Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(43) by Lorraine Heath
No, it hadn’t. He was fairly certain that she’d lost her concentration with his words and dug it in farther than she’d intended. He didn’t know why he’d said what he did. He only knew that he didn’t want her to realize how very important she had become to him, how devastated he’d been by her betrayal, her leaving. Because he had been interested in staying with her for more than a few nights. He’d stupidly begun planning to stay with her forever. The thought of always having her in his arms at night and waking up to find her in his bed had brought him almost as much pleasure as the act of making love to her. Now he realized that all he’d known of her was what she’d wished him to know. Without moving his head, he glanced around the bedchamber as much as he was able.
Pale green wallpaper dotted with tiny pink roses decorated the walls. A pink counterpane draped the bed. Pink curtains adorned the windows that looked out on the cliffs. “Are those the cliffs—”
“Yes,” she answered before he could finish the question. Although he couldn’t see her face, he could feel the tension radiating from her.
“Is this your bedchamber?” he asked.
“Yes.” He felt the tension drain from her.
“You like pink.”
“I adore pink.”
The room was a study in femininity. Even the white furniture had a delicate air about it. Everything in his rooms was dark, like his soul. But she was light and airy. She was joy and dreams.
“It was Eleanor that night at Cremorne Gardens, the one I rescued.”
“Yes, but I was there in the shadows. We never went out alone, always stayed within sight of each other. I saw how you protected her.”
“Which is how you recognized me the following afternoon at Hyde Park.”
“Yes.” He heard the snip of scissors, felt the tug as she tied off her handwork. She began wrapping a bandage around his head. “How do you know for certain that it was me at Hyde Park?”
“Something about you was different. I thought it was a reflection of the sunlight.” He felt like a romantic fool telling her. He should have simply kept his thoughts to himself.
“The only time both of us didn’t go out was when you began taking me around London. Eleanor was afraid you might catch us and the jig would be up.”
Unlikely that he’d have noticed her, he hated to admit to himself. All of his attention, all of his focus, had been on the lovely lady in his company.
“There, all done,” she said with a featherlike touch to his head. “You should probably try to sleep until the headache goes away.”
Because his head was pounding unmercifully and he was feeling disoriented, he brought himself to his feet, walked over to the bed and leaned against the post at its foot. “She killed Rockberry.”
Emma gave one quick nod, averting her eyes as she did so.
“You stayed with me that night deliberately to provide her with an alibi. You knew what she was about.”
She stared at the floor as though she hoped it might open up and provide her with the means for an escape. “Yes,” she whispered before lifting her gaze to his and saying more forcefully, “and no. Eleanor had gone downstairs to greet the duchess when she came to issue her invitation. I was abed with a headache. When Eleanor realized I had the opportunity to attend a ball, she decided it was the perfect night to finish what we’d begun. She assumed sooner or later Rockberry would return home, and when he did…she would see to him. My part was to stay with you until dawn. But I wanted to be with you. I came—” She licked her lips. “—to care for you.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe that part, since you ran away.”
“I didn’t see that I had a choice. You’re very clever. Sooner or later I might have said something to give us away.”
“You thought I would simply let everything go if you left?”
“I hoped…you would. I wasn’t as confident as Eleanor that you would simply shrug off my leaving.”
With a sigh, she moved nearer to the window and looked out.
He could hear the wind picking up. A storm was indeed brewing, but it could never compete with the one stirring inside him. “Why me?” he repeated more harshly.
“Eleanor and I kept a constant watch on Rockberry, always taking care that he only saw one of us at a time. We nearly expired on the spot when he went to Scotland Yard. Shortly thereafter, we became aware of you following us, and we assumed you were the result of his visit with the police. Eleanor thought we could take advantage of the situation.”
“And take advantage of me.” He couldn’t contain the seething anger that escaped. She spun around. “You don’t know what he did to our sister. We were determined to avenge her. You can’t possibly imagine what it is to lose someone unjustly.”
Oh, he could. He thought of his father.
“That day in Hyde Park, when I first approached you, why had you decided it would be you who sought to…entice me into your web?”
He heard her swallow. “That was simply coincidence. Had you arrived twenty minutes later, it would have been Eleanor whom you followed. But after you made my acquaintance, we took care to make certain that it was always me who was with you. You and I talked about so much…Eleanor was afraid she might inadvertently say something to cause you to question who you were with.”
They had talked, about so many things. The ease with which he spoke to her had surprised him. He’d never been verbose around the ladies. He communicated in other ways. But everything with her had been unlike anything he’d ever experienced with anyone else. That she could betray him so easily—
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