Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(72) by Lorraine Heath
Luke smiled with satisfaction. “Catherine is carrying my daughter.”
“Your heir,” Catherine corrected him.
“Whichever, I’m immensely pleased.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” Olivia said, and Jack could see the true joy in her eyes. Had she felt that delight when she’d discovered she was with child? If he married her off, would she be ecstatic when she learned she carried her new husband’s child? Why did he suddenly want to smash something?
“I’m amazed you already know,” Olivia continued.
“Dr. Graves confirmed it,” Catherine said, and she was now the one to blush.
“Is he your physician as well?” Olivia asked. “He’s wonderful. He saw to me when I was ill.”
“I’m surprised he had time, now that he serves at the queen’s pleasure,” Luke said.
Olivia’s eyes widened. “He’s physician to the queen?”
“One of several.” Jack poured himself more port. “According to Graves she’s a hypochondriac.”
“You mustn’t speak of her that way.” Olivia’s voice held chastisement.
She’d forever be correcting his manners. For some reason, it truly bothered him tonight. Could she not accept him, imperfections and all?
“Not to worry. When next I have an audience with the queen, I won’t mention it.” Jack sounded surly, even to himself, but he was acutely aware that these three would be welcomed into Buckingham Palace, while he would not.
An awkward silence descended. He didn’t want to ruin this dinner for Olivia, but he also wished Luke and Catherine would leave so he could have Olivia to himself.
“So, Luke, what do you think of Henry? He’s quite the dodger, isn’t he?” Jack asked, in order to get things going again.
“Indeed. I was very impressed. I didn’t think I’d ever see anyone as skilled as you.”
“I intend to teach him to have nimble fingers next.”
“He’s not going to become a pickpocket,” Olivia said sternly.
“I wouldn’t dream of that. But nimble fingers have other uses.”
Before anything else could be said, Brittles walked in and announced, “Dinner is served.”
As Jack offered his arm to Olivia, he leaned near and whispered, “With any luck, I may demonstrate those nimble uses before the night is done.”
She gasped and Jack chuckled. “Don’t look so shocked, Livy. Sooner or later you must pay the devil his due, and I’m of a mind to collect sooner.”
It seemed her reprieve had come to an end. Olivia was surprised to discover she wasn’t nearly as disappointed as she probably should have been.
The appreciation that had lit Jack’s eyes when she walked into the library had flattered her no end. He’d given the impression he desperately wanted to cross the room, take her in his arms, and bestow upon her a kiss that was likely to lead her into his bedroom.
Even now, Jack rarely took his eyes off her. He was being an abominable host, ignoring their guests, not bothering to even attempt to carry on any sort of conversation. Having his undivided attention was thrilling, although she was concerned that she might not be able to hold him at bay when their guests left. More fearful was the realization that she wasn’t certain she wanted to hold him at bay.
While no one seemed uncomfortable with the absence of discourse—in truth, Claybourne and Catherine seemed amused by it—Olivia was well aware that a good hostess didn’t let silence reign.
“I met Frannie recently. She seemed lovely.” Jack gave her a dark grin and she wished she hadn’t traveled down this path.
“I like her as well,” Catherine said, as though aware of the sudden tension. “She’s built an orphanage, and hopes soon to open the doors.”
“She’s just waiting for the furniture,” Claybourne added. “I suspect you’ll lose all your boys then, Jack.”
Olivia was aware of shock rippling through her. Had Frannie been his lover once? Did he have bastard children? She swallowed hard to force back the lump of unease that had formed in her throat. “What boys are those?”
Jack scowled at Claybourne as though he’d revealed some dark secret. “Just boys.”
“Your sons?” Had she truly asked? The voice didn’t sound like hers.
He gave her a wry smile. “No, I take great pains not to populate London any further. They’re street urchins, orphans.”
“You keep orphans at your establishment?” She didn’t know whether to applaud him for his benevolence or be appalled that he’d allow children into those environs.
“I don’t keep them, as though they’re possessions. They earn their place. As you may recall, I strongly believe that a person must earn the roof over his head or the food in his belly. So I take them in and give them a job. It prevents them from being recruited by mobsters and ending up in gaol. It’s nothing, really. I have chores that need doing and they’re capable of doing them.”
He spoke as though burdened by the need to explain, but she was grateful he had, because it helped her to see him yet again in another light. He was a continual kaleidoscope. And his actions weren’t nothing. It was far more trouble than she went to for orphaned children. She felt quite humbled. She also thought his care of other boys helped to explain his rapport with Henry, had perhaps prepared him for his role as guardian.
“Is that where you got the clothes?” she asked.
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