Between the Devil and Desire(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 2)(88) by Lorraine Heath
“I’m thinking of going for a walk in the garden,” she said. It was dark but not terribly late. She wasn’t in the mood for bed either, or for being alone. “Would you like to go with me?”
He nodded. “Can I take Pippin?”
She couldn’t remember the last time he’d stammered. “Of course.” She turned to Ida. “Henry and I are going for a walk in the garden.”
“I’ll get him ready for you, Your Grace.”
It was only a few minutes before she and Henry were strolling through the garden, the occasional lantern providing a shadowy path.
“I think Pippin will like the country, don’t you?” Olivia asked.
She could see Henry nodding.
“Why isn’t Jack coming?”
“He has business to see to here.” She crouched before him, turned him to face her. “Henry, you have to understand—”
A shadow stepped out of the darkness.
Damn her. What did she want him to do? Profess undying love? Ask for her hand in marriage? She was a duchess, for God’s sake. She acted as though he’d forgotten what she was, what he was. He hadn’t. All the money in the world wouldn’t cleanse his origins from him, wouldn’t make it acceptable for him to marry her.
Not that he’d ever consider marriage.
Still, he couldn’t imagine his house without her in it. Couldn’t imagine not hearing the echo of her sharp steps as she strode through the hallways to confront him about one matter or another. Couldn’t imagine the scent of her perfume not wafting from her bedchamber into his via the dressing room, couldn’t imagine it not being on the pillow next to his. Couldn’t imagine silence at meals, laughter unheard, smiles unseen.
He, who had always longed for the next coin, now yearned for something more. A woman. He thought he’d give up every coin he possessed if she would bestow upon him just one more smile.
The knock on his office door made him glower. He didn’t want company, but before he could tell whoever it was that he wasn’t at home—what a silly bit of nonsense that was—the door opened and Swindler stepped in.
“Frannie said I’d find you here.”
No doubt after he’d spent considerable time talking with her. Jack didn’t know why the man didn’t just profess his love for her, ask for her hand in marriage, and be done with it.
On the other hand, maybe he should ask the same of himself regarding Olivia. What was the worst that would happen? She’d say no and he’d send her to the country.
“You all right?” Swindler asked.
“Of course.” Jack reached back and grabbed a glass. He filled it with whiskey, set it in front of Swindler as he took his seat, and then refilled his own glass. “You’re a bit late in informing me that Briarwood is spreading rumors about me.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ve had several things I’ve been investigating of late, and you’re not the one who pays my salary.”
“Quit your job and come work for me exclusively. I’ll pay you more than Scotland Yard does.”
“I like my job, thank you very much.”
Jack shrugged. “So what do you have? Did you find out anything about my mother?”
“I’m not hopeful there of ever finding anything. But the other matter you asked me about—Lovingdon engaging in any perversions…”
A hint of something in Swindler’s voice had Jack sitting up straighter. “Yes?”
“I found nothing where he was concerned, but his cousin gives me pause.”
“Rupert Stanford. He’s very much a recluse. According to his maid-of-all-work, the only servant he had until he let her go two days ago, he nearly worked her into the ground keeping everything clean. She was with him for nearly twenty years. He took in maybe a dozen boys during that time. One at a time. Apparently with the intent of finding each boy a proper home. One day she would come into work and find the boy no longer there. She always assumed he’d carried through on his promise, found them someplace else to live.”
“Which he might have,” Jack said, but he wasn’t feeling good about this.
“He well might have. I have nothing conclusive, but I find it troubling in light of your earlier concerns.”
“Perhaps we should visit him.”
The house was not particularly grand, but it was vaguely familiar. Could this be the dwelling he’d been searching for when he aimlessly walked the streets? He remembered the man’s house as being larger, but then to a child of the rookeries—the child that Jack had been—a residence such as this would have taken on the mystique of a palace. Swindler banged the knocker.
“Doesn’t appear anyone’s home,” Swindler said.
“I want to see inside.”
The light from a nearby streetlamp cast a faint glow over Swindler’s face as he arched a brow and gave Jack a stare. Jack stared back until Swindler sighed. “Did you want to do the honors, or shall I?”
Jack felt the slightest of tremors in his hand. “You.”
“Your coachman and footman—”
“They’d better be.”
Swindler reached into his pocket for his tools. Jack angled his body to form some cover for the illegal action. He heard the click and the door swung open with an ominous creak.
He walked in and was greeted with the fragrance of too much soap and furniture wax. A match flared to life. Swindler located an oil lamp and lit it.
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