In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(55) by Lorraine Heath
“I won’t give him a cut direct he hasn’t earned.” Although she could feel Winnie’s horrified gaze on her, Catherine acknowledged Claybourne with a smile and wondered how to best handle this situation without causing Winnie to suspect that she and Claybourne shared more than a passing acquaintance. She should have known
Claybourne would have the situation well in hand.
“Lady Catherine Mabry, as I recall,” he said lazily, a hint of teasing in his eyes that she doubted Winnie would notice. She suspected Winnie feared the man so much that she wouldn’t lift her gaze above his neckcloth. “Our paths crossed at a ball once, some years back, but I don’t believe we were ever formally introduced.” He bowed slightly. “I’m Claybourne.”
“Yes, I recall that ball. It has been some years. What a surprise it is to see you here today.”
“I have it on good authority that the Great Exhibition is not to be missed.”
“I daresay they’ll be talking about it for years to come.” She turned to Winnie. “Duchess, allow me to introduce Lucian Langdon, the Earl of Claybourne.”
Winnie’s fingers were still digging into her arm, and Catherine could feel her trembling.
What was it she feared? The man had done nothing threatening.
“My lord,” Winnie said succinctly, and Catherine doubted that Claybourne had missed the rudeness in her tone, yet he didn’t seem bothered by it.
“Your Grace,” he replied. “Allow me to introduce Miss Darling. An acquaintance.”
Frannie was dressed very much as she had been last night. Her dress a drab gray as though she wished to draw no attention to herself. Even her bonnet had very little color in it, almost as though she were in a later stage of mourning.
“Yes, quite, I’m sure,” Winnie said, haughtily and suspiciously.
Claybourne narrowed his eyes, and Catherine was certain he’d taken offense. It was one thing to slight him, but to slight the woman he loved—
“Have you been here long?” Catherine asked, trying to make up for Winnie’s
“No, not long. Miss Darling wanted to rush through and get a lay of the land, as it were.
I prefer a leisurely pursuit. Which do you recommend?”
“I believe it’s impossible to see everything in one go. At least by going slowly you see everything in more detail.”
“My thought exactly.”
Whit began rocking against her, his short legs kicking her backside and hip. “Go! Go!”
Catherine set him down before her arms gave out.
Claybourne immediately crouched in front of him. “And who are you?”
“The Earl of Whitson,” Whit said, mimicking his mother’s earlier haughty tone. As young as he was, already he recognized differences in the classes.
“Did you know they have lemonade, pastries, and lollipops over there? Would you like to buy some for you and your mum?” Claybourne asked.
Whit nodded enthusiastically, his weariness suddenly cured.
“Hold out your hand,” Claybourne ordered.
“Fold it up.” Claybourne demonstrated, closing his hand into a fist. Then he snapped his fingers. “Open your hand.”
The boy did, his eyes growing wide at the ha’penny resting on his palm. Winnie gasped again.
“Hmm. I’m not certain that’s enough,” Claybourne said. He looked up at Frannie.
“What’s your opinion on the matter, Miss Darling?”
“Definitely not enough. I should think he’d need at least a shilling.”
“I suspect you’re right.” He turned back to Whit. “Close your hand around the coin and say, ‘Please, sir, may I have more?’”
Whit closed his hand around the coin. “Please, sir, may I have more?”
Claybourne snapped his fingers. Whit opened his hand, his eyes wider than before. The ha’penny was gone. A sixpence rested on his palm.
Frannie tapped Claybourne on the head. “You silly man. That’s not a shilling.”
Catherine realized they were performing, and she wondered how often they’d worked together on something similar. Was this how they’d fleeced people? Was this
performance a remnant of their childhood? They seemed so natural, so comfortable with each other.
“You’re quite right, Miss Darling. What was I thinking? Shall we give it another go, Lord Whitson?”
Grinning broadly, Whit bobbed his head up and down and closed his pudgy fingers over the coin. “Please, sir, may I have more?”
“Why, yes, sir, I think you may,” Claybourne said, snapping his fingers.
Whit opened his fist and crowed. “Look! A shilling!”
Catherine realized he wasn’t the only one with a wide smile. Winnie was grinning as well, as though her troubles had disappeared as easily as the coins.
“How did you do that, my lord?” Catherine asked.
“Why, yes, I could see that. But what’s the secret?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that. It’ll ruin the fun.”
“Your Grace, may I take your son over to get some refreshments?” Frannie asked.
Winnie bobbed her head, then said, “I’ll come with you.”
Catherine watched as the threesome strolled toward the refreshment booth. “We should probably go with them.”
“Probably,” Claybourne said, offering his arm.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online