Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(60) by Lorraine Heath
He was an enigma and she was beginning to think solving the puzzle of Jack Dodger could be quite an enjoyable challenge.
Henry ran over and plopped down beside her, his forehead pleated, his eyes serious. “He won’t do it.”
Brushing the blond curls back from his brow, she said, “He could be too young, Henry. He’s really only a baby. Perhaps when he gets older he’ll be more inclined to learn.”
“Mr. Dodger could teach him. He can do everything.”
“He’s a very busy man. I don’t expect he’ll have time for your Pippin.”
He nodded slowly, as though accepting the truth of her words. Then his eyes widened with joy and he jumped up. “You’re back!”
Olivia glanced over her shoulder to see Jack striding toward them. He was carrying what looked to be three small wooden boxes.
“What have you got?” Henry asked.
“Henry, it’s improper to make such an inquiry,” Olivia scolded.
He took a few seconds to look contrite before his bright smile again lit up his face.
“I thought since your mother has recovered, we should celebrate,” Jack said, crouching beside her.
She fought to tamp down her joy at his words and the pleasure she took at his nearness. She was acutely aware of his familiar, enticing fragrance, and balled her hands in her lap to stop herself from reaching out to comb her fingers through his curling locks, as disheveled as Henry’s but not at all boyish. No, there was nothing remotely boyish about Jack Dodger.
He set the boxes on her lap and gave her a grin. “Do you mind?”
“No, of course not.” She was pathetic to take such delight in the smallest of attentions he bestowed on her.
He called to the nanny and when she neared, he said, “You’ll want to see this.”
Ida settled on the ground as though she didn’t care at all about any grass stains she might receive.
Olivia didn’t want to contemplate that Jack might have taken an interest in Ida while Olivia was ill. He was probably accustomed to juggling women. Why did she want to mean more to him than she possibly could? Was it because he was beginning to mean something to her other than her son’s guardian?
“Do you know what a kaleidoscope is?” Jack asked as he took the first wooden box.
“No, sir,” Henry said, while Ida shook her head.
Jack arched a brow at Olivia. She nodded. “Although I’ve never actually seen one.”
“Then you’re in for a treat.” He urged Henry to settle in front of him, with his back to him. But Henry was too curious and as soon as he was in place, he twisted around to see what was going on. With an amused chuckle, Jack opened the case and removed the cylinder. “Now this one is clear. You look through here”—he pointed to the eyepiece—“and as you turn the other end, whatever you’re looking at becomes very different.”
He guided Henry’s hand, teaching him to hold it, turn it. Henry laughed with delight. He jumped up. “I want to go look at Pippin.”
Chuckling with obvious satisfaction at Henry’s enthusiasm, Jack handed a box to Ida. “For you.”
She smiled with delight. “Well, thank you, sir. I’d best see to the young master.” She got up and hurried after Henry, who, unable to get Pippin to sit still, had moved on to look at flowers.
“I approve of her,” Olivia said quietly.
Jack turned his attention back to her, a sparkle in his eyes. “Damn. Means hell will be cold when I get there. I’m not fond of the cold.”
“I assume you’re hinting you thought that abominable place would freeze over before I ever agreed with you.”
“Do you worry about ending up there?”
“Worrying about things I can’t change is a waste of my time.”
“It’s not too late, you know. If you were to be very, very good—”
He laughed, and she realized she was beginning to welcome the raspy sound of it, that it stirred something deep within her. “Being very, very good would bore me into an early grave.” He winked at her, tapped the box. “Open yours.”
Her excitement at the thought of a gift caused her hands to tremble slightly. She now knew how Henry had felt, unable to sit still. His joyous laughter echoed over the garden and she wondered what delights he’d found.
“Yours is a bit different,” Jack said, his long finger trailing over the rich, dark wood of the cylinder. He turned the larger end toward her. “It has bits of colored glass in it, mostly red and purple. When you turn it, you get different images.”
As she lifted it to look through it, he slipped one of his arms around her shoulders placing his hand over hers where it held the turning mechanism, as though she needed assistance for so simple a task. A week ago, she might have shoved him aside. Now she welcomed his nearness as she might a warm blanket on a snowy winter night.
His cheek was almost touching hers, as though he could see what she was viewing. “Do you like it?” he asked in a low voice.
She wasn’t certain if he was referring to the kaleidoscope or the way he was almost holding her. In either case, the answer was the same. “Very much.”
Turning her head, she realized that she’d placed her lips only a whisper’s breath away from his. Considering the madness that had consumed them when they’d kissed before, she thought it prudent not to close the distance between them. “Did you want to have a look?”
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