In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(61) by Lorraine Heath
“The movements are the same but you keep your feet on the floor.” He placed one of her hands on his shoulder, took the other in his, settled his free hand on her waist.
He began to hum the tune that had been playing while he’d danced with Catherine. And he moved Frannie in rhythm to his horrendous humming. The space was small. He couldn’t sweep her across the area, but it was enough.
With Frannie in his arms, his body didn’t tighten, his mind didn’t bring forth carnal images. He told himself it was because when he looked down on her, all he saw was buttons and cloth. When he looked down on Catherine, an entirely different portrait emerged. He saw clearly the swell of her breasts, the gentle slope of her throat. He saw her smile. The joy reflected in her blue eyes.
He stopped waltzing and very subtlety drew Frannie a fraction nearer. He cradled her chin as though it was made of the finest porcelain, as though it could so easily shatter.
He watched as her eyes widened slightly, as her tongue darted out to dampen her lower lip. He felt a pleasant thrumming low in his belly.
He lowered his head, her eyes slid closed, and he, very gently, brushed his lips over hers, before drawing back.
“There, that wasn’t so bad was it?” he asked.
Nor was it particularly satisfying, but that would come in time, as she became more familiar with the physical nature of men.
She shook her head. “No, not at all.”
“I adore you.”
He stroked his thumb over her bottom lip. He should want to lean back in for another kiss. Lord knew he could never seem to get enough of the taste of Catherine. And yet what he and Frannie had shared seemed to be quite…adequate.
Adequete. Not passionate, not fiery, not all-consuming.
Civilized. Not barbaric, not beastly, not untamed.
Proper. Not scandalous, not to be whispered about, not disgraceful.
“What’s wrong?” Frannie asked.
And he realized he was scowling, his brow furrowed so deeply he was going to give himself another one of his blinding headaches.
Shaking his head, he released her and stepped back. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
But something was terribly wrong, because he was doubting his affection for Frannie, something he’d never done.
“Was Catherine at the ball?” Frannie asked.
“Did you dance with her?”
He turned away slightly. “I did.”
Why did he feel guilty? It wasn’t as though he’d bedded her. It had been an innocent dance. But it hadn’t felt innocent.
“What was she wearing?”
“What all ladies wear. A ball gown.”
“You’d make a horrendous society writer.” Frannie returned to her chair behind her desk.
“I’ll wager she looked beautiful.”
“I’ll not take you up on that wager as she always looks beautiful.”
“Why has she not married, do you think?”
“Because she is too opinionated, willful, argumentative. A man wants peace in his household, and with her, a man would never find peace.”
“So you think marriage to me would be peaceful?”
“And that’s what you want? Peace?”
“I want contentment.”
“Do you find me boring?”
“Of course not.”
“Sometimes I wonder, sometimes I fear that I am. I sit here with all these numbers, and they seem so unexciting.”
“Nothing about you is unexciting. I look forward to the time we spend together.” He sat in the chair across from her. “There just seems to be so little of it of late.”
As though to punctuate his words a rap on the door sounded. Luke glanced over his shoulder to see Jim standing uncertainly in the doorway. “Didn’t mean to interrupt, but Jack said he couldn’t get your attention earlier, and I’ve got something I thought you might be interested in.”
“What is it?” Luke asked.
“The man who’s been following Lady Catherine.”
Luke’s heart slammed against his ribs and everything else suddenly seemed unimportant.
“Where is he?”
Jim jerked his head to the side. “Jack’s office.”
Luke hurried out of the room. “How did you find him?”
“Lady Catherine was running around like an insane woman this morning, taking care of the things for the ball she was hosting tonight.” Jim stepped into the room and pointed at a battered man with dark hair sitting in a chair, working the brim of his hat. “Mr. Evans here could barely keep up with her.”
Jack’s burly footman had obviously been keeping guard. He nodded once and discreetly left the room, closing the door behind him.
“He’s been ever so cooperative since he spent a few hours in gaol,” Jim explained.
“Abuse of power is wot it was. Locking me up when I ain’t done nuffin’ wrong.”
Luke sat on the edge of Jack’s desk, studying the man. “Do you know who I am?”
“Claybourne,” the man fairly spit.
“Do you know that I’ve killed a man?”
“So have I. It’s not that hard to do.”
“My point, dear fellow, is that I’m fond of Lady Catherine and I don’t like that blackguards such as yourself are following her.”
“I never ’urt ’er.”
“That’s the only reason you’re still breathing. I want answers and if I don’t get them, I won’t be nearly as gentle as Scotland Yard. Have I made myself clear?”
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