In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(34) by Lorraine Heath
“Yes, my lord.” He immediately headed for the doorway that would lead to the kitchen.
Luke carried his plate to the table, took the chair opposite Langdon’s mother—he had no doubt she was the more dangerous of the two—and smiled as though all was right with the world. “Please, don’t let me interrupt your meal.”
Langdon sat down cautiously, his mother less graciously.
“Good God, is that blood on your shirt?” Langdon asked.
Catherine’s blood. Luke hadn’t given any thought to the fact that she’d bled on his clothing. Thinking about how close he’d come to losing her, he had a strange sensation, as though he might be ill, but he couldn’t dwell on that now or afford to be distracted.
He had these two to deal with first.
As though Langdon’s question were of no consequence, Luke began slicing off a bit of ham. “Yes, as a matter of fact. You’ll no doubt find this interesting. A strange thing happened on my way home from Dodger’s in the early hours of the morning. My coach was stopped and some footpads threatened my life. Can you imagine?”
Langdon paled. His mother turned a ghastly, blotchy red. Luke suspected that before bitterness had hardened her features she’d been a lovely woman.
“Were you hurt?” Langdon asked.
Luke wasn’t surprised by the true concern echoed in the man’s voice. Marcus Langdon was two years Luke’s senior. He had the famous Claybourne silver eyes, as well as the dark hair. He was a handsome fellow. Luke suspected that if not for Langdon’s mother’s resentment of Luke that the two men might have even been friends. But Langdon’s loyalty rested with his mother, not with the man who had usurped his right to the title.
“Barely at all,” Luke assured him. “As you can imagine, growing up on the London streets as I did, I’m quite adept at dealing with those who crawl up out of its underbelly.
Any notion who might want me dead these days?”
Langdon shifted his gaze to his mother, then back to Luke. “No.”
“Most of London, I suspect,” Mrs. Langdon said. “You’re not a popular sort, but then thieves never are.”
Luke gave her an indulgent smile. “Are we back to that? I’ve heard that you’ve filed with the courts.”
Langdon cast another quick glance at his mother, who’d squared her shoulders in defiance.
“How’d you hear of that?” Langdon asked.
“I have my ways.”
“The title rightfully belongs to my son,” Langdon’s mother said.
“The old gent didn’t agree.”
“You never call him your grandfather. Marcus did.”
Luke fought not to show how the force of her words struck him. “I’m well aware of that, madam, but you’ll not wrest the title from me. I enjoy too much the benefits that come with it.” He came to his feet and looked at the man who no one in the room believed was truly his cousin. “If you’ve ever a desire to earn decent pay for an honest day’s work, let me know.”
“Honest? At Dodger’s?”
“I have other business interests. They don’t pay as well, but they’re more respectable. I could use a good man to help me manage them.”
Langdon scoffed. “You don’t understand what it is to be a gentleman. You’ve never understood. We don’t work.”
“Tell me, Langdon, if I cut off your allowance, how would you pay for the solicitor you’ve hired to represent you in court?”
The man remained silent. Luke knew he was pushing him—and that he was unwise to do so. Yet he seemed unable to stop himself. “The next time I meet with my man of business, perhaps you should come with me, so you’ll see exactly what you will inherit if you meet with success in the courts. I assure you that the income you’ll derive from your estates will not be nearly as generous as I am. Consider that.”
He gave them each a mocking bow before seeing himself out. He’d barely made it into his coach before the pain tore through his head. The head pains came whenever he confronted them, no doubt a result of guilt because he knew they were right and he was wrong. He was holding on to that which didn’t belong to him. God knew why he refused to give it up. Perhaps because he thought some good could come from his being considered a peer.
Or perhaps it was simply because the old gent had believed so fervently that Luke belonged here, and for some reason that Luke failed to grasp, he didn’t want to disappoint him.
“You tried to have him killed?” Marcus Langdon asked as he paced in front of the fireplace.
“It seemed the most efficient way to achieve my ends.”
“But as I explained, I wanted to go through the courts. I want everything legal.”
“That could take years.”
“I want there to be no doubt that I am the true Earl of Claybourne.”
“There’s no doubt now. All of London knows he’s an imposter.”
Marcus despised the calm voice, the absolute absence of emotion.
“I don’t want to be party to this—”
“It’s far too late to have misgivings now.”
Marcus shook his head.
“Why do you have such qualms? He murdered your father.”
“That was never proven.”
“He’s never denied it.”
“Quite honestly, he doesn’t seem like a killer.”
Dark laughter echoed through the room. “But then, neither do I.”
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