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Authors: Raven McAllan

The Wager

BOOK: The Wager
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Evernight Publishing

 

www.evernightpublishing.com

 

 

 

Copyright© 2013 Raven
McAllan

 

 

 
ISBN:
978-1-77130-374-3

 

Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs

 

Editor: JS Cook

 

 

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
copyrighted work is illegal.
 
No part of
this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are
fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

 

To
Doris
, who
pushes, prods and gets me on track.

Paul for not minding my laptop attached to my
arm everywhere we go.

The Evernight team for all
their hard work, including my great editor JoAnne, and the brilliant cover
artist Sour Cherry Designs.

My fabulous
crit
group, UCW, for their continued support.

And…

You the readers.
Without you all I wouldn't be doing what I
love.

Thank you.

 

 

THE
WAGER

 

Raven
McAllan

 

Copyright
© 2013

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

London
1818

 

"You did what?" Catherine's voice was
so shrill, it was lucky there were no fishwives around or they would have
thought there was a new member in their midst. She realized and tried to
continue in a more ladylike manner. Whether she succeeded would be up for
debate.

Jermyn looked at her, shame in his eyes.

For one moment, her heart melted before she
thought over his words and with a strength she had not known she possessed she
hardened it. He may be her younger brother, albeit by ten minutes, but he was
no longer a child. He was five and twenty, and the head of the family.

"I lost a wager," he said again.

Catherine tapped her foot. Her bosom swelled,
and it seemed a thousand ants marched over her skin, making it prickle in
something akin to horror.
 
Her heart
raced, and she thought her pulse might jump out of her wrist with its irregular
beat. "I heard and understood that part. Though knowing our father and the
repercussions his predilection for gaming had on our family, I wonder how you
have the temerity." She shook her head. To her, his stupidity defied all
description. "No, it was the next part of the sentence I have difficulty
with."

Jermyn flung her a sulky look and paced across
the snug sitting room where until his entrance she had been sitting and
reading. Outside it was raining and the autumn afternoon was chilly. Inside it
was, or had been, until her brother's pronouncement, warm and cozy.

He stood by the hearth and stared at her,
defiance in his eyes.

"I lost a wager, the prize was you."

With a silent and unladylike oath, Catherine dug
her nails into the palms of her hands to stop herself screaming…or hitting him.
How could he? Did she not have enough of
a dark and murky past, without him adding to it?

"That is what I thought you said. I had
prayed my hearing was at fault. How could you do such a thing? It can
not
of course be legal. Tell me, with
whom did you make this asinine bet?" She was proud how level her voice
was.

"Brook Fredericks."

"I might have guessed. Lord
Fredericks."
Her nemesis.
Images of him; sitting
beside her, kissing her neck, parting her legs and sliding inside her bombarded
Catherine. His voice murmuring "My own, for ever," filled her mind,
and made her shiver.

"He made me." Jermyn's petulant voice
broke into her reverie. She shook herself and brought her thoughts back to the
unpleasant present.
Typical Jermyn.
Anything
unpleasant, or that presented him in a bad light, was, according to him, never
his fault.

"Why and where?"

"For heaven's sake
Caty
,
one might think you were my mother, don't nag," Jermyn burst out. "It
was at White's, it's legal, and it's in the book. We bet on a game of dice, he
won. That is the be all and end all of it. Do not go on."

That was the last straw. Almost without
conscious thought, Catherine dropped the romance she had been reading and flung
it at him. It hit his jaw with a loud, satisfying, and hard thump before
dropping to the floor, its pages bent. Catherine spared a swift thought of
remorse—the book deserved better, Jermyn in her opinion did not—before
returning her gaze to her brother. He rocked back on his feet, before he put
his hand to his face, and groaned.

"My jaw,

tis broken."

 
Catherine
stood up and walked close to him. "Be thankful it is not your neck. I
doubt it is broken; you are too brass-faced for that. How
dare
you tell me not to go on, when you have told me you have, to
all intents and purposes sold me? Sold me to a man who has every reason to hate
me.
I can only assume this is some stupid jape of
yours, hatched up to try and show me the so-called folly of my ways?
Single at five and twenty,"
she
said in a voice alien to her own. "
You'll
be an old maid.
Listen well dear brother, I care not if I am an old maid, I
will survive. Better than I ever would with an uncaring husband. Therefore, it
will not work, I will not do it, and you cannot make me. Slavery may still be
practiced, but you will not make me part of that abhorrent practice. To put me
in the betting book for all to see and laugh over, I despair. That shows what
little respect you both have for me, I must say.
As I
reiterate, written and witnessed or not, it is not legal.
You may call
on Lord Fredericks and tell him so."

He shook his head, and rolled his shoulders. The
look of abject desolation on his face sent slivers of fear down her body. Like
shards of glass they struck her, and crept up her spine. Catherine realized
fear had a taste. She swallowed convulsively. "You must."

"I can't, the wager was couched in such
terms that only he and I know the exact terms.
Caty
,
believe me I never thought it would come to this." Jermyn put his hand on
her arm. Impatiently she shrugged it off. The thought of him touching her was
enough for her to itch to use her hands in lieu of another convenient book, and
throw the next punch, this time connecting with somewhere more vulnerable.

Catherine sighed. She may as well know the all.

"So, elucidate. Pray, how did you think it
would not come to this?
You gambled, you lost.
There
is always the chance of that."

His voice was quiet, and full of shame.
"Not if you cheat."

It got worse and worse. She stared at him until
he began to fidget. He looked anywhere except at her, unable it seemed to meet
her eyes. Eventually Catherine spoke, taking no care to keep her hurt and
disappointment out of her voice.

"A Charles?
Cheating? Oh Jermyn, what are you? Like father
like son?"

"Oh no, never that.
I was desperate, annoyed and goaded,"
Jermyn replied. He kicked the fire irons and they rattled together. The
discordant noise made Catherine's teeth go on edge, and she winced.
 
Jermyn noticed, and it seemed he mistook her
shudder. "Hellfire
Caty
, Brook Fredericks pushed
me."

Catherine rolled her eyes. Would he ever take
responsibility for his actions?

"So, you should now be mature enough not to
be pushed, Jermyn. And in this case you will have to climb out of the hole you
are in without my help. Short of kidnapping me, I will not be party to
this...this stupidity. You may tell my lord Fredericks so with my
compliments."
Damn, I want him with
every fiber of my being, but not like this. I want him to come
to me willingly, demand I go to him, and
love me until I know not who I am.
Would he ever forgive her?

 
"And
if you
were
thinking of kidnapping
me, remember I am a better shot than you, and I will inform Mr. Baines the
solicitor of any likely occurrences in a sealed letter to be opened if I
disappear. Furthermore, as this idiocy is in the betting book, you can be sure
my disappearance would not go unnoticed." She sat down and picked up her
novel again. She could only hope her agitation and rapid pulse did not show to
him.

The only noise in the room was the steady
ticking of the clock.
 
A harsh grating
sound, as one coal slipped against another made her jump.
My nerves are shot and it is no wonder.
Brook
Fredericks has chosen a perfect way to retaliate to my actions, but for Jermyn
to cheat?
That is beyond the pale. It is a wonder he was not
blackballed.

"How did Brook realize you cheated?"
she asked. As much as she couldn't condone it, she was interested in the manner
of how Jermyn was unveiled.

BOOK: The Wager
8.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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