In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(87) by Lorraine Heath
Oh, he would. Claybourne knew everything that involved the aristocracy.
“Not until after he’s married. I’ll do what I can to conceal my condition until he’s married.”
He nodded. Straightened. “Very well then.”
“Promise me you won’t tell him.”
“I won’t. Although he’ll probably take a fist to me when he finds out. As Jack learned, Luke doesn’t take well to discovering secrets are kept from him.”
“Mr. Dodger was harboring a rather large secret.”
“And you don’t think this is?”
“I’ll not deny him his happiness with Frannie.”
“As you wish.”
A few moments after he left her, she wished she could call him back. Apparently Sterling had insisted that Claybourne take Dr. Graves’s word for it—that grief had caused Catherine to swoon—and had refused Claybourne admittance to Catherine’s bedchamber. She’d always known Sterling’s absence had allowed her a measure of freedom she’d not have had otherwise. She simply hadn’t realized exactly how much.
“That was quite the spectacle,” Sterling said now, pacing beside Catherine’s bed.
Dr. Graves had insisted she remain there at least until tomorrow morning.
“After all these years, your first words to me are chastisement?” she asked, insulted, hurt, and infuriated.
“I’m afraid they’re deserved, Catherine. I’ve heard that you were spotted at Dodger’s gaming hell. That you danced with Claybourne, that you took a turn about the garden with him. And now this? Carrying you to your bedchamber as though he were
accustomed to ravishing you at whim? Your reputation is ruined.”
“Are you saying you engaged in no mischief while you were out gallivanting around the world?”
“No man is going to take you to wife.”
“Which works out wonderfully well as I have no intention of taking any man to husband.”
“You will marry. I’ll see to it. It shall be my first act as the Duke of Greystone, to secure you a proper husband.”
“I don’t want a proper husband.” She wanted an improper one: Claybourne. And if she couldn’t have him, she’d have none at all.
“I don’t care what you want. I’m lord and master here.”
“You’re not the young man you were when you left here. What happened to you?”
“We’re not here to discuss me. We’re here to discuss you and your abhorrent behavior.”
If she weren’t suddenly feeling lightheaded again, she might have charged out of the bed and smacked him. Instead, she forced herself to calmness and leaned back against the pillows. “Father is dead.”
“I’m well aware of that.”
“Yet we don’t seek to comfort each other?”
“We each grieve in our own way.”
“Are you grieving, Sterling?”
He did nothing except clench his jaw.
“Where have you been all these years?” she asked.
“That is not your concern.”
“How is it that you managed to hear about all these rumors in so short a space of time?
How long have you been in London?”
He suddenly seemed very uncomfortable. “A while.”
“And you didn’t come see Father?”
“There was much between us that you wouldn’t understand, Catherine, and none of it involves you.”
“But you’re my brother.”
“Which is why I’ll see that you’re married.”
She grabbed a nearby pillow and flung it at him. “I’ll not marry a man of your choosing.”
“Then you have six months to choose one of your own, before I do it for you.”
He strode out of the room, without so much as a backward glance.
Catherine flopped back on the bed and cursed him. Who the devil was that man? It seemed inconceivable that he was her sweet, generous brother.
“Aren’t we somber in our mourning clothes,” Winnie said.
Winnie and Catherine were sitting in Winnie’s garden, both of them dressed in black as was suitable for their recent status in the world, one a widow, the other mourning the loss of her father.
“Even though you’re in mourning, you seem quite cheerful,” Catherine said.
Winnie smiled slyly. “I’ve been speaking with Dr. Graves on occasion, and I’m thinking of trying to raise funds to build a hospital.”
“Oh, that would be lovely and would give you something to occupy your time.”
“That’s what I thought. He’s a rather nice man, even if he is a commoner, and I don’t think I shall ever get married again. I think you have the right of it. Be independent, do as you like, not be weighted down by a husband.”
It all sounded so fine in principle, but in practice, Catherine spent far too much time thinking of Claybourne.
As though knowing where Catherine’s thoughts had drifted, Winnie said, “I have it on good authority that Mr. Marcus Langdon has removed his petition to reclaim the estates as his from the courts.”
“He’d have not won. Claybourne is the rightful heir.”
“So people are saying. I’ve heard that he’s even being issued invitations to various functions. And it’s rumored that Mr. Langdon has been seen in Claybourne’s company on several occasions—laughing as though they’re dear friends. Is that not a strange turn of events?”
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