Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(41) by Lorraine Heath
She merely shook her head.
“You did it, didn’t you?” he demanded. “Arranged for his murder. You had an accomplice. You used me to establish your innocence.”
She shook her head only slightly this time.
“Don’t lie to me, Eleanor. For God’s sake, tell—” Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, he jerked his head up and saw a woman standing just beyond the doorway. The resemblance between the two women was uncanny. Frannie had the right of it. “Elisabeth,” he whispered.
“No,” the woman in his arms said quietly. “Eleanor.”
He studied more intensely the woman he held. Everything about her was familiar. The taste, the fragrance, the feel of her in his arms, the way she molded against him. He shook his head. “No, you’re Eleanor.”
“No, I’m Emma. I’ve always been Emma.”
He remembered that first meeting in Cremorne Gardens—how he’d rescued the woman, yet been anxious to bring the assignment to an end. How during the light of day the following afternoon she’d taken his breath, how he’d been struck that something about her was different.
“So you deceived me from the beginning?”
“You deceived me,” she said tartly. “You claimed to be a scoundrel. You didn’t reveal you worked for Scotland Yard.”
“I am a scoundrel. But I never once lied to you. Not about anything.”
Three sisters. There had been three identical sisters!
Swindler wasn’t certain he’d ever heard of such a thing.
The fury had shot through him as the depth of their deception became clearer. He’d hardly been able to stand to look at either woman, so he decided to see to the horse, to give himself some time to calm down. He couldn’t recall ever being as furious, to know that the sisters had planned to use him, to wonder how much of Elean—no, Emma’s action had been devised to lure him into her carefully devised trap. The deceitful wench!
The irony did not escape him. He—who was so very skilled at planning and executing the swindle—he’d been effectively swindled.
Removing the saddle from his horse, he draped it over one side of the stall, near where he’d earlier hung the bridle and bit. Having rarely ridden a horse, he wasn’t a skilled horseman. Nor did he have any experience in actually caring for the creatures. He’d expected to at least find a groom here who could see to the matter for him. He patted the horse’s neck. It shied away from him. The closer they’d come to the sea, the more skittish it had become. Damned big brute, but then Swindler needed it to accommodate his size.
He went in search of oats. The barn was small, in need of repair. There didn’t appear to be any servants about anywhere. Perhaps Emma hadn’t lied about her circumstances. She’d not had the means to have a proper Season.
Where once he’d felt sympathy with her plight, he was no longer certain what he was now experiencing. He cursed Rockberry for bringing Scotland Yard into his personal mess. He cursed Sir David for deciding Swindler was the best man for the job. And he cursed himself for failing miserably at ensuring that a lord was not killed.
He’d given no credence to Rockberry’s claims or fears. Eventually his duty had become secondary to his desire to be with the lady. He’d put his own wants and needs first. He finally located a nearly empty bin of oats. After scooping some into a feed sack, he walked back toward the stall where he’d left the horse. He was in the process of slipping the sack over the horse’s head when he heard a large clap of thunder. The horse whinnied and reared up. He had been so distracted with thoughts of the woman he now knew as Emma that he was slow to react. He twisted—
His head exploded into sharp, blinding pain.
“What do you suppose his intentions are?” Eleanor asked as she and Emma closed and secured an outside shutter on the house. They’d begun the task after James had ground out, “I need to see to my horse” and had led the large beast toward the small barn. For the briefest of moments, when he took her in his arms and slashed his mouth over hers, Emma had dared believe he was here for another reason. But his kiss had been punishing, his arms like iron bands around her. He was furious. Not that she blamed him. But she also knew he possessed a kindness, a gentleness. But more, he understood justice. She’d seen, touched, the scars on his back. If anyone knew the unfairness of the criminal justice system, it would be him.
“I suspect he intends to return us to London where we can pay for our sins.”
“If that’s the case, then he only needs to take me,” Eleanor said stubbornly. “After all, I’m the one who actually did the deed.”
She loved her sister dearly for striving to spare her. “We’re in this together.”
With a sigh, Eleanor marched around the corner to close up the next window. Emma began to follow, then changed her mind. She needed to speak with James—alone. She was halfway to the barn when she saw his horse grazing nearby. She wondered if James had no luck finding grain for beast. Quickening her pace, she entered the barn. Her heart pounded in her chest at the sight of him sprawled near a straw-filled stall. “Oh, my God.”
Rushing over, she knelt beside him. She could see blood matting his hair. Very gently, she moved the strands aside. He had a nasty gash on the side of his head. The horse must have—
James’s eyes flew open. She released a startled gasp. The walls spun dizzily around as he grabbed her and flipped her onto her back on the straw before pouncing on her like some wild beast. She started to pound her fists into him, but he grabbed her wrists and pinned her hands above her head. His face was pained, but she thought it was more an emotional pain than a physical one. His harsh breathing echoed around her.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online