Lord of Wicked Intentions(Lost Lords of Pembrook,Book 3)(75) by Lorraine Heath
He laughed darkly. “At least you know me well enough to know what I’m capable of.”
He tore at his jacket. She heard material ripping before he had properly removed and discarded it.
“We must send for a physician,” she said.
“Laurence is seeing to it.”
Working to get off his waistcoat next, he took a step, staggered, then made his way to the bed. He sat down heavily and hung his head. She hurried over, stared at him, at the red-soaked spot on his shirt. “Oh, my Lord. Is it all your blood?”
“Afraid so, but don’t worry, pet. My solicitor is well aware that should I die, you gain all. Except the gaming hell. That goes to Mick.”
“Do you honestly believe that is what is on my mind at this moment?”
“If you’re smart, you’ll start praying for my demise.”
“Then I must be exceedingly stupid, because what I’m praying for is the physician’s hasty arrival.”
He studied her as though she were a new species of butterfly to be pinned to a board and examined. “After all you’ve endured, how can you think of others before yourself? Do you not see how important you are? That you are all that matters?”
“I’m not all that matters. It would be a rather sad world if I were.” As carefully as she could, she worked his arms out of his waistcoat. “What happened?”
“Idiot didn’t like that I wasn’t going to give him any more credit.”
“You were attacked at your club?”
He shrugged, grimaced.
“What sort of clientele do you serve?”
“Wortham’s a member. That should give you a clue.”
She began gathering up the hem of his shirt. “But he wouldn’t do something like this.”
He was silent as she began to lift. She stilled, horrified by a thought. “Say it wasn’t him.”
“It wasn’t him.”
Relief coursed through her. Cautiously, as he raised his arms, she pulled his shirt over his head. Then she saw the ghastly gash oozing blood. She thought she might be ill.
She rushed over to the washbasin and grabbed a towel. After returning to the bed, she pressed the cloth against the gaping wound. She heard his sharp intake of breath.
“It isn’t bad,” he assured her. “It’s long, but not deep. He didn’t strike any organs.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I’d be in a good deal more pain. Idiot didn’t know what he was doing. He just struck without thought or aim. A few stitches should do the trick. You could probably sew me up.”
“My stitching is atrocious. I’m always having to undo it and redo it. I’d probably end up sewing your side to your thigh.”
He released a short burst of laughter. “Then I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t take you to be my tailor.”
“I told you I have no skills.” She lifted her gaze to his as realization dawned. “You live in a very violent world, don’t you?”
“Not as violent as it once was.” He averted his gaze. She thought perhaps he was studying the lamp. She could see the flame reflected in his eyes. “I know he didn’t hit any organs because I know what the inside looks like. When I was fourteen, I worked for a nasty fellow. He went by the name of Dimmick. He would do favors for people or lend them money, but what they owed him was a good deal more. When it was time to pay up, he would send a couple of us to collect. ‘His boys’ he called us. ‘Don’t want me to be sendin’ me boys ’round.’ Before he sent us on our first job, he took us to a morgue, cut open a cadaver, and showed us how to strike to cause the most pain, where to strike to kill.”
“You mentioned that you’d killed someone. Did you do it for him?”
He brought his gaze back to her. “Not for him. But I hurt people, badly. I’m not proud of it, but at the time I felt I had no choice if I was to survive. A couple of years later, he found himself in a bit of a bother. One of his boys could read and write, you see. He kept very good records of the man’s activities.” He gave her a devilish grin. “In exchange for not taking them to Scotland Yard, I wanted his gaming hell.”
“That’s how you came to have your club.”
He nodded slowly, thoughtfully, and she wondered how much longer before he clammed back up. It was unusual for him to reveal so much. He had to be trying to distract himself from the pain.
“What happened to him? Where is he now?”
“He sent someone to kill me. I broke the bloke’s arm, told him I could teach him a better way to live.”
Knowledge dawned. “Laurence?”
He nodded again. “Word spread that I was a fairer sort. Those who once worked for him began to work for me. He had a lot of enemies, and soon there was no one to protect him. Heard he jumped off Tower Bridge one night.”
“You shouldn’t feel guilty.”
“I don’t feel guilty about anything. There’s nothing to be gained by it.”
“Why did you tell me all this?”
“So if I die, you’d know not to come looking for me when you get to heaven.”
She felt compelled to carry on with the farce that neither of them was worried about the wound. “I wouldn’t anyway.”
He grinned. She heard the door creak as it was opened further. Rafe looked up. “Ah, Graves, I’m in need of your skills.”
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