Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(61) by Lorraine Heath
His gaze dropped to her mouth, before he leaned ever so slightly toward the kaleidoscope, his hands over hers, guiding it toward his eye. “The colors remind me of you,” he murmured. “Fiery, passionate. Each turn reveals a different facet.”
“I’m not certain I’m that interesting.”
He leaned back. “Then you don’t recognize your own appeal. How are you feeling? Strong enough for a walk about the garden?”
Jack studied her, not certain if she’d welcome his company, but he had some questions he wanted answered and he thought the garden might be a better place for answering them. He’d hoped the toys he’d brought would cause her to lower her guard. “Yes, I promise to be on my best behavior.”
“Your best could still be quite bad.”
It could indeed. He’d felt badly that she’d gotten sick and had wondered at first if his actions the night before she’d collapsed—plying her with brandy and then a kiss, the memory of which still had the power to make his body respond—had any bearing on her health. He couldn’t ask Graves without explaining what he’d done—not that he was ashamed, but he wasn’t accustomed to sharing the personal intimacies of his life.
“Out of deference for your recent illness, my best will be good. I was thinking I should be there in case you faint again.”
“I’m not likely to faint. Still, I would welcome your company.”
Words he’d never expected her to say. He wasn’t certain what to make of their newfound camaraderie. He just knew things had changed between them. Whether as a result of the kiss or her illness or simply an acceptance that, for now, they were part of each other’s lives, he didn’t know. He still wanted to marry her off, but he also still possessed an almost uncontrollable desire to have her in his bed.
While she put away the kaleidoscope, he unfolded his body. When she was ready, he helped her to her feet, immediately releasing his hold on her hand once she was steady. Taking her into his arms wouldn’t gain him what he needed at that moment.
“Have you even seen all of your garden?” she asked.
It was the first time she’d referred to anything there as truly belonging to him. Somehow it gave credence to his possessing everything, and he was left to wonder if she’d finally accepted the conditions of the will.
“I have, actually,” he said. “I’m rather fond of gardens.”
“I’d have thought you’d find them frivolous.”
He escorted her to the narrow cobblestone serpentine path that led away from where Henry and Ida were still exploring their new toys. The hedges and flowers were abundant here, forming a sense of seclusion. “I grew up in the rookeries. They’re filthy, crowded, not prone to offering much in the way of green grass or vibrant colors or pleasant fragrances. So, yes, I tend to appreciate gardens. And my mother sold flowers, so being near them has a tendency to remind me of her.”
“Strange, I’d never thought of you as having a mother.”
“Unlikely as it is, even Satan’s spawn must have a mother.”
She jerked her head around to look at him. “Sometimes you have such a low of opinion of yourself that it takes me by surprise.”
He grinned at her. “Why would you think I’d consider it a disadvantage to be a relation of the devil?”
She rolled her eyes. “I suppose you wouldn’t. Bless your mother for putting up with you.”
“She didn’t, actually. Not for long, anyway. She sold me when I was five.”
Sympathy and horror swam in her eyes, and he cursed himself for revealing that little tidbit of personal information. He didn’t know what had possessed him to tell her. He’d only ever told Luke. And of course, Feagan had known. Feagan knew everything.
“Don’t look so horrified, Olivia. It was a long time ago.”
“Why would she do that?”
“I don’t know. I did something to displease her, I’m sure.”
“I can’t imagine you could have done anything to cause her to so callously sell you.”
“Yes, well, I suspect there’s a good deal you can’t imagine. It’s a very different world in the rookeries.”
“To whom did she sell you?”
“It no longer matters.”
“Surely you misunderstood her intentions.”
“It’s a bit difficult to misunderstand anything when the coin purse passes in front of your eyes.” He was beginning to sound defensive. “Let’s move on to another subject, shall we?”
“Yes, of course. I didn’t mean to intrude on your painful past.”
Inwardly, he cursed again for sharing as much with her as he had. Whatever had possessed him to show such poor judgment?
“I understand you’re building a hospital for Dr. Graves. You’re far more charitable than I realized,” she said.
“No, I’m not. I lost a wager.”
Her eyes widened. “You wagered that you would build him a hospital?”
“And what was he to build you?”
She laughed. “Of course. What was the wager?”
“Luke—Claybourne—had always loved Frannie. I knew he intended to marry her. One night Graves mentioned he thought Luke would marry Lady Catherine Mabry. And I, always on the prowl for easy money, said, ‘I’ll take that wager.’ Luke married Catherine three weeks later. Now I’m obligated to build this hospital.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online