Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(73) by Lorraine Heath
He lifted his glass to toast her. “Indeed.”
Olivia realized she was leaving her guests out of the conversation. What an atrocious hostess she’d become. “Jack brought some clothes for Henry to play in.”
“You, as well,” he said, seemingly very pleased with himself. He looked at his guests. “We went to the Great Exhibition, with Livy and Henry dressed as boys.”
“Really?” Catherine didn’t look at all appalled. “What was it like to wear trousers in public?”
“I daresay, I think we wear far too many layers of clothes.”
“I agree,” both men said at once.
Olivia and Catherine giggled like young girls.
“You know,” Claybourne said, lifting his wineglass and studying its dark red contents, “it’s possible Lovingdon chose you to be guardian because of the protection you give the lads who work for you.”
Olivia was surprised by his words, because the same thought had crossed her mind.
“I considered that, but it seems a flimsy reason. I’m not sure it really even matters anymore.”
But Olivia couldn’t help but wonder if it did. It was something to ponder later. For now, she was well aware that she had Jack’s attention. He lifted his wineglass in a quiet salute and a promise that set her heart to racing.
As much as she’d thought she wanted company, as much as she thought she would welcome a distraction from her isolated mourning, suddenly she was more than anxious for her guests to leave. She wanted a little time alone with Jack before he left for the club—which he would inevitably do. He always went to the club.
Olivia felt wholly inadequate to entertain. In mourning, she’d been rather isolated and didn’t even have any gossip to share. Although she enjoyed the company and it was nice to visit with others for a change.
She was more tired than she’d expected to be when Claybourne and Catherine took their leave. Jack was standing with her on the front steps, watching them drive away in their coach.
“I can hardly believe I had the Devil Earl to dinner,” Olivia said, as Jack closed the door. He’d never been welcome in either her father’s or her brother’s homes.
“The next thing you know, you’ll be inviting all of Feagan’s brood to dinner.”
She doubted that, but she wasn’t going to be rude and admit it. After all, they were Jack’s friends.
“None of you truly seems to give the impression you grew up on the streets.”
“Claybourne’s grandfather hired tutors for us. He was determined we wouldn’t reflect our origins. It wouldn’t do for us to embarrass his grandson.”
“You’ve had a rather unique upbringing.” They’d reached the stairs. She glanced upward, hesitant to retire.
“Come have a little brandy,” Jack said quietly. “It’ll help you sleep.”
“The last time I had brandy I woke up ill.”
“Then I’ll pour you some whiskey.”
Her breaths were becoming shallower as she anticipated that she might receive another kiss. She wanted it, wanted it desperately. She could do little more than nod.
They walked to the library without touching. As soon as the footman closed the door in their wake, Jack had her in his arms, holding her close, as his mouth swooped down to claim hers. She wanted to laugh from the joy of his eagerness. She’d never felt desired, and with him, it was as though he was hungry, hungry for her alone.
His mouth blazed a trail along her throat. “I was going mad sitting at that table making pleasant—and utterly boring—conversation, when all I could think about was how much I wanted to taste you instead of the chicken.”
Perhaps not the most poetic of compliments, but she moaned and gave him easier access to her throat.
“Come to my bed, Livy.”
“I’ll kiss you from head to toe, I’ll kiss you in places I doubt Lovingdon ever did.”
Heat poured through her, melting her bones until she was surprised she was still able to stand. Yes. Yes. Yes. “No.”
She shoved the word up from the depths of her soul, a soul that refused to be compromised. Pushing away from him, she shook her head, deciding she needed more than the word to convince them both. “No. I can’t, Jack. I can’t.”
His gaze slowly traveled over her. “And I can’t kiss you without wanting more.”
Reaching out, he touched her cheek. “Don’t apologize, Livy. If I were a proper gentleman”—regret touched his eyes—“but I’m not. Will you at least take a walk about the garden with me?”
“That would be lovely.” And just maybe she’d gather up the courage to forbid him once again to give her only a kiss.
Olivia stood still and silent on the terrace while Jack had a footman go through the garden lighting the lanterns that would mark the path. A part of her regretted that she’d turned him away in the library. She was so tempted to give in to her desires, but a lifetime of moral upbringing could not be so easily set aside. She had to set an example for Henry, and maybe in a way, she wanted to set one for Jack. He seemed to believe a person was entitled to everything he wanted. But she knew if she gave in she’d lose his respect. She suspected he was only toying with her, seeking to add her to his long list of conquests.
Not until the footman was finished and had retreated into the house did Jack extend his arm toward her. It was a lovely night. The fog had yet to arrive. She was not even bothered by the coolness of the air, because whenever Jack was near she always grew so incredibly warm, as though passion simmered just below the surface of her skin.
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