In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(89) by Lorraine Heath
“Thank you,” she said softly. “You don’t come to Dodger’s anymore.”
“I’ve been busy.”
She gave him a look that said she knew a lie when she heard one.
“Who are we to judge what any of us would do to protect ourselves?” she asked. “He knew if you knew the truth that he would lose your friendship, and your friendship meant more to him than anything. You can’t imagine how he suffers these days.”
“Do you love him, Frannie?”
She appeared taken aback. “I love all of Feagan’s lads.”
He didn’t doubt the truth of those words. She’d mothered them all, even though she was younger than most of them.
“You know what it is to live as we did, to have so little,” she said. “We all have our secrets, none of us are completely honest with the others.”
“Not even you?”
“Especially not me. But Jack—”
He was weary of discussing Jack, of having her defend him.
“Eventually, I will forgive him, Frannie. Just not yet.”
She nodded. “All right, then. Would you like to see the children’s home?”
With her hand on his arm, she led him into the building. It opened into a large room with stairs leading up to other floors.
“The children will sleep in rooms up there. Three floors of rooms.” She squeezed his arm. “Can you imagine how many children we’ll be able to provide for?”
“Quite a number I suspect.”
There were classrooms, a dining hall, a reading room. All of the finest quality. Sturdy.
Well-made. Unknown to her, he’d paid the builder a good deal more than she’d
originally planned to invest in order to see that it was so.
She led him through the kitchen to the garden, a fence circling the large area. “Children will play here,” she said. “They’ll be safe.”
“When do you plan to start bringing children here?”
“Once I have the furniture.”
“Order what you want. I’ll pay for it.”
“You’ve done too much—”
“Frannie, please, just do it.”
“You’re too kind to me, Luke. You always give me everything.” Reaching up, she skimmed her fingers along his jaw. “You were always the best of us.”
“Not true. I was only very different. My parents taught me right from wrong. It was never a game.”
She feathered her fingers over his hair. “You were always special to me. From the beginning, I always knew you’d protect me. There was just something about you.”
He took her hand, held it between both of his. “I adore you, Frannie. You know that. I always have.”
She gave him the smile that had always warmed him, but it was not one that threatened to bring him to his knees. He would kill to keep that smile on her face. But to keep Catherine smiling, he would willingly die.
“But you love Catherine,” Frannie said quietly.
He felt as though he’d been slapped, but at the same time, relief swamped him. Yes, this was the perfect setting to ask Frannie to marry him, but he’d known he’d not take advantage of it. “How did you know?”
“If you could see the way you look at her. You’ve always held your emotions so well, but with her, the love you feel for her, it can’t be contained. If a man were ever to look at me as you do her, I daresay, I would marry him—even if he were a king.”
He took her hand and kissed her fingers. “Forgive me, Frannie, but after all these weeks of asking you to learn all you needed to become my wife, I can’t marry you.”
“I never thought you could. Or should. I adore you as well, but as a sister would a brother.”
“I did not want to fall in love with her. But you’re right. I have. It terrifies me to love her as much as I do.”
“I suspect it terrifies her as well. Does she know how you feel?”
“No, God, no. What if she rebuffs me? I don’t know how I will live with it.”
“You’re a coward.”
Chuckling low, he squeezed her hand. How many times had Catherine pointed out that same flaw in him? “When it comes to the heart, yes.”
“She won’t wait forever, Luke.”
“I know, but I fear I’m unworthy of her.”
“If I were a petty woman, I could take insult at that. You considered yourself worthy enough for me.”
He grinned. “I didn’t mean for that to sound as it did. Do you know I struggled for a year before asking for your hand?”
“Don’t wait that long to ask for hers. If you truly want her, don’t wait another day.”
Catherine strolled through the front door, a mixture of feelings dogging her steps. She was excited about traveling to America, sad about leaving England. But she had purchased her ticket that morning. She’d leave from Liverpool and arrive in New York in a matter of weeks. Once there she’d find lodging. It seemed a lot of Englishmen had begun to immigrate to America. She wouldn’t be alone and they could help each other along.
She’d removed her hat and gloves and set her purse—with her precious ticket inside, along with the documents Frannie had prepared for her—on the table in the entry hallway.
“Ah, there you are,” Sterling said, striding from the hall. “You’ve a visitor. He’s waiting for you in the library.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online