In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(37) by Lorraine Heath
“Helpful for what?”
“For determining who he is.”
“Oh, you know all the ruffians in London, do you?”
“I know a good many. So what does he look like?”
“He wears a large floppy hat pulled low so I’m not certain of his hair color. Dark I think.
His features are very rough-looking, difficult to describe because there’s nothing distinctive about them.”
“Would you recognize him if you saw him again?”
“Possibly, but you shouldn’t worry about it right now,” she said softly. “You need your pains to go away.”
He barely nodded before closing his eyes again.
“Keep talking,” he ordered, so gently that it was more of a plea.
“Tell me…how it goes with Frannie.”
She sighed. She should have expected that he’d want to speak of his love.
“It goes very well. She is bright as you said. But I think we need to expand the lessons beyond her workplace. I think it might be better to have them here. For example, there is no tea service at Dodger’s. No drawing room. It is not a lady’s world.”
“Here…is not a lady’s world.”
“But it will be, once you marry. We’ll discuss it when you’re better.”
A corner of his mouth quirked up. “You don’t like losing arguments.”
“I didn’t realize we were arguing, but honestly, does anyone want to lose?” She leaned up and whispered near his ear, “Go to sleep now. You’ll awaken to no pain.”
Her arms were growing tired. She moved up so she could rest her elbows on the bed.
She’d hardly given any thought to the notion that her change in position would place her breasts against his chest. But he was too far gone to notice, while she was acutely aware of her nipples tightening. Almost painfully so. Perhaps they’d both be in pain before the night was done.
Yet she couldn’t deny she was content to remain where she was.
She continued to rub his temples. With her thumbs she began to stroke his cheeks.
All the while taking note of the fine lines etched in his face. He was not much older than thirty, and yet strife had chiseled at his features. That first night in the library, she’d studied the portrait of the man who should have been earl before him. It wasn’t difficult to see the similarities. Even though Claybourne claimed she’d find none, she almost imagined that she had. How different the portrait might have looked if the man had lived a life as rough as the man she now comforted.
She didn’t like acknowledging how worried she’d been, how much she was coming to care for him. As a friend. One friend for another. There would never be anything more between them than that.
He was in love with Frannie, and Catherine, well, Catherine had yet to meet anyone who could claim her heart. Although she couldn’t deny that something about Claybourne did stir her. His odd honesty. His willingness to defend her. The depth of love he held for another woman and the lengths he would go to in order to have her in his life.
Catherine couldn’t imagine having a man’s devotion to that extent. Having met Claybourne, she didn’t know if she could settle for less in her own husband—if she were ever to meet a man she thought she could be content to marry.
She felt the tension slowly easing out of Claybourne, was aware of him drifting off to sleep. She could probably leave now, and yet she had no desire to go. Against her better judgment she laid her head on his chest, listened to the steady pounding of his heart.
He’d been in intense agony and yet he’d still been considerate enough to send her a missive.
Considerate. She’d not expected that of him.
Kind. Honest. Courageous. Gentle. Caring.
She’d thought she’d be dealing with the devil. And he was very slowly, in her eyes at least, beginning to resemble an angel.
A dark angel, to be sure, but an angel nonetheless.
“Shh, darling, shh, we have to be quiet. We’re playing a game. We’re going to hide from Papa.”
“Shh. Don’t be frightened, darling. Shh. Mummy will never let anything bad happen—”
Luke awoke with a start, a weight pressing down on his chest. The dream was bringing back the headache that he’d been fighting all day, ever since leaving Marcus Langdon’s.
But it wasn’t Langdon he kept thinking about. It was being in the alley—the knives, the clubs, the viciousness of the attack. Luke kept seeing Catherine, as he had last night, out of the corner of his eye, defending him, raising her arm to take the blow meant for him.
He usually had his coachman take a circuitous route home, because on more than one occasion they’d been set upon. But ever since he’d begun his association with Catherine, he’d become reckless. He wanted to get her home as quickly as possible. He didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary in the coach inhaling her sweet fragrance, carrying on conversations, coming to know her, to see her as more than the spoiled daughter of a duke.
He’d avoided the aristocracy because he didn’t want to see the similarities. He didn’t want to see them as people he could respect. Through Catherine, he was beginning to understand that they had fears, dreams, hopes, and burdens. They had troubles like everyone else and they faced them head on—like everyone else.
If he saw them as they truly were, the actions he’d taken to become one of them would shame him more than they already did. He’d been brought up to take what wasn’t rightfully his in order to survive. If he declared that he wasn’t the Earl of Claybourne, would they forgive him his sins? Or would he find himself dancing in the wind?
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