The daughter of a baron steals a cursed necklace from her cruel stepfather, whom she suspects murdered her parents.
Victoria Temple Whiting considers herself a realist. An unremarkable looking girl without a large inheritance, Tory does not indulge in romantic fantasies. Unlike her sister Claire, an enchantingly beautiful dreamer, Tory has both feet firmly planted on the ground.
When their stepfather, Baron Harwood, begins showing an unwholesome interest in Claire, Tory knocks him cold. The sisters steal a diamond necklace and flee. After a series of misadventures, they gain employment with the Earl of Brant.
Cordell Easton, Earl of Brant, was not exactly a knight in shining armor. Nevertheless, he could recognize a damsel (or two) in distress when he finds one weeping on his doorstep. One look in those tear stained pairs of eyes and he had to take pity on them. Obviously, the two of them are in trouble and need a protector. He convinces himself that he wants one of them for a mistress. The younger one is pretty, but the older one is clever. To his surprise, brains appeal to Cord more than beauty. Tory, accustomed to being overshadowed by her lovely sister, believes that Cord wants Claire.
Tory is fiercely protective of her sister. She and Cord engage in a not so friendly competition, rather like a chess match. Each skirmish draws the pair closer in a game as old as time. Cord is determined to win Tory. He hires a private investigator discover as much as possible concerning the Temple family (the sisters are using their mother's maiden name). Tory is desperate to protect herself and her sister. She convinces some old friends to help cover her tracks. In a battle of wits between the determined and the desperate, the winner will take all in the game of passion.