Sharpe shivered, the room feeling strangely chilly now his shirt had been taken from him, and he watched the man seated before him with wary eyes. Things were looking very bleak.
“I’ll give you a boot,” he said hesitantly.
The figure opposite him snorted dismissively.
“A boot? Certainly not! I want this to be worth my while, Sharpe. Such a low offer at this stage of the game might be termed an insult. But then again, if you are unable to settle afterwards…”
The captain cursed silently and looked down at the cards he held clasped close to his bare chest. This was certainly not good, but he could not back down now. He licked his lips nervously.
“Alrigh’ you can have me trousers–” He didn’t have anything else to bet. “– but only if I get your breeches.”
“A fair exchange.” The man opposite him smiled wolfishly. “Though much good it will do you. You forget I’m wearing drawers.”
And you’ve still got your bloody shirt as well. Sharpe thought miserably; but then he had long suspected he would lose this one. He nodded.
“My trousers against your breeches.”
“Done…” Sharpe’s opponent turned over the last card in the run, laid down his own hand and smiled sweetly. “…And I very much believe you have been. Off with them.”
Sharpe swore, throwing his cards down on the table in a fit of petulance and pulled off his boots before stripping out of his trousers, flinging those across the room to follow his other garments.
“You may put your boots back on.”
The rifleman paused, a confused expression crossing his face; but then he saw the wicked glimmer in the other man’s eyes.
“Not much point,” he said, the merest hint of a sulk in his voice. “I lost.”
“True, but it’ll make for a much more interesting sight.”
Sharpe knew better than to argue and slipped his boots back on with a resigned sigh, then straightened up to glare defiantly at the other, folding his arms across his chest. He now stood naked in the centre of the small room, save his boots.
“Much better.” The General rose from his chair, an amused smile playing about his lips as he crossed over to the captain. “And now,” he said silkily. “I believe I may claim my forfeit.”
It was not that Sharpe minded playing strip poker with Wellington, he reflected as his mouth was plundered by an invasive tongue, long fingers stroking across his whip-scarred back and trailing down to his bare buttocks; but somehow he always seemed to end up losing…