In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(42) by Lorraine Heath
“The old gent’s son and his wife had taken their six-year-old son to see a menagerie. The son and his wife were found murdered in an alley surrounded by garbage. I should think
—if I was that child—I would not soon forget watching the horror of my parents being killed.”
“Unless you ran off, unless you didn’t see it.”
He seemed to ponder that for a moment, then shook his head. “I should still remember them. I don’t.”
“But the names Lucian and Luke are so much alike—”
He was infuriating in his determination not to believe he was the rightful heir. For reasons she couldn’t explain, she wanted him to be—desperately. She didn’t want him to be a scoundrel who’d stolen what rightfully belonged to another.
“Who are your parents then?”
“I haven’t a clue. In my mind, it’s as though I didn’t exist before Jack took me to Feagan.”
“So you could be the lad.”
“It’s inconceivable that I could be.” He pressed his fingers to his brow. “When Jack took me to him, Feagan would have recognized by my attire that I was of quality. He would have taken advantage.”
“Perhaps your clothes were tattered by the time you were—”
He slammed his hand down on the table, making her jump. “Why are you determined to make me who I am not?”
“The very first Earl of Claybourne was granted his title for services to king or queen. He earned the right to pass that title on to his son. If you’re not a descendant of that first earl
—as much as I like you—it’s a disgrace for you to hold the title.”
“As you’re well aware, I live for disgrace.”
“No, you don’t. You talk as though you do, but your actions show you to be a liar. You’re much more honorable than you give yourself credit for.”
He narrowed his eyes. “I suppose you think I should give the title to Marcus Langdon.”
“It’s not a matter of giving. It’s a matter of to whom it rightfully belongs.”
“The old gent believed it belonged to me. Out of respect for his wishes, I shall hold it until my dying breath.”
She couldn’t believe her disappointment in his words, or her relief. For all the reasons she gave for why he shouldn’t be earl, she had to admit that she couldn’t envision anyone else as the Earl of Claybourne.
Sighing heavily, he rubbed his temples. “How in God’s name did we fall into this argument?”
“Is your head starting to hurt again?”
“A bit. It’ll go away. And speaking of going away, I should get you home.”
She was surprised to discover their omelet was gone, although he’d eaten the lion’s share. She heard a distant bump and a thump.
“My servants are getting up,” he said.
They both stood. He walked around the table, took her cloak from the chair, moved behind her, and draped it over her shoulders. His hands seemed to linger, and she almost imagined that she felt him placing a kiss against the nape of her neck. A delicious little shiver cascaded through her.
“Thank you,” he said quietly, his breath wafting over the sensitive skin below her ear.
“I need you in good health to carry out your portion of the bargain,” she said succinctly, before moving away and turning to face him. “I daresay you’re giving my actions too much credence.”
Could he tell that she was having difficulty breathing, that his nearness caused inexplicable pleasures throughout her body?
Chuckling low, he strode past her and opened the door. She was only halfway through the doorway when he said, “So you don’t want me to kiss you again?”
He was slightly behind her, so he couldn’t see her face. Still she slid her eyes closed and shook her head. She felt his ungloved hand—his fingers strong and warm—cradle her chin and turn her head back. She opened her eyes to find his gaze on her mouth.
“Pity,” he said quietly.
“The first time you kissed me to intimidate me. The second to distract me. What would be your excuse this time?”
“Damned if I know.”
She took immense satisfaction in his answer, but she had no desire to reveal her thoughts. “A gentleman doesn’t use profanity in the presence of a lady.”
“But then, you and I both know I’m not a gentleman.”
She licked her lips, wondering what harm there would be in having one more small taste of him.
Groaning, he released the featherlike hold he had on her and ushered her through the doorway. She could hear the city coming to life, deliveries being made. She waited while he had the coach readied.
He didn’t say anything when the coach arrived or as he helped her climb inside. He held his silence as they traveled through the streets. It wasn’t until they were at her gate that he finally spoke.
“You intrigue me, Catherine Mabry.”
“I’m not certain that’s a good thing.”
“I’m sorry I’m not the man you wish I were.”
“Actually, I give you a good deal more credit for your honesty than you probably deserve.”
“Probably.” He touched the tip of her nose. “I’ll see you tonight.”
She nodded. “Indeed.”
Only when she’d closed the gate behind her did she hear him walking back to his coach.
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