In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(7) by Lorraine Heath
“Who?” he asked.
The brusqueness of his tone brought her back to the moment. She wrapped both hands around the glass. “Pardon?”
He sighed with impatience. “Who do you want killed?”
“I won’t tell you until I know for certain that you’re willing to do it.”
“Because I don’t want you warning him if you’re not going to take care of the matter—”
“No,” he interrupted brusquely.
Disappointment slammed into her. She considered arguing, but she felt almost undone by the kiss and his complete disregard for her plight. Despising the small tremors cascading through her and determined to make as dignified an exit as possible, she stood. “Thank you for your time then.”
“No,” he ground out. “I wasn’t saying I wouldn’t do it. I said no because you’re answering the wrong question.”
“I wasn’t asking why you wouldn’t tell me who he was. I was inquiring as to the reason you wanted him killed.”
“Oh.” She sat back down. Hope returned like a fledgling bird learning to fly. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that either.”
He took another swallow of his brandy, studying her over the rim of his glass. It was all she could do not to squirm. He wasn’t what she’d call classically handsome. His nose was slightly bent and uneven across the top as though at one time it might have been smashed. Oddly, it added strength to a face that might have appeared a bit too elegant otherwise. He was in need of a shave, but at this time of night, she suspected most men were. She could still feel where his dark whiskers had abraded her chin and cheeks as he’d kissed her.
She closed her eyes and fought back those carnal images and her body’s embarrassing reaction to them. Her lips were still tingling and swollen. She wondered if they’d ever again feel normal. Apparently being spawned from the depths of hell caused everything about a man to be exceedingly hot. She was surprised she’d not burned to a cinder.
“How many men have you kissed?” he suddenly asked.
Her eyes flew open, and—Drat it!—she squirmed. She considered lying, but what was to be gained by deception? She suspected he did enough deceiving for both of them. “Only tonight.”
He took another long swallow, scrutinizing her again. She didn’t like when he studied her. She didn’t like it at all. She was reminded of that first night, at the ball, when she’d felt as though he’d been measuring her worth—and had decided she was worth very little.
“But I’m not here to discuss kisses. I’m here to discuss—”
“Yes, yes, whether I’ll kill someone for you. And you expect me to take you at your word that he deserves killing without even telling me what he’s done. For all I know perhaps he neglected to ask you for a dance.”
“Surely, you don’t think I’m as trite as all that.”
“I know little about you, Lady Catherine, except that you have no qualms about visiting a gentleman in the dead of night. Perhaps you visited this gent, he rebuffed you, and you took offense.”
“I’m not in the habit of visiting gentlemen in the dead of night.”
“Your actions would speak otherwise.”
“Do you judge all by their actions?”
“They are more telling than their words.”
“And you no doubt have considerable experience with false words.”
One corner of his mouth eased up slightly, a mocking imitation of a smile. “Most women fawn over a gentleman when they wish him to do their bidding.”
She glanced down at the glass in her hands. She wondered if she drank its contents if she’d find her retreating courage at its bottom. “I meant no insult.”
“Did you not?”
She lifted her gaze back to his. “Yes, I suppose I did.”
His eyes widening slightly, he seemed surprised by the truth of her answer.
“So what did the gentleman do to earn your displeasure? Mock your gown? Step on your toes while waltzing? Present you with wilted flowers?”
“My reasons are my own, my lord. You’ll not goad me into telling you. Our arrangement will involve nothing more than you’re agreeing to take care of the matter at which point I’ll tell you who is to be taken care of.”
“Why should I agree to this? What is the benefit to me?”
“I shall pay you handsomely for this service.”
His harsh laughter, echoing between the walls lined with shelves laden with books, somehow seemed at home here. As though masculinity ruled and no space was allowed for anything of a kinder nature. “Lady Catherine, money is the one thing of which I have absolutely no need.”
She’d feared that would be the case, leaving her in a weak bargaining position. What could she offer him? She’d heard enough rumors to know he wasn’t a man who did anything as a result of having a charitable heart. “What are you in need of then, my lord?”
“Surely you are in need of something that your present circumstance can’t provide.”
He stood. “Nothing that would cause me to kill a man simply because you wish him dead. You’ve wasted your time by coming here. Please see yourself out.”
Dismissing her, he walked back to the corner and began refilling his glass. She wouldn’t beg, but neither would she give up quite so easily. She rose to her feet. “Is there nothing you want so desperately that you’d be willing to do anything in order to acquire it?”
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