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The Chalam Chronicles

by Morgan G Farris
Volumes I & II Available Now

The Princess and the Card Wolf

An excerpt from my latest book, The Song in the Shadows

“You, sir, are no gentleman.”

“And here I was thinking you’d had your fill of gentlemen this evening.” He shuffled the cards with practiced ease and began dealing them.

“I’m not joking. I don’t know a single game.”

He finished dealing and said, “Lucky for you, I am a shark.”

“I thought we had established you are a wolf.”

“A card wolf. I like that.”

“Again, I must commend you for your uncanny ability to find a compliment in every turn of phrase.”

“I am gifted in many ways,” he said with a small, mocking bow.

“As the ladies will attest, no doubt.”

A grin. “You’re welcome to find out if the rumors are true.”

“What, that you’re a rake and a scoundrel?”

“Is that what they say?”

“Among many other things.” If the rumors were true, Gian was a man of many talents with those of the gentler sex. Talents about which legend had spread far and wide. Indeed, there was not a woman in the castle who had not touted the finer qualities of Gian’s talents. 

Rachæl sneered, picking up the cards strewn before her and looking them over. A four with red hearts, a ten with a black symbol she did not recognize, a nine and eight with the same, and a young man dressed in finery.

“What’s this one?” she asked, showing him the card with the young man.

“A knave,” he said, folding the card back into her hand. “You’re not supposed to show me your cards, Princess.”

“But what is that symbol?” she pressed on, ignoring his advice and showing him the card again. “I have four of them.”

“Four?” he asked in disbelief. When she showed him the evidence of her apparently outlandish claim, he guffawed and said, “Of course.”

“Of course what? Is there something wrong?”

“Only that I dealt you one card shy of humiliating me on the first hand.”

“And is that such a bad thing?”

He chuckled. “Depends on who you ask, I suppose.”

He walked her rather patiently through the finer points of the game, and—despite her better judgment—she placed perfectly good coin on the hopes that she would get the card she wanted in exchange for the card he assured her she did not need. Trusting that he wasn’t lying, she gambled and sipped carefully of the rum in her mug.

Her gamble paid off.

Gian shook his head as he gathered the cards laid before him. “I have a feeling if we were playing for our clothing, I would be stark naked within five hands,” he said.

Heat burned her cheeks without remorse at the bold statement.

He chuckled. “Do I offend, Princess?”

“Do you—do you often play—for your clothes, I mean? With ladies present?”

Gian laughed. “Darling, it would be rather pointless to play for such stakes with anything other than the finer sex.”

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