In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(81) by Lorraine Heath
She didn’t want him to be alone tonight.
But she was so exhausted that it was all she could do to continue breathing.
When she was finished with her bath, Jenny began drying her. “Shall I help you prepare for bed?”
“No, I want to visit with my father for a while, and as he’s not seen me in a few days, I think a simple dress would be appropriate.”
She felt a little more herself as she walked down the hallway to his bedchamber. His nurse rose as Catherine stepped into the room.
“How is he?” Catherine asked.
“Doing well, my lady.”
He couldn’t speak coherently, he couldn’t move about on his own. He had to be fed and bathed—how in the world could he be doing well?
But he lifted his withering, shaking hand, and Catherine could have sworn that a welcoming light appeared in his fading blue eyes. Sitting in the chair beside the bed, she took his hand and pressed a kiss to his fingers. Then she combed her fingers through his thinning silver hair.
“Did you miss me?”
He gave her the barest of nods.
“Tomorrow, if the sun favors us, we’re going to go out to the garden. I have it on good authority that it won’t harm your health at all. As a matter of fact, it might improve it.”
She felt the tears sting her eyes. “Oh, Papa, I’ve done something terribly silly. I’ve fallen in love with someone, and he loves another. The strange thing is, as much as it hurts, I only want him to be happy. And if she’ll make him happy, I want him to have her.”
He squeezed her hand. She moved up and laid her head on his chest, felt his hand come to rest on her hair. “I think you’d like him.”
She heard a low rumble in his chest. “I know you don’t think he’s good enough for me, but then you don’t think any man is good enough for me.”
She sat up. “Avendale has been beating Winnie, Papa. Some friends and I hid her away, so he couldn’t find her. But I want to go see her tonight. I don’t want you to worry. I think I have an inspector from Scotland Yard watching over me. So I’ll be fine. And tomorrow we’ll go into the garden, and I shan’t stop reading to you until we’ve finished Oliver’s story.”
Leaning up, she kissed her father’s forehead and whispered words she’d never be able to say to Claybourne, “I love you, with all my heart.”
The portrait of his father hadn’t changed, but it seemed that it had. Or perhaps it was only he who had changed. Or maybe it was because he looked at it through a drunken stupor, his first bottle of whiskey drained, the second dangling between his fingers. He’d have to find a new supplier.
Strange how different everything looked. Things that had once seemed foreign, no longer did. After he’d returned home, he’d walked through every room, looking at things through different eyes, through the eyes of the Earl of Claybourne. He remembered how the lion’s head on the fireplace poker had frightened him as a child. He remembered riding the wooden rocking horse in the nursery.
Usually when he looked at the portrait for too long, cataloging the features, his head would begin to hurt. But not tonight. Tonight there was nothing except the calming liquor swirling through his blood. Even that was unusual. Normally, he sought oblivion.
Tonight he just wanted peace.
His hand ached from striking Jack. His heart ached from Frannie’s defending Jack. Why had Luke thought she’d unquestionably side with him? Frannie’s reaction was natural, though. Luke had come in like a madman, and unlike Catherine, Frannie didn’t know everything that Luke had remembered. She hadn’t witnessed the pain his memory had brought.
Luke had lived in the squalor and wretchedness of that one small room with Feagan and his band of child thieves, and he’d felt safe. They’d shared their clothing, their food, their beds. They’d taught him how not to get caught. They’d taught him how to hide.
And more than anything, in the beginning, he’d wanted to hide. Hide from his uncle, from the yells of his father dying, from the shrieks of his mother begging for mercy.
When he’d walked through Feagan’s door, he’d done so willingly, wanting—needing—
to leave his terrifying other life behind.
Nothing was more frightening than knowing that someone for whom he’d drawn a
picture of a pond, someone who’d given him a small wooden carved horse, someone who had tucked him into bed once when visiting, kissed the top of his head, chuckled with his father, danced with his mother—could stand by laughing while others murdered his family. But his uncle was deeply ensconced in all those memories.
Luke heard the door open, heard the light footsteps. He twisted around in the chair, looking back toward the door. He hated the joy that filled him at the sight of Catherine.
Despised more the relief that swept through him because she was here. She made him feel weak, because his need for her was so great. He needed her gone from his life and to accomplish that, he needed to take care of Avendale.
Luke swallowed more whiskey and settled back into his chair. “You shouldn’t be here.”
She knelt on the floor beside him, placed her hands on his knees. “I told my father I was going to see Winnie, but I didn’t. I just told him that excuse knowing full well that I was coming here. I didn’t want you to be alone tonight.”
“I’m here only as a friend.” She turned her face toward the portrait and rested her cheek on his thigh. “I can see the similarities so easily now.”
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