In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(19) by Lorraine Heath
The owner of the establishment, to whom she’d been introduced upon entering, also stood in the doorway, leaning back insolently, his arms folded across his chest, his gaze running from the top of her head to her toes and back up. Even though she wasn’t looking at him, she could feel his impudent perusal, as though it was a soft touch.
Twisting her head, she glared at Jack Dodger. “Are you pleased with what you see?”
He snapped his gaze up to hers. “Immensely.”
She allowed her gaze to wander over him, stopping for a heartbeat at the burn in the shape of a T that marred the inside of his thumb until she finally settled her gaze on his dark eyes once more. “I can’t say the same.”
His chuckle was a low thrumming purr, like that of a large cat preparing to strike. A shiver went slowly down Catherine’s spine.
“How is it that a lady of the nobility ended up with a backbone?” he asked.
“It appears you know little of the nobility, sir.”
“I know a great deal about them.” He leaned forward slightly, satisfaction in his dark eyes. “They are some of my best customers.”
She knew his sort—a troublemaker—the reason decent women needed an escort when traveling on the streets. He was attempting to shock her. She was not easily shocked. She turned her attention back to the arguing couple. “We all have our vices.”
“And what is yours, Lady Catherine?”
“None of your concern.”
“Perhaps not, but it has occurred to me that I might have a position for you in my employ.”
She glared at him once more. “Do tell.”
“I believe you would fulfill a fantasy for my customers who are not of the nobility that my present girls can’t. I suspect many a gent fantasizes about bedding a woman of your…ilk.”
“And what of a lady’s fantasies? Are you well equipped to see to those?”
He seemed taken aback. Good. She didn’t much like him.
“Do ladies fantasize about bedding?”
She arched a brow.
A lazy grin spread over his face. “What do you fantasize?”
She gave him a slow smile in return and shifted her attention back to the arguing couple.
Frannie was obviously agitated. Dear God, at this rate, they’d be here all night.
Catherine was already tired. She’d spent a good deal of the afternoon with her father’s man of business and she’d been too anxious about tonight’s meeting with Claybourne to rest earlier that evening.
“That’s quite enough already!” Catherine shouted.
Claybourne spun around, clearly irritated with her. Not that she cared a whit about his irritation one way or another.
“You can’t bully her into this,” she said.
“I’m not bullying her.”
“You’re bullying her. Can’t you see that she’s terrified by the thought of marriage to you? Not that I can blame her if this is the way you plan to treat her once you’re married.”
“No,” Frannie said. “No, not marriage to Luke, but marriage to what he represents.”
“The nobility, the peerage, the upper crust of society. Do you really believe we’re so different?”
“Yes. You have all these rules—”
“Which can be learned, and Lord Claybourne assures me you’re extremely bright and will pick up on the subtle nuances of our society in no time. So shall we get to it?”
Frannie looked at Claybourne, looked at Catherine. She appeared to be completely defeated. “Yes, of course.”
Catherine stepped into the room, wondering why in the world Claybourne would want a mouse for a wife. It seemed that more than lessons on etiquette were in order. “You, Lord Claybourne, may leave.”
He took a step nearer and leaned toward her. “Be gentle with her.”
“I shall do what needs to be done in order to gain what I want.”
“If you bring her tears—”
“For God’s sake, I’m not a monster.”
He started to open his mouth.
“Shh! I’ll not tolerate your interference in this matter. Take Mr. Dodger with you as I don’t much care for him. Be sure to close the door smartly on your way out.”
A muscle in his jaw jumped, and she thought she should be frightened by the dark look he gave her. But for some strange reason she wasn’t afraid of the Devil Earl. She never had been.
He spun on his heel, strode from the room, and slammed the door in his wake. She did take perverse satisfaction in pricking his temper. She turned her attention to the woman who was no doubt older than she, but somehow seemed younger. “Hello, Frannie. I’m Catherine.”
“Only in formal situations. Among friends I’m Catherine.”
“And you expect us to be friends?”
“I do indeed.” She sat in a nearby chair. “Now, tell me the true reason you don’t want to marry Claybourne.”
“I like her,” Jack said. “I like her a lot.”
Luke tossed back the whiskey Jack had poured for him before pressing the glass and his ear to the wall in Jack’s sanctuary—a room nestled beside Frannie’s. Damnation, he couldn’t hear a bloody word.
Jack took the glass from him, refilled it, and handed it back. “She has a lot of spunk.”
“She’s damned irritating is what she is. I’m already regretting the bargain.”
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