Home > Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)(13)

Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)(13)
Author: Lisa Kleypas

Deliberately he gave her a mocking glance, the kind that had never failed to drive his siblings mad . . . and held the card in front of her.

As he’d guessed, Pandora couldn’t resist the challenge.

She grabbed for the card. Gabriel made it disappear, seemingly in midair, before she could touch it. As a boy, he’d learned sleight of hand from cardsharps during his visits to Jenner’s.

Pandora’s expression changed, her eyes widening. “How did you do that?”

Deftly Gabriel made the card reappear. “Learn to ask nicely,” he told her, “and I may show you someday.”

Her brows lowered. “Never mind. I’m not interested.”

But he knew it was a lie. The truth was in her eyes.

She was interested, no matter how she fought it.

And God help him . . . so was he.

Chapter 3

Two nights after the Chaworth ball, Gabriel practiced at the billiards table in the private apartments above Jenner’s. The luxurious rooms, which had once been occupied by his parents in the earliest days of their marriage, were now reserved for the convenience of the Challon family. Raphael, one of his younger brothers, usually lived at the club, but at the moment was on an overseas trip to America. He’d gone to source and purchase a large quantity of dressed pine timber on behalf of a Challon-owned railway construction company. American pine, prized for its toughness and elasticity, was used as transom ties for railways, and it was in high demand now that native British timber was in scarce supply.

The club wasn’t the same without Raphael’s carefree presence, but spending time alone here was better than the well-ordered quietness of his terrace at Queen’s Gate. Gabriel relished the comfortably masculine atmosphere, spiced with scents of expensive liquor, pipe smoke, oiled Morocco leather upholstery, and the acrid pungency of green baize cloth. The fragrance never failed to remind him of the occasions in his youth when he had accompanied his father to the club.

For years, the duke had gone almost weekly to Jenner’s to meet with managers and look over the account ledgers. His wife Evie had inherited it from her father, Ivo Jenner, a former professional boxer. The club was an inexhaustible financial engine, its vast profits having enabled the duke to improve his agricultural estates and properties, and accumulate a sprawling empire of investments. Gaming was against the law, of course, but half of Parliament were members of Jenner’s, which had made it virtually exempt from prosecution.

Visiting Jenner’s with his father had been exciting for a sheltered boy. There had always been new things to see and learn, and the men Gabriel had encountered were very different from the respectable servants and tenants on the estate. The patrons and staff at the club had used coarse language and told bawdy jokes, and taught him card tricks and flourishes. Sometimes Gabriel had perched on a tall stool at a circular hazard table to watch high-stakes play, with his father’s arm draped casually across his shoulders. Tucked safely against the duke’s side, Gabriel had seen men win or lose entire fortunes in a single night, all on the tumble of the dice.

As Gabriel had grown older, the croupiers had taught him the mathematics of odds and probability. They had also shown him how to detect if someone was using loaded dice or marking cards. Gabriel had become familiar with the signals of collusion—the wink, the nod, the shrug—and all the other subtle techniques used by sharpers. He knew every possible way a man could cheat, having seen cards being marked, concealed, and packed. During those visits to the club, he’d learned a great deal about human nature without even being aware of it.

It hadn’t occurred to Gabriel until years later that bringing him to Jenner’s had been his father’s way of making him a bit more worldly-wise, preparing him for all the future occasions when people would try to take advantage of him. Those lessons had stood him in good stead. When he had finally left the safe environment of his family’s home, he’d quickly discovered that, as the Duke of Kingston’s heir, he was a mark for everyone.

Lining up five white balls at the head spot, Gabriel positioned the red cue ball for a straight-in shot to the opposite corner. Methodically he dispatched the balls in order, sending each one neatly into the netted pocket. He had always loved billiards, the angles and patterns of it, the way it helped to settle his brain when he needed to think clearly.

As he made the last shot, Gabriel became aware of a presence in the doorway. Still leaning over the table, he glanced up and met his father’s light, vibrant gaze. A smile touched his lips. “I wondered how long it would take for you to find out.”

Deceptively nonchalant, Sebastian, the Duke of Kingston, entered the room. He always seemed to know everything that occurred in London, even though he lived in Sussex for months at a time. “So far I’ve heard three different versions of the story.”

“Pick the worst, and I’ll vouch for that one,” Gabriel said dryly, setting aside his cue stick. It was a relief to see his father, who’d always been an unfailing source of reassurance and comfort. They clasped hands in a firm shake, and used their free arms to pull close for a moment. Such demonstrations of affection weren’t common among fathers and sons of their rank, but then, they’d never been a conventional family.

After a few hearty thumps on the back, Sebastian drew back and glanced over him with the attentive concern that hearkened to Gabriel’s earliest memories. Not missing the traces of weariness on his face, his father lightly tousled his hair the way he had when he was a boy. “You haven’t been sleeping.”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology