An indecent wager, p.1
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       An Indecent Wager, p.1

           Georgette Brown
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An Indecent Wager


  By Georgette Brown


  Table of Contents

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  An Indecent Wager

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

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  By Georgette Brown

  Chapter One

  DEANA COULD MUSTER NO OATH strong enough to reflect the dismay she felt when Lord Halsten Rockwell revealed his ace and queen. She glanced at her own cards, a king and a ten, to ascertain she had indeed lost. How was it possible? Rockwell had been losing all night.

  “You owe me fifty pounds, Miss Herwood,” Lord Rockwell stated placidly as he collected the winnings in the middle of the table. It included a chit signed in her own hand.

  She suppressed a glower, for she would not be dubbed bitter in defeat. It was evident from his immaculate dress—a perfectly tied cravat, a waistcoat sewn from the finest silk and a coat cut to fit his broad shoulders in tight embrace—that Rockwell had not her situation and was not in dire need of funds. She watched him replace a beautiful onyx ring upon his hand and found herself regarding his rugged fingers. She had never before paid much heed to a man’s hand—or a woman’s for that matter—but his conveyed strength, agility and even gentleness.

  Dismissing the odd warmth that flared in her of a sudden, she glanced about the gaming hell for someone she might harry to lend her fifty quid. But the hour was late, the patrons at her table had left half an hour ago, and many of those remaining had debts themselves to pay. If only she had quit while ahead, but she had derived too much satisfaction from besting a man who possessed all that she did not—wealth, refined features and a quiet assurance that bordered on arrogance.

  “I will repay you from my next winnings,” she informed Rockwell.

  “I have a better repayment option for you, Miss Herwood.”

  She raised her brows and waited patiently as he returned his purse to his coat. He looked across the card table at her. His dark-brown eyes reflected either the light of the candelabras or some inner merriment. His stare unsettled her, but not as much as what he said next.

  “I would have you in my bed, Miss Herwood. For one night, I will take my pleasure of you, after which, your debt to me will be acquitted in its entirety.”

  “You would make of me a whore?” she asked when she had collected her wits and realized that he did not speak in jest. No one would mistake her family for members of the ton, but neither did her status merit such an affront.

  “Let us have no pretentions, Miss Herwood. You relinquished your maidenhead years ago.”

  Her cheeks—nay, her entire countenance—flushed to know that he was privy to such confidence. Younger and more impulsive, she had surrendered her maidenhead to a man she thought would care for her. A colonel in His Majesty’s Army, he was called to service before their affair could blossom into anything of consequence. Having lost her honor, she saw no reason subsequently not to indulge in the occasional affair, but she had always proceeded with great discretion. Her family had already suffered a fall from grace when she became a regular at the gaming hell, and she would not worsen the situation with more scandal.

  Holding his gaze, she replied, “You overestimate the appeal of your company, Lord Rockwell. I would sooner double my obligation.”

  “Suit yourself,” he said with dispassion and rose to his feet.

  She considered how many hands of vingt-et-un she would have to win to secure fifty pounds and the litany of woes she would hear from her mother and aunt should she fail to bring home any income. They were a household of women since her father passed away, and the want of a man was never more palpable than now. If she could erase a debt of fifty pounds through one act—one night—might she be a fool to pass upon such an opportunity? As Lord Rockwell’s barefaced assertion indicated, she no longer had any claim to a maiden’s honor.

  But what did she know of the man? Very little. He was not a frequent patron of her gaming hell. They had perhaps shared a card table once before; he had not taken much notice of her then. She, however, had not overlooked his presence, nor the women who threw themselves his way.

  He possessed a countenance she would have enjoyed studying at length, much in the way one would admire a painting or sculpture. If he favored a lass here or there, it was difficult to ascertain, though surely no mortal could resist such attentions for long. Years ago, she had heard that banns would be read betwixt him and a Spanish princess or the daughter of a Duke or some such. Admittedly, the lack of a wedding ring was one of the first things she had noted when he sat down at her table this evening.

  That he was always impeccably dressed also did not escape her, but many a man spent money he did not possess in order to maintain the appearance of wealth. She would not have allowed the wager to reach the sum of fifty pounds had she not felt assured of Lord Rockwell’s finances. Unlike others, he did not flaunt his affluence. And though down by an even grander sum at one point, he showed no apprehension at the loss. How quickly thereafter the game had betrayed her!

  Regardless of what she knew or thought of the man, her situation remained. If she did not accept his proposition, she was indebted to him for a significant amount of money. His demeanor suggested if she rebuffed him tonight, he would not necessarily renew his proposal.

  “Pray, wait.”

  Lord Rockwell paused and looked down at her.

  “I accept your offer,” she informed him with eyes downcast. Honor or no, she could not look at him.

  He inclined his head. “You honor me, Miss Herwood.”

  What a ridiculous statement, she thought, as if she had accepted an invitation for a ride in the park with him.

  “There are rooms here reserved for more, er, amorous pursuits. Shall we retire to one of them?” she inquired, meeting his gaze this time, then wishing she hadn’t. The contrast of dark intensity with the glimmer of light in his eyes disconcerted her.

  “That won’t do. The accommodations here are hardly adequate,” he replied. “My carriage shall meet you here two nights hence. The wait will deepen the anticipation.”

  Anticipation? His or hers? Perhaps his self-assurance was arrogance after all.

  “My only request,” he continued with a stern tone, “is that you do not arrive inebriated.”

  Again, she reddened. She was known to have had a glass too many on occasion, but how did this man whom she barely knew acquire such knowledge of her? And why should it matter to him what state she was in? Lest he was expecting her to perform certain acts upon him? The thought made her blush deeper.

  His features softened as he lifted her hand to his lips. “Au revoir.”

  As she watched him depart, she began to regret her decision, for she could not attribute to indignation alone the warmth she felt spreading throughout her.

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