Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(52) by Lorraine Heath
“It’s summer, for God’s sake. I thought people got ill in winter.”
“More people are usually sick in winter, but illness doesn’t take a holiday. When conditions are ripe, people get ill. She’s in mourning. Probably not eating, not sleeping. Grief takes a toll.”
Only if love was involved. Did that mean she’d loved her husband, her husband who’d left her a mere two thousand pounds a year? Her husband who’d never properly kissed her? What caused people to love? How did that emotion come about? Jack had loved his mother, but he’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone he’d loved since. He had a tender regard for Frannie, but it was not love.
“I’ll see to her needs,” her maid said.
“You can’t do it twenty-four hours a day,” Jack snapped. “We’ll hire a nurse.”
“The good news is that it should pass rather quickly. The fever should break in two or three days,” Graves said.
If it’s going to break at all was left unsaid.
“I’ll return to check on her tomorrow.” Graves picked up his ominous black bag.
“Come back tonight,” Jack ordered.
“I have a lot of patients—”
“I’m going to build you a damned hospital.”
“Because you lost a wager. It doesn’t make me owe you.”
The hell of it was that Jack knew if Luke asked, Graves would not only come back, he’d never leave. Every one of Feagan’s children was more loyal to Luke than to Jack. They’d been jealous of Jack’s relationship with Feagan. He was the son Feagan had never had, the one he confided in if something needed confiding. They all worried that Jack knew their deepest, darkest secrets.
Unfortunately for them, he did. But he’d never lorded it over them, never threatened them with exposing what they wished to remain hidden. As much as he was tempted, he wouldn’t use what he knew now, either. For the sake of the boy who had already lost his father, Jack swallowed his pride. “Please.”
“I’ll try. That’s the best I can promise. But really, I can do little for her and so much more for others.”
Jack nodded, studying Olivia’s still form, preferring her marching around the residence, chastising him for one thing or another. “Do you ever feel like you’re playing God, picking and choosing who gets your attention?”
“I won’t dignify that question with an answer.”
“I’m sorry. I know I’m being difficult.”
“Most people are when someone they care about is ill.”
Jack snapped his gaze to Graves. He was on the verge of denying the charge, but the man had a speculative gleam in his eye. It was as though he had the uncanny ability to see deeply into a person—without medical instruments of any kind.
“I barely know her,” Jack grumbled.
“Doesn’t mean you don’t care.” Graves held up his hand. “I know. I know. You care only about Jack Dodger. I’ll find a way to come by this evening.” Heading toward the door, he stopped beside Jack and whispered, low, “You might want to button your trousers.”
With a groan, Jack strode to his bedchamber. He needed to finish getting dressed anyway. He wasn’t certain the maid believed his story that he was dressing when he heard a loud thud coming from the duchess’s room. He supposed it didn’t really matter what anyone believed. All that mattered was that she got better.
Sitting at his desk in the library, Jack was quite content with the day’s achievements. To keep his mind from wandering to Olivia, he’d undertaken a great many tasks. He hired a nurse, a lady named Colleen, to watch Olivia during the night. Her lady’s maid insisted she would stand vigil during the day. While he interviewed nurses, he also interviewed nannies. The young lady he hired to watch over Henry was named Ida. She was short, the top of her head possibly reaching the middle of Jack’s chest—and that was with shoes on. Her black hair was pulled back into a no-nonsense bun, but her blue eyes sparkled with merriment, even when she was answering Jack’s tough questions regarding her attitude about punishment. She didn’t believe in striking children.
“How will you make him behave?”
Surely not a conventional approach, but then, Jack had never cared much for following conventional wisdom. At twenty, her experience was limited to watching over her younger brothers. But Jack recognized a gentleness in her eyes, and he liked the way she treated Henry and the manner in which he responded to her. Henry seemed comfortable with her, and the boy seemed to understand that if he was unhappy about anything, he was supposed to interrupt Jack at any time and tell him.
So with the nanny situation taken care of, Jack was able to focus on the financial matters, but suddenly nothing was adding up. He didn’t think it had much to do with the numbers in the ledgers but the fact he was concerned about Olivia.
Near midnight, when he should have gone to the club to see to matters there, he went instead to Olivia’s room. Ever aware of her devotion to proper behavior, he left the door open. The room was dark save for a lamp with a low flame sitting on the bedside table. The nurse came to her feet.
“How is she?” he asked.
“Still fevered. Mumbling a lot. But I think she’s comfortable. I’ll move over here to the corner if you’d like a moment of privacy.”
He almost asked why he’d need a moment with Olivia. He had the information he required. He could leave now. But he found himself nodding before he’d really given it any thought. “Yes, thank you.”
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