Once a Scoundrelby Candice Hern
When Anthony Morehouse wins The Ladies' Fashionable in a card game, he thinks it's piece of furniture. But he soon learns that it is actually a women's magazine. He plans to sell it to the editor, but when he sees the beautiful Edwina Parrish behind the desk, he changes his mind. Edwina was his childhood Nemesis, besting him in many competitions and/em>
When Anthony Morehouse wins The Ladies' Fashionable in a card game, he thinks it's piece of furniture. But he soon learns that it is actually a women's magazine. He plans to sell it to the editor, but when he sees the beautiful Edwina Parrish behind the desk, he changes his mind. Edwina was his childhood Nemesis, besting him in many competitions and winning from him a family heirloom. He's never forgotten it and so proposes another wager: If she wins, he'll give her the magazine; if he wins, he keeps the magazine and gets his heirloom back.
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Once a Scoundrel
By Candice Hern
Harper Collins PublishersCopyright © 2003 Candice Hern All right reserved. ISBN: 006050563X
If he weren't so thoroughly drunk, he might never have got himself into such a fine mess.
Anthony Morehouse raked in the small pile of notes from the center of the card table and thought he'd better call it a night. Earlier that afternoon he had bested Lord Reginald D'Aubney in a curricle race, for which he'd won his lordship's favorite pair of matched grays, and had been celebrating the victory with his friends all evening. He'd lost count of the number of toasts in his honor. Clearly, he was too foxed to think straight or he would never have accepted such damned fool stakes.
It made him uncomfortable when a gentleman began to put up personal possessions as collateral instead of money or vowels. Tony had never pegged Victor Croyden as that sort of desperate player, and yet he'd just won a piece of furniture from the man. Now, what the devil was he to do with this damned wardrobe or bureau or whatever it was he'd just won?
"Well, I'm for home," he said, and tucked the notes into his purse. He'd better take his leave before he won a matching set of chairs. He stood and had to grab hold of the table edge to keep his balance. Devil take it, he really was squiffed. "Care to share a hackney, Croyden? We can discuss this chest of yours andarrange delivery."
A burst of laughter from Croyden and similar hoots of mirth from the other men at the table caused Tony to look down and inspect his person. Was something amiss? His breeches gaping, perhaps? A wine stain on his neckcloth? Stockings puddling around his ankles? "What?"
"Really ought to pay more attention, Morehouse," Sir Crispin Hollis said. He was the only one not laughing too hard to speak. "It ain't a piece of furniture, you know."
"Course it is," Tony said. "Croyden said so. Heard him quite clearly. A chest or bureau or some such thing. Very fashionable, he said. It's all right here in his note."
More guffaws rang out in the card room and Tony began to become irritated. It was an idiotic thing to have won, to be sure, but he'd seen stranger stakes. Besides, he hadn't wanted to be rude and ask Croyden to stand down, even though he doubted the wretched bureau could possibly be worth the purse he'd staked. He was only trying to be civil, and look where it got him. All of White's was gathering around the table to see what the fuss was about.
"Better look at that note again," Sir Crispin said.
Tony fumbled in his coat pocket to retrieve his notes, but his fingers got all tangled up in the purse strings and the whole business was making him dizzy. He gave up. "Just tell me." Fearing he might take a header - not at all the thing to do in White's - he leaned on the table for support. "Have you bamboozled me, Croyden?"
"Not in the least," the man said, though his smile indicated otherwise. "Made myself perfectly clear. Thought you understood."
"Understood what?" Tony's celebratory mood had faded. Wished he hadn't drunk so much claret. Couldn't seem to think straight. Had a fuzzy sort of notion, though, that he'd been played for a fool.
"Understood my stakes," Croyden said. "The magazine."
"What magazine? See here, Croyden, I may be drunk, but I'm not that drunk. You staked some sort of cabinet and that's what I played you for. Said it was worth my purse. Took your word as a gentleman. If you've taken me in - "
"Nothing of the sort," Croyden said. He held up his hand to stop any accusations, though he did not have the look of a man about to be caught out in a dishonorable wager. In fact, he looked positively gleeful. "I put The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet on the table and you won it. It's yours, Morehouse, fair and square."
"All right, so I won a piece of female furniture."
The players erupted in laughter once again. Tony was becoming seriously annoyed. "Well, what of it? It ain't all that comical."
The press of spectators surrounding the table had become oppressive, and the roar of their laughter made Tony's head ache. He lifted his hands, palms up, and looked around at his friends and acquaintances. "What? If the blasted cabinet is worth what he says it is, what is so damned funny?"
His friend Ian Fordyce took pity on him. He came to Tony's side and put an arm around his shoulders. "I think you'd better sit back down," he said. "And try to pay attention this time."
"Don't want to sit down. Want to go home and fall into bed. I'm done in, I tell you."
"I don't doubt it," Ian said, "but first you need to understand what you've won, old boy. It ain't a piece of furniture."
"It is, by God. If I've heard the word 'cabinet' once, I've heard it a dozen times."
"Yes, but it's not furniture," Ian said, his voice quivering with suppressed mirth. "It's a magazine. The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet. Do you understand me, Morehouse? It's a magazine."
Tony took a moment to allow this bit of information to work its way through the bleary pathways of his brain. He'd just won a magazine? A few sheets of printed pages against his entire purse? Could he have been that drunk?
No wonder he was a laughingstock.
"Let me make sure I have this right." Tony enunciated each word as clearly as possible, and tried to set his brain to listening with the same deliberate clarity. He glared down at Victor Croyden ...
Excerpted from Once a Scoundrel by Candice Hern
Copyright © 2003 by Candice Hern
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Candice Hern is the award-winning author of historical romances set during the English Regency, a period she knows well through years of collecting antiques and fashion prints of the era. She travels to England regularly, always in search of more historical and local color to help bring her books to life.
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