Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(87) by Lorraine Heath
Briarwood straightened his shoulders. “I assure you, sir, I care only for the welfare of my cousin’s son. You will see your good name ruined—”
“As you’ve pointed out on several occasions I have no good name. The name I have means less to me than my money. Make all the threats you want, I’ll not pay you.”
Briarwood was losing his composure and Jack had little doubt he’d accurately guessed the man’s reason in coming here.
“I shall go see Beckwith in the morning. If you should change your mind—”
“I won’t,” Jack said.
Briarwood looked at Olivia. “Think on it. Together we can put matters to right.”
Without a further word, he lumbered out of the room.
“Is this blackmail? Is that what he’s doing?” Olivia asked quietly.
Jack turned back to her. “Yes.”
“Why not pay him to stop these vicious rumors?”
“His accusations are false. If I pay him, I give credence to them, and then he’ll only come back for more. It’ll become a circle and we’ll be left with no way out.”
“But what if he adds my indiscretions to his rumors?”
“We gain nothing by paying him.”
“We gain his silence.”
“I will not be blackmailed.”
“Briarwood thought you’d blackmailed Lovingdon. He thought that was the reason you were named guardian.”
“It seems Briarwood has an uncanny ability to be wrong.”
“You don’t like him.”
She studied him a moment before saying, “I know you’d never hurt Henry.”
“Good.” He moved toward her and she skirted around him. It seemed she’d been paying more attention than he realized when he’d been teaching Henry how to dodge.
“But…” she began and stopped.
She turned to face him. “But regarding me: I am loath to admit it, but Briarwood is correct. My behavior has been abominable.”
“No. I know you have the wherewithal to convince me otherwise. If you but touch me, kiss me, I will follow you wherever you lead. Look at me.” She spread her arms wide. “I’m barely a month into mourning and here I am wearing red. Lying in bed with a man to whom I’m not married. For God’s sake—look what we did when traveling on a railway!”
“Livy, this is exactly what he wanted, to give you doubts, to make you question me. It only serves to strengthen his standing.”
“Did you seduce me to strengthen yours?”
He spun on his heel, went to his table, and poured whiskey into a glass. “I’ll not dignify that question with an answer.”
“Do I mean anything to you other than a bit of sport?”
“You’re playing right into his hands.”
“I’ve played right into yours often enough, haven’t I? What are we doing here, you and I?”
Did she really expect an answer to that question? Did she truly think he knew? Yes, she was a bit of sport, but she was more, and he didn’t know how to define their relationship. He couldn’t imagine his life without her in it. But neither could he imagine telling her that.
“Do you still intend to try to marry me off?”
Did he? The thought of another man touching her was enough to send riotous fury rushing through him. He’d never before had a problem sharing women. Why her? Why could he not stand the thought of her going to any other man?
“What then?” she asked, as though growing tired of waiting for him to form some sort of comprehendible answer to what should have been such a simple question. “Your mistress? I think not. I fear Briarwood was correct. I have forgotten myself.” He heard her swallow. “Jack, tomorrow I’d like to take Henry to the country,” she said quietly.
“Please don’t insist I go alone.”
Alone. She was leaving him, with or without Henry. God, that she would want to be rid of him badly enough to go without Henry said everything. He looked over his shoulder at her. The sadness in her eyes almost brought him to his knees. The sadness and the regret. He’d taught her the enjoyment of immediate pleasures, encouraged her to taste them without giving thought to the hard price to be paid later. She was now paying a dearer price than he ever would.
“I’m going to the club.” He strode past her, stopped. “I want you and Henry gone before I return late tomorrow morning. And take the damn dog with you.”
He was almost to the door when he heard her first sob. It took every ounce of strength he possessed to continue on.
Henry wasn’t nearly as excited at the prospect of going to the country as Olivia expected him to be. It was because Jack wasn’t going with them. Henry adored the man.
Not that she could blame him. He could be charming when he wanted to be, and he certainly seemed to have a way with Henry. Was it because of all the boys at his club?
Sitting in a chair beside his bed, she read to Henry, her words flat, his interest flagging. Not because he was tired. She could see that he wasn’t. Each creak of the residence had his gaze darting to the door as though he was expecting—hoping—Jack would come through it and tell him that he wouldn’t be going to the country.
Had Henry loved his father even half as much as he seemed to love Jack?
Olivia closed the book. Henry gave her a guilty look. She thought it unlikely that he was going to fall asleep anytime soon, which would make him grumpy in the morning when they began the journey.
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