In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(73) by Lorraine Heath
“I should think if given the choice between spending his final days in bed or in a garden, an Englishman would always choose his garden.”
“You think I should disregard the physician’s advice?”
“I think you should do what you know in your heart is right.”
She brushed her lips over his. “Thank you for that.”
He rose up, twisted about, and latched his mouth onto hers, kissing her hungrily, laying her down in the process. He tasted of wine. She thought she’d never again sip on red wine without thinking of him.
She ran her hands up into his thick, curly locks. She thought of him as a child, how unruly his hair must have been as he’d raced over the bleak and rugged moors. She thought she could hear the sea in the distance and assumed if they walked farther, they’d eventually meet up with the cliffs.
She drew back from his lips. “Are there any portraits of you as a child?”
Sometimes it was difficult to get information from him, not because he was being obstinate—although he was certainly that—but because when she looked at him she saw the Earl of Claybourne. When he looked in a mirror, he saw an imposter.
“Are there any portraits of the earl’s grandson—before you came into his life?”
He gave her an indulgent smile. “You’re trying to find something in me that simply doesn’t exist.”
“So there is one.”
“In the room that the old gent referred to as the Countess’s Sitting Room.”
“Will you show me?”
“Please. I’m not trying to prove you’re Claybourne. Honestly. But the old gent must have seen something in you, so it’s the closest I’ll come to seeing you as a lad.”
“Why would you—”
She pressed her finger to his lips. “Do I really ask for so much?”
He arched a brow, causing her to smile while rolling her eyes. “All right. I suppose I do.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, her nose, her chin. “But you don’t ask for anything I’m not willing to give.”
She liked this aspect of him, when he wasn’t quite so dark and brooding, when he teased her, when he made her so terribly glad to be with him.
He rolled off her and helped her to her feet. They began packing away their picnic.
The wind picked up, rustling the leaves in the trees. She glanced toward the distant road, and a sense of foreboding sent a shiver through her. She didn’t know if it was the prospect of looking at the true Earl of Claybourne as a child or something more sinister that disturbed her.
Luke had visited this room only once and it had given him a blinding headache then.
The old gent had brought him here, to show him the portrait and to explain how his wife had died in this room, died with grief over the loss of her firstborn son and grandson.
The room had carried a heavy flowery scent back then—no doubt the lingering presence of the countess—and Luke had attributed that to causing his headache.
But the room now smelled of furniture oil, and yet still his head began to pound as he watched Catherine trace her fingers over the faces in the portrait without actually touching the canvas. She took a step back. “They look to be very happy.”
“The old gent thought they were.”
She turned to face him. “Have you ever considered growing a mustache?”
“Like the man in the portrait? No.” Nothing he did would make him look like the man in the portrait.
“I can see similarities—”
“I know you don’t think you’re Claybourne, but there are similarities. The hair, the eyes…even the chin I think.”
He shook his head.
“How old were you—was he—when this portrait was done?”
“Six. It was completed just before they were killed.”
“Why would someone kill them?” she demanded to know.
Luke had no answer for that. “Robbery most likely.”
“But the boy, what happened to him?”
Luke shook his head. “Sold. Put on a ship. Perhaps he died elsewhere. There’s no way of knowing.”
“It just seems so very odd. And it also seems that quite possibly you could be—”
“Catherine, as you say, they were happy. Why would I not remember that? Why would I have no memory of him or her? You were young when your mother died. Have you no memory of her?”
Sighing, she looked down at the floor. “I remember her. Vaguely.” She lifted her gaze back to his. “I see your point, I suppose.”
“Good.” He plowed his hands through his hair, pressing on his scalp, trying to relieve the pain that had begun without giving away that it was there. “I need to see to some matters.”
“Am I free to roam the house?”
“You’re free to do anything you want, although I advise you against leaving. Avendale could show up at anytime.”
“I won’t leave these walls.”
He took a step nearer and stroked his thumb over her lips. He wanted to carry her to his bedchamber, he wanted to spend every moment that remained to them here making love to her. But the truth was that he was no longer certain how to define their relationship.
She’d asked for a night in his arms. Had it been enough for her? It certainly hadn’t been for him, but it was wrong of him to pursue more when he couldn’t give her forever. It was wrong when Frannie—
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