Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(53) by Lorraine Heath
He took the velvet-covered bench near her vanity, set it beside the bed, and sat. So great was his concern for Olivia earlier he’d barely noticed the room, the room she’d asked him not to enter. Glancing around quickly, he couldn’t see anything unusual, anything that might embarrass her or that she might want to hold as a secret. Perhaps it was no more than that this room was her sanctuary and she didn’t want the likes of Jack Dodger invading it. She shouldn’t have taken ill, then.
He considered taking her hand, but the action somehow seemed more intimate than the kiss. He didn’t even know why he was there. He could do little enough for her—but he felt a need to do something. He hated feeling as though he had no control over the situation. It didn’t help that the infernal clocks were ticking—
He looked to the bedside table. A clock with winged cherubs was marking the passing of time. But that wasn’t enough to set up such a ruckus. Twisting around, he looked to the corner and discovered the clocks he’d had removed from the library were resting on a small lace-covered table. Why were they so precious to her?
He shifted back around and studied her. She seemed to be resting comfortably. He slid his gaze over to the nurse. She was sitting near the fireplace, her profile to him, concentrating on her knitting. He suspected that she’d notice if he did anything not of a gentlemanly nature, but she was far enough away not to hear any words whispered. Not that he wanted to whisper anything to the duchess.
There was a considerable amount that he wanted to yell at her. She was really inconveniencing him. It was damned irritating. She needed to get well, and quickly. He didn’t have time to waste looking in on her, and her, son was worried, so Jack had to take moments away from his work—moments he couldn’t spare—to reassure Henry. He needed to take care of matters here and at his business. He didn’t have the patience for this nonsense.
Still, he placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward slightly. “No need to worry about your son,” he said in a low voice. “He has a proper nanny now. The Countess of Claybourne helped me locate her.”
That had been irritating as well: asking Catherine for help. Jack was accustomed to taking care of matters on his own, but he was not as familiar with this world as he was with his. He didn’t want to disappoint Olivia by choosing poorly. That too was irritating: that he cared about pleasing her.
“You’ll approve of her, the new nanny. Her name is Ida. Henry likes her well enough.”
Olivia’s eyes fluttered open. He could claim he hadn’t meant to awaken her. After all, he was skilled at lying. But he had wanted her awake, had wanted to see for himself that life remained in those golden eyes. Had wanted to gaze into them again.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
Her eyes closed briefly as though it took all her strength to respond. “Tired.”
He thought about touching her forehead to test the extent of her fever, but he could see the flush in her cheeks, the dew on her skin. He had no doubt she was still fevered.
“Henry?” she croaked.
“He’s fine. He’s asleep now.”
“A little after midnight. I can give you the precise time if you like. You’ve got all the damned clocks in here.”
One corner of her mouth shifted up into a weak smile. “Gave them…to him.”
“You gave Lovingdon all the clocks?”
She nodded slightly. No wonder she’d been upset that Jack had thought so little of the precious collection.
“He always said time was his enemy.” Tears welled in her eyes. “Tried to make him see it wasn’t. But he claimed there were things he needed to do. Things to set to right.”
She shook her head slowly, closed her eyes, and opened them. “Wouldn’t say. His secrets.”
Jack couldn’t help but wonder if any of those secrets concerned him. He looked around the room again. Nothing looked familiar, but it could have changed as much as London had. The man who’d taken him in had given him a room next to his, but Jack didn’t think this was it.
“So sorry,” she rasped.
He looked back at her, for the briefest of moments fearing she had the ability to read his mind, to know the dark roads down which his thoughts had traveled. So his tongue was a bit sharper than he’d intended when he finally spoke. “What do you keep apologizing for? What did you do that requires eternal apologies?”
“Lovingdon. I killed him.”
Jack stared at Olivia. She’d closed her eyes as soon as the words were spoken, as though her admission had taken all her remaining strength. Did she think she was dying, in need of a deathbed confession? Why had she said such a thing? Had she suddenly climbed out of bed, removed all her clothes, and run through the London streets stark naked, Jack wouldn’t have been more surprised.
A sound startled him, and to his everlasting irritation, his body jerked. The nurse was standing at the foot of the bed. Did they all have to creep around? He was going to insist bells be sewn onto everyone’s clothes so he was aware of them approaching.
“Was she awake?” she asked.
“For a minute.”
“Did you give her anything to drink?”
Colleen scowled at him as though he’d revealed that he’d been more interested in undoing Olivia’s buttons than seeing to her comfort. She moved around to the other side of the bed. She touched her fingers to Olivia’s brow. Olivia mumbled incoherently.
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