Gideon Westwood is passing time at a debutante ball when he encounters a man from his past he'd give anything to avoid.
Unfortunately for him, Gareth Belmain isn't in the mood to be pushed aside.
A wager leads to a walk in the garden and a kiss to angry words.
Will a public challenge put an end to any hope they might have for a future together?
"If you're short of funds, I don't wish to gamble with you for money."
Gareth smirked, painted lips twisting. "Such an honorable man you are. Fine then, if we shall not play for money, then we play for love."
A chill washed over Gideon. He shifted on the delicate chair, fearing it might splinter if he abused it too much. "For love?"
Gareth whispered, "You were used to love me dearly. We could play for that." Gideon's dismay must have shown on his face, and again he cursed his inability to master the stoic boredom society expected of its young men and women.
"Or maybe not. What stakes would you care to play for, my Corinthian friend?"
The sardonic emphasis on Corinthian hurt a bit, as he had no doubt that Gareth intended it to. It angered Gideon that Gareth held such power over him still, to arouse his emotions, his body this way. Instead of answering the question Gareth had asked, he let his hurt and anger have sway. "Why are you without funds? Too many hours of shopping in Bond Street, my dear?"
Gareth's blue eyes flickered and his narrow jaw tightened. Gideon's gaze focused on the tight pinch of his full lips. Those lips had touched his... He bit back a curse as his pantaloons grew uncomfortably tight. "Fuck." The coarse word was a hoarse whisper that he hoped no one else picked up on.
Gareth's tension faded and his eyes sparkled with mirth. "No, dear heart. A gentleman never pays his tailor before his gaming debts. If you must know, I played a little too deep the other night at that new hell, off Curzon street."
The lure of cards had always been impossible for Gareth to resist. They'd often played together at school and through long rainy days at home. So Gideon knew that Gareth might be susceptible to the lure of the cards, but he wasn't a bad player. While losing wasn't unheard of, it was rare. "I can float you a bit till quarter day if you like." Gideon offered.
"Kind of you, but no. If you were inclined to lose to me, that would be one thing. But I am not in need of charity." The cards were snapped down onto the table sharply. "Cut."