Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(78) by Lorraine Heath
“Who was he?”
“I don’t know. He was anonymous.”
“But you must have some idea. Could he have been that Feagan fellow?”
“No, running pickpockets doesn’t make one wealthy.”
“Who else might it have been?”
“I always assumed he was Luke’s grandfather. We didn’t get along very well, and I thought he saw it as an expeditious way to get rid of me. An investment well worth making.”
“I expect you were too headstrong for him.”
“I did think my way was the best.” He chuckled, then quieted. “For an instant, the night the will was read, I had an insane notion that it was Lovingdon. But I asked Beckwith and he spouted some nonsense about holding my benefactor’s secret.”
“Why would Lovingdon do that?”
“Why would he leave me his non-entailed properties?”
“If it was Lovingdon, I should think you’d find the information in his record books.”
“What record books?”
“They’ve kept records on everything. Every cow purchased, every horse bred, every servant hired, every salary paid. Lovingdon was obsessed with those books. I suppose in retrospect, he was scouring them in order to determine what was entailed and what was not—I can show you if you like.”
“Seems unlikely that I’d find anything, but I don’t suppose it would hurt to look.”
His business beginnings and record books. She was carrying on conversations about things that had no importance while her scent wafted toward him.
“What’s your opinion on Dodger’s?” he asked.
Silence stretched between them while the carriage wheels rattled over the street.
Finally, she said, “It wasn’t as decadent as I expected it to be.”
He wrapped his hand around her neck, slipped his thumb beneath her veil, and skimmed it over her jaw. “You sound disappointed.”
“What? No.” Then she released a self-conscious laugh. “A little, I suppose. If you want the truth, I was expecting orgies and lewd behavior and barbarism. It was all disenchantingly civilized.”
“Gents just enjoying themselves.”
“It’s a shame there’s not something similar for women.”
“What would you do? Serve various types of tea, discuss the merits of each?”
“We could play cards,” she said tartly, and he knew he’d offended her. “Have handsome men serving us, giving us the attention our husbands do not.”
He stilled his thumb. “You have someone here willing to give you the attention your husband didn’t, yet you constantly retreat.”
With a sweep of his hand, he lifted the veil over her head, lowered his mouth to hers, and cursed his weakness. He’d sworn that he’d not settle for a kiss. But suddenly it was torturous to go so long without even a taste of her. It pleased him immeasurably that she returned the kiss with fervor equal to his. He knew she wanted him. Where did she find the restraint to continually say no?
Chipping away at years of proper behavior required a man who possessed a good deal more patience than Jack had. He wanted what he desired as soon as he realized he wanted it. He supposed she found him equally frustrating, with his years of improper behavior that she wanted to correct.
Perhaps she was having some influence over him after all. Aware that she’d enter the house and some servants would still be about, he didn’t take down her hair or unbutton her bodice. He didn’t take liberties that would leave her panting and short of breath.
He dragged his mouth to the sensitive spot near her ear, felt the thrumming of her pulse beneath his tongue. “You see, I can be civilized. Tell me you don’t want me to be.”
“I don’t know anymore. I can’t think when you do that.”
“That says it all, doesn’t it? You belong”—he startled to a stop, the words with me dangling on his tongue—“in my bed.”
Desire fled, replaced by an almost overwhelming need to run.
Jack stood at the window in his bedchamber, gazing out on the night. Whatever was the matter with him? When had he begun to think of Livy as his?
He could never marry her. He could never make her respectable. Marriage alone to him would be enough to lower her in the eyes of Society. He could have her for perhaps two years, while she was in mourning. And then he’d have to let her go. Her and Henry. He’d obtain the last item, of “immeasurable worth,” and in time, he’d no longer think about them.
But for now she was all he thought about.
When the door leading into the dressing room opened, his heartbeat kicked up a notch and he slowly turned. She stood in her nightgown, her hair unbound, her small feet bare, her toes curling into the carpet, her hands folded primly in front of her, trepidation clearly visible on her face.
“I’m not quite sure how to do this,” she said quietly. “I’m not sure how to go about seducing you.”
“Seducing me?” He released a bark of laughter, saw the hurt flash over her features, and closed the distance separating them in four long strides. He took her soft face between his roughened hands. “Livy, you’ve been seducing me since that first night.”
He kissed her forehead. “I find your defiance exciting.”
He kissed her temple. “I find your temper thrilling.”
He kissed her cheek. “I find your love for Henry humbling.”
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