In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(18) by Lorraine Heath
“You must love her very much to be willing to do all this.”
He twisted his head slightly and held her gaze. “I’m not doing anything for her that I’ve not done for her before.”
Damnation, what was it about the woman that had him confessing things he’d never confessed to anyone else? What was it about her that filled him with shame about his past? What made him want to shock her down to her very toes? What made him want to appear as evil as she believed him to be?
The thoughts had been tormenting him ever since he’d left her garden. He was no doubt a fool for getting involved in this matter without more information. She wouldn’t reveal who she wanted killed until he was ready to carry out her bidding. For all he knew, he was the one she wanted done in. Not that he could think of a single reason why she would. A wise man never went into a situation without knowing all the details. He was sadly lacking in details.
He banged on the door of the simple lodging. He waited a minute, banged again. He saw a light flicker in a lower window and banged once more.
The door opened and an elderly woman held up her lamp. “Are you daft? Are you not aware of the hour?”
“I need to see James Swindler.”
“Then get him up.”
She glared at him. “Have you no decency? I’ll do no such thing.”
Footsteps echoed on the stairs and then a tall man with broad shoulders was easing the lady aside, lifting his lamp for a clearer view.
“Luke? Good God, what’s wrong? Is it Frannie?”
In a way it was.
“We need to talk.”
“Of course, come on up.” Jim patted the woman’s shoulder. “It’s all right, Mrs. Whitten.
He’s a friend.”
“No, doubt, one in trouble. Calling on an inspector of Scotland Yard this time of night.
It’s not what decent folks do.”
“Not to worry. Go back to sleep, madam. I’ll keep an eye on things.”
The woman harrumphed and shuffled back toward what Luke assumed was her
“Your landlady is a most unpleasant woman.”
Jim chuckled. “It has been my experience that few people are pleasant when they’re awakened in the middle of the night. Come on up.”
Luke followed him up the narrow stairs to a flat that had a sitting room and a sleeping area off to the side. He wasn’t surprised to see a small fire going in the fireplace.
Regardless of the season, he and his friends relished warmth now that they could afford it.
Jim poured whiskey into two glasses and handed one to Luke. “Make yourself
Luke sat in one of two chairs set before the fireplace while Jim sat in the other.
“An inspector? When did that happen?” Luke asked.
“Some time back.”
“You’re moving up in the world.”
“Hardly. It’s an impressive title, but it simply means I no longer walk the streets but oversee those who do.”
Jim had always been humble to a fault. Luke suspected if he were suddenly crowned king of England, he’d brush it off, saying that it simply meant he sat in a fancier chair than anyone else.
“Why did you think my reason for being here had something to do with Frannie?” Luke asked.
“Because she’s what we all have in common.”
“No, Feagan is what we all have in common.”
“But Frannie is the one we all circle around to protect.” Jim leaned forward, pressing his elbows against his thighs, holding his glass with two hands, as though he expected bad news. “So if she’s not what brought you to my door in the middle of the night, what is?”
“I need you to gather some information for me.”
Jim leaned back, smiling confidently. “That’s where my true talent lies.”
Luke was well aware of that fact, and he intended to put James Swindler’s skills to good use. He was determined to learn the truth behind Lady Catherine Mabry’s request long before she revealed it. Knowledge was strength, and where she was concerned, Luke needed all the strength he could summon.
A gaming hell. Claybourne had brought her through the back door of a gaming hell.
Catherine was still reeling from that realization as she stood in the office doorway watching while Claybourne sought to convince a red-haired lady—who seemed
determined not to be convinced—that everything would be all right.
“Frannie, she’s going to teach you that being married to a lord is not something to be feared,” Claybourne said.
Unless one was married to the Duke of Avendale, Catherine thought wryly.
“But I don’t want this.”
They continued on, going back and forth. Catherine listened with half an ear, more intrigued by her surroundings than the conversation, even though she couldn’t see the main portion of the inside of the building. She was halfway tempted to ask for a tour.
Claybourne wanted to marry a woman who worked in a gaming hell. Who worked. In a gambling establishment. Society would never accept her. The entire situation had disaster written all over it. Still, Catherine embraced the challenge. She would not only teach her, but she would see that she was accepted into Society. It was worth it to see that Winnie was safe.
The dress Catherine wore was one she used when calling on ladies of quality. It seemed entirely inappropriate all of a sudden. What did one wear when going to a gaming establishment? She struggled not to laugh maniacally. The entire situation was simply absurd and at the same time incredibly fascinating. Winnie would absolutely die if she knew where Catherine was spending her evening.
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