Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(81) by Lorraine Heath
When he could stand it no more, he eased her over him until she was straddling his hips, her hair forming a curtain around her shoulders.
“Don’t look so shocked,” he said.
“I don’t think this is proper.”
“Sweetheart, nothing we’ve done tonight is proper.” While he’d meant to tease, he regretted his words as soon as they were spoken, because he saw in her eyes the hint of shame. “Don’t, Livy.”
She raised her gaze to his.
“Don’t regret any of this.”
She shook her head, but he could see the damage was done. He threaded his fingers through her hair and brought her down to his chest, holding her close.
“You’ll never tell anyone, will you?” she whispered after a time.
She lifted her head, digging her chin into his chest. “I don’t regret what passed between us, but I suppose a small part of me knows it was wrong.”
With his fingers, he combed back her hair. “How can it be wrong when it’s what two people want?”
“But there will never be more than this between us.”
“Quite honestly, I don’t see how there can be, but that doesn’t mean that this can’t be very, very good while we have it.”
With his hand buried in her hair, he turned her head and latched his mouth onto hers, kissing her deeply, wondering how in the hell he was ever going to let her go when the time came.
“This is probably an exercise in futility,” Livy said.
They were in the study, a small room where Lovingdon had stored all manner of ledgers, record books, journals. Livy had told Jack that Lovingdon had often sequestered himself inside for hours. “They go back for years and years.”
Jack looked up from a book whose dates corresponded with the year Beckwith had first come to see him. Livy was sitting on a sofa by the window, the sunlight casting a halo around her. He’d never been one to believe in angels, but he couldn’t deny that she appeared very angelic sitting there. Not at all like a woman who’d been ravished that morning before calling for her maid.
“Even if we find nothing, I’m fascinated by all this information. To see the fluctuation in the number of servants hired, the salaries paid, the income brought in from various estates. Even the investments that have been made. I have the present-day information, of course, but it’s advisable to examine past practices.”
She made a funny face and shuddered. “You’re not going to look through everything are you?”
She gazed around at all the books housed on shelves, stacked on the floor. “There’s almost a haphazardness to the way things are arranged. I wonder what he was looking for in here.”
“Maybe it was those who came before him who left the mess and he was simply trying to tidy it up.”
“Perhaps. I suppose all this really belongs to Henry.”
He leaned back in his chair. “How do you figure that, Duchess?”
She gave him a pointed stare. “Because most of these records involve ducal properties.”
“But they’re in my residence. Consider their worth. We’ll negotiate.”
“You can’t be serious.”
He got up, walked over to her, and placed his hands on the back of the couch, effectively hemming her in. “Deadly. That book you’re holding, I’d say, is worth a kiss.”
He cut off her laughter, his mouth plundering hers, no doubt giving the book she was holding far more value than it was worth. She returned the kiss with equal fervor, turning into him, the heavy book sliding off her lap and onto his foot.
“Damn,” he muttered, breaking free of the kiss, wiggling his throbbing toe, grateful it didn’t seem to be broken. He bent to pick up the book that had fallen open and froze—his gaze arrested by words precisely written in an elegant script.
Very slowly he lifted the book as he sat beside her.
“Jack? What’s wrong? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”
He placed his finger beneath the words, and Livy leaned in for a closer look. “Emily Dawkins? June 15, 1815. Hired as a scullery maid at the age of twelve. Five guineas. What of her?”
“That was my mother’s name.”
Olivia helped Jack scour through the books. He was almost obsessive. Not that she could blame him, but it also worried her to see him so consumed.
“Jack, it might not be her. Neither ‘Emily’ nor ‘Dawkins’ is an unusual name.”
He snapped the book shut. “I can’t find any notations to indicate when she left. Someone must know something.”
“It’s been thirty-six years. Most of the servants are no longer here, and the few who are…they’re not likely to remember a scullery maid.” She placed her hand over his. “Why did you change your name?”
“Because I didn’t want the man to whom she’d sold me to ever find me.” He gave a caustic laugh. “I changed my name several times before I settled on ‘Dodger.’”
“I still have a difficult time believing she sold you. You told me in the garden that you did something to lose her love. What did you do?”
“I don’t know. When she gave me the locket, she said, ‘Never forget I loved you, Jack.’ Loved.” He shook his head. “She loved me once, but no longer.”
“I’m not convinced that’s it.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online