In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(40) by Lorraine Heath
“I thought we were going to eat,” she said, while he unwrapped the bandage.
“We will.” When he’d removed the wrapping, he studied her hand. “It doesn’t look too bad. Does it hurt?”
“It aches a bit, but nothing I can’t live with.”
He raised his eyes to hers and she was struck by the force of his gaze, as though he had the power to peer into her heart.
“Last night you lied to me when you said it wasn’t hurting.”
“It wasn’t that bad, truly.”
“It was bad enough to bleed.”
“It seems rather ungrateful to be put out with me after I worked to make your pain go away.”
His mouth twitched slightly. “I suppose you make a valid argument.”
Very gently, he began to wrap a clean strip of cloth around her hand.
“We’ll be alike now,” she said. “Both of us with a scar on our hand. Yours is from prison, isn’t it?”
“I noticed that Mr. Dodger has one. Yours is very different.”
“Mine shamed me. I tried to slice it off. Only served to make it more noticeable.”
Her stomach grew queasy at the thought of him taking a knife to himself. How
desperately he must have wanted to be rid of it. “Were you in prison long?”
“What was your offense?”
He gave her a cocky grin. “Getting caught.”
He stood and she grabbed his wrist. “What did you do?”
“I stole some cheese. It’s not easy to run with a block of cheese. Lesson learned: steal smaller items.”
Turning away, he said, “I’m very skilled at making a ham and cheese omelet.
“As stealing it was your downfall, I wouldn’t think you’d care much for cheese.”
“I’m very fond of cheese. Why do you think I tried to steal some?”
She watched as he shrugged off his jacket and draped it over a chair. He began rolling up his sleeves.
“You’re really going to cook it yourself?” she asked.
He gave her a self-deprecating smile. “I keep odd hours. I often can’t sleep. It would be unfair to ask my cook to maintain the hours I prefer keeping.”
“But that’s the whole point in having servants. They’re supposed to be at your beck and call.”
“They’re available when I need them. Presently, I don’t.” He lit the wood already stacked in the stove. “You see? My cook keeps things ready for me.” He looked at her, lifted a brow. “Omelet?”
“Yes, please. What can I do to help?” She started to rise but he stilled her actions with the raising of his hand.
“You’ve done enough, Catherine. Now it’s my turn to do something for you. Relax and enjoy the pampering.”
She watched as he moved about the kitchen. He knew where everything was. Leaning forward, she put her elbows on the table and her chin in her unwounded palm.
“Is that a hint of a smile on your face?” she asked, thoughtfully. It transformed him.
“I actually enjoy cooking.” He broke eggs into a bowl and whisked them around.
“Brings back good memories.”
“Of your home? Before you were orphaned?”
He stilled for a moment, shook his head, and went back to preparing the eggs. “No, as we got older, Frannie began to do the cooking. I took pleasure in watching her. She was like a little mother.”
“When you were living with that man? Feagan was it?”
“Yes, Feagan.” He added the ham and cheese, then whisked the eggs some more, before pouring the batter into the skillet that had been warming on the stove.
“Your punishment for stealing cheese seems a bit harsh,” she told him.
“I thought so as well, and I was determined to never get caught again.”
“What was it like, truly, growing up as you did?”
He studied the eggs cooking in the skillet. She thought he wasn’t going to respond, but then he said, “Crowded, very crowded. We lived and slept in a single room, spooning around each other for warmth. But we weren’t hungry. And we were made to feel welcome. The first time I walked into Feagan’s was a very different experience from the first time I walked into a ballroom.”
“I suspect your age had something to do with the way you were greeted. Children are always more eager for new playmates than adults.”
“I’ve been reading Oliver Twist to my father. It’s the story—”
“I’ve read it.”
“Did Dickens have the right of it?”
“He painted a very accurate portrait of life in the rookeries, yes.”
“It wasn’t a very pleasant life.”
“Who would you die for, Catherine?”
It seemed an odd question. He looked at her over his shoulder, as though he were truly expecting an answer.
“I’ve never given it any thought. I suppose…I don’t really know. My father, I think. My brother. I don’t know.”
“The thing about the way I lived as a boy is that it gave me friends for whom I would die. So as awful as some moments were, overall, it was not such a horrible way to live. It bound us together in a way that living an easier life might not have.”
He slid the omelet onto a plate. Joining her at the table, he set the plate between them, handed her a fork and knife before giving her a wry grin. “I only know how to make one at a time. We either let this one get cold while I cook another or share.”
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