It Takes Two to Tangle

It Takes Two to Tangle by Theresa Romain

Book: It Takes Two to Tangle by Theresa Romain Read Free Book Online
Authors: Theresa Romain
finished their rubber of whist. I shall arrange things to further our plot.” She called, “Jemmy, do deal me a hand. But I shall scream if I have to partner you.”
    She glided over to the card table, while Henry stared at the grate. The coals were glowing, not much more than ash now, occasionally split by faint fire. He could see the slanting flickers through the milky glass of the fireplace screen. It was walnut framed, painted with a snowy marble temple flanked by two sturdy oaks, their wavy branches intertwining.
    It had been Henry’s wedding present to Jem and Emily a decade before. He’d thought himself very clever, representing the story of Baucis and Philemon: the couple who grew old together, kindhearted, and were transformed into trees after their deaths so they could live on side by side.
    The story was apt. But he hadn’t been clever enough to fix his colors. The glass hadn’t been fired well after he had painted it, and the paints had bubbled and dimmed, the colors smoky.
    Oh, well. It still looked better than Aunt Matilda’s greasy red-painted baroque table.
    He heard Emily shriek, heard the others laugh, and realized his sister-in-law had been paired with Jem after all. So someone else would come to join Henry at the fireside now. Fair enough. He could handle these small bites of friendship, which he need not lift a finger to consume. Which was well, since he had only half the usual working complement of fingers.
    He gritted his teeth. It was tedious how his mind worked sometimes. How dearly he would love to forget that anything had changed. Or barring that, have it not matter.
    Enough .
    He shoved himself out of the chair and joined the rest of the party.
    â€œWhat’s all the screaming about?” he said in a jovial voice as he skirted the card players.
    â€œOh, Hal,” Emily collapsed into a chair at the velvet-draped card table. “I am ruined. Your brother can never remember the cards that have been played, and I shall lose all my pin money.”
    â€œAnd I shall win it,” said Frances, snapping and bridging the cards before handing them to Jem to deal. “Or we shall, Mr. Crosby.” She flashed a bright smile at her partner, Bart.
    Henry suddenly wished very much that he were part of the game.
    But if he was not, Caro was not either for this rubber. “So you have been dealt out, Lady Stratton?”
    Caro smiled. “Indeed. I am not sure now whether I have been lucky or unlucky.”
    â€œYou are lucky if you were partnering Jem. I only thank heaven Hal is not playing,” Emily said with mock innocence. “He cheats.”
    â€œI do not,” Henry protested.
    â€œGood lord, Em,” Jem interjected. “It’s a good thing you’re not a man. You’d be called out for saying such a thing.”
    Emily rearranged the cards in her hand. “My dear husband, it’s a good thing I’m not a man for many reasons besides that one. Besides, I am only teasing Hal. I do it out of my bitterness, knowing that I am going to lose my pin money.”
    â€œI’ll give you more,” Jem said. “Only you must remind me what trump is. Hearts?”
    Emily shot Henry a what-did-I-tell-you look. “Yes, my dear heart, it is hearts. Caro, would you be willing to sing something to keep us company?”
    Frances didn’t even look up from her cards. “I would consider Lady Stratton’s singing to be a blatant attempt to undermine our concentration.”
    â€œWould it?” Bart sounded interested. “Are you very accomplished, my lady?”
    Caro shook her head. “Not at all. I sound like a raven crowing. Or croaking, or whatever they do.”
    â€œCaw, maybe.” Henry peered over Bart’s shoulder. Not a trump in his hand, poor fellow. “Good lord, Bart. Seven trumps? Jem is clearly the one who cheats, since he’s dealt you so many.”
    â€œYou are a child, Hal,”

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