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All The Ways To Ruin A Rogue

By:Sophie Jordan

. He watched, waiting for her to come to her senses and excuse herself.

Her brown eyes locked on his as she asked, “And if I win?”

He slid his hands beneath the table and gripped his thighs, his fingers digging deep as he leaned forward. Mad chit. She was not doing this. He shook his head once at her. Hard.

“Whatever you want. Name your prize,” one of the other men offered, leering at her chest as he did so.

Her gaze roamed over each man at the table, assessing. Four in all, counting him. She thought she could best all of them? She was playing with fire and she knew it.

“I’ll have . . .” Aurelia paused, her gaze resting on him again, considering. “Your clothes.”

The man beside him choked. “Our clothes?”

She nodded, smiling pertly.

“You’ll have each of us strip down to our bare arse right here?” another demanded.

“You cannot think to win. You will lose,” Max hissed, letting that sink in her fool head. She would lose and be at the mercy of one of them. In that moment, he did not think she would prefer to be subject to him. Not as furious as he was.

She shrugged one shoulder. It looked as smooth as marble, and he imagined touching it, stroking the flesh and discovering if it was as soft as it appeared. One of the men at this table could very well win that privilege if he let her do this. Daft female. He should just walk away. Let one of them have her. It would serve her right, playing with fire.

And yet she was Will’s sister. He couldn’t leave her to these wolves.

“I’m in,” he announced, hating to utter the words even as he had no choice. He would take the wager and he would win and save her from this fine mess.

He admitted there would be some satisfaction in beating her. She thought she could win. For no other reason would she have agreed to these terms. He would relish besting her.

The other men quickly chimed in their own accord.

“Let us begin then, gentlemen.” Still wearing that insufferable smile, she nodded for the game to commence with a magnanimous wave of her hand.

The cards were dealt quickly and efficiently. He watched everyone’s faces closely as they played, reading for the slightest reaction.

He trained his features into a mask of impassivity. No expression. Even when the first two men tossed down their cards in defeat. Rising, they stripped off their clothes with grumbles.

A crowd gathered, jeering at their pale, naked bodies on display. Aurelia dipped her gaze to her cards, but not before he read the amusement glimmering there. She was enjoying herself. Bloody fool. She hadn’t an inkling of the predicament she was in.

“Having a good time?” he bit out.

“Adequate,” she retorted, treating him to a chilly smile.

Shaking his head, he tightened his focus on the cards he held, placing one on the table and drawing a new one with nary a change in expression. There were just three of them left now, Aurelia, himself, and the man to his left.

The stranger knew what he was about. Not so surprising, since the wager had been his idea. He was confident and hard to read. Max’s gut churned uneasily, suspecting that he and Aurelia had perhaps been lulled into a swindle by a sharp. He glanced down at his hand, hoping for her sake that it was enough.

He watched the stranger draw fresh cards and then lift his gaze to Aurelia. “Well, my love?” the man murmured. “What have you?”

She toyed with the edges of her cards, bending them slightly, as she was not supposed to do. Not that any man at this table would correct her. No, she was by far too mesmerizing in her shocking gown, her breasts on full display.

Max’s fingers clenched around his cards, the knuckles whitening. “Be quick about it. We haven’t all night.”

Her gaze shot to him. “I’m sorry. Am I keeping you from more diverting sport?”

“You’ll be free to go about your diversions soon enough,” the stranger smoothly inserted, locking gazes with Max. “Once the lady and I adjourn to one of Mrs. Bancroft’s chambers upstairs.”

“Awfully confident, aren’t you?” Max asked, the silky edge to his voice deceptively calm.

The stranger smiled widely, revealing yellowed, furry teeth. “Our friend here is impatient, my fine lady. Shall we put him out of his misery and let him face his defeat?”

“After you,” Aurelia insisted.

“Why not?” Furry Teeth shrugged. “Let us be done then. And on to more pleasant pursuits.”

Apprehension finally flickered within her eyes. The emotion was visible for just a moment through the eyeholes of her scarlet domino. Now she feared she might have overstepped, did she? When it might be too late. Fool. Did she expect him to save her? Blast her, he should leave her to hang herself. Let the brute take her upstairs.

Furry Teeth fanned his cards out before him with a flourish. Applause erupted around them. Max stifled a curse and flung his cards down on the table. He’d lost.

Furry Teeth chuckled and wagged a finger at him. “You, my friend, best undress yourself whilst I take this little morsel upstairs and collect my winnings.” Rising, he extended a hand toward Aurelia. “Come, sweetings. A wager is a wager, after all.”

Aurelia lifted her bowed head just as Max started to rise. Not to undress himself but to stop that filth from touching her. Wretched girl or not, he would not let this vermin take her. He could not. Even if that meant reneging on a bet. His friendship with her kin demanded he protect her.

“Do you not wish to see my cards?” She queried softly.

All eyes turned to the table as she spread