Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(45) by Lorraine Heath
Emma. Just the thought of her filled him with mixed reactions: wanting and aversion. She and her sister had taken justice in their own hands. Damn it all, it made him a hypocrite not to admit that he’d done the same on occasion. He’d always justified his actions, believing he knew what constituted justice because he’d seen so much injustice in his youth. Arrogant bastard. Emma was making him face his own shortcomings and he didn’t much like it. Turning from the window, he strode to the door, turned the knob, and discovered it was locked. Pressing his forehead to the wood, he laughed darkly. Apparently, even after everything they’d shared during their brief time together, Emma had absolutely no clue with whom she dealt.
In the kitchen, Emma carefully folded the cloth napkin that she would place on the tray she was preparing for James. It was silly, really, that she wanted everything to be perfect, especially as he’d no doubt wake up in a foul mood from Eleanor’s tampering with his whiskey.
“I know you’re angry because I gave him the sleeping draught,” Eleanor began as she sliced the mutton. It had been almost an hour since they’d spoken. While Eleanor had begun preparations for dinner, Emma saw to the animals, herding them into the barn before the storm broke.
“I’m more than angry. He’s done nothing to deserve such distrust,” Emma replied, beginning to lose patience with her sister and her inability to understand that they’d crossed a fine line once. It wasn’t going to become their habit.
“He’s come to arrest us and I’ve been thinking long and hard about it. Our best course is to convince him that he should leave you here. Truly, what good can come from both of us being hanged? It was my idea, after all. You only went along because it’s your nature to go along.”
“My recollection of our conversation is something along the lines of your suggesting that we should kill him and then our arguing about which one of us should have the honor of doing him in.”
Eleanor’s lips twitched. “I suppose you didn’t take any convincing that he needed to be done in.”
“None at all. I’d read Elisabeth’s journal as well.”
“Then perhaps I should read it.” The deep voice echoed through the room. With tiny screeches, Emma and Eleanor both spun around. They stood close enough that they managed to come together, holding each other as though the devil had risen from hell in order to claim them. But it was only James, filling the doorway, appearing incredibly handsome despite his somewhat disheveled state. He’d removed the bandage from around his head, but hadn’t bothered to put on his waistcoat and jacket—or rebutton his shirt, for that matter. His throat and a narrow V of his chest were visible, but it was enough to make Emma’s hands itch to touch him. If Eleanor hadn’t been squeezing them so tightly, Emma might have crossed over to James and done just that: touched him, stroked him, held him.
A corner of his mouth hitched up into that cocky smile that she so loved. “You didn’t honestly believe a locked door was going to keep me in that room, did you?” He held up a small diamond hairpin, and Emma recognized it as the one she’d worn in her hair the night of the ball, the one she’d forgotten and left in his bedchamber. “I was raised among thieves and pickpockets. A lock is child’s play.”
Emma broke free of her sister’s hold and glared at her. “You locked the door?”
Eleanor gave her a mulish look. “While you were out tending the animals. I wanted to be certain we weren’t disturbed while we worked out our plans if he awoke quickly.”
“Eleanor—” Before she could go on, Eleanor glared at James.
“It was rude of you to startle us so,” her sister said, her voice sharp enough to slice the mutton. Emma knew her tartness harbored her fears that she was no longer in control of the situation. Eleanor was the plotter, the planner, the one with grand schemes and designs. Once, they had focused on how to acquire the best husband; lately, they were centered on how best to avoid the noose.
“Your hospitality is rather lacking,” James said.
“I suppose you expect me to apologize for the sleeping draught.”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t expect anything of you.”
His words contained a wealth of meaning, as though Emma and Eleanor were the lowest of the low, snakes—like the ones they’d seen at the zoological gardens—to crawl on their bellies because they were too vile to be given the means to stand.
“I was preparing a tray…your dinner,” Emma said, her voice unsteady. She was anxious to change the subject, to make some sort of peace offering.
“I’m able to eat at the table. I don’t need to be waited on.”
Emma nodded jerkily. “Well, then, we shall serve dinner in half an hour.”
His eyes slowly roamed over her, before his gaze settled on Eleanor. “Put anything in my food or drink again and you’d best hope it kills me, because when I awaken you’ll suffer my wrath, and trust me on this—it’s not at all pleasant.”
He strode from the room without another word.
“I won’t be able to eat a bite with him sitting at the table,” Eleanor said. Emma wouldn’t either, but she suspected her reasons were very different from Eleanor’s. In spite of everything, she wanted nothing more than to once again lie in his arms.
The wind continued to howl outs
ide, locking them all within the cocoon of the dining room.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online