Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(51) by Lorraine Heath
Buttoned and tucked, he decided the rest could wait. He could explain being partially dressed much more easily than he could explain nakedness.
In long strides, he returned to her bedchamber and yanked on the bellpull. She was still dead to the world, but not dead. He patted her cheek. “Livy? Come on now, sweetheart.”
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “So sorry.”
“As well you should be, barging in on me like that.” For one glorious moment he’d thought she’d made the decision to come to his bed. His body, damn its weakness, had immediately responded.
His gentle pats weren’t stirring Olivia. Was that a rattle in her chest? Lowering his ear to her bosom, he heard a rasping sound, but it didn’t sound ominous. More disturbing was that through the thin material he was suddenly very much aware of the softness of her breasts against his cheek. The intimacy made his mouth go dry. Her breasts were smaller than Pru’s, but damn if they didn’t incite his desire into rebellion, nearly shattering his control.
The door opened, and Jack sprung back guiltily, shaping his features into a wall of uncaring.
The maid gasped. “What are you doing, Mr. Dodger?”
“She fainted. I’ve been trying to revive her. We need to send for my physician.”
“She has her own.” The maid rushed over and began tapping her fingers against Olivia’s cheeks.
“I’ve tried that already,” he told her.
“She’s on fire.” She looked up at him, and he realized until that moment she’d believed he’d done something to make her mistress faint. Or perhaps she was holding him responsible for her fever. He was blamed for so many things, what did one more matter?
“Stay with her.” He began striding from the room. “I’ll fetch a physician.”
She might have her own, but he wouldn’t send for him. Jack wanted someone he trusted. He didn’t care to explore the sudden terror ripping through him at the thought of her possibly dying.
Olivia awoke to the sight of an angel hovering over her bed. His blond curling hair formed a halo around his face. In some distant part of her mind, she realized she should be frightened that a stranger was in her bedchamber, and yet his smile was so kind, so reassuring, that all she could do was offer a weak smile in return.
“Hello,” he said softly.
“I’m Dr. Graves. Mr. Dodger sent for me. How do you feel?”
She remembered now, remembered what she’d seen. “He was naked.”
She heard a harsh sound—someone clearing his throat?
“I suspect you were probably dreaming,” the doctor said.
She fought to shake her head. “No. I’d never dream him looking as magnificent as that.”
She thought he looked as though struggling not to laugh.
“Yes, well, we have more pressing concerns. Do you hurt anywhere?”
“Everywhere. So tired.”
“I suspect you are. How long have you been feeling unwell?”
“Forever. But not so hot.”
“So mayhaps the fever just came upon you.”
She nodded, or thought she nodded.
“Why don’t you go back to sleep now?” he said.
Sighing, she closed her eyes. “Henry—”
The man was wonderful. He knew the answers to the questions before she asked them. And his hands were incredibly gentle as he prodded here and there. So gentle.
Lovingdon had never really been tender. Bedding her had always been more about getting down to business. He’d spoken no sweet words before and whispered none in the dark afterward. Sometimes she’d had the impression that he was apologizing for inflicting himself on her. He’d always come into her room, slipped into bed, slipped into her, and then slipped out, leaving her with an aching loneliness. Always so lonely…
“Well,” Jack snapped as soon as Graves finished his prodding.
“I suspect something akin to influenza.”
Jack felt his stomach drop as the maid gasped. She was sitting in a nearby chair for the sake of propriety to provide witness that nothing untoward was happening. Originally, she’d objected to Jack’s presence, but it had only taken reminding her that he now paid her salary to silence her. Ah, yes, with the dispensing of coins came power and a tendency for people to look the other way.
“Will she die?” Jack asked.
Graves looked at him. “She’s young. I can’t attest to her strength because she’s so thin. Aristocratic women tend to eat little. They have the means to buy food and they don’t take advantage of it. They think an appetite is vulgar.”
“So we need to feed her?”
“I doubt she’ll feel like eating, but yes, she does need nourishment when she awakens. I’ve given her some laudanum so she’ll sleep for a while in comfort. I’ll leave a poultice to help draw out the fever. Cool baths might also help, but then you have to take care that she doesn’t get chilled.”
“How can she not get chilled in a cool bath?”
“You see the dilemma. The best thing is probably just to let it run its course.”
Jack felt the anger and frustration building. “I called for you because you’re supposed to be so damned good at administering to the sick—and the best you can offer is, Let’s see how it goes?”
“As much as I wish it were otherwise, no remedies exist for what we’re dealing with here. I’m sorry.”
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