Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(7) by Lorraine Heath
She was a duchess, probably related to the queen in some form or fashion. Weren’t they all? They certainly acted like they were. Even in his club, on occasion, they tried to order him about—but he’d created a world where he was king, where his word was law. They paid a yearly stipend to be admitted because he provided entertainment and never judged them for indulging. Unlike the woman following behind him. He’d seen the judgment in her eyes the moment they’d been introduced, the conviction he was beneath her. He’d felt her gaze remain on him after they’d taken their seats, had been keenly aware of her studying him as though he were some curiosity that should be on display at the Great Exhibition. He’d deliberately avoided looking at her, instead concentrating on studying the room while the solicitor had taken his time preparing things.
Jack emerged from a grand hallway into the foyer. Crossing quickly, he started up the black marble stairs.
“Where are you going?” she asked from behind him.
“I told you, Duchess, I want to see everything.”
“But only bedchambers are up there.”
“To a man such as me, as I’m sure you might have guessed, no room is more important.”
He fought not to grin as he heard her growl behind him. God, whatever had the duke seen in her? From what he’d been able to deduce, she didn’t know the meaning of humor. She was as rigid as a fireplace poker. Although he did have to admire her valiant fight to retain what she considered hers. A willowy wisp of a woman, she’d certainly turned into a lioness with the thought of her cub being turned over to Jack’s care. If his own mother had only been so inclined, his youth might have been less harsh.
At the top of the stairs, he turned to his left and jerked open the first door he came to. He strode into the room and his gaze fell on the massive four-poster bed. The canopy was covered in heavy purple velvet. He heard the duchess breathing harshly as she came to a stop behind him, and he wondered briefly if she’d gasped for breath in that richly appointed bed. He shook his head to clear it of its wandering thoughts. What did he care if she’d found satisfaction there?
“The duke’s bedchamber?” he asked, surprised by the hoarseness of his voice.
A book rested on the bedside table, a ribbon sticking out of it as though the duke had expected to return to it. It made Jack uncomfortable to think about that. He’d barely known the man, certainly not well enough to truly mourn his passing, and yet sorrow nudged him. He wondered what else the duke may have left unfinished.
Shaking off his morose musings, he glanced to the side, toward another closed door, beyond the sitting area. “And is yours through there?”
He heard her swallow. “Yes.”
So the duke kept her near. Jack didn’t know why that knowledge bothered him, but it did. He faced her. “What is it with the aristocracy and this insane notion they have that husband and wife should sleep in separate bedchambers?”
He wasn’t certain he’d ever seen a woman as pale as she was, but suddenly a rose hue blossomed over her cheeks, and he found himself wondering if that blush had visited her in the duke’s bed. Why did he keep having visions of her in that blasted bed?
“I suppose they do it because they can,” he said laconically, not really expecting her to answer. She probably went to bed covered head to toe in something resembling a shroud. He took a step toward the sitting area—
“Please don’t go into my bedchamber,” she ordered softly.
The faintness of her voice shimmied through him, disconcerting him. All night she’d been demanding, angry, hurt, and upset. It seemed at odds she would choose now to be submissive. Perhaps she’d deduced that abrasiveness didn’t influence his temper. Hitching up a corner of his mouth, he turned back toward her. “What’s the matter, Duchess? Have all sorts of machines designed to give you sexual pleasure hidden away in there?”
“I don’t know what you’re on about.”
He studied her for a moment, her black attire, the proper way she held herself…“Sadly, you probably don’t.”
Innocence had never appealed to him. He walked out of the room and continued down the long hallway.
“All the bedchambers are the same,” she said from behind him. “I don’t see why you need to—”
He reached for another door.
“I forbid you to go into that room,” she stated emphatically.
Looking over his shoulder, he winked at her. “Never forbid me, Duchess. It’ll only make me do it.”
He barged into the room. A young brown-haired, brown-eyed woman, obviously a servant, gasped and came out of the chair she was sitting in beside the bed. A young boy abruptly sat up, the covers falling to his waist, his blond hair tousled, his golden eyes wide.
The duchess brushed past Jack, sat on the bed, and took the boy protectively into her arms. It irritated the devil out of Jack that she assumed the boy needed protecting from him, that she expected him to hurt the lad.
“The heir?” Jack asked flatly.
The duchess nodded. “Yes.”
“How old are you, lad?”
“He’s five,” the duchess said.
“Is he mute?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why didn’t you let him speak? I asked the question of him.”
“You’re terrifying him.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online