In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(35) by Lorraine Heath
Marcus had always thought of hatred as a heated emotion, but looking into the dark eyes of the person standing opposite him, he realized it was cold, very cold—and very, very dangerous.
Catherine studied the missive that had been delivered earlier in the evening. Then she compared it to the one she should have burned. It was incomprehensible that they were written by the same hand. The latest was more scribble than anything else, looking like something her father in his infirmity would have written.
Not something that the bold, strong, and daring Lord Claybourne would write.
Unexpected dread filled her. He’d been fighting the ruffians long before she’d stepped out of the coach. He’d disappeared into shadows, only to reemerge. She’d assumed he was unscathed, but her assumption could be wrong. He could have been wounded.
Seriously. And it would be just like him to worry over her wound and allow his own to go untended—to strive to be so amazingly brave and sacrificing.
This very moment, he could be fighting an infection, shivering with a fever, writhing in pain.
His handwriting certainly indicated that something was amiss. And his missive was so blunt, so curt. After all they’d shared, she was owed an explanation. One way or another, she intended to get it—on her schedule not his.
She waited until later, until most decent people wouldn’t be about. Then she called for the carriage. Just as she had the first night she’d visited Claybourne, she had the driver drop her off at St. James’s Park.
“No need to wait,” she said.
“I’ll be fine.” And then she walked away before he could argue further.
She slipped through alleyways, hid behind trees, and made her way cautiously to the servants’ door. She knocked briskly.
A plump woman who wore her apron over her nightgown opened the door. The cook, no doubt, always ready to prepare a meal at a moment’s notice.
“I need to see his lordship,” Catherine said.
“He’s not receiving guests.”
“Is he home?”
The woman hesitated.
“It’s important that I see him.” Catherine brushed past the woman, ignoring her protests.
“Mr. Fitzsimmons! Mr. Fitzsimmons!” the cook screeched.
Catherine would never tolerate such caterwauling in her household. Claybourne needed a wife, and before the thought had reached its end, she remembered that his acquisition of a wife was uppermost in his mind. Otherwise, they’d not now be in partnership.
The butler walked into the kitchen, his eyes widening in surprise when he spotted Catherine.
“I need to see Claybourne,” Catherine announced without preamble.
“He’s abed, madam.”
“Is he ill?”
“I do not discuss my lordship’s business.”
“I must see him. It’s a matter of life and death. I daresay, you’ll be sacked if he learns I was here and was not taken to him immediately.”
He studied her for a long moment as though he might have the audacity to argue, then he bowed slightly. “If you’ll be so good as to come with me.”
She followed him out of the kitchen and into the hallway.
“No one knows I’m here,” she interrupted, certain that he had plans to distract her from her purpose. Also very much aware by the way he addressed her that he hadn’t a clue to her proper station in society, which was to her advantage.
He sighed as though she were a burden too great to bear. As he escorted her up the stairs, Catherine thought to ask, “He is alone, isn’t he?”
Catherine suddenly wondered what in the world she thought she was doing here. Other than being reckless. Their relationship was one of master and servant with her being the master. No, it wasn’t. It was a partnership. And she needed him in good health to carry out his part of the bargain. So she would check on him, determine what he needed, and see that he acquired it.
After they reached the top of the stairs, the butler walked down the hallway to a closed door. Catherine grabbed a lamp from a nearby table.
“If you’ll wait here—” he began as he opened the door.
But Catherine had no plans to wait, to risk having Claybourne insist his servant remove her from the premises. Before the butler could announce her or discuss her with Claybourne, she brushed past him saying, “Your services are no longer required.”
She closed the door on his stunned expression, then quickly turned to face the person lying on the large four-poster bed.
Claybourne flicked the sheet over his hips, but not before she caught sight of an incredible expanse of bare leg, firm thigh, and rounded buttock. He wasn’t wearing a nightshirt. Apparently he wasn’t wearing anything at all.
“What are you doing here?” he ground out, pressing the heel of his hand against his forehead. “I sent…a missive.”
“You’re in pain.”
“I am well aware of that.”
“Did you get conked last night?”
“Don’t be absurd. Just go.”
She remembered how her father had suffered terrible head pains, and then one night—
“You should send for your physician—Dr. Graves.”
“He’s already been here. It’s only my head. I’ll be fine by tomorrow. Just leave me to it.”
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