Bonus – Outtake from Past My Defenses

This bonus scene was sent originally to my newsletter subscribers when the boxset released in March of 2017. If you don’t subscribe to my newsletter, see the sign-up on the side of this blog. I’ll try to eventually post bonus scenes and so on here, but getting in on my newsletter will guarantee you get to read them. This scene takes place near the end of Past My Defenses. If you haven’t read that novel–while this isn’t a spoiler–it’ll make more sense if you’ve read the novel.

Poker—Yes, Please

Her deceptively delicate fingers stroked the deck of cards like a favorite pet. With Vanessa, he’d learned not to trust that self-satisfied air. He was about to get his ass handed to him. Dane knew that even before she began doing complicated shuffles meant to intimidate her mate. She squinted at the quick-moving cards as she shuffled.

“Hey! If I catch you cheating…,” Dane said, trying to sound firm, without starting an argument. Arguments between them turned incendiary and now was definitely not the time for the two of them to go up in flames.

Vanessa arched an eyebrow while cocking her head. “If you catch me cheating…what?”

“You forfeit your winnings up until then.”

“Baby, that ain’t gonna happen.” Her voice was smooth and low and sent heat flooding to all the wrong places for a nice, platonic game of poker.

“You’re not going to cheat?”

“You’re not going to catch me.”

He snorted.

His sweet mate fanned a portion of the deck out, a little over a dozen cards. “Pick a card.”

“Card tricks?”

Shrugging, she admitted, “I’m still a little goofy from the allergy meds so I was buying time.”

Dane picked a card. Queen of hearts. That was…oddly appropriate. He met Vanessa’s eyes, which were dancing. “How did you know I was going to pick that card?”

“What card?” Her expression of innocence was completely unconvincing. Gathering in the cards, she shuffled them, keeping her eyes on him. “I’m just telling a story. So, one day, the queen of hearts went for a walk.” She nodded at him and he set the card on the table. “Her wandering took her through a patch of clover. Take another card,” she said, fanning them out.

He pulled out a four of clubs.

“And another.” She left the cards fanned out.

He pulled this one from immediately beside her hand, fighting his inclination to grab from the middle. Still clubs. Ten of clubs this time. He put the cards on either side of the queen. Lucky guesses so far. The dozen cards she’d fanned out were probably all clubs.

Vanessa went back to shuffling. “She was deep in contemplation on this stroll because she feared her husband no longer loved her. You see, she’d been fed lies by a knave in her court.” She fanned out the cards.

As much as he hated to ruin her story, he was still not going to pick the card she thought he would. Dane eyed the cards. One was displayed more prominently than the others. He picked the card beside it…and sighed. Jack of hearts. He tossed it on the table. “How are you doing this?”

She ignored his question. He should probably grow accustomed to that in their relationship. Her hands quick movements were like a dance, and he was mesmerized. Vanessa’s fingers shifted and slid the cards. Those same fingers when clenched in the nape of his hair… Forcefully, Dane returned his attention to her words. “The queen of hearts had been told he was having an affair, in fact.” Vanessa held out the cards.

This time…this time…and he picked the queen of diamonds. Dane swore under his breath. He couldn’t help but be impressed…and frustrated. He set the card next to the jack.

“As she was worrying about this, the queen happened upon a cloaked man in the garden. She hailed him. ‘Are you the gardener?’ she asked.”

Dane ran his fingers along the cards, watching his mate’s face. She kept her eyes glued to his and winked. Screw it. He picked a card… and tossed the jack of spades onto the table. Damn.

Licking her lips, Vanessa went back to shuffling. Her mouth was wet and red and…if only. But it never ended with one kiss with them. It wouldn’t this time either, not with how primed they both were. Even the snicking sound of her shuffling was hot as hell. “‘No,’ the man said to the queen. He was broad of shoulders and there was a pride in his stance. Perhaps he was visiting nobility. ‘Are you the king of the Diamond Isle?’ If he was, they had their wandering spouses in common.”

Dane sat back and considered the cards.

“I’m growing old here,” Vanessa said dryly. She wrinkled her nose and sniffed back a sneeze. “Geez, it’s dusty here.” She looked around the cabin in disgust.

Giving up, Dane picked and groaned. The king of diamonds. How was she doing this?

“‘Nay, said the man. I’m here to meet a woman, though…one I would shower with diamonds.’”

Dane picked the nine and ten of diamonds when prompted. Hell. When they did actually get to poker, he had no chance.

Vanessa shuffled the deck and then pulled out five cards and laid them on the table. “‘Is it you, King Spade?’”

Okay, he had this. He could do this. If he just went against his instinctual first choice… He flipped a card. King of spades.

Vanessa’s twitching lips suggested she was aware of his growing irritation. “‘Is that who you were hoping to see?’ the man asked in a low voice. ‘No,’ the queen said, ‘but I have often seen him in this garden, along with the ruler of the neighboring kingdom that shares his colors.’” She nodded at the remaining four cards.

Dane flipped the king of clubs and dragged a hand through his hair. “I can’t be that predictable.” He wasn’t. This was all a weird fluke.

“‘Nay, it is I, the man who loves you,’ the cloaked figure said, facing her and pulling back his hood.’” She eyed the remaining three cards. “How lame would it be if you ruined my story at this point?”

“Very,” he admitted. He met her gaze. “Which card should I choose?”

She tapped one. “This one. Definitely.”

Dane picked the one beside it and tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling. “I can’t believe that.” Dane didn’t even want to look at the king of hearts he’d flipped over. How had she known he wouldn’t pick the card she pointed out? “Is mind-reading a Lycan thing?”

“Oh yeah, we’re big mind-readers.” She tsked. “For shame, Dane. I don’t know how you’re expecting to concentrate on cards when your mind is in the gutter.” She sneezed abruptly. “Ugh. Though, my brain is still foggy from the allergy meds. It’s like a handicap.”

“I think I’ll need it.” He looked down to see her slim fingers gathering in the cards. This game of poker might kill him—which would be a shame at this point in time.

“You should have a handicap too.”

“I do. I’m playing against you.”

Vanessa’s smug smile made his hands itch to haul her onto his lap. He was half-tempted to turn her over his knee. They’d probably both enjoy that. It would definitely lead to arguing and the hottest sex of his life. Dane clenched the table. Not the right time. Not the right place. Their first time wasn’t going to be in a dusty cabin under these circumstances.

“You think I’m that good?” she asked.

“Honey, watching you shuffle cards is such a turn-on that I’m lightheaded from a lack of blood flow to my brain. It’s definitely a handicap.”

The air crackled between them. If only she wasn’t in heat. If only they weren’t in a fight for their lives.

He cleared his throat. “Are you going to deal? I thought we were going to play a little poker.”

“Poke her? I wish, but I suppose there’s always time for that later.”

Dane swallowed. Damn, he loved this woman. There had better be time for that later.


Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Sparrow