In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(25) by Lorraine Heath
Because Luke had a feeling she was leading him straight into hell, but unlike Jim, Luke wanted to know why.
Luke downed his whiskey and got up to pour himself another glass.
“How did the lesson go?” Jim asked as he walked over and held out his glass.
Luke splashed some whiskey into it. “Catherine won’t speak of it. She said I’ll see the results when I see the results. She vexes me as I’ve never been vexed. Do you know she actually had the audacity to question my selection of a wife? She’s impertinent. I’ve never known a woman such as her.” He rubbed his brow. “She makes my head hurt.”
“You’ve always been troubled with head pains.”
“It’s been awhile. I’ve some powder to relieve it. Not to worry.”
Jim set down his glass. “I’ll be off then. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have more luck.”
“Perhaps we both will.”
“I have it on good authority that Mr. Marcus Langdon has filed a bill in the Court of Chancery in order to reclaim his English estates. It is a start toward reclaiming his rightful title,” Lady Charlotte said.
Catherine and Winnie, along with the Countess of Chesney, were having afternoon tea in Lady Charlotte’s garden. While she’d only recently had her coming out, her father, the Earl of Mill-bank, was most anxious for her to marry. Who could blame him? She was the first of four gossipy daughters, which was one of the reasons she had frequent visitors. She seemed to know things before most people did.
“Then you mustn’t do anything to discourage his interest,” the Countess of Chesney said.
Lady Charlotte smiled knowingly. Obviously her good authority was Mr. Langdon himself. Catherine had seen them dancing together at balls and walking through Hyde Park. Still, she hadn’t realized Lady Charlotte’s interest in the untitled gentleman was so intense.
“But the Crown has already declared Lucian Langdon as the rightful earl,” Catherine felt a need to point out. She knew Mr. Langdon—he was quite social—and she liked him well enough. He was no doubt the rightful earl. Lucian Langdon had not denied the truth of that matter, to her at least. But still she had a difficult time imagining Marcus Langdon as earl. Or perhaps it was simply that she couldn’t see Lucian Langdon as not being earl.
“Mr. Langdon’s contention is that King William was deceived, and being quite up in years—he was seventy at the time, after all—he was taken advantage of. Queen Victoria can set the matter to rights. If Mr. Marcus Langdon can simply get the courts to recognize that the property is truly his, then he will have the weight of the courts behind him when he petitions Her Majesty.”
“I daresay, he’s a very brave man, your Mr. Marcus Langdon,” Winnie murmured. Then all eyes came to bear on Winnie, and she seemed to wither beneath the scutiny.
Catherine hated that Avendale had transformed a once-vibrant woman into such a mouse. She reached across the table and squeezed Winnie’s hand. “No doubt you’re quite right about Mr. Langdon. After all, Claybourne is not called the Devil Earl for nothing. I don’t expect he’ll go quietly into the night.”
No indeed. He would fight this latest attempt to usurp his position. He was a man who wore power like a comfortable old cloak. He’d not give it up easily.
“I’m always amazed by how eloquent Claybourne is,” Lady Chesney said.
Catherine felt her heart lurch. “You’ve spoken with him?”
Lady Chesney pressed her hand to her ample bosom, and judging by the shock on her face, Catherine might as well have asked if she’d lain in bed with him. “Of course not.
Just the thought of conversing with the man sends my heart into palpitations. I daresay, if he ever addressed me, I would expire on the spot. No, no, no. I’m referring to the letters he’s had published in the Times.”
Catherine’s stomach dropped to her toes. “What letters?”
“He maintains that it’s unfair for children older than seven to be judged according to the law of the land.”
“Well, of course, he’d think it unfair,” Lady Charlotte said. “After all, he spent time in prison—even before he murdered dear Mr. Langdon’s father. Can you imagine growing into adulthood knowing that your father was murdered—and that your grandfather not only welcomed the murderer into his home, but treated him as a son? Or a grandson as it were. It’s absolutely shameful. Can anyone blame Mr. Marcus Langdon for striving to acquire what he knows in his heart is his?”
“Of course no one can blame him,” Lady Chesney said. “I think it’s frightfully disgraceful that among the aristocracy we have a lord who bears a prison brand upon his hand.”
“Have you seen it?” Lady Charlotte asked, clearly horrified by the thought.
“I should say not! My dear Chesney has seen it, though, at the club when Claybourne is not wearing gloves. It fairly turns his stomach, and my Chesney is not one whose stomach turns easily.”
“I think if I bore the mark of sin, I’d always hide it,” Lady Charlotte said.
Catherine thought of the scar she’d seen on Claybourne’s hand the night she’d gone to visit him, the burn scar on Jack Dodger’s thumb. Why did Claybourne’s look so different, so awful? She couldn’t imagine someone intentionally pressing hot iron against a child’s small hand. “Do you know how old he was when he was in prison?”
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