In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(27) by Lorraine Heath
“I don’t think Claybourne will give it up easily.” Quite honestly, she didn’t think he’d give it up at all, and while a part of her recognized that he’d stolen it, she couldn’t quite see him as anything other than a lord. There was simply something about the way he held himself that seemed to indicate he’d been born into the role.
“Sometimes, like the way you sounded today when you spoke his name, it’s almost as though you know him.”
“He is so mysterious, Winnie. Maybe we should invite him to our ball.”
“I daresay his appearance would certainly make it the talk of London.”
Yes, Catherine thought, it would.
The carriage came to a halt outside Winnie’s residence.
“Would you like to come in for a moment?” Winnie asked.
“Yes, I’d love to see Whit.”
“That, my dear friend, is the very reason you should marry. You so enjoy children.”
“I think it important to enjoy their father.”
Winnie blanched. Catherine reached out and touched Winnie’s arm. “I didn’t mean anything by that, Winnie.”
“For myself, I just need there to be something special between me and the man I might marry.”
“I hope you find it.”
In Winnie’s voice, Catherine heard the despair of a woman who had not found
The footman assisted them in leaving the carriage. They walked up the steps and entered the house.
“Where have you been?”
The voice was harsh, demanding. Winnie squeaked and jumped aside, knocking into Catherine, and they both did a strange little stepping dance to keep from losing their balance.
Avendale laughed in a mean sort of way. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Catherine didn’t believe that. He moved from near the window where he’d obviously been watching them.
“Answer me, Duchess.”
So formal. Winnie was his wife for goodness’ sakes. Catherine heard her swallow.
“We were spending the afternoon visiting with Lady Charlotte,” Winnie said.
“She’s naught but a gossip. Why would you spend time with her?”
“We spend time calling on many of the ladies. It’s what we do,” Winnie said.
He narrowed his dark eyes. His hair was almost black. Claybourne’s was darker, and yet it didn’t make him seem as sinister. Avendale wasn’t nearly as tall as Claybourne but what he lacked in height, he made up for in width. Still, Catherine thought Claybourne could take him easily enough.
Avendale shifted his attention to Catherine, and unlike Winnie, she didn’t cower.
“Shouldn’t you be seeing after your father?”
She wanted to tell him it was none of his business. Instead she said, “He has nurses. It would weigh on him if I spent all of my time with him.”
“Where did you say you spent the afternoon?”
Why in the world did he sound so suspicious? “With Lady Charlotte.”
“In her garden.”
“For how long?”
“About twenty minutes or so.”
“And before that?”
Catherine looked at Winnie who was studying the tips of her shoes. Did she always go through this inquisition?
“We stopped by to visit with the Countess of Chesney. After our visit, she invited us to join her at Lady Charlotte’s.”
“And before that?” he asked again.
“Would you like me to provide you with a written schedule?”
He grinned, more like one who was irritated than amused. “No need. You don’t like being challenged, do you?”
“No, Your Grace, I do not, but then name me one person who does.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
Winnie cleared her throat. “Did you have a need of me?”
He slid his gaze back to her and Catherine was aware of her shrinking.
“Yes, as a matter of fact. My boots were not polished to my satisfaction. I took a strap to the lad. I think he’ll do a much better job in the morning, but will you please inspect them before I have need of them?”
“Yes, of course.”
“You took a strap to the boy who polishes your boots because they weren’t shiny enough?” Catherine asked.
“Are you questioning me in my home, Lady Catherine?”
“Yes, I rather think I am.”
He snorted. “You need a man to put you in your place.”
She felt fingers digging into her arm. She knew Winnie was warning her. Do not poke a stick at a tiger. Oh, but it was tempting, so very tempting.
“It’s rather late, my father’s expecting me. I should go”—without seeing Whit. But she knew she was in danger of saying something she shouldn’t.
“I’ll see you out,” Avendale said.
He followed her out to where her carriage waited. Catherine forced herself to place her hand in his when he offered to assist her. His fingers closed painfully around hers.
“I believe you’re a rather bad influence on my wife,” he said in a low voice.
Catherine’s heart thudded against her chest. “Are you threatening me?”
“Of course not, but I’m not certain you understand a wife’s place in the world.”
She met and held his gaze. “On the contrary, Your Grace, I fear it is you who doesn’t understand a woman’s place.”
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