Tournament of Losers

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Book: Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr Read Free Book Online
Authors: Megan Derr
Tags: Gay romance, Fantasy, Fairy Tale
back around. "I signed up to get the money my father owed. I just have to stay in it long enough to lose. Why on earth would I want to marry some hoity-toity who's going to lock me away and pretend I don't exist? And anyway, everyone knows they're rigged."
    "Yes, rigged meticulously and expensively over a lot of years. People who work that hard to get what they want don't take kindly to interference," Friar said.
    "I'm not interfering with anything," Rath replied with a groan. "I just wanted to pay you off. Anyone who sees me as a threat is a fool."
    Friar regarded him pensively, then sighed and said, "Do yourself a favor, Rat, and lose quickly."
    "That was the plan all along," Rath said. "But thanks, eminence. It's always so reassuring when you pretend to give a damn about anyone other than yourself."
    Friar sighed again. "There's that mouth I hate."
    Rath smiled at him, sharp and goading. He knew exactly how much Friar hated his mouth. Friar mostly favored women, but only mostly, and Rath had earned quite a few pennies at Trin's place servicing Friar. "Goodnight, Friar."
    "Until next we meet," Friar replied, smile just as full of teeth and taunt.
    Out in the hall, the temperamental guard had been replaced by a much calmer one that Rath knew well. "G'night, Bones."
    "G'night, Rat. Have a care where you crawl."
    Rath lifted a hand in lazy farewell and hit the streets again, biting back an urge to laugh. The first few times he'd done this, he had laughed, mostly so he wouldn't cry. But everything grew tedious with time, and paying Friar had worn out long ago.
    Friar's warning to stay out of the tournament tried to pick at him, but Rath ignored it. He was going to lose the moment he reached the first challenge of the final round. Whatever games other people were playing, they had nothing to do with him.
    Hauling back to his part of the city, he quickly retrieved his coin from his room then headed to the Mellow Harp, which had been the favored pub for him and his friends for years, right around the time he'd quit whoring full-time. The place was already busy when he got there, and it took only a glance to locate his friends. They waved at him, and Rath signaled he'd be there in a moment.
    Going up the bar, he ordered an ale and bowl of fish chowder. When he got it, he carried the lot over to the table and took the open space on the bench between Coor and Toph. "How'd the fighting go, Coor? I saw you made it as far as me."
    "Yeah, but I only won three rounds." Coor shrugged, grinned. "You're the only one left of this ugly lot. If you become a Duke's spouse, you'd better come down here and buy us the whole damned pub."
    "Ha," Rath said. "Don't put any money on it. I'm sure you'll all be buying me conciliatory ales in a few more days."
    "Well, you're still the winner for now so buy me an ale," Coor said with a grin.
    Rath heaved a long, aggrieved sigh, but when a server came round, he gave her two pennies to keep the ale coming.
    He'd just about finished his third ale when the table went quiet and half of them stared, then broke into smirks and goading grins. "Your suitor is back, Rath."
    "I don't have a suitor," Rath said irritably. "What are you blathering—?" he broke off as realization knocked him upside the head, and he twisted in his seat to see that, sure enough, Tress was walking toward them, that idiotic smile on his face. "What in the buggering Fates is he doing here?"
    The others laughed, and Toph elbowed him in the ribs. "You're certainly the busy one these days. Winning the tournament and snaring a handsome lord to keep on the side."
    "I'm not winning or snaring anything," Rath snapped. "But I will shove your head into the table if you don't stuff it."
    Toph rolled his eyes. "Somebody has a raw dick."
    "Your snatch is about to—" he broke off as a hand fell heavy on his shoulder and scowled up at Tress's stupidly handsome face. "Hello, again."
    Tress's smile widened. "I'm sorry I missed you after your duel. When my

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