Swift released the bowl in a strong drive. It sped obediently down the green, perfectly reproducing Daisy’s shot, though with more calculated momentum. Hitting Daisy’s bowl cleanly off the grass, it took her place right in front of the jack.
“He knocked my bowl into the ditch,” Daisy protested. “Is that legal?”
“Oh, yes,” Lord Llandrindon said. “A bit ruthless, but perfectly legal. Now it is properly referred to as a ‘dead bowl.’”
“My bowl is dead?” Daisy asked indignantly.
Swift returned her scowl with an implacable glance. “Never do an enemy a small injury.”
“Only you would quote Machiavelli during lawn bowling,” Daisy said through gritted teeth.
“Pardon,” Lord Llandrindon said politely, “but I believe it’s my turn.” Seeing that neither of them were paying attention, he shrugged and went to the delivery line. His bowl careened down the green and ended just beyond the jack.
“I always play to win,” Swift said to Daisy.
“Good God,” Daisy said in exasperation, “you sound exactly like my father. Have you ever considered the possibility that some people play just for the fun of it? As a pleasant activity to pass the time? Or must everything be brought down to life-and-death conflict?”
“If you’re not out to win, the game is pointless.”
Seeing that she had completely slipped from Swift’s notice, Cassandra Leighton sought to intervene. “I fancy it’s my shot now, Mr. Swift. Would you please be so kind as to retrieve a bowl for me?”
Swift complied with barely a glance at her, his attention riveted on Daisy’s small, tense face.
“Here,” he said brusquely, thrusting the bowl into Miss Leighton’s hands.
“Perhaps you could advise me…” Miss Leighton began, but her voice faded as Swift and Daisy continued to bicker.
“All right, Mr. Swift,” Daisy said coolly. “If you can’t enjoy a simple game of bowls without making it into a war, you’ll have a war. We’ll play for points.”
She wasn’t quite certain if she had moved forward or if he had, but suddenly they were standing very close, his head bent over hers.
“You can’t beat me,” Swift said in a low voice. “You’re a novice, and a woman besides. It wouldn’t be fair unless I was assigned a handicap.”
“Your teammate is Miss Leighton,” she whispered sharply. “In my opinion, that’s enough of a handicap. And are you implying that women can’t bowl as well as men?”
“No. I’m saying straight out they can’t.”
Daisy felt a rush of outrage, augmented by a fiery desire to pound him into the ground. “War,” she repeated, stalking back to her side of the green.