In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(60) by Lorraine Heath
Once they were outside, she led Claybourne to the corner of the terrace, where they could find a measure of privacy, but were still visible. Her reputation was in tatters but still she held on to what fraying threads she could.
“I have decided not to have you dispense with someone of my choosing. But I am determined to redouble me efforts in convincing Frannie that by your side is where she belongs, and where she’ll be comfortable. I’m convinced that it’s not so much that she needs to be taught, but rather that she simply needs to be accepted, so I intend to change strategy and bring her into this world, slowly but with more success.”
“You’re going to keep your part of the bargain without me keeping mine?”
“As strange as it seems, I feel that in the past few weeks we’ve become…friends of a sort, and I’d like to assist you in your quest for a wife—out of friendship.” Regardless of the cost to herself, which would be high. She thought she’d never come to care for another man as she’d come to care for Claybourne, that she’d never respect another as she respected him, that she’d never be as fascinated by, as impressed with, any other man as she was him.
But his heart had been given elsewhere, while hers, she feared had been given to him.
“That’s extremely generous of you. I hardly know how to thank you.”
“It’s barely anything at all. As you so aptly pointed out the night we struck our bargain, I’m doing little more than instructing her on the proper way to host an afternoon tea.”
“On the contrary, she’s acquiring a confidence under your tutelage that she was lacking before. I almost fear she’ll become as headstrong as you.”
“Do you really want a trifle of a wife? You’d become bored in no time.”
“You think you know what I desire in a woman?”
“I credit myself for knowing what you deserve from a woman. As tonight proved, obstacles remain to be overcome, but I have no doubt you will overcome them.”
“You remind me of the old gent. He never doubted. I never quite understood what he saw in me.”
“He saw his grandson.”
He saw his grandson.
Luke considered those words as his coach rattled over the cobblestone streets. He’d been wandering aimlessly through London for more than two hours trying to settle his thoughts.
He’d left the affair shortly after Catherine and he had returned to the ballroom. He saw no reason to stay. He suspected no other lady would dance with him, but more than that he had no desire to dance with anyone other than Catherine. And he’d not further risk her reputation by having a second waltz. He’d already placed her reputation at risk with one dance and a turn about the garden. Why was she willing to risk so much simply to see that he was accepted?
Friendship? God knew he’d risked everything—including his life—for his friends.
They’d risked no less than that for him. But Catherine—what did she gain? If he spent any more time in her company, no decent man would take her to wife.
Tonight she’d done away with the purpose for their association. For some reason, she’d decided the bloke wasn’t worth killing. Luke supposed he should be grateful he’d not taken her at her word that first night and done the gent in.
Still, he was bothered by her change of heart. She wasn’t a mindless chit, and she was certainly no one’s fool. If she thought someone needed killing, he most likely did. And there was still the matter of the man who was following her. He needed to have a word with Jim, but first he wanted to see Frannie.
The coach came to a halt outside Dodger’s, and Luke alighted. He went through the front door. No tension reverberated here as it had at Avendale’s. But then this was his home, this was where he belonged.
Jack approached him. “Luke—”
Luke held up his hand. “Not now.”
He was a man with a purpose. He opened the door to the backrooms and went down the hallway to the room where he knew he’d find Frannie. She was hard at work on her books. He rapped on the doorjamb. She looked up and grinned at him. As always, her smile warmed him as nothing else did.
“Aren’t you dressed rather fancily?”
“I attended a ball hosted by the Duchess of Avendale,” he said.
“I didn’t think you were one to attend the aristocracy’s affairs.”
“I thought it time I begin making the way clear for us.”
She looked down at the ledgers. “So we’ll be attending balls?”
“I think you’ll enjoy them. There’s gaiety and lovely gowns. Food and drink and people.”
“Yes, lots of people I’ll not know.”
“You’ll come to know them. And best of all, we shall dance.” He strolled into the room and held out his hand. “Dance with me now.”
She snapped her head up. “Are you daft?”
“Probably. But I want very desperately to dance with you.”
“But there’s no music—”
“I can hum.”
Whatever was wrong with him? Why was this need to dance with her so strong?
Laughing sweetly, she rose. “Very well.”
She came around her desk. “As I recall, I’m supposed to stand on your toes.”
He chuckled. It was the way the old gent had danced with her. He’d seen that they had lessons, so many lessons. Why did Frannie feel as though she needed more now? Surely she’d not forgotten everything they’d been taught.
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