The riskier the wager…

Everyone knows that Gemma Templeton is a wonderful, cheerful, friendly young woman who is well worth one’s acquaintance. She is vibrant and warm, and plays the violin with exquisite talent. The only thing she lacks is a husband, and time is growing short for her in that regard. When an interesting opportunity arises from an unlikely source, Gemma’s future is suddenly far more appealing, and a small wager makes all the difference.

…the sweeter the return.

What everyone does not know is that a certain man of a less warm reputation is very much interested in changing Gemma’s unmarried state, and he doesn’t care what anybody says. Lucas Sinclair, Lord Blackmoor, is a dark mark upon the face of Society, and his unexpected interest in Gemma leaves many to wonder if his motives don’t hide some sinister purpose. He takes her ridiculous wager, and will stop at nothing to see it paid.

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“See?” he murmured softly, indicating with his head. “Your friends are here now.”

She followed his gaze and smiled faintly at the sight. “So they are.” She looked up at him and her smile grew. “But you are my friend, too, Blackmoor.”

He matched her expression. “No, I’m not, Gemma. Not really, and not entirely. But if you are a good girl and behave yourself the rest of the evening, I just may dance with you again.”

She frowned and shook her head. “Don’t put yourself out or anything. I know how you detest it, and if we aren’t even friends, in your opinion…” She trailed off and let the unspoken hang between them.

“Not at all,” he told her. “It would be a pleasure to dance with you again.” He leaned closer and whispered, “And I think you know exactly why we are not friends… That point should be fairly obvious by now.”

Before she could retort anything, he bowed and left the room, nodding once to the inquiring lift of Marianne Gerrard’s brow as he passed them. She smiled a little devious smile in response, and he almost returned it.

What in the world was coming over him?