In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(46) by Lorraine Heath
Or perhaps not.
Jim chuckled. “When I was young and in search of a name, it seemed appropriate. As I’ve grown older, I recognize the foolishness of my youth.”
“You’re another one of Feagan’s children.”
He tilted his head slightly. “I am.”
“I shan’t hold your choice of name against you. I expect if we were all honest, we’d discover we’ve all been foolish at one time or another.”
“You’re very kind.”
What the bloody hell was she doing? She was charming them. Charming them all. As though they were equals, as though they had something in common. All three of his mates were looking at her like besotted fools.
Her gaze darted around the table. “What have you here? What game are you playing?”
“Brag,” Luke said.
“Oh?” She looked at him with interest, a smile upon those red lips—lips he knew the feel and taste of—and arched a brow. “How is it played? The one with the best card brags on his exploits?”
He scowled, growled, and was fairly losing patience. “One wagers on the outcome. The gent with the best set of cards wins—or bluffs the others into believing he has the best set of cards.”
“And what if a lady has the best set of cards?”
The little chit! With the set of her chin, the challenge in her eyes, she was daring him to let her play.
“Then the lady would win. But I’ve never known that to happen. Frannie has tried on many occasions, but she’s never met with success.”
“So it’s a gentleman’s game?”
She gave him a sweet smile. “May I try?”
“Have you any idea how to play?”
“I have an inkling. After all, I have a brother, and he’s a rather notorious rake.”
“So you’ve played before.”
“I’ve watched.” She gave him an impish smile. “I was teasing earlier. I know what brag is. So may I play?”
“By all means. Jack, give her your chair.”
“I’m not sitting this one out,” Jack said, grinning. He did offer his chair to Catherine, before securing another for himself and bringing it to the table.
“Did you want to play, Frannie?” Luke asked.
“No, as you so kindly pointed out, I have no skill when it comes to cards.”
Damnation! Had he hurt her feelings?
“I meant no offense,” he said.
“None was taken. I will, however, front Lady Catherine two hundred pounds.”
Luke narrowed his eyes. Something was afoot. “What were you studying tonight?”
“How to determine the menu for dinner. Rather boring actually.” Frannie pulled up a chair and sat between Jack and Catherine, slightly behind Catherine. “But I shall gladly watch. Perhaps I’ll learn something.”
“You’re going to learn how to lose two hundred pounds, right fast,” Jim said.
Frannie did little more than offer him a mischievous smile.
Luke gathered up the cards and began to shuffle. “I’ll deal. Minimum bet is five pounds, maximum is twenty-five.”
He watched as Jack slid the chips over to Catherine. “Each of these is worth five. And the first thing we do is ante up.” He tossed a chip into the center of the table. Catherine followed suit. Everyone else tossed in his ante.
“The game is five-card brag,” Luke said. “The rules are these: Never show your cards to anyone—not even to Frannie. Never say anything about your hand. Andnever fold out of turn.”
“Oh, I shan’t fold at all. I’ll have no chance of winning if I fold.” She leaned toward the table, peered around, and whispered. “My brother always gave up so easily. The other gents took his money. I don’t think he understood the strategy.”
Luke met Jack’s gaze and knew he was thinking the same thing: it was going to be like pilfering the pockets of an old man. Far, far too easy.
She picked up her cards and studied them. Her brow furrowed. She scowled. Then she set them in her lap.
“You must keep them on the table,” Luke told her.
Laughing, she set the cards on the table. “Oh, you think I’m cheating?”
“No, but it’s the rules.”
She nodded. “Very well. I bet first?”
Gnawing her lip, she looked at each set of cards—even though she could only see the back of them. “I’ll wager five.” She tossed her chip into the center.
“Ten,” Jack said.
“Oh, Jack,” Frannie scolded, slapping his arm. “Don’t take all her money the first round.”
“Come on, Frannie, it’s always more fun when there’s more at risk.”
“I’m probably going to regret this,” Bill said, “but I fold.”
“I’ll match the bet,” Jim said, and tossed in his ten chips.
“Shouldn’t it be fifteen?” Catherine asked.
“No, you only match the last bet made.” Luke matched the ten. “Now you match the ten.”
“Or I can wager more?”
“You can, but—”
“I’ll wager twenty.”
“Twenty-five,” Jack said.
Catherine looked at him and smiled. “You must have a jolly good hand.”
Jack grinned. Luke knew that grin. The blighter had nothing.
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