Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(19) by Lorraine Heath
Only, it wasn’t her bedside table. God help her, it wasn’t her bed.
With mounting horror, she glanced around the room. Her husband’s bedchamber.
Before last night, she’d only ever come in here once, a silly attempt to seduce her husband when he’d failed to come to her bed for more than a year after Henry had been born. She’d thought perhaps he wasn’t aware she was fully recovered from birthing and could return to her wifely duties. Instead, she’d discovered he’d not wanted her any longer. He had his heir. He’d looked at her with pity. She feared she’d looked at him with desperation. She wasn’t even certain why she’d gathered her courage to go to him. It wasn’t as though he’d been affectionate in bed. Perhaps because a brief touch was better than no touch at all. He’d not been a passionate man.
He’d been nothing like Jack Dodger.
That thought caused her heart to thunder. The manner in which he’d looked at her—as though he knew all her secret desires and was capable of satisfying them. The heat in his eyes made her shiver, not from cold, but from the longing to have a man gaze at her as though she were desirable. She’d always been the good daughter, the good wife, the good mother, the good woman. Duty above all else. But suddenly, too much was being asked of her. What was Lovingdon’s purpose in bringing Jack Dodger into her life?
And how had she come to be in this bed?
Dear God, perhaps it wasn’t her husband who had gone mad, but her. She didn’t remember coming here. She was still fully clothed, save for her shoes. She remembered taking a small amount of laudanum to help relieve her headache, then reading to Henry. Afterward she was supposed to meet with Mr. Dodger—to convince him that letting them travel to the country was in the best interest of all. She’d simply wanted to take a moment to gather her strength before facing him. She’d closed her eyes…
And now she was here.
Had Jack Dodger sought her out? Had he brought her to his bed? Had he had his way with her? She didn’t feel as though she’d been touched. She felt no tenderness between her legs. Surely after nearly six years of not lying with a man, she would be aware if one had bedded her. There would be some indication. As there was none, she could only deduce that, if Mr. Dodger had brought her to this bed, nothing untoward had occurred. He’d kept his word. Imagine that.
She didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. What sort of wantonness was taking possession of her?
Drawing up her legs, she rested her forehead against her knees. She didn’t want to face the day. She wanted to run away. To the country. To a field of green grass and yellow flowers. She wanted to take off her shoes and dance barefoot. She wanted to laugh. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed. She was all of five and twenty, but of late she felt as though she was nearer to a hundred.
She wanted to crawl back under the covers, go to sleep, and wake up to discover that the reading of the will had been a dream. But duty called.
And Henry. Dear Lord, what if Mr. Dodger had decided to take his responsibilities seriously and seek out Henry? She had to check on her child. She scrambled out of bed and scurried to the door. Opening it, she peered out. No sign of the dreadful Mr. Dodger.
She slipped into the hallway and hurried to the nursery. To her immense relief, Henry was sitting at the short table eating his morning porridge. “Is everything all right, darling?” she asked.
He nodded. “The m-man said I c-could have a p-puppy.”
“The man? What man? A puppy?”
“Mr. Dodger, Your Grace,” Helen said. “He spent a few moments with the young duke this morning.”
Olivia’s heart fairly stopped. “Did you leave them alone?”
“No, Your Grace. As a matter of fact, Mr. Dodger insisted I stay in attendance so I could report firsthand anything you wished to know about his visit.”
“Oh. Well.” Her heart returned to its rhythmic beating. “That was rather considerate and unexpected of him.”
“He’s very different from what I expected.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of Jack Dodger. He’s rather notorious in some parts of London. But he seemed right nice this morning.”
“Did he use profanity?”
“No, he just asked if the young duke needed anything.” She smiled. “And of course, he said, ‘a puppy,’ because he’s been on about that for months now. Mr. Dodger said he would see about it.”
Cursing the man’s ambiguity, she walked into the room and knelt beside her son. “Darling, that doesn’t mean he’s going to get you a puppy.”
“B-but he said.”
“His words meant that he might, but he probably won’t, because they’re such a lot of bother.”
“I-I’d take g-good care of it.”
“I know you would.” She sighed. “I’ll talk to him about it.”
Henry gave her a sweet smile. She hugged him tightly. He was so precious. How he would change under Mr. Dodger’s tutelage. “Now I need to get ready for the day.”
She went to her room and tugged on the bellpull to summon Maggie. Her maid had already put away the things she’d packed for their hasty departure last night. Olivia spotted the leather ledger on her secretary. She had tucked it into her satchel because she’d wanted to study it when they reached the country estate. She walked to her desk and turned back the leather cover. Everything was so meticulously written out, with detailed descriptions—
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