In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(9) by Lorraine Heath
“Always ’old yer tongue,” Feagan had advised us on the matter of being arrested. “No matter wot ye tell ’em, truth or lie, they’ll twist it around to suit their own purposes.”
I’d learned early on that Feagan’s words were not to be dismissed. He knew of what he spoke.
Then the old gent did the strangest thing. He stepped forward, clamped his gloved hand around my chin, and turned my face one way and then the other. “I need more light,” he declared.
More lamps were brought in and set upon the table, until I felt completely exposed. The anger in the old gent’s eyes changed into something softer, an emotion I didn’t recognize.
“What is it, my lord?” an inspector asked.
“I think he’s my grandson,” the old gent rasped.
“The one that went missing?”
The old gent nodded once, and I saw a way out of my predicament. Already I had learned how to read people. I knew what the old gent wanted. With my answers to his questions, I deceived him into believing it was me.
When he was convinced that I was his grandson, he told the inspectors to give us a moment alone. He sat in a chair across from me.
“Did you kill my son?” he asked.
I nodded once.
For the first time that night, I spoke the truth. In the end, it was the truth that convinced the old man that I was redeemable. It would be some time before he forgave me completely.
My salvation and my punishment were to live my life as his grandson.
“It’s so monstrously difficult to decide,” the Duchess of Avendale said. “I don’t know which one would be best.”
Looking across the small table in her garden, she caught Catherine in the midst of an embarrassing yawn, not that the duchess seemed to notice. She pushed the selections across the table. “Which do you favor?”
“Winnie, you’re selecting parchment for invitations,” Catherine told her. “Great Britain will not fall because of your decision. Which one do you like best?”
Winnie gnawed on her lower lip. “I don’t know. I think I like the look of the cream, but it’s more expensive. Is it worth it?”
“If it pleases you then it’s worth the extra expense.”
“It’s not I who has to be pleased, it’s my husband. The stationer is expecting me this afternoon. Will you come with me to make sure I do the invitations properly?”
Winnie had been Catherine’s dearest friend since they were small girls. It bothered Catherine immeasurably to see Winnie’s confidence waning. “You’ve given balls before.
You know how to properly order invitations.”
“But Avendale is always disappointed in some aspect of the affair. I want everything to be perfect.”
Catherine couldn’t believe there were many men in London who truly gave a fig about ball preparations. It was Winnie’s misfortune that she’d married one of them. Always striving for perfection, he made her life miserable and took the joy out of every task.
“There’s no such thing as perfection, and even if there were, I think it’d be rather boring.
Still, let’s go with the cream color,” Catherine said. “I think it looks a bit more elegant and I’ll purchase the invitations.”
“That’s not necessary.”
“It’s the least I can do. You’re letting me host the ball with you, at your lovely home, since Father’s ill and it wouldn’t be proper to have a ball in mine. So I’ll see to the invitations.”
“If you’re sure you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all.”
Winnie released a deep breath. “Thank you. That’s one less thing to worry about.”
“I’ll stop by the stationers on my way home.”
“You’re such a dear.”
Catherine yawned again. “Sorry.”
“I don’t recall there being any balls last night, and yet since the moment you arrived, I’ve had the distinct impression you were out rather late,” Winnie said.
“I simply didn’t sleep well.”
“Is it your father? Has his condition worsened?”
It should have been her father keeping her from sleep. It had been almost a year since his last bout with apoplexy had left him a bed-ridden invalid. Now he was little more than a shell of a man. She spent her afternoons and often her evenings reading to him, trying to bring him what comfort she could. She’d hired nurses to see after him when she couldn’t be there, because she’d known he’d feel guilty if he thought she was devoting all her time to him. She was young. He’d want her to enjoy life. But of late, that was very difficult to accomplish.
“No, Father seems to be the same, although it’s difficult to tell since he can’t speak.”
“What’s pressing on your mind then?”
A certain irritating lord. Somehow he’d managed to cast some sort of spell over her body to make it writhe unsatisfied for the remainder of the night, not that there had been much remaining after she’d finally gone to bed. What sort of debauchery had he been engaged in to return home so late? And to immediately assume that a woman such as she was there for carnal purposes? Only the worst of blackguards would view women in such a way. Catherine wasn’t a trollop. She was chaste and pure and proper. Although after tasting his kiss, she realized her life was rather dull. Still, his actions had resulted in her finally comprehending why ladies were discouraged from experiencing such intimacies until they were wed. Did all men hold such power over women—to make them burn with desire? Or was it only those like Claybourne, who loitered at the gates of hell?
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