In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(26) by Lorraine Heath
“Not offhand, no. It was years ago, I believe, when he was a child. From what I understand, he was caught stealing.”
“He should have gone to prison for killing Mr. Langdon’s father,” Lady Charlotte said, with righteous indignation.
“Dear girl, he should have been hanged,” Lady Chesney said, “but as he was never actually put on trial, he avoided both consequences. He was in a gaol for a bit, awaiting trial, but gaol hardly suffices as prison.”
“Should we be speaking of Claybourne?” Winnie asked, glancing around as though she expected him to jump out from behind the rosebushes. “If we’re not careful he’ll be making appearances at our affairs.”
“You’re quite right, Duchess. He is a horrible man. I shall pray diligently day and night for the court and the Crown to bestow upon Mr. Marcus Langdon what is rightfully his,”
Lady Charlotte said.
Catherine had an unkind thought that Lady Charlotte was praying so hard because she wanted to be a countess. What a selfish use of prayer that was. Would it not be better to pray for the children?
For three nights now, in between teaching Frannie proper etiquette, Catherine heard about the children’s home that Frannie was building on land that Claybourne had purchased for her. It was located just outside of London. She intended it to be a place where children could, in Frannie’s words, be children.
Catherine had done good works. She donated clothing to the poor. She gave coins to begging children. But she didn’t wrap her arms around them as she suspected Frannie did. And now to hear that even Claybourne was taking a public stand against what he considered an unfair practice…she felt quite humbled.
“I don’t think he’s as bad as all that,” Catherine muttered later as the open carriage rattled over the street, taking her and Winnie to Winnie’s residence.
“Who?” Winnie asked.
“Oh, please, I really don’t want to speak of him. We should be discussing the ball we’ll be hosting at the end of the month. That’s a much more pleasant conversation. Have you managed to acquire an orchestra for us?”
Catherine smiled. “Yes, I have. And the invitations should be ready tomorrow. I’ll pick them up at the stationers, and then we can spend a terribly exciting afternoon addressing them.”
Winnie laughed lightly. It always made Catherine feel better to hear her friend laugh.
“You don’t like addressing invitations,” Winnie said.
“No, I must confess that I don’t. I enjoy arranging for a ball, but the tedious tasks bore me to no end.”
“I shall address them all. I don’t mind. I rather like having a precise goal that can be easily met.”
“But it seems like such a small goal.”
Winnie stopped smiling. Drat it! Catherine had hurt her feelings. She was so easily hurt these days, and who could blame her? Her confidence was shattered. Reaching across, Catherine squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling a bit trite of late. Hearing that a man such as Claybourne, a known scoundrel, is taking time to speak out on behalf of children makes me feel as though I should be doing more.”
“You have your father to look after.”
“Yes, but he has nurses.”
“And you have the estates to oversee.”
“That is true, I suppose, although even then it’s simply a matter of approving decisions that the estates’ managers have already given considerable thought to.”
“When do you think your brother will return home?”
“I don’t know.”
“When did you last hear from him?”
Catherine glanced about at the shops they passed. She’d been shopping too much of late, to take her mind off the bargain she’d struck with Claybourne. It was almost as though she wanted to run from her decision, even though she truly believed it was the only way to save Winnie. Threatening Avendale would only anger him further, and he would take his fury out on her friend and possibly on Catherine as well. Yes, killing him was the only permanent answer that guaranteed no harm to Winnie.
“It’s been nearly a year,” Catherine said quietly.
“You don’t suppose something horrendous has happened to him.”
“No, he’s never been one for writing. He’s rather selfish in that regard. He cares only about his own pleasures.”
“That will all change when he returns home.”
“Perhaps.” She hoped so. Although she didn’t think she was doing too terrible a job at managing things. She rather liked it actually.
“We really need to find you a husband,” Winnie said. “Isn’t there anyone who’s caught your fancy?”
Catherine thought of silver eyes, the way they warmed when Claybourne looked at Frannie, the way they’d heated when he’d kissed Catherine. He was so solicitous where Frannie was concerned. How could Frannie not want what Claybourne had to offer?
When he’d first told Catherine that he wanted to marry a woman who had misgivings about marrying him, she’d thought she’d understood the misgivings. But the more time she spent in Claybourne’s company the more she discovered a man of such depth that she thought a lifetime spent with him would not reveal all the layers. But what an intriguing lifetime it would be. But he was not for her, and well she knew it.
“Not really,” Catherine said.
“I can hardly believe that Lady Charlotte has taken a fancy to Mr. Marcus Langdon. He’s nice enough, I suppose, but I think her interest may wane if his pursuit in reclaiming the title isn’t successful.”
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