In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(91) by Lorraine Heath
“Catherine, you assured me the blackguard wouldn’t take advantage. I assure you, sir, a wedding is in order here.”
Catherine looked at Claybourne. He smiled down on her.
“As soon as it can be arranged,” he promised.
It was late, long past midnight, when Luke walked the familiar back hallway of Dodger’s. He and his friends had gambled there, drunk there, commiserated there. In a way, it was Feagan’s dwelling—simply fancier, cleaner, better smelling.
Luke stopped at the open doorway that led into Jack’s sanctuary, not surprised to find Jack sitting behind his desk going over his books—not checking Frannie’s figures so much as relishing all he’d gained. More than any of them, Jack loved his coins.
Luke cleared his throat. Jack glanced up, and for a heartbeat, Luke thought he saw joy in Jack’s eyes before he shuttered his emotions.
“You haven’t stopped by in a while,” Jack said, leaning back insolently in his chair.
“I had no desire to be here.”
“I can hardly blame you for that, I suppose. What brings you here tonight?”
“I’ve asked Lady Catherine Mabry to become my wife. She’s consented to granting me the honor of being her husband.”
Jack’s eyes widened slightly, before he once again gained control of his thoughts. It wasn’t like him to reveal so much, and now he had—twice.
“I thought you loved Frannie.”
“I do. But I love Catherine more deeply.” And differently. He’d come to realize what he felt for Frannie was the love of a boy for a girl and what he felt for Catherine was the love of a man for a woman. When he’d thought of taking Frannie to bed, he’d never felt any fire, probably because he’d never truly contemplated anything beyond sleeping together, spooned around each other as they’d slept as children. But where Catherine was concerned, he could hardly go fifteen minutes without thinking of falling into bed with her—and sleeping was seldom on his mind.
But these were realizations that he could no longer discuss with Jack. There was now a part of his heart and his soul that he might never again be able to share with his long-time friend.
“Damn,” Jack muttered.
Luke arched a brow. “That seems an odd reaction—even from you.”
“I have to build Bill a hospital. We wagered”—he shook his head—“it doesn’t matter.
Congratulations. Shall we drink to it?” He stood up, reached for the bottle—
Jack looked back at him.
“I’m not drinking much these days.”
“I am.” Jack poured whiskey into the glass, then held it aloft. “To your health and happiness as well as Catherine’s.”
He downed the contents in one gulp.
Luke remembered that it was Jack who had given him his first taste of whiskey, rum, and gin. It was Jack who had taught him how to cheat at cards, how to pick pockets without getting caught. Jack who had assured him when he was a small, frightened boy cowering in the alley that everything was going to be all right, that Jack wouldn’t let anyone hurt him. In spite of his flaws, of which there were many, Jack had never abandoned Luke. Never.
“I’ve come to ask you to stand with me,” Luke said quietly, “when Catherine and I marry in two weeks.”
Jack scoffed. “You’re a lord. You should ask Chesney or Milner.”
“I’m not friends with Chesney or Milner. I wouldn’t lay down my life for them, nor would they for me.”
Jack averted his gaze, his voice rough with emotion when he finally spoke. “To stand with you will be the greatest honor of my life.”
“You’ve always stood with me, Jack.”
Jack looked back at him, nodded brusquely. “We were quite the pair, weren’t we?”
“Too arrogant at times, I think.”
“That’s because we were so very good and so very clever.” He chuckled low. “Well, except for the time when we got caught, of course.”
Luke stepped into the room. “I believe I will have that drink.”
Jack poured them each a glass. When Luke held his, he tapped it against Jack’s. “To Feagan, who taught us how to survive the streets.”
“And to your grandfather,” Jack said somberly, “for trying to turn us all into gentlemen, and failing miserably with some of us, I’m afraid.”
Luke felt the familiar, painful knot in his chest, near his heart, as he thought of the old gent. He lifted his glass higher in salute. “To my grandfather.”
It rained on the day they wed. But Catherine didn’t care. She had enough happiness and joy inside her that if it rained for the remainder of their lives, they would always know sunshine. Because she and Sterling were still in mourning over the loss of their father, and Winnie was in mourning over the death of Avendale and etiquette forbade that widows attend weddings, Catherine insisted that the ceremony be small and intimate, held in a chapel.
Claybourne wouldn’t allow her to be denied what she requested. She’d always relished her independence, and she drew comfort from knowing that he would never attempt to stifle it. On the contrary, she suspected that he relished it as well.
In spite of the weather, a few among the nobility attended—more out of curiosity than anything. Marcus Langdon was in attendance, his mother notably absent. Frannie stood with Catherine since Winnie couldn’t put aside her mourning. Jack stood with Luke. She was glad they’d reconciled, even if Luke had done so with some misgivings.
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