In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(29) by Lorraine Heath
“Do you not worry that I’ll go to the courts and speak on Mr. Langdon’s behalf?”
“I don’t worry in the least. We’re partners in crime now, Catherine, you and I. Seek to drag me down, and you shall fall with me. You’ll have to explain when I told you. And when it comes out that you’ve been in my company all these many nights…”
He let his voice trail off into the velvety darkness, with the unspoken promise of retribution. One he’d never carry out. He was not in the habit of harming women—in any fashion. Not that she’d know that. She’d expect the worst of him. Even though there were moments when he thought she was different, he knew that deep down she saw him as everyone else did: a cad, a scoundrel, a man whose life was built on the foundation of deception—and sooner or later, the façade would crumble.
And he saw her as…a lady. High-born. Elegant. Her rose scent had begun to invade his clothes, take up permanent residence in his nostrils. Throughout the day, he’d discover times when he thought he could smell her. He’d find himself looking around, wondering if she were near, if she’d somehow managed to sneak up on him. When he was walking the crowded streets, he’d sometimes think he heard her voice. He wanted to keep as much distance as possible between them, and yet, she was somehow managing to weave her way into his life.
He wanted to ask her how her day was. What she’d talked to her friends about. He wanted to know which one of Dickens’s works was her favorite. Who else did she read?
What did she do that Jim wasn’t able to spy on? What made her happiest? What made her sad?
A horse suddenly whinnied, the coach jostled then stopped.
“What the devil?”
“What’s going on?” she asked.
Luke reached for the cane sword he kept beneath the seat, because he never knew when he might be required to walk through the London streets. “Stay here.”
He leapt out of the coach and closed the door firmly behind him. It was so very late and the street was empty.
Save for the six ruffians who now stood before him. One man held a knife to his footman’s throat, another did the same with his driver. He imagined they’d come out of the shadows, leaping onto the coach, taking both men by surprise—even though Luke had trained them better.
It was very easy to become complacent.
“Is this a robbery, gentlemen?” he asked calmly. He could see other knives, as well as wooden instruments that could be used for bludgeoning.
“It will be, m’lord, once we’ve sent ye to the devil.”
Catherine’s heart was pounding so hard that she could scarcely breathe. She moved the curtain aside only a fraction. There was more shadow than light but she could see Claybourne was surrounded. His only weapon was his walking stick.
Then in a lightning-quick movement, he pulled it apart to reveal a rather nasty-looking swordlike instrument.
“I believe, gentlemen, you’ll be breaking fast with the devil this morning, not I.”
He lunged toward the man who held his footman and the footman somehow managed to break free of the hold and send the ruffian to the ground.
Claybourne’s move was a feint, Catherine realized, a ploy to simply distract that man so the footman would be at an advantage, because no sooner had Claybourne made a motion to go one way, he reversed direction, making a jabbing motion toward the man who held his coachman. But the coachman had already elbowed his captor and was skillfully avoiding the knife.
While both his servants were now doing their best to fend off the men attacking them, Claybourne was left to deal with the other four—who were taking unfair advantage of the situation. But then she supposed that was what these sorts of cads were accustomed to doing.
Claybourne had somehow managed to kick one of the men in the stomach. Doubled over, he’d dropped his weapon—a large wooden stick. Catherine thought if she could retrieve it, she could give him a few good whacks on the head and even the odds a bit.
Before she could think it through clearly, she’d opened the door and stepped out—
Claybourne’s back was to her and a man with a wicked-looking knife was coming up behind him.
“Nooo!” she screamed.
She felt the agonizing fire erupt across her palm, and only then did she realize she’d put her hand up to stop the knife from slicing Claybourne. The man wielding the weapon seemed to be in shock that he’d attacked a lady.
Catherine looked at the crimson flow invading her glove and staggered back.
“Let’s go, mates!” someone yelled.
She was vaguely aware of someone grunting, the echo of pounding footsteps.
She blinked. Claybourne was kneeling beside her. What was she doing on the ground?
When had she fallen? Why was it suddenly so very dark?
“He was going to kill you,” she murmured. Or thought she did. The words seem to come from a great distance.
“That’s no excuse to put yourself in harm’s way.”
The insufferable ingrate lifted her into his arms and carried her to the coach. He’d barely gotten her inside before following after her, sitting beside her. “Here,” he said, and she felt him wrapping something around her hand as the coach lurched forward.
“It’ll be ruined.”
“Good Lord, Catherine, your hand is likely ruined. I don’t give a damn about a bit of cloth.”
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