Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(58) by Lorraine Heath
Had he even noticed the smallest things about her, or had he seen her as only a sacrifice to his brutal masculinity?
“Eleanor and I discovered it among her things after…afterward.”
After her death. Once they’d read the journal, he didn’t think they would treasure the piece. “What became of it?”
They’d neared the house. Emma stopped to face him as though she wished this conversation to end outside, so Eleanor would not have to endure so painful a topic. He couldn’t fail to notice how protective the sisters were of each other. “We took it with us to London and had it delivered to Lord Rockberry, along with a message.”
“The words of the message?” he prodded.
Again she blushed, her face turning a darker red than he’d ever seen it. “She’s dead. Soon you shall be as well.”
“A bit melodramatic, but no doubt effective. That’s the reason when he went to Scotland Yard that he could sound so confident that you meant to kill him.”
“Did he show the missive to Scotland Yard?”
“Not to my knowledge—although it’s quite possible he did. My superior was quite adamant that I keep watch over you, determine your purpose and sway you from it.”
“So your interest in me was all a deception.”
Her voice carried no doubts. She’d not offered a question, but had made a statement. Her eyes dared him to denounce the truth, but he was as weary of lies between them as she was. Even as he thought it, he realized her coming to his arms last night could have been deception as well, an attempt to engage his heart so he would leave without either sister. He wanted to trust her motives, but the pain of her initial betrayal was still a hollow ache. He wondered if they’d ever completely trust each other—and if they didn’t, how could she believe that he’d truly given her his heart?
“In the beginning, yes,” he said. “My plan was to gain your favor, entice you into telling me your reasons for following Rockberry.” He wanted to touch her but didn’t dare. She suddenly appeared as fragile as a piece of hand-blown glass. “But I quickly fell under your spell.”
“So you think I bewitched you?”
“I’m beginning to understand that just as I was playing you, so you were playing me. We were both involved in separate, but equally as elaborate, swindles. I wanted to entice you into revealing your purpose; you wanted to seduce me into providing you with an alibi.”
“And last night?”
“It’s my hope that we were completely honest with each other. But I also recognize that we’ve both become quite skilled at duplicity, and it’s possible neither of us would recognize honesty if it bit us on the arse.”
She averted her gaze from his and stared out at the cliffs, at the sea. “The one time I’ve always been honest with you is when I’ve lain with you.”
Gently, he molded his hand around her chin and turned her head so he could see the deep blue of her eyes. “The only time I haven’t been honest with you was my reason for pursuing you.”
She gave him a tremulous smile. “We have a very rocky foundation beneath us.”
“But it is a foundation, Emma. Only we can determine what we want to build on top of it now.”
“Don’t be so fanciful, James. We can’t build anything. We’re at cross purposes. I’ve committed a crime. And you solve crimes.”
Damnation! How could he make her understand? They were going back and forth, covering ground that had already been plowed.
“Emma, not everything I do is within the law.”
“But you’re an inspector.”
“And sometimes I look the other way. I can’t on this matter because he’s a blasted lord, but I can assure you that if your sentence is not just, I will see you released from gaol. I will see that you have another life, but first, I would like very much to try to see that you return to this one.”
“You said you have influence.”
“I have a duke and an earl in my pocket.”
“Claybourne and Greystone.”
He nodded. “And Jack Dodger could purchase all of London if he wanted. They have power, Emma. I’m not above asking them to wield it.”
“And what of you, James Swindler?”
“My power is not as visible as theirs, but I have it. I’ve earned it. Now back to the silver. Do you remember exactly what it looked like?”
She nodded. “I believe so, yes. It very much resembled a choker, but strands of silver flowed from it. It was really quite lovely. Ironic that it symbolized something so ugly.”
“Can you help me draw it?”
She looked taken aback. “Whatever for?”
“Because swindles are my strong suit, and I believe one more is needed to put this matter to rest.”
ain part was a web of tiny strands that fit snugly around a lady’s neck,” Emma said, sitting at the table in the kitchen and watching as James sketched what she described. She loved the way he looked when he concentrated. Whether it was at the paper or her, he gave each his full attention. She knew her actions in London had put him in an awkward position regarding his feelings for her and his responsibilities toward his duties. He cared about justice. He cared about her.
“And on either side of the part that rested at the hollow of a woman’s throat, several knotted strands dangled down,” Eleanor explained. “Their length increased as they moved toward the center until the one in the middle was long enough to dangle between—” Clearing her throat, she looked at Emma.
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