Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(33) by Lorraine Heath
He didn’t want to talk of her sister, as it would dampen the mood or her memories of this night. Once he talked with Sir David and confirmed a plan of action, he’d pay her a visit and explain not only what he’d been doing the night he met her but how he planned to take the situation in hand to gain satisfaction for her regarding Rockberry. But until then he wanted nothing to sour what they’d shared, and had little doubt that her initial reaction to the fact that he’d been following her was not going to be well received.
He didn’t want her to throw what he was certain would be a horrendous tantrum in his lodgings. Nor in hers. Finding an appropriate place was going to be a bit of a bother. And he was certain a tantrum would be forthcoming. Ladies tended to look unfavorably on gentlemen who’d not been honest in their dealings with them—even when the dishonesty wasn’t their choice.
“Do you remember Cremorne Gardens when you confessed that you didn’t want the night ruined by—”
“By talk of the past?”
“I shouldn’t let it ruin this night either.” She pressed a kiss to his chest, and he immediately hardened.
They lay in silence for several moments, simply absorbing the nearness of each other. He wondered how he was going to manage without her in his bed—in his life, for that matter. She was still aristocratic by birth. Surely she’d realized at the ball that she could find a good match in London. He’d been selfish to so willingly pounce on her words when she indicated that she wanted to spend the night in his arms.
“I hate the scars on your back,” she said softly.
His gut clenched and tightened. He’d kept them from everyone except her—and Frannie, who’d tended them. “I know they’re hideous.”
“No. No, they’re not.” She rose up on her elbows and held his gaze. “They’re a testament to your…ability to survive. You could have ended up like your father—hanged.”
He didn’t think his gut could clench any tighter. He was wrong. “If we’re not going to talk about your past, I’d rather not talk about mine.”
With a nod of acquiescence, she laid her head in the center of his chest. “I can hear your heart beat. I like the sound of it.”
“It always beats faster when you’re near.”
She dug her chin into his breastbone.
“Don’t feed me false flattery, Mr. Swindler.”
“I never would, Miss Watkins.”
She reached up and nipped his chin. He liked this playful side of her. Her character possessed so many different facets that he thought he needed a lifetime to study them all.
“Your rooms surprised me,” she said. “Especially your bedchamber. I was expecting something a bit more…decadent from a self-professed scoundrel.”
“What did you have in mind? Perhaps I can accommodate.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know. Something a bit more…red.”
“Brown suits me.”
“It doesn’t stand out.”
“I’m not one for wanting to stand out. Besides, I have the one thing in my bedchamber that every disreputable scoundrel must have.”
Her brow furrowed in concentration, she glanced around the room: at the bureau, at the chair, at the pile of clothes. “I can’t imagine what it might be.”
He gave her a teasing grin. “A lovely woman he can’t keep his hands off of.”
She released a tiny screech as he rolled her over until she was beneath him.
“Besides, Miss Watkins, what I have in my bedchamber isn’t nearly as important as what I do in it.”
Then he proceeded to take them both to paradise.
The sun was only just beginning to chase away the fog when he slipped her out of his lodgings. Thankfully, the carriage was still waiting for them. How wonderful it was that he had friends with the means to demand of their servants inconvenience. As he assisted her inside and she settled on the bench, she fought not to have regrets. When his arm came around her, she buried her face in the nook of his shoulder, inhaling the wondrous fragrance that was him. And then she remembered his gift.
“Oh, I forgot the necklace. Will you help me remove it?”
“Take it. It’s yours.”
She jerked around to face him. “But you said it was on loan.”
“I lied. I didn’t think you would accept it otherwise.”
“It’s too grand a gift. It would be improper.”
“Eleanor, we’ve just spent the entire night being improper. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
She fought not to show how the harshness in his voice had hurt her, but he must have guessed because his face gentled and he tucked his finger beneath her chin, forcing her to look at him. “I have no one in my life for whom I can purchase gifts, and money means nothing to me. Please accept them as a token of my esteem.”
She shouldn’t, she knew she shouldn’t, but the truth was that she loved them. Touching her fingers to them, she said as graciously as possible, “Thank you.”
They said not another word, but then the journey was short. A few streets over. It wasn’t until he was standing before her at the door, his ungloved hand cradling her cheek, that he spoke again. “I want to call on you this evening.”
She smiled at him and nodded.
“I know you have concerns,” he said quietly, “because your sister came to London and fell into disgrace, but that will not be the way of it between us. I promise you that, Eleanor. We have known each other only a short while, but what I feel for you cannot be measured.”
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