In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(30) by Lorraine Heath
“Your language is vulgar, sir.”
“I believe the occasion warrants it.”
“Indeed it does.”
He chuckled, a soothing sound that made her want to reach out and comb her fingers through his hair, assure herself that he was indeed unharmed.
“Who were they?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said quietly.
“They wanted to kill you.”
He said nothing.
“Why?” she asked.
“I’m a man with many enemies, Catherine.” He tucked her up against his side, pressed his lips to the top of her head. “But never before have I had a lovely guardian angel.”
“It’s my hand, not my legs,” Catherine said as Luke swept her into his arms as soon as she appeared in the doorway of the coach intending to step out.
Luke had instructed his driver to go to his residence straightaway, to the back, where none would witness who was coming inside.
“Yes, but the faster I get you indoors, the more quickly I can have a look.”
“I’m quite capable of moving quickly.”
“Stop complaining and just accept that on this matter you’ll not win.”
“Such a bully,” she muttered, before nestling her head more securely against his shoulder.
Luke was smiling before he realized it. How was it that she managed to stir to life every emotion possible in him? First she irritated him like the devil, and then she had tried to protect him. He’d spun around in time to see her, to see the knife slashing—and his stomach had dropped to the ground. Fury had almost blinded him. At that precise moment, he’d thought he could have killed all six ruffians without breaking a sweat.
They must have realized their mistake in turning on her, must have seen the murder glittering in his eyes—to have run off as they had. Luke couldn’t bear the thought of losing her, and even as he thought that, he realized she wasn’t his to lose.
They were merely partners. He should have felt a detachment where she was concerned, but what he was beginning to feel toward her was an appreciation. It bothered him that he was coming to care for her, that he thought of her far more than he should.
The footman darted ahead and opened the door that led into the kitchen. Luke
shouldered his way through. “Go fetch my physician. Quickly now.”
Catherine stiffened in his arms. “No, no, we can’t have anyone else aware that I’m here.”
“It’s all right. He’s very discreet.”
Gingerly he set her in the chair. Reaching out, he turned up the flame in the lamp that Cook left on the table every night. He liked the rooms in his house lit. He’d had too many nights in utter darkness.
Turning from her, he grabbed a knife. Then he pulled out a chair, settled it in front of her, sat down, and placed the knife on the table.
“What are you going to do with that? My hand is already sliced.”
If she weren’t so pale with a fine sheen of sweat across her brow, if she hadn’t been so damned brave, he might have lashed out at her. Instead he just asked quietly, “Do you not trust me at all?”
She nodded, and he wasn’t certain if she was nodding yes, she didn’t trust him or yes, she did. It suddenly occurred to him that it really didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he trusted her.
Very gently he took her hand. He could feel the small tremors traveling through it. “This is likely to hurt,” he said as he began to remove the handkerchief.
“You say that as though it’s not hurting now.”
“Is it hurting very badly?”
Catherine tried not to look, tried so hard not to look, but there was so much blood, it was as though each drop were a magnet for her eyes. “It hurts like the very devil.”
He chuckled low. “You’re such a brave girl.”
She didn’t know why his words warmed her, why she cared that he had a good opinion of her. “There’s so much blood.”
“Yes,” he said quietly, removing the last of the cloth, revealing the ghastly parted flesh with the river of crimson running through it. She wondered how much worse it might have been if the knife hadn’t had to first slice through her glove.
“Oh, dear God.” She turned her head away as though closing her eyes wasn’t enough.
His hold on her hand tightened. “Don’t swoon on me.”
“I’m not going to swoon.” She didn’t bother to keep the irritation from her voice. “I hate that you think I’m such a ninny.”
“I assure you, Catherine, that particular thought regarding you has never once crossed my mind.”
She heard a scrape of metal over wood and opened her eyes in time to see him lifting the knife. Very gingerly, he used it to slice her glove further, to the end. Then he very carefully parted the cloth and slowly peeled back the material, gently tugging it off each finger. She was suddenly having a very difficult time drawing in a breath, the room had grown incredibly hot, and she feared she might be in danger of swooning—even though she’d assured him she wouldn’t.
She imagined him in a bedroom, removing clothes from a woman—from her—with the same care. Revealing every inch of her flesh for his perusal. He was studying her hand as though he’d never before seen bare fingers. He slowly trailed his finger along the outline of her hand.
“I don’t think it’s too bad,” he said quietly.
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