In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(56) by Lorraine Heath
It would be rude to ignore it, so she placed her hand on his arm.
“You do realize you’re creating a scandal having Frannie with you without a chaperone.”
“Good Lord, Catherine, we grew up sleeping together, spooned around each other. Do you really think our relationship warrants a chaperone?”
Catherine was hit with an unexpected spark of jealousy and imagined them doing a good deal more than innocent spooning. “Appearance is everything.”
“Very well, but she’s nearly thirty. Isn’t that the magical age when a woman no longer needs looking after?”
“She’s that old? She doesn’t look it. Still, seeing you together out in public, people will assume she’s your mistress.”
“I’ve never bedded her.”
Catherine was surprised by the relief that hit her with that inappropriate confession. “Are you going to wear a sign on your back stating so?”
“You’re the one who suggested I do something with her.”
He didn’t bother to mask his impatience with her.
“I assumed you’d have common sense enough to realize you needed a chaperone.”
“There’s no hope for it then. We’ll have to spend the rest of the day with you and the Duchess of Avendale, who as a married woman can serve as her chaperone in order to save Frannie’s reputation.”
Catherine narrowed her eyes at him. Had he just pulled some sort of trick on her in order to be included in her party?
“If I didn’t know better I’d think you’d arranged this meeting on purpose, deliberately not bringing along a chaperone so I’d feel obligated to protect Frannie’s reputation.”
“Does it make me a scoundrel to enjoy your company?”
“You’re a scoundrel simply because you’re a scoundrel.”
“I suppose I can’t deny that, but Frannie learns by imitation. I thought a day of observing you out and about would serve her well.”
“So today is a lesson, not an outing to enjoy each other’s company. It defeats the purpose.”
“How can it defeat the purpose when it brings you and me one step closer to obtaining what we each desire?”
Catherine’s attention was drawn to the pounding footsteps. Whit approached, holding a lollipop.
“Sir, are you going to come with us now?”
Claybourne crouched. “Would you like me to?”
Catherine was astounded by his rapport with the child.
“Have you ever seen an elephant?”
Whit shook his head.
Unfolding his body, Claybourne extended his hat and walking stick toward Catherine.
“Do you mind?”
She took them. Claybourne turned his attention back to Whit. “Come on then, my young lord.” He hoisted Whit upon his shoulders and the boy crowed once again, his lollipop becoming lost in Claybourne’s thick, curling hair.
When Winnie and Frannie joined them, they all began walking, Claybourne leading the way. He seemed to know where they were going, and even if he didn’t, he was keeping Whit occupied, which allowed Catherine to enjoy the exhibits a bit more.
Or she would have if her attention hadn’t been focused on Claybourne.
It occurred to her that this was the first time she’d seen him when it wasn’t night. He seemed less sinister with the light pouring in through the glass ceiling and windows, illuminating him. She’d known he was tall, but he somehow looked taller. She’d known he was broad, but he appeared broader. He strode with confidence, pointing things out to Whit.
She’d never before been able to imagine him with children, and now she couldn’t imagine him without. He’d been gentlemanly toward Winnie and utterly charming with Whit. He’d told Catherine that he knew coin tricks, but she’d never imagined one such as he’d performed. Removing a coin from behind someone’s ear—even her father had been able to do that. But what Claybourne had done required very clever hands.
She tried not to think what other wondrous things those very clever hands might do—to the buttons on a lady’s bodice or the lacings on her corset. She felt the heat rush to her face with those inappropriate musings.
Seeing him in the daylight was quite literally allowing her to see him in a very different light, which she feared—for the sake of her heart—might not be a good thing, because she found herself longing for something she couldn’t have.
The Great Exhibition was fascinating, but it paled when compared with Catherine and Frannie staring in awe at the massive Koh-i-Noor diamond. It was locked inside a cage, lit from below with gaslight. Luke was as intrigued by the enclosure as he was by the diamond itself. But still it couldn’t hold his attention for long.
His head had begun hurting as soon as he’d dropped the boy on his shoulders. It had spiked at the stuffed elephant exhibit. He suspected because the boy’s enthusiasm had him fairly bobbing up and down, hitting Luke’s head.
But he fought back the pain because he wasn’t going to give up these moments of watching Catherine and Frannie together. Talking, smiling. He wondered if they’d become friends once he married Frannie, if perhaps they’d go on outings together.
He found an interesting contrast between the three women. The Duchess of Avendale’s gaze kept darting around as though she feared being attacked any moment. He thought perhaps she wasn’t comfortable in crowds, although her reactions were more along the lines of someone doing something she wasn’t supposed to and fearing discovery.
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