In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(67) by Lorraine Heath
but because of Claybourne’s ability to distract her from what they would soon face.
They’d spoken of inconsequential things: the rain that had started to fall while they ate, the finely crafted furniture that he’d been told had been in the family for three generations, the portraits painted by the most famous of artists. He promised to show her the grounds the next day.
“There’ll be time,” he said.
She was grateful that she’d come, that she had this little bit of time with him—alone.
Just the two of them.
She kept thinking about Frannie’s comment that Catherine was the better choice to accompany him and her urging Catherine to take care of him. She didn’t doubt that Claybourne loved Frannie, but she did question whether or not Frannie loved him as deeply as he deserved—as deeply as Catherine did.
Setting the brush down, she realized that she’d never have an opportunity like this again.
Once they confronted Avendale or he confronted them, once the matter was resolved, they’d return to London. Their bargain would be at an end, and Claybourne would become nothing more than a name handwritten on an invitation to her balls.
After circling the dance floor in Claybourne’s arms, Catherine knew her reputation was undoubtedly ruined—even if no one ever discovered that she’d traveled alone with him.
He’d told her that first night that the price she’d pay for waltzing with the devil was residing in hell. Well, she’d waltzed with him and if hell was coming, she wanted a good deal more than a waltz.
He was sleeping in the room next to hers. So close. So very close.
Yet she knew, with absolutely no doubt, that he’d not come to her. That he’d not take advantage of her nearness. He was a scoundrel and a gentleman.
He was the man she’d quite simply fallen madly in love with. And if she could have only one night with him, she would make it enough to last her lifetime.
Luke stood at the window in his bedchamber, staring out at the night. He’d bathed earlier and now wore nothing except a silk robe. He’d hoped the warm bath would bring slumber, but he never slept well here. To make matters worse, he couldn’t stop thinking about Catherine being in the next room. What had possessed him to give in to her demands and allow her to accompany him?
He didn’t think she’d be in danger. He felt quite confident that he could handle Avendale. But it had been reckless to bring her. Even more so when he considered the truth of it: he wanted her near.
She’d brought him into this situation and should face it with him.
Oh, if only his reasons were that selfless. But no, they were completely selfish. Once he saw to Avendale, Luke’s portion of their arrangement would be completed and Catherine would become little more than someone he saw occasionally at a ball—if he and Frannie attended balls. He’d not force her if she remained reluctant. So perhaps Catherine would no longer be in his life at all.
He was taken aback by the despair that particular thought brought.
He couldn’t deny that he cared for her. He enjoyed her company. He admired her courage, her loyalty to her friend. He admired the manner in which she carried burdens with no complaint. He admired the slope of her throat, the plumpness of her lips—
Groaning, he dug his fingers into the edge of the window. He’d hurl himself through it before he dishonored Frannie by taking another woman to his bed now that he’d asked her to marry him. But Frannie was not yet his wife. She was not even his betrothed. She was simply the woman he adored, the one he’d always envisioned spending his life with.
He pressed his forehead to the outer corner of the window. Was adoration love?
He’d known her more years than he’d known Catherine, yet at that precise moment he couldn’t remember the shape of Frannie’s lips. The hue. Were they a dark red or pink?
Catherine’s were the red of an apple, freshly fallen from a tree.
It made no sense that Catherine occupied so much of his mind when Frannie was the one he wanted as his wife.
But God help him, Catherine was the one he desired.
And not only physically. She was the one he looked forward to talking to each evening.
She was the one whose smile made his heart beat a little faster. She was the one he wanted to explore—not only every curve of her body but every facet of her mind. She fascinated, tempted, and beguiled him as he’d never before been fascinated, tempted, or beguiled. He told himself it was because she was new while Frannie was familiar—yet Catherine didn’t feel new. She never had. From the first moment he’d spotted her at that ball all those years ago, when he’d gazed into her eyes, he’d thought that if he still possessed all his soul it would have found its mate in hers. But his soul was but a remnant, and in very short order it would be gone completely.
He wasn’t even certain that he could ask Frannie to marry him then. Like Catherine, she deserved a better man than one who could so easily give the devil his due.
The door clicked open, and before he turned he knew who’d come into his room. He should have ordered her out. He should have leapt through the window.
Instead he stayed as he was and began praying that he would have the strength to resist what he feared she was about to offer.
On silent bare feet, Catherine crossed the room to where Claybourne stood before the window. “I couldn’t sleep. I thought perhaps you couldn’t either. Are you watching for Avendale?”
“No, simply watching the rain. I’ve never slept well here, never been comfortable. I tend to suffer numerous head pains.”
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