Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(66) by Lorraine Heath
“Why would you carry something that valuable—”
“I always carry it,” he stated succinctly, not in the mood to have his foolishness pointed out. “I must have had it lifted half a dozen times over the years, but I was always quick enough to catch the blighter who was trying to snatch it.” He wanted to curse again, but didn’t want to get into a fight with the bloke behind him. The man might be older, but he had more bulk to him and a meaty fist that Jack knew could do some damage. If it was only him, he could dart away easily enough, but he had to worry that Olivia or the boy might take a blow intended for him.
“So someone with your skills lifted it,” she said, more than asked.
He almost told her the truth, that skill had nothing to do with it, that he’d been distracted by her, not paying attention, which must have been obvious to whomever had identified him as an easy mark. But he decided that confession would make them both uncomfortable. “It’s of no value to him. He’ll have to fence it. I’ll find it.”
She stepped around Henry, who’d been standing between them, serving as an innocent buffer. She touched Jack’s arm, and even though he was wearing a jacket and a shirt, he felt the warmth of her palm as though nothing separated them. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was fevered. Or maybe he was. He wanted to jerk away, he wanted to move closer.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly, a whisper of comfort that had the power to penetrate his carefully built wall.
“Not your fault—my foolishness.” His throat felt raw, his voice scratchy. What in the bloody hell had made him think that going on an outing with her was a good idea? Had he completely lost his mind? He wanted her more now than he had the night he’d kissed her. Her innocent lack of awareness regarding his desire for her tormented him.
“Do you have another picture of her?” she asked.
“No. It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.” Although her hand wasn’t moving, he felt as though it was, as though it was stroking his shoulders, his chest. He could imagine it, wanted it with a fierceness that was almost his undoing.
“Why aren’t they opening the doors?” he asked irritably.
Her hand slipped away as she looked toward the glass building. He wanted to snatch it back, hold it tightly, and never release it. He had lost his mind. He no longer had any doubt.
“Looks like perhaps they are,” she said. “I see some movement at the front.”
She looked back at him, held his gaze, and for a horrified moment, he thought she could see the turmoil she caused within him. He suddenly wanted more than he could have—so much more. He wanted to bring her on a day when the elite came. He wanted to wear his tailored clothing and see her in a dress other than black. He wanted her hand on his arm, knowing he would be envied because she was at his side.
“Come on! Come on!” Henry shouted.
Jack realized the line had begun to move and he’d completely missed it. “We’d best start paying attention here.”
She smiled gently as though she understood his struggles. Reaching out, she took Henry’s hand. “Stay close.”
Jack didn’t know if she was speaking to her son or to him, if she recognized that he suddenly wanted to run away. But he stayed near, holding the firm conviction that nothing within that glass and metal building would fascinate him as much as the woman dressed as a boy who now walked beside him.
He became aware of the stares, the attention they were drawing, no doubt because Olivia was talking and acting like a mother, not like a young lad. As though she also became aware of the interest, she glanced around.
She looked at Jack and he could see the panic on her face that people were beginning to notice her, notice that she wasn’t a boy. Before he could reassure her that it was of no consequence, she said, “Bloody hell,” in that deep-throated gargle she seemed to think was the way a young man would talk.
“Bloody hell,” Henry repeated.
Olivia couldn’t have looked more horrified if Jack had lifted her up and planted a kiss on those parted lips. And then she began to giggle, covering her mouth, shaking her head.
“’ere, ’ere, yer language,” the man behind them said.
The eyes of the woman behind them widened considerably. “I don’t think that’s a lad, Jonah. What’s going on ’ere?”
Jack took Olivia’s hand. “Come on.”
She grabbed Henry’s hand. Jack led them away from the line.
“We’re going to lose our place in the line,” Olivia said, but she didn’t sound angry. He could still hear the trace of laughter in her voice.
“We’re going to get a better one,” Jack said, marching them toward the front.
“You’re not thinking of stealing a place.”
“I’ve told you I don’t do that anymore.” He glanced back at her and grinned. “Steal.”
He didn’t want the beginning of the line, because it would be too obvious. But he wanted them closer than they were. He spotted a man, a woman, and a young girl. With Olivia and Henry trailing behind him, Jack approached.
“How many in your group?” Jack asked the man.
“What concern is it of yers?”
“I’ll pay you handsomely for your place here if you’ll take your family to the back of the line,” Jack told him.
“You’re knockers. We’ve been ’ere since five in the morn—”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online