Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(45) by Lorraine Heath
He wasn’t quite certain he wanted her gracious. He preferred her with a bit of fire in her. “You’re the late Duke of Avendale’s sister.”
She seemed surprised he knew that information. “Yes. My father died a month after I was married. My brother inherited the title. He recently died, leaving the title to his son. I have no other immediate family. Do you?”
She’d uncharacteristically shared so much personal information with him in one go that it took him a moment to realize what she was asking of him, and when he did realize it, he laughed and lifted his glass in salute. “No. Not in the traditional sense anyway.”
He downed the gin, laid the knife and fork on the plate, and covered the dish. “Thank you for bringing me the meal.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it.” She rose. “I do hope you’ll have a physician look at your cheek. I would hate for it to get infected.”
“I suppose you’re right. A scar would ruin my good looks.”
“You’re assuming you possess good looks in the first place.”
“Are you implying I don’t?”
“I’m implying it’s conceited to state you’re handsome.” She lowered her gaze again, then lifted it. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I thought—”
“That the boy was in danger. If a mistake is to be made, Duchess, I prefer it go the way it did this morning.”
“You care about Henry.”
“Not in the least. But he’s my ward. If he’s harmed, it’s more trouble to me.”
She leaned over his desk. Her lavender scent teased him and her lips were so tantalizing near. “I’m not quite sure I believe you, Mr. Dodger.”
She lifted the tray and nearly hit his nose in doing it. His fault for not noticing he’d been moving toward her.
“Believe it, Duchess,” he said, striving to regain the control slipping away from him.
“I don’t believe I shall.”
With that, she turned and strolled across the room, her backside swaying.
Something was happening, something very dangerous. He was beginning to let down his guard. And he couldn’t afford to do that. It could spell disaster for him. He’d spent a lifetime erecting the walls around his heart. He wasn’t going to let a lovely widow tear them down.
With her back pressed against a mound of pillows and her arms wrapped around her drawn-up legs, Olivia sat in bed, stared at the ornate door leading into the dressing room, and strained to hear even a whisper of Jack settling in for the night. Every once in a while she’d grow dizzy and realize she’d been holding her breath.
Late that afternoon, he’d sent her a missive informing her he’d not be available for dinner and she was free to dine with Henry. She didn’t like that he thought he was in charge of her schedule. She also found it interesting he’d chosen not to find her and tell her in person. Was he avoiding her? Could it be that he was not comfortable with their relationship shifting away from adversarial? She hardly knew what to make of the man, but she was certain of one thing: he’d not intrude on her here. In spite of everything the ladies had ever said about him, she was discovering he did have some semblance of a moral compass. One that was a bit skewed perhaps, but still on occasion it seemed capable of pointing in the correct direction. At least where Henry was concerned.
She was certain he’d honor his word and not seek out her bed. She struggled against the tinge of disappointment. Not that she wanted him to quietly open that door and walk serenely—
No, that had been Lovingdon’s way. Jack Dodger would burst through, fervor in his stride, virility emanating from every pore. He would be demanding, his hands exploring greedily, his tongue eliciting pleasure—
With a low groan, she pressed her forehead against her knees. He would not come through that door. It was ludicrous to allow such carnal thoughts to run rampant through her mind. What did it matter if he was sleeping in that room? Two doors separated them. She’d not hear him breathing or tossing or turning. She’d not see his bare feet as he walked around in his nightshirt.
She raised her head, burrowed her chin into her knees. Would he even wear a nightshirt? Of course he would. All gentlemen did. But then Jack Dodger was no gentleman.
She couldn’t envision him donning a nightshirt. Oh, she needed to stop thinking about him. Glancing at her clock, the time surprised her. It was past midnight. As he’d yet to arrive in his chamber, he’d probably gone to the club. How silly of her to think otherwise, to have spent precious time listening for an arrival that would never come.
She needed a distraction. She’d go to the library and find a book to read. Anything to take her mind off of Jack.
She slipped out of bed and drew her wrapper around her. Picking up the lamp from the bedside table, she made her way into the hallway. She descended the stairs and walked to the library. This time of night no footman was about. Opening the door, she was stunned to see Jack sitting at the desk, poring over ledgers. Why wasn’t he at the club and how could she retreat? She realized with a mounting sense of dread that she couldn’t, because she’d drawn his attention. “I thought you’d gone to your club.”
Shaking his head, he leaned back and stretched his arms over his head. “I had some things to attend to here.”
He came to his feet, perhaps finding his manners as an afterthought. “Why aren’t you asleep?”
Because I can’t stop thinking about you hardly seemed a prudent confession.
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