In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(66) by Lorraine Heath
Now that it was upon her, she couldn’t think of anything. “I have no skills. What would you suggest?”
“Heart. Because it is your generous heart that has brought us this adventure.”
He opened the door.
“Is that how you see it?” she asked. “As an adventure?”
She walked into the foyer. The wooden floor gleamed. Busts and statuettes decorated tables. Paintings hung on the walls. No butler stood at attention.
“I’ve told the remaining servants to remain scarce unless called for.”
“Oh. You might have said so instead of playing along with my desire for a false name.”
He smiled warmly. “You never know when you might need a false name.”
“I think you’re mocking me.”
He grew serious. “I would never mock you, Catherine.”
“Aren’t you the least bit concerned about what awaits us with Avendale?”
“We have a while yet. No need to fret until it’s time to fret. Let me show you to your room.”
It was exactly as he’d told her—right next to his. She knew because the door separating their rooms was open and she could see the footman putting away Claybourne’s things.
She wondered if he had put hers away as well.
“I assume you left no women servants behind,” Catherine said.
“No. The fairer sex is called the fairer sex for a reason.” He held up a finger. “I know you’re an exception. If you need assistance undressing”—he cleared his throat—“I’ll do what I can.”
“I should be fine. I was already abed when Winnie’s maid came to fetch me.” She held out her arms. “As you can see I dressed as simply as possible in order to dress as quickly as possible.”
“If you’d like to bathe, I’ll have the footman bring up warm water.”
“I would like that,” she said, “before bed. Right now, I must confess that I’m rather famished.”
“I’m afraid I sent my cook to the village. Would an omelet suffice?”
She smiled. “Very nicely. Thank you.”
Luke knew he should have protested more. He should have insisted Catherine stay behind, but what was done was done. He couldn’t deny that he took some pride—
undeservedly, of course—in showing her various rooms as he escorted her to the kitchen. The Claybourne legacy was grand.
Nor could he deny the pleasure it brought him to prepare her an omelet or how much he enjoyed having her watch him from her place at the large table where servants usually enjoyed a quick meal or a bit of gossip. He planned to confront Avendale alone. He just had to convince Catherine to leave. But he was in no hurry to do so.
“When do you think Avendale will arrive?” she asked.
He heard the worry in her voice. He didn’t think she was frightened. Apprehensive perhaps. He poured a glass of red wine and handed it to her. “Drink that. It’ll help you relax.”
She did as he bade without arguing. Oh, yes, she wasn’t nearly as calm as she appeared.
“He won’t be here for a while,” Luke assured her, remembering another time when he’d prepared her an omelet. “I sent word to Jack. He’s going to ply him with liquor. That should set him back a day, and I suspect it’ll take Avendale another day or so to work up the courage to come here.”
He placed the omelet on a plate and set it on the table.
“You still haven’t mastered preparing two at a time?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m afraid not.”
She took a bite of the omelet and studied him. “You’re not at all worried, are you?”
“About facing Avendale? No. I would be more comfortable if you weren’t here.”
“You won’t convince me to leave and I’ll not drink enough wine to lose my wits.”
“Have you ever drunk that much?”
Nodding, she gave him an impish smile. “The night before Winnie married Avendale, actually. I stayed with her and we took several bottles from her father’s wine cellar. The next day I was so miserable. I thought I might be ill at the church.”
He gave her a sardonic smile. “I’ve had many occasions where I have been ill.” He sliced off a section of omelet. “Did she love him?”
“I think he fascinated her. He can be quite charming. Quite honestly, he’d given me reason to believe that he had interest in me, before he shifted his attention to Winnie.”
Luke’s stomach tightened and his appetite fled. When he thought of Catherine with the likes of Avendale—
“Then that night after you came to the ball he stopped calling.” She released a little cry of surprise, her eyes wide. “Oh my goodness, you don’t suppose he changed his mind because I didn’t cower when you looked at me?”
“I suppose it’s possible.”
“More than possible I’d say. He wouldn’t want someone who’d stand up to him. It seems I owe you more than I realize.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Catherine.”
“That wasn’t our arrangement.”
“As you said at the ball, we’ve become friends of a sort. So as a friend, I shall rid you of the problem of Avendale.”
An hour later, as Catherine brushed her hair following her bath, she admitted to herself that she’d enjoyed their late-night repast in the kitchen, relaxing as the minutes progressed, not so much because of the wine—she’d drunk more than she’d intended—
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