In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(86) by Lorraine Heath
And they shared their gossip.
So it was that he knew Lady Catherine Mabry had spent the past month in seclusion with her ailing father. He also knew, within hours, when the dukedom had passed to her wayward brother.
Not calling on Catherine had been one of the hardest things he’d ever done, but he’d not risk her reputation further. Speculation was rife that Lady Catherine Mabry had been spied in Dodger’s gaming hell. Conflicting rumors also abounded—that no indeed, it had simply been Claybourne’s latest mistress, a woman he had so little respect for that he dressed her as a servant. Luke never commented on either argument, in hopes that in time both would die a quiet death.
Marcus had assured him that was the best approach. Lord knew their family had suffered enough scandals that the man was fairly an expert on how to lessen the damage.
But still, Luke couldn’t ignore the death of her father.
The shades were drawn when he arrived at her residence late that evening. The butler led him to the withdrawing room where the casket rested. Catherine sat on a chair near it.
Several people were there. He recognized a few of the lords, the others he assumed were family, paying their respects. Catherine was dressed in black, her face haggard. She looked as though she’d lost weight.
He realized how hard the past month had been on her, and he cursed himself for caring more about society’s expectations than hers. In striving to protect her, he’d failed her.
He’d never known a deeper regret.
She rose as he approached and he took both of her gloved hands in his.
“My Lord Claybourne, it was so kind of you to come.”
“My condolences on your loss. I know your father meant a great deal to you.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “He died in his garden, surrounded by the flowers he loved so.”
“I suspect you were the blossom he loved most of all.”
She released a tiny bubble of laughter, and quickly covered her mouth while those surrounding them raised brows. “My lord, I’d not realized you were a poet.”
“When the situation warrants, I can rise to the occasion.”
He held her gaze for longer than was proper. He didn’t want to leave, but he knew that etiquette dictated that he go.
“Truly, Lord Claybourne, thank you for coming. Your presence here means more to me than you’ll ever know.”
“I wish I could do more.”
She smiled softly. Something must have caught her eye, because she turned her attention elsewhere. Her eyes widened, and she grew pale, as though she’d seen the ghost of her father. She pulled her hands free of Luke’s and took a step away from him. “Sterling?”
Luke turned to see an impeccably dressed man with blue eyes as hard as stones standing near. His hair and thick beard were a dark blond, the bronzed hue of his skin reflecting a man accustomed to the outdoors.
Suddenly out of the corner of his eye, Luke saw Catherine’s head loll back, her eyes roll
As her body went limp he caught her and swept her into his arms.
The man took a step forward. “I’m her brother. I’ll take her.”
“I think not. Simply show me to her room.”
“That, sir, would be inappropriate.”
“I don’t give a bloody damn.”
Luke edged his way past him. In the hallway he found a servant whom he dispatched to fetch Bill and another whom he ordered to show him to Catherine’s room. His legs were feeling so weak that he wasn’t certain he’d make it up the stairs.
All these weeks of striving to preserve her reputation, and he’d managed to undo it all in a matter of seconds.
But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was Catherine.
Catherine thought she should have been embarrassed being examined by someone she knew as other than a physician, but Dr. Graves had the uncanny ability to put her at ease.
One moment she’d been moving toward Sterling, and the next she was in her bed, staring at her canopy. Now she was resting on that bed, in the dressing gown Jenny had helped her change into.
“Lord Claybourne insists that you be examined,” Jenny had told her.
As though Claybourne had the authority to issue such a demand. Oh, her heart went out to Frannie. The woman would no doubt find him impossible to live with.
While Catherine was fairly finding it impossible to live without him.
“Well?” Catherine asked now, watching as Dr. Graves began putting instruments back into his bag.
“You swooned, which isn’t unusual when one is dealing with grief.”
“And the unexpected arrival of my brother after so many years certainly didn’t help,”
“Quite so, but I suspect your fainting had more to do with your condition.”
Catherine swallowed. “Which is?”
“You’re with child.”
Sliding her eyes closed, she unconsciously pressed her hand to her stomach. Then she opened her eyes and met his concerned gaze. “I feared as much,” she said. “No, that’s not true. I rather hoped as much.”
With his arms crossed over his chest, he leaned against the bedpost, no longer the physician, but a friend. “Are you going to tell him?”
“You say that as though you know who the father is.”
“I have my suspicions. He’ll want to know.”
“There’s no need for him to know.”
“You don’t think he’ll hear of it?”
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