Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(56) by Lorraine Heath
They sat in silence for a moment before Jack said, “You can suck your thumb if you want.”
Henry shook his head.
“Here.” Jack reached in his jacket pocket, removed his locket, and handed it to Henry. “Hold it for good luck.”
Henry’s small hand fisted around it.
“Do you know Lord Claybourne?” Jack asked.
Henry glanced up at him. “No.”
His voice was so soft, as though he feared disturbing his mother, that Jack almost didn’t hear him. “Well, I suspect you will someday. I lived with the previous Lord Claybourne for a time. One day I was trying to decide if I wanted to run off. I was standing at the back gate, looking at my locket when your father approached.”
Henry’s golden eyes widened.
“This was years ago,” Jack said. “Before you were born. He thought I’d stolen it, but I told him my mum had given it to me…”
Jack remembered that day as though it were yesterday.
“I’ll give you a shilling to let me look at it,” Lovingdon said.
“Why do you care?”
“A girl I once knew carried a locket that looked very much like that one.”
Jack didn’t like him. He didn’t trust anyone with green eyes. They reminded him of the man who’d hurt him so long ago. But where was the harm in taking a coin? “A crown.”
The man smiled. “You are a bargainer. But it’s a deal.”
He gave Jack the crown and as soon as he held it in his hand, he wanted to run. Take the coin and dash off. Instead, with a tightness in his throat that he thought might suffocate him, he handed over his precious possession.
The duke very slowly opened the locket and studied the miniature for what seemed an eternity. Then he closed it and handed it back to Jack. “It’s a very pretty locket, but not the one I was remembering.”
Jack tucked the locket away and gave him a cocky grin. “Thanks for the crown.”
“Are you thinking of leaving?”
“I don’t see it’s any of yer business.”
“The earl is offering you an opportunity here that few such as yourself are given. If you don’t want to learn from him, perhaps you’d be willing to learn from me.”
“Yer not offerin’ nothin’ I want. Besides, yer wrong. I wasn’t plannin’ to leave. My mates are ’ere. I’m stayin’.”
“Good for you, lad. Good for you.”
By the time Jack finished relating his story, Henry had fallen asleep. Jack carefully extricated the locket from his tiny grasp, opened it, and gazed on the miniature of his mother. She had dark hair and eyes—like his. He’d always thought her beautiful.
His thoughts kept coming back to the man who had bought him. Was it possible he had been Lovingdon? It might explain why the locket had looked familiar to him. The man who bought him had been standing nearby when Jack’s mother had given it to Jack as she said good-bye.
No, Jack refused to believe Lovingdon was that man. He’d go insane with the thought of him touching Livy, of being Henry’s father.
Another reason existed behind the will. But how in the hell was Jack going to determine what it was? And why did he have the feeling it was important to find out? He should just let it go, but he couldn’t shake the suspicion all was not right and he was overlooking something terribly important.
Lovingdon had told Olivia he had something to set to right. Jack wondered if he’d inherited that task as well. He just didn’t know what it was yet.
Time crawled by. Sometimes Olivia was cold, shivering, and other times she was so hot she thought she’d burn up.
Jack never returned to see after her welfare. She assumed he’d lost interest, once he realized she’d survive and be around to manage his household. She missed Henry dreadfully, but she knew it would frighten him to see her so weak.
Every morning and every evening the angelic physician came to see how she was doing. His arrivals allowed her to keep track of the passing of the days. It was on the third night that her fever finally broke and he seemed most pleased when he arrived in the morning and saw her sitting up in bed.
“You’re not my normal physician,” she said. She was exhausted but feeling much better. She was freshly bathed, wearing a clean nightdress. The bed linens had been changed. The windows were open, the sunlight streaming in, and the odor of illness was dissipating.
“No, I’m not. I’m a friend of Jack Dodger’s,” Dr. Graves said.
“You seem too respectable to be a friend of his.”
Dr. Graves smiled. “I knew him when I was a lad.”
“Did you grow up on the streets as well?”
“How is it that you learned compassion?”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Are you really asking, How is it that Mr. Dodger didn’t?”
“You just seem an unlikely pair.”
“Children are seldom given the luxury of choosing their childhoods, but I cannot fault the friendships formed in mine. They have stood me in good stead.”
She plucked at a thread on the comforter. “It’s just that he hasn’t even bothered to see how I’m faring.”
“Oh, he’s bothered.” He was grinning as though he was privy to some grand joke. “Each time I come to see you, afterward I’m put through a grueling interrogation regarding your health.”
As though to discount the veracity of his words, she said, “He hasn’t come to see me.” She sounded mulish, not at all like herself.
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