In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(53) by Lorraine Heath
She smiled softly. “Tomorrow will serve very well.”
Once they arrived at Dodger’s, he escorted Frannie to her rooms. Then he walked down the stairs and through the back door that led into Dodger’s. He walked down the hallway to the room where he knew he’d find Jack. A footman with meaty fists nodded at Luke and opened the door. Luke knew he was more guard than servant. His presence signaled that Jack was counting his money.
That’s exactly what he was doing when Luke walked into the room. Jack looked up from his neat stacks of coins and paper currency. “How was your fancy dinner?”
“Tedious and not so fancy.”
Jack reached back for a glass, poured whiskey into it, and pushed it to the edge of the desk. Luke sat in the chair, grabbed the glass, downed its contents, and put the glass back. Jack immediately refilled it. Luke assumed his face revealed that he was a man in need of a drink or two.
“What’s troubling you?” Jack asked.
He was the only person Luke knew who was better at reading people than Luke was.
“Have you ever loved anyone?”
“You mean besides my mum?”
Luke was dumbfounded as he stared at Jack. He knew his friend’s story. “She sold you when you were five.”
Jack shrugged. “Doesn’t mean I didn’t love her. Just means she didn’t love me.”
Sipping his whiskey this time, Luke pondered Jack’s words. He’d always assumed because he loved Frannie that she loved him back. Could love have only one side to it and still be love?
Had anyone ever loved him before he was unofficially adopted by Feagan and his merry brood? If they had, wouldn’t he remember?
“That night you found me in the alley, behind the garbage, did I say anything?”
Luke ran his finger around the rim of the glass. “Something that might have given you a hint as to what I was doing there.”
“I didn’t need you to say anything to give me a hint. It was obvious. You were dying.”
“But how did I come to be there?”
“Looked to me like someone had kicked you out. You were skinny, your clothes torn. Do you really want to know the truth of it?”
Luke rubbed his forehead as pain began to throb. The late hours, the encounter with Catherine were taking a toll.
“You’re not thinking you’re really Claybourne, are you?” Jack asked.
Luke shook his head. Claybourne, the real Claybourne, would have been worthy of Catherine. Something Luke would never be. She was a lady, and he was a scoundrel.
“Has Lady Catherine taught Frannie what she needs to know?” Jack asked.
Luke sighed. “It’s as though she’s taught her nothing.”
“Is that why you look like a man who’s lost his best friend?”
Leaning forward, Luke dug his elbows into his thighs and held the glass between both hands, studying the few drops that lined the bottom. “I’ve been with several women through the years, Jack. No matter what I did with them, I never felt disloyal to Frannie.
With Catherine, I feel disloyal to Frannie by simply speaking with her.”
“No harm in just speaking to her.”
He wasn’t going to confess that he’d done more than speak to her.
“Sometimes I worry that Frannie doesn’t love me, and just doesn’t know how to tell me.” He studied the way Jack drank his whiskey. “If that were the case you’d tell me, wouldn’t you? If you knew? You wouldn’t leave me to make a fool of myself.”
“Love is a stranger to me, Luke. Other than my mum, no woman has ever held my affections.”
“Not even Frannie?”
“I like her well enough, but that’s not love, is it?”
Luke was fairly sure that Jack was lying. He certainly wasn’t being honest about something.
Luke set his glass on the desk and stood. “No. Like isn’t love.”
Neither was lust. And that was all he felt for Catherine, a deep, almost uncontrollable lust.
When he returned home, he was walking toward the library for a bit of whiskey to help him settle into the night when his gaze fell on the envelope sitting on the silver slaver on the table in the entry hallway. He recognized the hand that had addressed it—even though it was not quite as neat as usual. Catherine no doubt once again inviting him to one of her silly balls.
He wondered if she’d left the invitation before or after their encounter in the library, wondered if she was expecting him to bring Frannie.
With a sigh, he headed to the library. Her latest invitation was simply one more that would go unaccepted.
From the Journal of Lucian Langdon
Few came to the old gent’s funeral. Until that moment I’d not realized what it had cost him to take me in, to announce to the world that I, the suspected murderer of his second son, was in fact his grandson.
A week after his passing, I attended a ball. I knew it was in bad form, that when one is in mourning one does not attend affairs that exhibit gaiety. But I also knew that gentlemen were often forgiven for not adhering to the strictures of society.
Besides, I had a point to make. I wanted no one to doubt that I was taking my place as the old gent’s successor.
I remember little about the ball except that from the moment I began descending the stairs, I regretted that I’d come. People stared at me as though I were an unusual-looking creature on display at a menagerie and, with that thought, my head began to pound. I desperately craved a glass of whiskey. I desperately wanted to be at Dodger’s.
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