In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(44) by Lorraine Heath
“We need to determine if it was you she saw.”
“Now, that’s a jolly good idea. Let’s ask her shall we? And then she’ll know you’re having her followed. Do you think she’s going to take kindly to that news?”
“I’m not as daft as all that. We need to come up with an innocent opportunity for your path to cross with hers.” He walked over to the window, moved the drapery aside slightly, and peered out.
“Once she’s seen me, she’s more likely to notice me and become suspicious.”
“If she does, we’ll simply say I was worried about her safety, that you’re following her is a new development.”
“So how do you propose we innocently cross paths?”
How indeed without arousing suspicions?
“We just need a small ruse,” Luke said quietly. “Something simple, easy to bring about.”
He considered his options, the players at his disposal. Finally he faced Jim. “Get word to Bill. We’re going to play some cards tonight in Dodger’s back room.”
“I’m all for a bit of gaming, but how does that achieve your end?”
“We’ll have Frannie bring Catherine into the room—quite innocently. Catherine’s reaction to seeing you should tell us everything.”
“What excuse will Frannie use to bring her into a room where gents are playing cards? It will be apparent that it’s staged.”
Luke waved off his concerns. “Perhaps Frannie will want to show me something that she’s learned. We’ll leave the reason to her. I have no doubt she can lure Catherine into the room without raising suspicions.”
Feagan’s children were all skilled at delivering lies so easily that they resembled truths.
That talent had allowed him to convince the old gent that Luke was his grandson. What he required of Frannie tonight wasn’t nearly as complicated, but in some ways, Luke feared more was to be gained or lost.
“Do you know that Luke has never kissed me?”
Catherine looked up from her feeble attempt to write. While Frannie was writing out a menu that Claybourne could deliver to his cook for the dinner party that the three of them would have at his residence tomorrow night, Catherine was using her time to test her ability to write, scribbling nothing of importance. With her wounded hand, she was having difficult properly holding a writing instrument. How was she going to help Winnie address the invitations to their ball? Although that concern slipped to the back of her mind with Frannie’s announcement.
She felt her cheeks warm and wondered if Frannie had some sort of inkling that Claybourne had kissed her. Did her lips now carry a brand as visible as that upon his thumb?
Catherine swallowed. “Because he respects you.”
“I suppose. It has just always seemed to me that if a man is attracted to you that he shouldn’t be able to resist, that you should have to scold him and make him behave.”
“But a gentleman doesn’t kiss a lady until they’re betrothed, so perhaps since you haven’t accepted his offer of marriage—you haven’t, have you?”
“No. He hasn’t asked again, thank goodness. I’m not ready to say yes.” She set her elbow on the desk, her chin in her hand. “I felt so badly that night. He’d taken me out in his coach. It was filled with flowers. Terribly romantic.”
“Indeed.” Something else about Claybourne that she’d never expected. “How fortunate you are to hold his affections.”
“Fortunate?” Frannie straightened. “I work all evening and then I have to take lessons, while Luke is off playing. His affections have added to my burdens.”
Her attitude surprised Catherine. She’d never consider Claybourne’s affections as a burden. For an unkind moment she wasn’t certain Frannie deserved him. But it was not her place to judge, to decide whom he should love and who should love him.
“I thought he was here,” Catherine said. She’d never questioned what he was doing while she was showing Frannie various things.
“He is, but he’s in a room farther in the back, playing cards with Jack and the others.”
“Friends. Old acquaintances. Lads we grew up with. If I didn’t have to take my lessons, then I could play with them. I’d much rather be playing than taking lessons.”
“Is it so difficult to design a menu?”
“So many different dishes need to be served. How can one person eat them all?”
“They’re very small portions. I know you’re nervous, but it’s really not as bad as all that.”
“Still, it doesn’t seem fair that we have to work while they play. And it’s also not fair that you have to teach me etiquette, while I’m teaching you nothing.”
She was teaching more than she knew, teaching Catherine about Claybourne. Did he kiss Catherine because he had absolutely no respect for her? Or could it be as Frannie surmised—he was unable to resist because he was attracted to her? No, it had to be the former. He never left any doubt that Frannie held his heart. His reasons for kissing Catherine were either to unsettle or tease her or distract her. They were not the result of passion, although they’d certainly felt as though they were.
“You don’t have to teach me anything,” Catherine said. “My arrangement is with Claybourne, and I’m quite satisfied with it.”
“But wouldn’t it be fun to play a little trick on Luke?”
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