In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(47) by Lorraine Heath
Jim shook his head, tossed down his cards. “Fold.”
Luke bet his twenty-five. Catherine bet hers.
Jack studied Luke. Studied Catherine. “I fold.”
Catherine looked so incredibly pleased.
Luke matched the bet. Catherine placed fifty pounds worth of chips in the center. “See you.”
Luke sighed deeply. “Catherine, the maximum is twenty-five, and the only way to win at this game is not to let people know what you’re thinking.”
“And you know what I’m thinking?”
“Then I shall lose.”
“I should not have placed the wager.”
“You shouldn’t have placed any of them. At least take the last one back and fold.”
“But once a wager has been made, it can’t be withdrawn.”
“We shall make an exception.”
“I don’t wish to have an exception made. I’m of the belief that a person learns more from his mistakes than his successes, and I’m quite willing to put that belief to the test.”
He sighed again and waved his hand over the chips. “Gentlemen. I’ll allow the lady to learn from her mistake.”
He turned over three kings.
Catherine turned her cards over. Luke stared at the three threes. There was no better hand in brag.
“If I remember the rank of better cards, while it would seem that three kings are better, actually my hand is, and so it appears that all this lovely money comes to me.”
“I would venture to guess, my lord, that you did not know what I was thinking.” She stood. “I believe, I’ve made my point. It’s getting rather late and we should be leaving soon.”
Frannie helped her gather up all her chips. Catherine walked out as though she’d just been crowned.
Luke couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. “Damn, but I do enjoy her.”
His outburst was met with silence, and he was suddenly very much aware of what he’d said. Coming to his feet, Luke gave Jim a hard look. “She didn’t seem to find you familiar.”
“I told you she wouldn’t.”
“Find out who is following her and the reason for it.”
He was smiling when he came to get her. Truly smiling. Not one of his sardonic twists of the mouth. Not one of his mocking smiles. Not a sneer or an insolent pout.
Catherine had not expected this reaction. Hadn’t even thought him capable of it. She’d expected him to be miffed that she’d taken his money, expected to find him in a foul mood. But his eyes were lighter than she’d ever seen them, as though there was suddenly a brightness inside him.
He led her through the now-familiar dark corridor to the back door, where his coach waited on the other side. For the first time since they’d begun their nightly ritual, he kept the coach lantern lit inside. The curtains were in place, preventing anyone from peering in. He settled back in the corner, and while she knew she should be embarrassed by his perusal, she wasn’t. On the contrary, she rather liked it. And she was feeling a trifle smug that she’d duped him.
She was aware of his deep chuckle before his smile grew, and she wondered if he could read her thoughts.
“You don’t care what people think,” he said.
She couldn’t tell from the way he emphasized the words if he was asking a question or making an observation. Still, she felt obliged to answer.
“Of course I care. To a certain extent we all care, but we can’t care to the point that we live in fear of others’ opinions, that we allow them to change who we are. We must be willing to stand up and defend what represents the very core of our being. Otherwise what is the purpose of individuality? We’d be nothing but imitations of each other, and I daresay we’d all be rather boring.”
“I don’t think anyone with any sense could ever accuse you of being boring. As a matter of fact, you are the least boring person I know.”
His admission made her uncomfortable, because it pleased her far too much. Shouldn’t his love be the least boring person he knew?
She looked down at her gloved hands, nestled in her lap. He shifted until he was sitting directly in front of her. He took her hands in his. His were so large. With his thumbs, he began stroking her knuckles.
“Is your wound hurting?” he asked.
She lifted her gaze to his. “No.”
She wanted to lean into him, wanted to press her lips to his. It was wrong of her to want so much from him, when his heart belonged to another.
“I was thinking that it might be a good idea to have Dr. Graves join us for dinner tomorrow night,” she said.
He narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“It would make it seem more like a true social dinner, rather than simply you and Frannie dining with me looking on.”
He released his hold on her, leaned back, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you fancy him?”
She was taken aback by his tone; it had taken on an unfriendly edge, as though he were
—heaven forbid—jealous. “I like him. Of all your friends, he seems the most polished.”
“You don’t like Jack?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“I’m not exactly sure. I don’t”—she shook her head—“I don’t quite trust him.”
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