This short, sexy regency tells the story of a couple torn apart in a time when love between men was a sin deemed punishable by death or deportation.
A Gentleman Never Does
A Regency M/M Romance
Short of funds, Gareth proposes to wager for love.
Does Gideon dare play out this hand?
While passing time at a debutant ball, Gideon Westwood 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.
Wagers, romantic gardens, shared kisses and angry words overheard add fuel to the fire that flares between them.
Will a duel put an end to Gareth's hopes for a future together?
"Why hesitate? It's the card room at a debutante's ball, not a den of iniquity or a Peninsular battlefield." The lazy drawl came just before Gideon Westwood became aware of the heady scent of bay rum, the warm press of a body aginst his in the doorway.
In front of Gideon lay a room full of men in evening garb, chatting idly and playing cards with practiced boredom, mingling with the occasional jewel-clad matron flirtatiously fluttering a fan. Candlelight flickered on bored faces and servants with trays of drinks moved silently among the crowded tables. There were a few open tables, and at some a great deal of money was changing hands. He wouldn't join those. A gentleman never played deep in mixed company. Serious gambling was for the clubs; this was just a way to pass the evening while doing his duty to his family.
His carefully tied neck cloth became a little too tight, sweat dampened his palms. Behind him lurked a ballroom full of white clad young misses, each determined to capture a prize on the marriage mart. Not that he was much of a prize; he was only respectably set up, a few thousand a quarter, and though he had a scattering of titled relatives, he was unlikely, barring a plague on the house of Westwood, to ever inherit any of them. If all a young lady's family required in a husband was passable good looks, a modest country home, and a merely comfortable existence, he'd be hounded to the altar sooner or later. No sense making it easy for them by haunting dance floors and such. He'd left his lady mother chatting with the other dowagers and his younger sister making up a set with a pimple-faced baronet, and fled for safer ground. His hesitation in the card room doorway had been intended to insure that he'd avoid an encounter with the gentleman who had just spoken.
Playing cards wasn't his only option; he could blow a cloud in the gardens. It was tempting to do just that, but he wouldn't put it past the gentleman behind him to follow him to the gardens either. Better to stick to cards. Being alone with Gareth was never a good idea. Gideon didn't take his gaze from the card players though his every nerve was on alert. Much as he hated to admit it, he recognized the person behind him as much by his body's reaction as by familiarity.
Gareth Belmain, languid dandy of the ton, stood behind him, entirely too close, even in the crush of people at Lady Biggles' eldest daughter's ball. Gideon stood his ground though. He was tired of giving way to the persistent pressure Gareth put on him. They were complete opposites, and Gareth seemed to take a great deal of interest in pointing out their differences. Gideon usually just gave way, turning the other cheek. He'd known Gareth since they were infants; their mothers were bosom bows, and their family lands adjoined. If either of them had had the misfortune to be born female, they'd have been engaged at birth. Instead, they were friends, then schoolmates, then something more, and now...uneasy acquaintances perhaps best described the current status of affairs between them.
Just thinking the word affair made heat rise in Gideon's cheeks. Damnation. He shifted restlessly. He had no interest in playing cards, but it was better than having his toes trodden upon on the dance floor, and better than making simpering conversation with foolish chits. He never knew what to say to them; females in general seemed to have a marked lack of interest in the things that absorbed him: fencing, fisticuffs, philosophy, horses. He couldn't talk of the Four in Hand Club or Gentleman Jack's to a lady.
"Are you planning to stand here all night Gid? There's a table opening up. Let's play a hand of piquet and pass the time until your mama comes to coerce you into dancing with some whey-faced miss."
Gideon straightened his full six feet and shifted to stare down at the slim dandy. Gareth was stunningly garbed in buff and claret, neck cloth exquisitely tied in some complex pattern that Gideon's valet probably knew the name for, and hell's teeth... "Are you wearing face paint?" He hadn't meant the shocked whisper to be audible, but a few titters from nearby gamers and Gareth's narrowed eyes told him he'd once again erred in his judgment.
"Oh, la. It's all the crack, you know. Now come on, I'm a little light in the pocket and I mean to make a monkey off you this evening to assuage the hurt your neglect causes me."
There was too much truth to the words for them not to cause Gideon embarrassment. He was uncomfortable with Gareth, and he did neglect his old friend as a result. But Gareth knew well why. His guts tightened and he couldn't stop the scowl that crossed his face, though he quickly assumed a blank expression. "Stop it. I apologize. I didn't intend for anyone to overhear, and you are well aware of that. This foppish playacting does you no credit."