In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(33) by Lorraine Heath
“Each of us has our weakness. For Frannie, it’s children. For me, it’s unmarried mothers.
It began innocently enough. One of my servants had a friend who found herself with child, and she was let go. I suspect the babe’s father was the lord of the manor, but he wouldn’t claim it. So I sent her to one of my lesser estates. I wasn’t using it. I’ve sent rescued lambs there ever since.”
He made it seem so unimportant.
“Your good works must cost you a fortune.”
“You say that as though you find me generous. If you’ll not consider me a braggart, I’ll confess that I’m in possession of a fortune, a very nice fortune. What I give is nothing.
The truly generous man is the one who gives away his last ha’penny when he can ill afford to do so.”
Or one who gives away the last of his soul, she thought desolately, when it’s all that remains to him. Was she asking too much?
When they arrived at Catherine’s residence, the coach came to a halt in the alleyway.
Claybourne didn’t stop at the gate, but escorted her all the way to the servants’ entrance, his hand sturdy beneath her elbow as though she needed the support. Perhaps she did.
Sometimes she felt like she was floating, that everything was at a great distance—and then suddenly it would be before her.
“Will you be all right?” he asked.
She nodded. “I’ll see you at midnight tonight. Or is it tomorrow? I’m never quite sure how to refer to the upcoming night when dawn has not yet taken this one away.”
Cradling her chin, he rubbed his thumb over her lips. It was so dark and foggy that she couldn’t determine what he was thinking.
“Do you think you’ll be up to teaching Frannie?” he asked.
His question surprised her. She’d expected something a bit more intimate after all they’d shared tonight.
“Yes.” She sounded breathless. It irritated her that he had such power over her.
“Good. Tonight then.”
He quickly disappeared into the fog, like a phantom. Opening the door, she slipped inside, then pressed her back to the wood. She’d not expected to like Claybourne. She’d wanted only to use him, then forget him.
But she knew now that no matter what the outcome of their arrangement, she would never forget him. Never.
Luke listened to the sounds of the city coming to life as his coach traveled toward its destination. He’d always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of London, but particularly in the early hours of the morning. As a lad, he’d always felt that it offered the promise of opportunity: pockets to be picked, food to be stolen, tricks to be played on the unsuspecting. And always there was Frannie.
From the first night that Jack had taken him to Feagan’s, the first night when he had spotted the little girl sitting by the fire, the first night when she had crawled onto the mound of blankets, tucked her small hand in his, and told him not to be afraid, he had loved her.
He remembered nothing of his life before Jack found him. Marcus Langdon and his attempt to claim the title had Luke trying to remember what he could of his past. But there was nothing there. All his memories were of the streets.
Perhaps he should return to them, return to them with Frannie. Let Langdon have the title. Luke certainly didn’t need the income. Because of his partnership with Jack, he was a man of wealth in his own right. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to give up the title that the old gent had assured him belonged to him. He’d grown to care for the old gent, in his own way, and a part of him thought it would be a betrayal to the one who had saved him from the gallows and looked after him so well.
The coach came to a halt in front of a house that Luke seldom visited. He stepped out onto the cobblestone drive and strode up the steps. He didn’t knock or wait for admittance, but simply opened the door and went inside.
A maid, dusting the banister on the nearby stairs, released a tiny screech, then recognizing who he was, curtsied.
“Where are they?” he asked.
“In the breakfast dining room, my lord.”
That surprised him. He’d expected to find them still abed, had relished the notion of rousing them from slumber. But perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised. A guilty conscience made it difficult to sleep late, made it difficult to sleep at all. Without hesitation, he made his way through the residence. He wore neither hat nor gloves, because he’d not thought the formality was required when taking Catherine home. It was only on his way back to his residence that he’d changed his mind and decided to stop by here first. His clothes were unkempt, but then he’d never been interested in impressing them.
He strode into the breakfast dining room as though he owned it. His determined footsteps no doubt alerted the occupants to his arrival. Scraping back his chair, Marcus Langdon came to his feet with such swiftness that he nearly lost his balance. His mother gasped, her fleshy face quivering as she struggled to rise.
“You have no right to be here, sir!” she exclaimed, spittle flying over her plate, a plate heaped with enough food to feed a family of four.
“On the contrary, madam, I pay the lease on the residence.” He walked to the sideboard, took a plate, and began selecting items of interest. They certainly didn’t skimp when it came to their palate. “I daresay I purchased the goods that provided this lovely breakfast as well as the servants who prepared it.” He raised an eyebrow at the footman standing nearby. “See that I have some coffee.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online