No no no. That was something different. This was cards. Piquet. He never lost. It was the one thing, the only thing, he could count on.

Dunwoody scratched his head and looked at the cards, counting out loud. “I think he—”

“Winstead, you bloody cheat!” Hugh yelled, the words pouring unbidden from his throat. He didn’t know where they’d come from, or what had prompted him to say them, but once out, they filled the air, sizzling violently above the table.

Hugh began to shake.

“No,” Daniel said. Just that. Just no, with an unsteady hand and a confused expression. Baffled, like—

But Hugh wouldn’t think of that. He couldn’t think of that, so instead he lurched to his feet, upending the table as he clung to the one thing he knew was true, which was that he never lost at cards.

“I didn’t cheat,” Daniel said, blinking rapidly. He turned to Marcus. “I don’t cheat.”

But he had to have cheated. Hugh flipped through the cards in his mind again, ignoring the fact that the jack of clubs was wielding an actual club, and he was chasing after the ten, which was drinking wine out of a glass much like the one currently shattered at his feet. . . .

Hugh started yelling. He had no idea what he was saying, just that Daniel had cheated, and the queen of hearts had stumbled, and 42 times 306 was always 12,852, not that he had any idea what that had to do with anything, but there was wine all over the floor now, and the cards were everywhere, and Daniel was just standing there, shaking his head, saying, “What is he talking about?”

“There is no way you could have had the ace,” Hugh hissed. The ace had been after the jack, which had been next to the ten . . .

“But I did,” Daniel said with a shrug. And a burp.

“You couldn’t,” Hugh shot back, stumbling for balance. “I know every card in the deck.”

Daniel looked down at the cards. Hugh did, too, at the queen of diamonds, madeira dripping from her neck like blood.

“Remarkable,” Daniel murmured. He looked straight at Hugh. “I won. Fancy that.”

Was he mocking him? Was Daniel Smythe-Smith, the oh-so venerable Earl of Winstead, mocking him?

“I will have satisfaction,” Hugh growled.

Daniel’s head snapped up in surprise. “What?”

“Name your seconds.”

“Are you challenging me to a duel?” Daniel turned incredulously to Marcus. “I think he’s challenging me to a duel.”

“Daniel, shut up.” Marcus groaned—Marcus, who suddenly looked far more sober than the rest of them.

But Daniel waved him off, then said, “Hugh, don’t be an ass.”

Hugh didn’t think. He lunged. Daniel jumped to the side, but not fast enough, and both men went down. One of the table legs jammed into Hugh’s hip, but he barely felt it. He pounded Daniel—one, two, three, four—until two sets of hands pulled him back, up and off, barely restraining him as he spat, “You’re a bloody cheat.”

Because he knew this. And Winstead had mocked him.

“You’re an idiot,” Daniel replied, shaking blood from his face.

“I will have my satisfaction.”

“Oh, no, you won’t,” Daniel hissed. “I will have satisfaction.”

“The Patch of Green?” Hugh said coolly.

“At dawn.”

There was a hushed silence as everyone waited for either man to come to his senses.

But they didn’t. Of course they didn’t.

Hugh smiled. He couldn’t imagine why he had anything to smile about, but he felt it slinking along his face nonetheless. And when he looked at Daniel Smythe-Smith, he saw another man’s face.

“So be it.”

“You don’t have to do this,” Charles Dunwoody said, grimacing as he finished his inspection of Hugh’s gun.

Hugh didn’t bother to reply. His head hurt too much.

“I mean, I believe you that he was cheating. He’d have to be, because, well, it’s you, and you always win. Don’t know how you manage it, but you do.”

Hugh barely moved his head, but his eyes traveled a slow arc toward Dunwoody’s face. Was Dunwoody accusing him of cheating now?

“I think it’s the maths,” Dunwoody went on, oblivious to Hugh’s sardonic expression. “You always were freakishly good at it . . .”

Pleasant. Always so very pleasant to be called a freak.

“ . . . and I know you never cheated at maths. Heaven knows we quizzed you enough at school.” Dunwoody looked up with a frown. “How do you do that?”

Hugh gave him a flat stare. “You’re asking me now?”

“Oh. No. No, of course not.” Dunwoody cleared his throat and backed up a step. Marcus Holroyd was heading their way, presumably in an attempt to put a halt to the duel. Hugh watched as Marcus’s boots ate up the damp grass. His left stride was longer than his right, although not by much. It would probably take him fifteen more steps to reach them, sixteen if he was feeling ornery and wanted to butt up into their space.

But this was Marcus. He’d stop at fifteen.

Marcus and Dunwoody exchanged guns for inspection. Hugh stood by next to the surgeon, who was just full of useful information.

“Right here,” the surgeon said, smacking his upper thigh. “I’ve seen it happen. Femoral artery. You bleed like a pig.”

Hugh said nothing. He wasn’t going to actually shoot Daniel. He’d had a few hours to calm down, and while he was still livid, he saw no reason to try to kill him.

“But if you just want something really painful,” the surgeon continued, “you can’t go wrong with the hand or foot. The bones are easy to break, and there are a hell of a lot of nerves. Plus you won’t kill him. Too far from anything important.”