Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(76) by Lorraine Heath
She’d taken to once again studying him as though he should be on display somewhere. They discussed the perfection of the food they were eating—if they spoke at all. Most of the time, he avoided looking at her because he didn’t want her to see how very much he yearned to have her.
After dinner, she retreated to her room and he went to the library. He was at his desk drowning his desires in whiskey when Brittles came into the room.
“Your carriage is ready, sir.”
He nodded and finished off his whiskey. As he passed the stairs, he considered going up them, going to Livy’s room, and breaking his promise not to go to her bed. But when he gave his word, he meant it. It was the only honorable trait to which he could still lay claim.
A footman opened the door. Jack strode on, determined to do whatever was required to get her off his mind. Use Pru if necessary, even though the option left him with a hollow ache. Hurrying down the steps, he ignored the light mist falling. It suited his mood.
A footman opened the carriage door. “Sir.”
Jack acknowledged him with a nod, placed his foot on the step, vaulted up, became aware of a familiar scent—
“Going to your club?”
At the unexpected feminine voice, one that haunted him, he jerked upward and banged his head. “Dammit!”
He swung inside and dropped onto the bench. “What the devil are you doing here?”
Olivia had not expected to take him so completely by surprise. Served him right, though, for that first night when he’d given her such a fright. “I want to go with you.”
“Don’t be silly. The only women allowed in my club are those willing to provide services to men. Is that what you’re entertaining? If so I can accommodate you here.”
She should have known he’d not make this easy, but she’d not be dissuaded.
“As you’re the owner, surely you can make an exception.”
He settled back into the corner of the carriage. She could feel his intense gaze on her. “Why?”
“I know you’re a fair guardian to Henry. I know you’re very astute when it comes to acquiring money. I’d like to see your business firsthand.”
In the shadows, she didn’t see his hand move, but suddenly she was aware of his hand slipping beneath her veil and felt his thumb caress her cheek.
“I don’t want secrets between us, Jack.”
“And if you don’t like what you see?”
Her feelings toward him might dissipate like the fog in late morning. “You said you weren’t ashamed of your affairs.”
He came nearer to her, his mouth against her cheek. “What does it matter, Livy?”
She swallowed hard. “I care for you far more than I should. I spend countless hours thinking of going to your bed. And I can’t. I just can’t, not without a clearer understanding of the man you are.” She placed her hand on his chest, felt the hard beating of his heart beneath her fingers. “Your business is a good part of your life. All it has ever been to mine is gossip. I want to know the truth of it.”
“I’ve told you the truth of it.”
“I want to see it. I assume it’s a shadowy place. I’m in black. My hat has a black veil. I should think it would take a very discerning eye to figure out who I am, and if all your customers indulge in spirits as much as my brother did, I think it unlikely they’ll remember seeing me anyway.”
She heard his sigh. “I can’t take you in through the front door. You’d be too much of a curiosity, and your reputation would be destroyed if someone did recognize you.”
“I assume you have a back one.”
He studied her for a moment. “You can’t share the things you witness at Dodger’s with your ladies during tea. You can’t ever reveal the name of anyone you see in Dodger’s.”
“I won’t tell a soul.”
“I’m deadly serious, Livy. My customers pay exceedingly well to have their secrets kept, and that trust is vital to my success.”
“I swear to you I won’t breathe a word to anyone.”
“I shall no doubt regret this,” he muttered, even as he signaled for his driver to be off.
Olivia could hardly give credence to the thrill of adventure that shot through her. She was going against her upbringing to do something that was absolutely and irrevocably wrong, while holding onto her belief that she needed to thoroughly know a man before she succumbed to temptation. It was a ludicrous rationale, but she couldn’t deny that he stirred within her breast intense feelings such as she’d never experienced.
They rode in absolute silence, although even in the darkness she could sense his unwavering gaze as it homed in on her.
“There,” he finally said, and she peered out the window to catch the first look at his gentlemen’s club.
It didn’t look seedy, as she’d expected. It was well maintained. The white columns and liveried footmen opening the door gave it an air of luxury she’d not anticipated.
“Is that Greystone going in?”
“It certainly looked—”
“You didn’t see anyone going in. That’s the game we play, Livy. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And by damn, you speak nothing.”
“The lords must trust you a great deal.”
“They trust me with a good many of their secrets. I may not be as respectable as Beckwith, but I know how to hold a confidence. Besides, they pay me an extraordinary amount, and I in turn pay my employees, to ensure their skeletons stay in the cupboard.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online