In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(41) by Lorraine Heath
He seemed to be waiting for her to answer. Sharing seemed so intimate, but then she’d shared his bed, in a way.
“I’m perfectly fine sharing,” she said.
He grinned as though he found her answer amusing. “Would you like some milk?”
He removed a bottle from the icebox, poured milk into a glass, and set the glass on the table. He rolled down his sleeves and slipped his jacket back on, before sitting at the table with her.
“Try it,” he ordered.
She sliced off a bit of omelet and popped it into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed.
Then she smiled at him. “It’s rather good.”
“Did you think it wouldn’t be?”
“I’ve never known a lord to cook.”
“But then we both know I’m more scoundrel than lord.” He cut off a much larger piece and ate it.
“I was having tea with some ladies the other afternoon,” Catherine began, “and one mentioned that you didn’t think children should obey the law.”
“Where would she get an idea like that?”
“She said from a letter you’d written in the Times.”
“No, what I argued in my letter was that children, even if over the age of seven, should not be held accountable for understanding the law and, therefore, shouldn’t be punished as though they had the reasoning power of an adult.”
“But the law should apply to all people.”
“Indeed it should. But a child doesn’t realize he’s breaking the law.”
“But if he’s punished, he’ll learn the difference between right and wrong.”
“You’re assuming that he’s taught what is right and what is wrong and that he is making a willful decision to do wrong. But that’s not the way it is if you’re a child growing up on the streets. You’re told it’s a game. Do you see that cart with the apples on it? You’re to take an apple without being seen. And if you’re seen, you must run as fast as you can and not get caught. Bring me a dozen apples and your prize will be one of the apples.
And you’ll not go to bed hungry. They believe the carts are there for their games. And when they’re caught they’re punished as though they knew better. Recently I learned about an eight-year-old girl who was sent to prison for three months for stealing peppermints, for stealing sweets, which were probably valued at no more than a penny.”
The longer he spoke, the more his voice took on an edge of outrage that astounded her.
She’d not have thought he’d care about children or prison reform. She’d thought he was a man who cared only for his own pleasure.
She no longer felt like eating, but he’d gone to such trouble to make it for her. “Is that how it was for you?”
He slowly shook his head. “No, I knew better. I don’t know how I knew, but I did.”
He sliced off more of the omelet and studied it on the end of his fork before looking at her. “You’re a charming conversationalist during meals. I do hope this isn’t what you’re teaching Frannie.”
No matter in what direction the conversation went, it always came back to Frannie.
Catherine couldn’t imagine having a gentleman care for her so much that she was forever on his mind. She’d never really envied anyone, and she didn’t think what she felt toward Frannie was envy, but she did find herself longing for what the young woman had—what she had and was afraid to embrace.
“Have you spoken out on the matter in parliament?” she asked.
“No. I’ve yet to earn the acceptance of my peers, and until that happens they’ll not listen to anything I say or give it any credence.”
“You can hardly blame them. You don’t attend balls or social functions—”
“I can’t see that they serve any purpose.”
“Is that the reason you ignored my invitations?”
“You sound as though you were wounded.”
“No one likes to be rebuffed.”
He placed his elbow on the table and leaned toward her. “Why did you invite me?”
She angled her chin haughtily. She wasn’t about to reveal that he’d always intrigued her.
“It seemed the polite thing to do.”
He had the audacity to laugh, and she was struck by how joyous a sound it was. As though he were truly amused, as though he suspected she’d not told the entire truth.
“Here I thought you invited me because you possessed a touch of wickedness and wanted to play with the devil. You believe it important to be polite?” he asked.
“I do. At all times. For example, it’s very rude to place your elbow on the table while we’re eating. I have to question whether or not you, as well as Frannie, need lessons in manners.”
“I promise you. When the situation warrants it, I have impeccable manners.”
“So you say. Perhaps I need proof. Do you think it would be possible for the three of us
—you, Frannie, and me—to have dinner here one evening? Are your servants familiar with all that is necessary to serve guests?”
“I should think they are. The old gent hired only the best.”
“You never refer to him as your grandfather.”
“As you well know, he wasn’t.”
“Are you absolutely sure?”
He dropped his gaze to the table, and only then did she realize that she’d leaned forward, placing her elbows, both of them—Drat it!—a much worse offense, on the table. She straightened. “You’re avoiding my question.”
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