Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(28) by Lorraine Heath
“That would certainly be worth obtaining.”
She opened her mouth—
“No, you may not take your son to the country.”
“To my sister-in-law’s then. For a couple of hours.”
“You can’t hold us prisoner.”
“Until I’m assured you’re safe, I can.”
“Why do you even care?”
“Damned if I know,” he growled and walked to the window. “Take two footmen with you. They’re to watch you and the boy at all times.”
He heard her sigh of annoyance.
“My world is much more civilized than yours. I assure you, we’re in no danger,” she said, her voice filled with certainty.
“Then why me?” He spun around to discover she’d approached silently. She staggered back, while he fought not to. Devil take her. Who’d have thought she had the skills of a burglar? “Why me?” he repeated, not bothering to hide his anger, hoping she wouldn’t realize how her proximity rattled him. Why did she have to smell so incredibly enticing? She was in mourning, for God’s sake. Shouldn’t she smell like death delivered? “I’m intimately familiar with the dark side of London. Why did your husband think your son needed a guardian with that knowledge? The one thing I’m good at is surviving. I’ve lived alone on the streets since I was five. I know danger when I sense it and I can read men with uncanny accuracy. If there is no danger, then why me?”
Her delicate brow pleated, and he forced his hands behind his back, holding them tightly to prevent himself from reaching up to smooth away the worry.
“You said he came to your club. Was it for the women?” Her voice had caught at the end as though she’d had to push the word out from the soles of her feet.
“He had you, why would he seek comfort elsewhere?” The words of reassurance felt strange on his tongue, but not as strange as the tightening in his gut with the thought of Lovingdon having her in his bed, at his dining table, in his library, at his side.
“Perhaps I was not enough,” she said softly.
Devil take her. All Jack knew for certain was that Lovingdon hadn’t gambled. He kept records of who purchased chips and in what quantities. “It wasn’t the women.”
She gave him a sad smile. “I’d have thought you’d be skilled at lying.”
Why should he care if she was unhappy? But for some incomprehensible reason, he did. “I never saw him with one of my girls. That’s the truth of it. He didn’t gamble and I never saw him drink.”
“Then why was he there?”
“He watched.” It sounded perverted, even to his ears.
“What did he watch?”
He didn’t want to say it, didn’t want to admit that Lovingdon had been watching him. Whenever he spied the man, Lovingdon had been studying Jack as though he was some sort of mystifying creature. Perhaps this was all some sort of experiment. Move a man up in the world and see if it caused him to become a better man. The irony, of course, was that since he was dead, Lovingdon would never know the results. “He just watched all the goings on. Some people are like that.”
“For what purpose?”
“Because they haven’t the guts to do anything. They fear moral judgments. How the hell should I know? Go to your sister-in-law’s and leave me in peace. But don’t give one moment’s thought to going to the country. If I have to come after the boy, I’ll make your life miserable.”
“I daresay, Mr. Dodger, that I’d hardly be able to tell the difference since you make it miserable now.”
With fury equal to his, she spun on her heel and marched to the door. Watching the lovely sway of that backside as she made her exit, he decided he’d have to say things to force her to leave more often.
Olivia conceded that going to see the Duchess of Avendale had been a mistake, because now Henry had a rabid curiosity about the Great Exhibition, after his cousin told him about all the wondrous things he’d seen. To make the situation worse, she returned home to discover she had a caller waiting in the parlor. While Helen took a very tired Henry up to the nursery for an afternoon nap, Olivia removed her black veiled hat, placed it on a table in the foyer, and replaced it with the widow’s cap she’d left there before leaving. She felt as though she’d gotten caught doing something she wasn’t supposed to and might be on the receiving end of a scolding.
Edmund Stanford, Viscount Briarwood, had chosen an inopportune moment to visit. Her husband’s cousin had kindly handled the matter of the funeral and had overseen Lovingdon’s final journey to the family crypt at the ancestral estate. He’d provided her with a strong shoulder to lean on. The notion that he would murder Henry and usurp the titles was ludicrous.
After patting a few final stray strands back into place, she strolled into the parlor.
“Lord Briarwood, how kind of you to call. I do hope you’ve not been waiting long.”
Briarwood bowed. She could see the family resemblance in the cut of his squared chin. He was only a few years younger than Lovingdon had been, but already his wheat-colored hair was fading to white. He’d not inherited the family’s tendency toward tallness. But what he lacked in height, he made up for in width, a shape that gave him a rather intimidating mien.
“Only a moment or two, Duchess. Quite honestly, I was surprised to discover you were making the rounds.”
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