In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(16) by Lorraine Heath
His voice had grown husky and she wondered if she’d inadvertently sent him a message she’d not meant to send. She was upset by his calm and her lack of it. She took a deep breath and asked tartly, “What was it that you needed, my lord?”
“Let’s walk, shall we?”
“Not beyond the garden.”
“Certainly not. But farther away from prying eyes and ears.”
He began walking without waiting for her. She hurried to catch up. “I’ve instructed my servants not to disturb us.”
He came to an abrupt halt, and she nearly bashed her nose into his shoulder when he turned to face her. He was so incredibly tall and broad. His mere presence made her heart gallop.
“You told your servants you were meeting me here?” he asked, his voice laced with incredulity.
“No, of course not. I misspoke. I told them not to disturb me. As far as they’re concerned I’m having difficulty sleeping.”
“Is that common for you? To have difficulty sleeping?”
He actually sounded curious, as though he had a care for her.
“No, not usually,” she said. Unless she was thinking of him, then it was nigh on impossible.
“I daresay you will.”
Whatever did he mean by that?
He began walking again, and against her better judgment she fell into step beside him.
She was grateful she’d brought the lamp. While it didn’t provide an abundance of light, it did provide enough that she could see him clearly.
“I wish to speak with you about your…proposition,” Claybourne said with as much emotion as a lump of coal.
“I didn’t think you were interested.” She didn’t quite trust him. He’d rebuffed her offer and made her feel quite silly in making it.
“But now you are.”
“You sound annoyed. Have you found someone else to do your bidding?”
Oh, she wished she had. She wished she could turn on her heel and walk away. He unsettled her. She thought of his warm fingers trailing over the pulse at her throat, making it jump. She remembered his hot mouth devouring hers…
“No, I’ve not found someone else.”
“Have you taken care of the matter?”
“Then perhaps we can strike a bargain. There is a young lady who I wish very much to make my wife.”
Catherine stumbled to a stop, schooling her features not to reveal how the shock of those words had struck her as a blow. What did she care if he took a wife? She didn’t. She absolutely did not care, and yet, she couldn’t deny the disappointment. She’d spent so many years dreaming of him, although not by choice. He simply invaded her dreams as though he belonged there.
He was studying her now as though she was a curiosity. What did her face show?
Nothing she hoped. Or perhaps he was simply trying to determine how much to reveal.
He was as closed as a casket before it was lowered into the earth.
“She, however, has qualms about marrying me,” he continued.
“Because of the wicked things you do?”
His mocking smile was all the more visible in the darkness. “The wicked things I do, Lady Catherine, are the very reason you’re drawn to me.”
“I’m not drawn to you.”
“Are you not? I don’t recall you’re being overly upset that I kissed you. I suspect you were hoping for a taste of wickedness.”
“You know nothing at all about my hopes, my lord.” She swallowed, striving to regain her frigid composure. “The young lady has qualms. I can hardly blame her.”
“In negotiations, Lady Catherine, it doesn’t serve one well to insult the one from whom you require a favor.”
“Yes, so you explained the other night. My apologies if I gave insult. She will not marry you and that has caused you to summon me because…”
“She fears our world. She doesn’t feel that she’ll fit in with the nobility.”
A commoner? He was going to marry a commoner? On the other hand, what choice
remained to him? She could think of no woman who would welcome his attentions, no father who would seriously consider allowing Claybourne to pursue his daughter’s hand in matrimony.
“I’d not noticed you particularly trying to fit in.”
“Quite honestly, Lady Catherine, until recently I’d not given a damn if I fit in or not. But Frannie and I will no doubt have children, and I don’t want them whispered about as I am.”
Frannie. He’d wrapped a wealth of warmth around the name as he’d spoken it. Who’d have thought he’d be capable of so grand an emotion as love?
“You are not whispered about, my lord. People do not speak of the devil.”
“Now, Catherine, I know that to be untrue. Otherwise, how would you have known to come to my door?”
He purred her name with an intimacy that caused honeyed heat to pool in her belly. How quickly he gained the upper hand. How desperately she needed to reacquire it.
She angled her head and met his smile with one of her own. “Point made. So you want to ensure your children are accepted among the aristocracy.” She could hardly imagine him as a father, much less a husband.
“Indeed. But before I jump forward to that problem, I must give Frannie the confidence to honor me with her hand in marriage. And that is where you come in.”
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