In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(28) by Lorraine Heath
Before he could say anything further, she stepped up and into the carriage. She tugged her hand free of his.
“Take care, Lady Catherine. You never know what dangers are about.”
Oh, she had a very good idea about the dangers. The carriage moved forward and Catherine took several deep breaths to calm the erratic beating of her heart. Just before the carriage turned onto the street, she glanced over her shoulder.
Avendale was still there, watching her.
Traveling in his coach, Luke couldn’t help but be irritated by the amount of time he was spending preparing himself for his nightly visits to Dodger’s. He’d never before been on a schedule. Now he was on one every night—not only for when he went to Dodger’s but for when he left. Catherine insisted. Three at the latest.
After all, she needed her beauty rest.
Not that he attributed her beauty to the amount of sleep she indulged in. He had a feeling she could go a week without sleep and still be ravishing. It was more than the alabaster of her skin or the honey of her hair. It was the confidence that she exuded—as though she somehow demanded that when a man looked at her, he would see naught but her perfection.
He’d known a good many beautiful women, but he’d never given much thought to
exactly why they were beautiful. Catherine in particular puzzled him. She wasn’t striking, and yet he was hard pressed to think of anyone he found more attractive.
Not even Frannie could compare, and yet, he saw more perfection in her features, and so it stood to reason that she should be the more beautiful of the two. Certainly, gazing at her had always brought him pleasure, but he saw something else there when he looked at Catherine. Something he couldn’t identify, something he couldn’t understand.
But it wasn’t for Catherine that he’d taken to properly preparing himself for his late-night outings. It was for Frannie. He was taking an inordinate amount of time each evening because of Frannie.
Before he’d asked Frannie to marry him, he’d simply gone to Dodger’s whenever he wanted, and while he never dressed as a beggar, he’d certainly never taken the time to shave, bathe, and change into fresh clothing. He brushed his hair, he applied sandalwood cologne. He was always properly decked out.
For several nights now, he’d gone to all this trouble, all this bother. It wasn’t as though Frannie had an opportunity to notice. As soon as he led Catherine through the back doorway into the private hallway where customers were forbidden, she disappeared into Frannie’s office, closed the door, and they were secreted away until Catherine came out, prepared to go home.
Frannie would give him a sweet smile, but by then his breath was tainted with whiskey, his hair was furrowed from the numerous times that he’d combed his fingers through it, and he was no longer in an agreeable mood because for the first time in his life he was losing at the gaming tables. He was distracted, not concentrating on the gents at the table. He wanted to know what was going on behind that blasted closed door.
To further add to his irritation, Jim’s reports were of little use. Today Catherine had again visited with the Duchess of Avendale—apparently she was helping the duchess with a party that she was giving—bought a new fan and a new parasol, gone into a bookshop and come out with a purchase, which Jim, with a few well-placed coins, had learned was David Copperfield. According to the shop owner, Lady Catherine Mabry had a fondness for Dickens.
She’d also stopped by Frannie’s orphanage. Had simply stood on the street and looked at it. What was that about? How did she even know the orphanage existed?
Now they were heading home and he knew no more at that precise moment than he had when he’d picked her up several hours earlier.
“So when will I see some progress?” he asked curtly.
“When we’re ready.”
“Surely by now you’ve taught her something.”
“I’ve taught her a great deal.”
“Give me an example.”
“I’m not going to list out our accomplishments. You’ll see them when we’re ready.”
“Can you give me an estimate as to when that might be?”
“I’m most anxious to wed her.”
“Yes, I know.”
She said it on a sigh as though she could hardly be bothered to care.
“I thought you were equally anxious for me to see about your business,” he reminded her.
“I am…I was…I…”
“Having second thoughts?”
“No, not really. I just—I’ve heard that Marcus Langdon is seeking to prove you’re not the rightful heir.”
What did that have to do with their arrangement? How had she heard? And how had he not? Still, he wasn’t about to let on that her words had taken him by surprise.
“You sound concerned. I assure you there’s no cause to fret. He’s threatened to do this on numerous occasions. Usually when he wants an increase in allowance.”
“You provide him with an allowance?”
“Don’t be shocked. It’s not uncommon for a lord to see after those entrusted to his care.
The old gent requested that I see after them, and so I do.”
“Out of guilt?”
“Why can it not be out of kindness?”
“Are you a kind man then?”
He laughed. “Hardly. You know what I am, Catherine. Or more importantly, what I am not. I’m not the rightful heir. I’m not the true grandson to the previous Earl of Claybourne. But he entrusted his titles and his estates to my keeping, and keep them I shall.”
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