In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(45) by Lorraine Heath
Catherine hardly thought him the type to enjoy having pranks played on him. Yet she was intrigued by the notion. “What sort of trick?”
Frannie opened a drawer, took out a deck of cards, and placed it on the desk between them. And then she smiled, rather cockily—the first truly confident smile Catherine had received from her—as though she were finally in her element. Catherine realized it transformed her, and for the first time, she thought she could see what it was about the woman that appealed to Claybourne.
“How about I teach you how to beat a man at his own game?”
Luke glanced at his watch, the watch he’d inherited from the old gent, then stuffed it back into his waistcoat pocket. It was coming close to the time for him to take Catherine home. Why hadn’t Frannie brought her in here?
“Are you going to pass?” Jack asked.
Luke looked at his cards, looked at the door. “They should have been in here by now.”
“Based on Lady Catherine’s stubbornness, I expect Frannie is finding it more difficult than she imagined it would be to lure her in here.”
Luke glared at Jack. “What do you know of Catherine’s stubbornness?”
“I’ve met the woman. ’Tis enough.”
“I thought she was most pleasant,” Bill said.
On the journey here, Jim had explained to Bill exactly who Catherine was and Luke’s arrangement with her.
“Boring is what she is,” Jim said.
“She’s not boring. How many times must I tell you that? I swear to God, I’m not convinced you’re following the correct woman,” Luke said.
“She shops.” Jim cast a quick look at his friends. “She shops. She visits. Where is the excitement in that, I ask you? The only thing she does of any note is meeting you at night.”
“And getting her hand sliced to ribbons,” Bill said quietly.
A result about which Luke continued to feel guilty. Once they’d settled into the coach earlier, she’d thanked him for the gloves. Told him they weren’t necessary. Had made him feel rather silly for taking such pleasure in purchasing them for her.
“It’ll heal,” Luke said brusquely.
“It’s going to leave a nasty scar,” Bill said.
Add that burden to his guilt.
“She shouldn’t have gotten out of the coach to begin with,” Luke said.
“She doesn’t strike me as a woman who obeys,” Jack murmured.
“You think you know her so well. You know nothing at all about her.”
Jack leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and his hard-edged glare on Luke.
What could he say? That she was bold, courageous, kind, caring…that her scent still lingered in his bedchamber. He wasn’t certain he’d be able to sleep with it there. He would wake up searching for her. How was it that she was managing to work her way into every facet of his life?
Before he could form a comprehensible answer, the door opened. Thank goodness! Luke had situated himself so he was facing the door, giving him a clear view of her face, her features, and her expression as she took stock of her surroundings. All four gentlemen came to their feet.
“Gentlemen,” Frannie said, sweetly. “Lady Catherine gave me permission to take a small respite from my studies, and I thought we would stop by and say hello.”
That was it? That was the best she’d been able to come up with? The elaborate ruse?
Then Catherine smiled beautifully. “Dr. Graves, I didn’t know you were here. It’s so lovely to see you again.”
She extended her hand, and he took it gently, placing a kiss on her fingertips. Luke didn’t understand his reaction. His body stiffened and he wanted to smash his fist into Bill’s face, wanted to pull Catherine away from the man who was now turning her bandaged hand over and looking at her covered palm.
“How is it doing?” he asked.
“It’s a bit sore, and I’m having a devil of a time writing, but other than that, I can’t complain.”
She turned her attention to Jack, who was standing to Luke’s left. “Mr. Dodger.”
“I don’t mean to be pious, but I thought gambling was outlawed.”
He gave her his devil-may-care grin. “Not in private clubs. And this, my lady, is a very private club. Exclusive, in fact.”
“Are you winning?”
“I always win.”
“I would have thought that honor would fall to Claybourne.”
Luke’s heart gave a little stutter. “Why would you think that?”
“Perhaps I simply have faith in your ability to succeed.”
Was she mocking him? Would it be worse if she weren’t? If she truly did have faith in him? Had anyone of the aristocracy—other than the old gent—ever even considered that Luke was worthy of having faith placed in him?
He cleared his throat, studied her more closely. “I don’t believe you’ve met Mr.
Jim was standing to Luke’s right, out of his field of vision, but he knew the man well enough to know that he’d not give anything away with his expressions.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” She did nothing but present a welcoming smile.
“The pleasure is mine, my lady.”
Her brow furrowed. There! Luke thought. She’s recognized him!
“I daresay, it’s a rather unfortunate name you have, though, isn’t it?”
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