In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(15) by Lorraine Heath
How might her request change Sterling? Would it turn him into a man like Claybourne?
Did she want to be responsible for turning an angel into a devil? But she was so worried that the next time Avendale took his fists to Winnie he’d kill her.
Claybourne was right. She should see to the matter herself. But oh, dear Lord, where would she find the strength? And how would she do it? A pistol? A knife? Poison?
How many times would she need to shoot him or stab him? She’d never even seen a dead person—at least not so she’d remember. Her mother had died giving birth to a babe who didn’t survive. Catherine had been a child at the time. Her mother had simply appeared to be sleeping. Was all death as peaceful?
Catherine was startled from her morose thoughts by a light tapping at her door. Her maid, Jenny, peered inside. “My lady, a missive has been delivered.”
Catherine’s heart fairly stopped beating. Was it from Winnie? Had the worst finally happened? Or was it from her brother? Was he on his way home at last? Were her prayers to be answered?
“Bring it here quickly.” Her trembling worsened as she reached for the letter. It bore no seal. Just a glob of wax to hold it closed. How strange. She slipped her silver letter opener beneath the wax, parting it from the parchment. Then she unfolded the letter.
We need to meet.
C? Who the devil—
She nearly gasped.
She quickly folded up the letter and looked at Jenny. “Who brought this?”
“A young lad.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Only that it concerned an urgent matter and should be delivered to you straightaway. Is everything all right, my lady?”
Catherine cleared her throat. “Yes, all is well. I’m feeling a bit restless tonight. I shall take a stroll later, around midnight, after which you may help me prepare for bed.”
“Yes, my lady.” Jenny curtsied and left the room.
Catherine unfolded and reread the missive. Oh, dear Lord, she’d called at the devil’s door and now he was calling at hers. This did not bode well, this did not bode well at all.
She refolded the letter and slipped it inside a book. Then she got up and began pacing.
What should she wear for this midnight encounter? A cloak, perhaps, something to hide her from watchful eyes. Although with the meeting being held in her garden, the only watchful eyes would be those of her servants, and she’d simply forbid them from going in the garden at that time.
She looked at the clock ticking on the mantel. She had two hours of waiting, two hours of worrying. She’d no doubt be wise to ignore his summons.
We need to meet.
Need. Had he not indicated that he had everything he could ever need? Then what could she possibly provide?
Another kiss perhaps? Had he lain tossing and turning every night as she had? Had he been unable to sleep? Had she haunted his dreams as he haunted hers?
She couldn’t deny that she was anticipating his visit. She actually wanted to see him again. Maybe the next time she invited him to a ball, he’d attend.
She sat down, watched the clock, and waited. At precisely five minutes before midnight, she got up and slipped her cloak around her shoulders. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, tucked a few stray strands of her hair back into place, then laughed at her silliness. He’d barely be able to see her in the darkness. And she certainly didn’t care what he thought of her appearance.
She considered donning her gloves, but this wasn’t a formal outing. They’d have no reason to touch. With a calming breath, she lifted the lamp from her desk and walked out of her room.
It was very quiet, most of the lights in the household doused by now. She was almost to the morning room where doors would lead her into the garden when she heard—
“My lady, may I be of service?”
She swung around and smiled at the butler. “No, thank you, Jeffers. I’m having difficulty sleeping. I’m simply going to take a walk in the garden.”
“Yes, it’s our garden. I should be quite safe.”
“Would you like me to have a footman accompany you?”
“No, thank you. I welcome the solitude. As a matter of fact, please see to it that none of the servants disturb me.”
He bowed slightly. “As you wish.”
She headed to the morning room. Once there, she took a moment to gather her resolve as closely around her as her cloak and stepped out through the doors into the garden.
When they had parties, they lit the lanterns that lined the walk, but she didn’t see the need for that much trouble or that much light, yet as she wandered along the path she began to second-guess her decision. She hadn’t realized how very dark it was among the hedgerows and the flowers and the ivy-covered trestles, how very ominous, how very—
With a little squeak, she jerked around. How had she not seen him standing there? He seemed to emerge from the night shadows like the prince of darkness himself.
“You startled me, sir.” Then she cursed herself for speaking before her heart had returned to a normal beat. Her voice sounded like the warbling tones her brother had exhibited when he was on the cusp of manhood.
“My apologies,” Claybourne said.
“Your tone lacks any contrition. I daresay you did it on purpose.”
“Perhaps. I wasn’t certain you’d meet me.”
“Your missive indicated you had a ‘need.’ Unlike you, I’m not one to generally ignore those in need.”
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