Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(47) by Lorraine Heath
“It solves numerous problems for me.”
“If you didn’t want to be guardian, why did you agree to it?”
“Surely, in the short time you’ve known me, you’ve learned I consider nothing too unpleasant to undertake when it places more coins in my palm.”
“After observing you with Henry today, I’d gotten the distinct impression that you liked him.”
“I do. Charming lad. Doesn’t mean I don’t prefer my freedom.”
She took another sip of brandy, then another. Feeling herself growing lethargic, she brought her feet up to the cushions. It was her guilty pleasure, sitting so unladylike in her bedchamber when she read before the fireplace. The brandy made it seem as though now was the time for guilty pleasures.
“Your freedom you can easily gain by simply getting out of our lives,” she reminded him.
“I find it difficult to believe that you, who are so keen on being dutiful, would suggest I shirk my duties.” He poured more brandy into her glass.
“Are you trying to get me foxed?”
He laughed, a deep raspy sound that made her skin tingle. “What do you know of the delights of spirits?”
“I know on more than one occasion my brother returned from your club barely able to walk. I think you would take great sport in bringing me to my knees and spreading rumors about my scandalous behavior.”
His eyes darkened and his gaze was unflinching as he studied her. She was left with the impression she’d said something he found intriguing. He barely moved his arm, but it was enough to take her braid and as his hand skimmed over her shoulder, a shudder of pleasure rippled through her.
He toyed with the end of her braid, brushing his thumb over it. “In my business, Duchess, I have learned to be very discreet. I assure you nothing that happens within this residence will be whispered about beyond these walls. Unlike your ladies, I take no pleasure in gossip. So get roaring drunk and fall to your knees as often as you like.”
She had no plans to get drunk or fall in any manner, but she didn’t object when he poured her more brandy. Feeling more relaxed than she had in a good long while, she swirled the glass, watched the liquid spin. “So how would you do it?”
He seemed startled by her question. “Do what?”
She wondered what he’d been thinking about. “Increase my yearly income.”
“Ah, yes, I’d forgotten that’s what brought us here. I would increase your income by investing your money.”
“In something improper I presume?”
She saw a measure of respect light his eyes, and she couldn’t help but feel a bit thrilled that she’d guessed what he’d planned to do with her money.
“Let’s just say, for the sake of propriety, you’d be investing in providing entertainment. I don’t know that you’d need or want to know the specifics.”
She shook her head. “It would make me a hypocrite.”
“A wealthy hypocrite.”
Smiling, she took another sip of brandy. It was tempting. Spirits she was deciding weren’t nearly as awful as she’d originally thought. They were in fact quite delightful. And they made her feel very happy. More happy than she’d felt in a good long while.
“There is more to life than wealth,” she told him.
“Those who make such reckless proclamations are usually wealthy.”
“Because I recognize it’s the only thing that matters, and I put all my efforts into acquiring and holding onto it.”
“That’s sad. Terribly, terribly sad. Have you no one special?”
For a moment, the way he was looking at her, she thought he was going to tell her about someone he loved.
“Do you want me to invest your money or not?” he asked sharply.
It seemed inherently wrong to have her money invested in things of which she didn’t approve, but the thought of five thousand per annum, a sum that would make her quite independent, was a temptation too great to resist. She downed the remainder of her brandy, able for some reason to tolerate it in larger quantities, and nodded.
“Splendid.” He refilled her glass. “Now on to the next subject.”
“And what would that be?”
“No, your future husband.” He reached for her feet, stretching out her legs and placing her bare feet on his lap.
“What are you doing?” she asked, alarmed by the intimacy, but lost enough in lethargy not to want to pull them back.
“Offering you a little more indulgence.”
“I think you seek to corrupt me.”
“With a bit of brandy and a foot rub? Oh, I am the devil.”
Smiling at him over the rim of the glass, she said, “That’s what I thought the first night. That the devil had come to call.”
“I’m not quite sure what to make of you.” Suddenly she felt very comfortable with him, as though all her inhibitions had floated away. She thought she might even be able to trust him with her deepest, darkest secrets.
Jack’s large rough hands began to knead the soles of her feet. It was absolute heaven. Looking at him through a brandy haze, she decided he was quite charming.
“Since you won’t tell me who you fancy, tell me what qualities you prefer in a man and I’ll scout around, see what I can find,” he said.
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