Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(17) by Lorraine Heath
He didn’t know what had possessed him to reveal so much of his past to her. After all these years, the anger over the injustice of his father’s punishment still ripped through him. He didn’t need the fury now. He needed a clear, cool head to deal with Miss Watkins. But that was asking almost too much. What was it about her that intrigued him so? She was innocence, but she also possessed determination. Like him, she sought justice. How could he ignore her need to avenge her sister when everything he did was in the name of his father?
If this were a private matter, if he had been personally hired by Rockberry to spy on Miss Watkins, he could handle things very differently. But as he’d been ordered to follow her, his position required a bit more discretion. He couldn’t simply go to Rockberry’s residence and give him a good flogging.
Swindler waited until darkness descended. He saw the faint light easing between the draperies in her window. He watched her silhouette pass in front of the window and stop. Then it continued on. He wondered if she would comb her hair tonight. If he should stay. He glanced around. No one was about. He shouldn’t be either. He began walking up the street. He would see her again tomorrow. For the first time in a long time, he was anticipating the next day.
Swindler awoke to the pounding on his door. Rolling out of bed, he pulled on his trousers and buttoned them as he crossed into the living area and went to the door. Opening it, he stepped back as Sir David strode by him.
“She followed him to Dodger’s. You were supposed to keep an eye on her,” Sir David said without preamble.
Swindler fought to suppress his yawn. “I watched her lodgings until after dark. She was there when I left. She must have gone out later.”
“What time did you leave?”
Swindler shrugged. “Perhaps an hour after the gaslights were lit.”
“You don’t know what time, do you, because you won’t carry a damned watch. Blast it, man! If you weren’t so good at what you do, I wouldn’t tolerate your idiosyncrasies.”
“If I’m so good, then why give me this assignment that requires none of my skills?”
“Rockberry asked for you by name. Apparently he saw your name in the Times for one crime solved or another.”
“But why cater to his whims?”
“Because he is powerful and influential. Now about the girl—”
“I must sleep sometime.”
Sir David plowed his hands through his black hair. He wasn’t much older than Swindler, but already his hair was graying at the temples. “Quite right.”
“Sir David, Rockberry did more than dance with Elisabeth. He trifled with her.”
“It’s unconscionable, but not a crime. He’s certain Miss Eleanor Watkins means him harm.”
“She’s not a danger to him.”
Sir David stilled and scrutinized Swindler. “Are you a hundred percent certain?”
Was he? If he said yes, the assignment might very likely come to an end. And if Rockberry learned that no one was watching her, he might decide to take matters into his own hands. Besides, Swindler suddenly wanted to spend time with her, very much.
“Right then,” Sir David said, as though he’d read all the thoughts crossing Swindler’s mind. “Keep an eye on her, and for God’s sake keep her away from Rockberry.”
Late in the afternoon Swindler again borrowed Claybourne’s carriage, and the lady was again dressed in pink. He wondered if years from now he would remember her as the lady in pink, for he had no doubt that in his dotage when he reminisced about his most fascinating cases, she would come to mind. Not that he found much to recommend the case itself for further reflection, but the lady was another matter.
She was a bit of freshness in his life, a life that had become stale by all he’d witnessed. He considered asking her about her late night surveillance of Rockberry, had even considered driving by Dodger’s to gauge her reaction, but he was so damned tired of Rockberry being even a hint of a conversation. He selfishly wanted today for himself, for Eleanor. He wanted to give the impression he was a suitor—and a suitor wouldn’t talk of another man. Even though he knew he could never be a true suitor to her, he could have this little bit of time with her.
He loved watching the way she enjoyed the gardens as the carriage rolled through one after another. She laughed when he didn’t know the names of the flowers. She pointed out her favorites, but even if she hadn’t, he would have known. Pinks and lavenders. Pale colors. Softness. Nothing bright. Nothing harsh.
Then she surprised him by asking, “Will you take me through the part of London where you grew up?”
She might as well have thrown a bucket of cold water on him. He’d been considering seducing her, but the filth that had been his life as a boy would make any woman squirm with distaste at the thought of his hands touching her.
“It’s not nearly as beautiful as the gardens,” he said, hoping to dissuade her from pursuing that path.
“But it would tell me a bit more about your life.”
He knew he should have been flattered that she had an interest in his past, might have an interest in him. While he knew he could never leave it behind completely, that it was woven into the fabric of his character, he had no desire for her to actually see the specifics. “Allow me to paint a picture: it was dirty, smelly, and crowded.”
“I’ve noticed that much of London is dirty, smelly, and crowded.”
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