Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(68) by Lorraine Heath
With Henry clinging to him like a little monkey—his arms around his neck, his legs around his waist—Jack gracefully exited the coach. As they walked toward the manor, Olivia felt tears prick her eyes at the sight of the tall, strapping man beside her and the small boy who trusted him implicitly. She couldn’t deny that what she was beginning to feel for Jack was wondrous in its scope, frightening in its intensity.
She wanted to be with him in ways she knew she should not. Scandalous ways, sinful ways. She had to shore up her resolve to resist what she knew would only lead to disaster. To abandon her upbringing for a night of passion in the bed of a man to whom she was not wed, a man who had plans to marry her off to another—it was a foolish, foolish woman who would contemplate traveling such a road.
Henry stirred not at all as they entered the house and began their ascent up the stairs. He was well and truly worn out. Olivia certainly understood that feeling. She would welcome a warm bath and an early night.
Ida greeted them in the nursery. “How is the young duke?”
“Dead to the world,” Jack said as he laid Henry on his bed with a gentleness that surprised Olivia. After all this time, she was still astonished that where Henry was concerned, Jack showed such extreme consideration.
“I’ll prepare him for bed,” Ida whispered. “You see to yourselves.”
Leaning down, Olivia kissed Henry’s forehead. “Good night, sweetheart.”
She followed Jack into the hallway. “I haven’t the strength for dinner.”
His eyes held concern when he looked at her. “Was today too much?”
“It was perfect. I’m just tired. If you don’t mind, I’ll use the dressing room first.”
“I have to go out, and where I’m going my present appearance will serve me well.”
“Where are you going?”
“I want to find my locket.”
“Do you think you’ll have any luck?”
“I know where it’s likely to be pawned. I’ll find it.”
He had such confidence. Confidence in everything.
She placed her hand on his arm. “Thank you so much for today.”
He splayed his fingers beneath her chin and they curled around her neck. Her breath hitched with thoughts of him drawing her near and giving her a scalding kiss before marching off to attend to his business.
His gaze took a leisurely journey from her toes back to her eyes. “I have to confess that I’d not expected you to look so delectable in trousers.”
She felt a spurt of giddiness.
“Damn, if you don’t make me wish I was a man who’d settle for only a kiss.”
“I suppose I could forbid you.”
Only one corner of his mouth lifted, as though he were faintly amused by her shameful wantonness.
“For now, where’s the harm?” he asked in that smoky voice that did strange things to her insides. “It’ll just add to your debt.”
She didn’t bother to correct him, to inform him that she’d never pay what he presumed she owed. She’d not go to his bed. As much as the notion was beginning to appeal to her, she would hold onto the moral high ground even as he lowered his mouth to hers, even as she rose up on her toes to meet it.
It was, after all, only a kiss.
But it felt like so much more. From the moment his lips touched hers, she became lost in the sensations of his mouth playing over hers. She sensed that he tempered his hunger, that he held himself in check as though he feared he’d not have the power this time to settle for anything less than having her beneath him.
But this kiss was as marvelous as the first. A distant part of her was aware of her boy’s cap leaving her head. As she skimmed her hands up over his shoulders, she felt his arms come around her, holding her nearer, and then her hair tumbled around her. He was a man of nimble fingers and talented mouth. He could distract her so easily until all she cared about was him.
His bedroom was so near. If he was to lift her into his arms, she didn’t know if she’d have the strength to resist. She might simply lean down and open the door for him.
No, no, she had to be stronger than that. She had to take this kiss that stirred her desire and be content with it. They both had to be content with it.
Suddenly changing the angle of his mouth, he deepened the kiss, his tongue leisurely exploring, enticing her to do the same. As he drew her nearer, held her close, she was not hampered by layers of petticoats or skirts. Quite frankly, there was little more than a few pieces of fabric separating her skin from his. His body responded with a fierceness that she needed no imagination to envision. She knew exactly what he looked like, images of him in the dressing room bombarding her, igniting a fire low in her belly.
She heard a harsh plea and feared it came from her.
Breathing heavily, he tore his mouth from hers. Only then did she realize she’d fairly wound herself around him. She immediately dropped her arms, stepped back.
“You do bewitch me,” he rasped. “Fair warning, Duchess, I fear this is the last time I can settle for only a kiss.”
With that, he spun on his heel and headed toward the stairs. Closing her eyes, she sank against the wall.
His warning wasn’t at all fair. All it did was make her anticipate their next meeting.
Climbing out of his brougham, Jack inhaled the foul stench that had surrounded him for much of his youth. He didn’t return to the rookeries often, but when he did, it was always with a sense of coming home.
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