Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(85) by Lorraine Heath
“We should have brought Pippin,” she said.
“We will next time,” Jack said. He was stretched out on his side, raised up on an elbow, enjoying a glass of wine. They’d finished their picnic earlier and he was determined they not take any wine back home. “Why didn’t you want him to have a dog?”
She picked at the blanket. “When I was a young girl, about ten, I had a puppy. I loved it so much. One morning I woke up and it was dead. I was inconsolable. I always suspected my brother had poisoned it.”
“Yes. Of course, he wasn’t Avendale then. He was a bit of a bully, though. I can’t say I was particularly sad when he died. Still I cried. I don’t do well when things die.” She glanced over at him. “Since we’re asking personal questions, why do you care so much for money?”
“Asking about your dog didn’t seem as personal.”
“Money is everything to you,” she insisted.
“Not everything, otherwise, I wouldn’t have the private car so we could get away for a bit.”
“But very, very important.”
“Absolutely. For those of us who grew up without it, it is very important indeed. It allows you to protect yourself from those who would do you harm.”
“Who would harm you?”
He swirled the wine in his glass. “No one anymore.” He glanced toward the sea where Henry was now trying to splash water on Ida, who merely laughed. “Did his father give him much attention?”
“Not really. Oh, he thanked me on the day he was born, for giving him an heir, but now I realize he was probably thanking me because he’d no longer have to come to my bed.”
He jerked his head around. “You don’t mean that.”
“I think I do, yes. In retrospect, I can see that he was a very sad man.”
“I thought the same thing the first time I met him.”
She perked up at that bit of news. “At your club?”
Reaching out, he took her hand, pressed a kiss to her fingers. “No, years ago. I met him in the Earl of Claybourne’s garden. I think they were friends and he was visiting.”
“I think he knew all the lords.”
“That’s not uncommon, is it?”
“No, not really. What did you talk about?”
“I was thinking of leaving Claybourne’s, striking out on my own. He convinced me not to.”
“Why were you thinking of leaving?”
“The old gent, Luke’s grandfather, demanded perfection. He was a hard taskmaster, harder than Feagan ever was. I didn’t appreciate what he was teaching me at the time. And I suspect Henry will not appreciate what I’m teaching him.”
She glanced toward her son. “To frolic and play?”
“To take from life what you can, while you can.”
She looked back at Jack and brushed the hair off his brow. “I think that’s an admirable philosophy.”
“Now you find something about me admirable? I daresay hell will be naught but ice by the time I get there.”
She leaned toward him and whispered, “Will Henry be driving the train on the way back?”
He gave her a slow, sensual smile. “I imagine something can be arranged.”
“I like this gown,” Jack said, nibbling on Livy’s ear in the library. “Can hardly wait to divest you of it.”
As soon as they finished dinner, he would. It had been nearly a week since they’d traveled on the railway, and while she wore black during the day, each evening before dinner she surprised him with a different gown. While he always awaited her arrival with anticipation, he took additional pleasure in seeing her dressed in something other than mourning clothes. Tonight it was red. She was breathtaking in red. He was convinced that in the future, she should purchase clothing only in that shade. He trailed his mouth along the side of her throat. She moaned, a lingering sound that threatened to weaken his resolve to allow her to wear the gown at least through dinner.
“I think the servants are beginning to talk,” she murmured.
“I pay them enough that they won’t utter a single word, not even to each other.” He’d have never before considered paying to keep wagging tongues silent, but a proper perception was so important to her. Amazing how what was important to her was becoming increasingly important to him.
She leaned back. “We’ve not been very discreet.”
“I beg to differ. All they know is that in the evenings you don’t parade around in black. I haven’t been chasing you around the residence, though God knows that idea has merit. Maybe I won’t go to the club tonight, and after the servants are asleep—”
She slapped his shoulder. “I’m serious, Jack. What began as one night of indiscretion has grown into something that consumes me. I’m hardly acting the widow.”
“In public you do. In private, it’s no one’s damned business.”
She glided her fingers lovingly over the faint scar on his cheek. “I suppose I just worry that Lovingdon deserves better from me in death.”
“And you deserved better from him in life. The man failed to appreciate you.” He ran his mouth along her bare shoulder. “You must admit that is not one of my failings.”
Her soft whimper urged him on. There was no hope for it. He couldn’t last until after dinner. Lifting her, he sat her on the desk.
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