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I Bet You

By:Ilsa Madden-Mills

Penelope


The door to my bedroom flies open and I grab my chest, my fingers clutching the bodice of my sapphire-blue dress. Standing in front of me with his cravat slightly askew is none other than the devil himself, Lord Ryker Voss, the Duke of Waylon. He thinks he’s the best thing since crumpets and scones. Maybe he is. But I hate him.

“I’m here to ravish you, Lady Penelope.”

“No,” I gasp, but I suspect he knows I don’t mean it.

“I know you don’t mean it.” He gives me a cocky smile, whips off his dark coat, and tosses it on the floor. His white linen shirt is next, the buttons flying around the room. My wide eyes linger on the rippling muscles of his abdomen, wandering to the deep V on his hips that leads to—

Dear me.

His male length juts out of his trousers, and it’s hard and long…and magnificent.

Will it even fit?

“I’m a virgin,” I say, darting around the canopied bed even as I imagine him spreading me out naked on those velvet covers, his tongue sucking my peaks one by one—

He captures my arm. “Are you imagining me fucking you, Lady Penelope?”

I tremble and melt into him. “Yes.”

“Good.” Caressing my bodice with his palm, he tugs on the fabric until it rips and my voluptuous breasts pop out. Desire glows in his aqua-colored eyes. He pushes me down on the bed and gathers my skirt up, his fingers finding the opening in my undergarments. His huge length teases my entrance, and I moan, my hands clutching his shoulders—



“Yo! Garçon, we need some help back here,” comes a deep male voice from somewhere inside the restaurant. I jump at being pulled from my concentration and nearly fall off my stool before righting myself, my face a deep cardinal red. I slam my journal shut with an emphatic bang and tuck it under my laptop on the bar to make it less conspicuous.

I’m on my break, but I stand to see who needs help, groaning when I see the football table waving at me.

Of course it has to be him.

I exhale as my eyes drift over the players and jersey chasers before coming back and landing on Ryker freaking Voss himself, the center of attention and Mr. Golden Boy Quarterback of Waylon University.

I swear I can smell the testosterone from here.

And to think I imagined him ravishing me…

Please. I grimace. Ryker is such a douche. Everyone knows his bedroom is a revolving door, and he wouldn’t know what a real woman was if she walked up and hit him on the head.

He cocks an infuriating eyebrow at me and calls out, “Today would be nice.”

Ass.

I glance at my journal. I probably inserted him in my bodice-ripping scenario because school is back in session—senior year, baby—and Ryker just happens to be here in Sugar’s. I waited on his table earlier, and once I get going with an idea, it gets a life of its own and the words just flow across the page.

I make a mental note to go back and scratch his name out of my notebook.

Clearing my throat, I stick my hands in the pockets of the half apron tied around my waist and head to his table. Of course, I could get one of the other servers to wait on them, but most of them are dealing with their own customers or cleaning up in the back.

And his table is in my section.

I exhale. Since the moment he waltzed in with his buddies an hour ago and requested me as his waitress, I knew it was going to be a long night. School started two weeks ago, and he’s been in a few times, always asking for me.

He enjoys me being at his beck and call.

His gaze is arrogant and riveted on me the entire forty feet or so it takes to get there. It’s a little intimidating to be the focus of his scrutiny, as if I’m his serving girl and he’s the lord of the manor, but I straighten my shoulders and give him my brightest, sweetest smile—the one I reserve for people I don’t like.

Which I suspect he knows.

The truth is I wrote a scathing editorial about him a few months ago in the Wildcat Weekly, an article that carefully detailed his part in a football fighting ring spring semester. Once the smoke cleared and the NCAA exonerated him, I did write a brief follow-up…but too little, too late, I suppose. I already painted him in an unethical light, and I’m guessing those words are probably hard to forget.

He hates me.

I come to a stop at their table, my hand going to my hip like it does whenever he’s near.

Our eyes meet and I hold my ground, not breaking our stare. I’ll admit he’s a magnificent male, all six feet, four inches of him. With his tousled mix of brown and blond hair, ocean-colored eyes, and sensuous full lips, he’s the kind of gorgeous that makes you stop and blink. You might even rub your eyes to make sure he isn’t some sort of sexy devil/angel.

“Yes?” I break our gaze, and my eyes sweep the table. Everything looks fine. Burgers and fries are mostly gone. Soda glasses are full. “Was there a problem with your check?”

Ryker’s lips curl up. “No. We have a proposition for you.”

Proposition?

My eyes narrow, and I’d like to tell him to suck it, but I keep my voice polite and sweet. Every Southern girl knows how to do this because our mamas taught us. “If it doesn’t have anything to do with your service here, I’m not interested. Thank you.”

One of the jersey chasers giggles. A buxom brunette with a ton of smoky eyeshadow—his usual type—she’s sitting next to him and has her hot pink manicured hand curled around his arm. “But it’s Ryker,” she says in a high-pitched voice. “Don’t you want to know what he wants?”

He wants to annoy me. It’s obvious. I straighten my black cat-eye glasses. “Nope.”

“But why not?” Her face is perplexed.

Bless her heart.

I sigh and break it down for her. I’ve been nice long enough. “A guy who calls me over by yelling garçon, which means ‘boy’ by the way, and then has a proposition for me…yeah, no. I have better things to do. Now, if you’ll excuse me—”

“Wait. Don’t run off,” Ryker says, leaning forward on the table and easing the girl away from him. She points a pout his way, but his eyes are on me. “It’s just a bet.”

“I see. How…quaint.” The football team is notorious for their betting shenanigans leading up to homecoming.

“All in good fun,” he says, spreading his hands. “It’s a tradition among the players. We even have a trophy that’s been passed down since Waylon first got a football team. It’s mostly the offense against the defense, but sometimes we do individual bets just to mix it up—which is why I called you over.”

I give him a short nod and a tight smile. “I get it, but I have actual work to do, you know.”

His eyes flick to where I was sitting at the bar. “You didn’t look busy to me.”

“I didn’t know you were keeping tabs on me,” I say, stiffening.

“I wasn’t.”

“Then how do you know I’m not busy?”

“I assumed.”

I smirk. “Well, we all know what assuming does.”

“You were sitting at the bar writing in a notebook.”

My eyes flare. Sweet baby Jesus, if he only knew. “You’re very observant. Is there something about me that interests you?”

He shrugs those impossibly broad shoulders. “Maybe I need more soda.”

I look at his glass. “You don’t.”

“Maybe I need—”

Blaze, one of the players who’s been watching our back and forth with wide eyes, interrupts him. “Um, this is getting weird. Can we get back to the bet?”

Ryker clears his throat, his thick and surprisingly dark lashes closing for a second as if he’s shielding his expression. “Of course. Back to the nitty-gritty. The guys and I have been talking and were wondering if you’d want to earn a quick forty bucks.” That infuriating eyebrow arches up. “Easy money.”

I pause. Money does come in handy, especially when you hold down two jobs and go to school fulltime. Easy bets are also hard to resist. My roomie, Charisma, and I do them all the time, mostly to spur each other on. Last week I bet her she couldn’t get an A on her first astronomy quiz, and she managed to pull one out. Her prize from me was a homemade breakfast complete with buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy.

I exhale and look around at the faces. Besides the jersey chasers in between each player, I take in Archer, Blaze, and Dillon, all of them seniors and star players. I know Blaze best of all, a rather rambunctious puppy dog type of guy I tutored last year in algebra.

As a whole, they seem harmless enough, and I relax a little, pulling a raspberry lollipop out of my apron, taking the wrapper off, and sticking it in my mouth. They help me think. It’s also a nervous reflex.

Ryker’s aquamarine blue eyes are riveted on me.

“What’s the bet?” I say, popping the sucker out and considering him.

He tilts his head toward the center of the table where someone has placed a bottle of ketchup front and center. “We bet you can’t open that. Ten bucks from each of the players if you can.”

Ha. I maintain a poker face, fighting back my grin. I open stubborn ketchup bottles on the regular. An hour ago, I managed to get a pesky jar of pickles open for our manager—who’s a man.

“And if I can’t?” Our eyes meet across the table, and I get a zip of heat from the intensity of his gaze.

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