luca went to get beer and check the cricket score.

The funny thing was she’d have considered any of them romantically, if they’d only played their cards right. They were all smart, reliable, not prone to any but run-of-the-mill shortcomings.

‘Seven hearts.’

‘Woo hoo,’ said Luca, returning with a stubby and a box of Pizza Shapes.

‘Cocky,’ said Max. ‘Eight Spades.’

Al groaned audibly.

‘Eight hearts.’

‘All yours.’

Noting Max’s disappointment Claire studied her options—a joker and two jacks.

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