In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(79) by Lorraine Heath
Catherine cradled his face between her hands. “I’m so sorry, Luke, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me, I don’t understand what it means.”
Her heart ached at the devastation in his eyes.
“It means I’m Claybourne. I knew about the secret passage because my mother and I used it to play a game—we’d hide from my father, but he was always there, waiting at the entrance.” He gave her a heart-wrenching smile. “He’d sweep her into his arms, and they’d laugh. Then we’d play in the sea as though we hadn’t a care in the world.”
He took a deep breath, and swiped at his tears.
“Why would your uncle kill them?”
“Why else? For the title and all that came with it.”
She sat back on her heels. “And you’re remembering it all now?”
“Just snatches of the past. I remember the secret passage, the menagerie, the alley. I remember my uncle and his hideous face. And I remember running like a coward.”
“You were a child.”
He rubbed his hands up and down his face. “I couldn’t save them.”
“They didn’t expect you to. Saving yourself was your greatest gift to them.”
“Why couldn’t I remember any of it?”
“Why would you want to? It sounds horrendous.”
He held her gaze. “I’ve longed to know the truth of my past, and now I want nothing more than to forget it.”
He forged his mouth to hers as though she had the power to return to him the innocence he had lost. For even though he’d grown up on the streets, had seen the worst of men, it was clear to Catherine that until tonight, he’d not truly known the worst of his family.
He’d killed his uncle, his uncle had killed his parents. Deception, hatred, betrayal, greed…all the elements for family scandal and destruction had resided within the bosom of Claybourne’s family. His life on the streets—in spite of the crimes he’d committed—
had been more honest, and those with whom he lived more trustworthy.
Somehow, they managed to get back into bed, mouths locked, arms and legs in a tangle.
He wanted to forget what she thought it was crucial he remember. Yet, she couldn’t deny him a few moments of solace. If she could, she’d give him a lifetime of comfort in her arms.
His mouth was hot, desperate, eager. She was more than ready for him when he drove himself into her, like a man possessed, a man running from his past, a man unable to see his future. He pumped fast and furious. She met his eagerness with her own, digging her fingers into his firm buttocks, riding him as he rode her.
His powerful thrusts had the headboard knocking the wall, the pleasure rippling through her in undulating waves. There was madness here, and she didn’t care. She cared only about him losing himself in her, and her losing herself in him.
She expected each time they came together for it to be the last—each time was a gift: a giving, a joining, a receiving, a taking. They were equals. If she could have given him more, she would have. Instead she rode the waves until they crested, calling out his name, aware of him growling hers, aware of his violent shudders, his face buried in the curve of her shoulder.
Holding him close while their breathing slowed, she relished the weight of his body.
She’d wanted to know what it was to lie with him. Now she had to find the strength to give him up, to give him to another, to give him to Frannie.
She felt the tears sting her eyes because she wouldn’t be the one to share his joys or his troubles. She wouldn’t bear his children. She wouldn’t be the one who stood beside him as he left his mark on the world. And she had no doubt that he was a man capable of leaving behind a magnificent legacy. He’d been forged in the fires of hell—and the man emerging, all of London would soon learn, was one to be reckoned with.
It was dark when the coach finally reached London. Catherine was still dressed in the clothes of a servant, and Luke didn’t look much better. He knew he should go home first, make himself presentable, but he had a matter that he needed to see to—urgently.
He’d told his driver where to go, and as he recognized the buildings signaling that they were nearing their destination, he felt the fury raging within him.
“Aren’t we going home?” Catherine asked.
The coach came to a halt.
“Stay here,” Luke ordered. He opened the door and leapt out of the coach before his footman could assist him. He strode into Dodger’s, a man with a purpose. He spotted Jack straightaway.
The man known as the Dodger turned away from a gaming table and smiled brightly.
“Ah, there you are. Have you put matters—”
Luke smashed his balled fist into Jack’s face, sending him tumbling to the floor, overturning the table in the process. There were gasps from the gentlemen customers, squeals from the ladies who were trying to entice them up to their rooms.
“Get up!” Luke demanded.
Jack wiped the blood from his mouth, looked at the back of his hand, before peering up at Luke. “I’m not quite certain—”
Jack pushed himself up until he stood straight, and Luke punched him in the stomach.
Jack staggered back, and Luke pounded his fist into his chin, snapping his head back and sending him sprawling to the floor.
“Luke!” Frannie cried from somewhere behind him. “What are you doing?”
She knelt beside Jack and looked up at Luke, horror in her eyes.
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