Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(62) by Lorraine Heath
“How did he know?”
Jack shrugged again. “Those of us raised under Feagan’s tutelage are skilled at deducing. In this instance, Graves was more skilled than I.”
“I’m sorry. Who is Feagan?”
“He was the kidsman who ran our band of child thieves.”
“Claybourne was one of these children?” she asked.
He nodded. “And Graves and Swindler and Frannie.”
“That first night, you said you respected only a few—”
“They are the few. In spite of the odds, they’ve done well for themselves.”
“As have you.”
“I’ve not done too shabbily.”
They were circling a portion of the garden where roses climbed the wall and flourished. The abundance of roses made their fragrance almost overpowering, certainly served to make it so he could no longer enjoy Olivia’s perfume. They were also clearly beyond the hearing of anyone inside or outside the residence.
As they strolled along, he watched her surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye, waited patiently as he observed her thoughts shifting away from him. The furrow in her brow eased. Her eyes took on a soft glow, her lips curled up slightly as she became lost in the marvels of the lilies that now greeted them at this turn.
“So tell me…why did you kill your husband?”
Olivia staggered to a stop and stared at him. She couldn’t possibly have heard correctly.
He gave her an indulgent smile. “You mentioned it while you were fevered.”
She suddenly felt nauseous. “Who heard?”
The garden was spinning around her. She wasn’t moving but somehow she stumbled. He grabbed her elbow.
“Here. Sit down over there,” he ordered, and led her to the wrought-iron bench that she’d put in this area of the garden because it normally brought her a measure of peace and contentment to sit there.
She sank onto the bench. It was small and, as insane as it might be, she wanted him to sit beside her and hold her. Instead he crouched in front of her just as Inspector Swindler had done, as though that particular position would somehow elicit a confession.
“Were you delirious when you said that?” he asked.
He was giving her an easy way to escape her predicament, and if the weight of it weren’t still bearing down on her, she might have taken it. But she’d told no one, and it was so hard, so hard, to live with. Blinking back the tears burning her eyes, she shook her head.
“Tell me,” he urged quietly.
“You’ll think I’m awful.”
He reached into his jacket, removed a handkerchief, and extended it toward her. “I’m many things, Livy. A hypocrite isn’t one of them. I’ve done far worse things than you could ever do.”
She took the handkerchief, dried her tears, and sniffled. “You called me that when I was ill.”
“It seemed to suit.”
She swallowed hard, sniffled again. “No one has ever called me anything other than Olivia—at least when using my name. They’ve called me ‘Your Grace,’ of course, and ‘Duchess,’ but never ‘Livy.’ I rather like it, and now I’m rambling.”
His gaze was penetrating and she felt as though he could see straight into her heart.
“If it makes it any easier, I don’t believe for a moment you killed him, not with malice, anyway,” he said.
“But I’m the reason he’s dead.”
She squeezed his handkerchief, pulled it taut. “We were going to a dinner. Henry had seemed particularly distressed that we were leaving, so I’d taken some extra time to reassure him. As a result we were running late. Lovingdon made some comment about how it was difficult to believe I’d let time get away from me when I had this obsession with purchasing clocks. It was so unlike him to say anything unkind. His words stung.”
Even now thinking about them, they hurt again. The clocks had always been for him. He’d always smiled when she gave one to him and said, “Oh, now I have more time.”
Only he hadn’t. He hadn’t had nearly enough.
“I can certainly understand why you killed him,” Jack said.
She scowled at him. “You’re making light of my pain.”
He shifted. “Because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like to see you hurting.”
“Who’d have thought you’d care? I think there’s a very different side of you that you share with only a few.”
“I don’t share it with anyone.”
He clasped his hands in front of him. He was holding them tightly. She could see the skin stretched taut across his knuckles, and she wondered if he was fighting not to reach out and touch her. It seemed when the situation warranted, they could both be extremely strong. At that moment she wanted nothing more than to fall into his arms, yet she kept her distance.
“So you were running late…” he prodded.
She nodded. “We were hurrying down the stairs, and I thought I heard Henry cry. I turned to go back to check on him, and Lovingdon grabbed me. Told me to let Henry be. That he was fine. But I was still upset over the silly clock comment—so I jerked free and when I did—”
Oh, God, she could see it all so clearly, each second seeming to last a minute. The startled look on his face. His arms wind milling. His foot going back, searching for the step he expected to find there, searching for balance—not finding either.
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