A Rogue by Any Other Name Page 2

The pit manager did not move from his place just inside the door to the owners’ suite. “Yes.”

“He owes more than he will ever be able to repay.”

“Yes.”

Bourne turned his head, meeting the shadowed gaze of his most trusted employee. “What is he willing to place against an extended line?”

“Two hundred acres in Wales.”

Bourne watched the lord in question, who was sweating and twitching nervously as he waited for judgment to be passed.

“Extend the line. When he loses, see him out. His membership is revoked.”

His decisions were rarely questioned, and never by the staff of The Angel. The other man headed for the door as quietly as he had entered. Before he could leave, Bourne said, “Justin.”

Silence.

“The land first.”

The soft click of door meeting jamb was the only indication that the pit manager had been there at all.

Moments later, he came into view on the floor below and Bourne watched the signal travel from boss to dealer. He watched as the hand was dealt, as the earl lost. Again.

And again.

And once more.

There were those who did not understand.

Those who had not gambled—who had not felt the thrill of winning—who had not negotiated with themselves for one more round, one more hand, one more shot—just until he hit one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand . . .

Those who had not known the luscious, euphoric, unparalleled feeling of knowing that a table was hot, that a night was theirs, that with a single card, everything could change.

They would never understand what kept the Earl of Croix in his chair, betting over and over and over again, fast as lightning, until he’d lost everything. Again. As though nothing he had wagered had ever been his to begin with.

Bourne understood.

Justin approached Croix and spoke discreetly into the ruined man’s ear. The peer shot to his unsteady feet, outrage furrowing his brow as anger and embarrassment propelled him toward the manager.

A mistake.

Bourne could not hear what was said. He did not need to. He’d heard it hundreds of times before—watched as a long list of men had lost first their money, then their temper with The Angel. With him.

He watched Justin step forward, hands raised in the universal sign of caution. Watched as the manager’s lips moved, attempting—and failing—to settle and calm. Watched as other players took note of the commotion and as Temple, Bourne’s massive partner, headed into the fray, eager for a fight.

Bourne moved then, reaching toward the wall and pulling a switch, activating a complex combination of pulleys and levers, triggering a small bell beneath the piquet table and drawing the attention of the dealer.

Notifying him that Temple would not have his fight that evening.

Bourne would have it instead.

The dealer stayed Temple’s impossible strength with a word and a nod toward the wall where Bourne and Lucifer watched, each willing to face whatever came next.

Temple’s black gaze fell on the glass, and he nodded once before leading Croix through the throngs of people below.

Bourne descended from the owners’ suite to meet them in a small antechamber set apart from the main floor of the club. Croix was cursing like a dockside sailor when Bourne opened the door and stepped inside. He rounded on Bourne, gaze narrowed with hatred.

“You bastard. You can’t do this to me. Can’t take what is mine.”

Bourne leaned back against the thick oak door, crossing his arms. “You dug your grave, Croix. Go home. Be thankful I don’t take more than my due.”

Croix lunged across the small room before he had a chance to reconsider, and Bourne moved with an agility that few ever expected, clasping one of the earl’s arms and twisting until his face was pressed firmly against the door. Bourne shook the lean man once, twice before saying, “Think very carefully about your next action. I find I am not feeling so magnanimous as I was mere moments ago.”

“I want to see Chase.” The words were slurred against the oak.

“Instead, you’ll see us.”

“I’ve been a member of The Angel since the beginning. You owe me. He owes me.”

“On the contrary, it is you who owes us.”

“I’ve given enough money to this place . . .”

“How generous of you. Shall we call for the book and see how much you still owe?” Croix went still. “Ah. I see you are beginning to understand. The land is ours now. You send your solicitor round in the morning with the deed, or I come looking for you myself. Is that clear?” Bourne did not wait for an answer, instead stepping back and releasing the earl. “Get out.”

Croix turned to face them, panic in his gaze. “Keep the land, Bourne. But not the membership . . . don’t take the membership. I’m a half a tick away from marrying. Her dowry will cover all my losses and more. Don’t take the membership.”

Bourne hated the keening plea, the undercurrent of anxiety in the words. He knew that Croix couldn’t resist the urge to wager. The temptation to win.

If Bourne had an ounce of compassion in him, he’d feel sorry for the unsuspecting girl.

But compassion was not a trait Bourne claimed.

Croix turned wide eyes on Temple. “Temple. Please.”

One of Temple’s black brows rose as he crossed his massive arms across his wide chest. “With such a generous dowry, I’m sure one of the lower hells will welcome you.”

Of course they would. The lower hells—filled with murderers and cheats—would welcome this insect of a man and his terrible luck with open arms.

Prev Next