Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(61) by Lorraine Heath
Afterward, lying exhausted and replete in each other’s arms, she couldn’t stop the tears. Neither could his whispered murmuring of assurance prevent the arrival of the dawn.
Emma had not expected their first stop after they arrived in London to be the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Greystone. She, Eleanor, and James stood in the entrance hallway, with her and Eleanor’s small trunk behind them, waiting while the butler announced them.
“It seems we should have at least attempted to find lodgings first,” Eleanor mumbled. Emma suspected Eleanor was a bit cross because from the moment they’d departed from their home, James had left no doubt that he was the one in charge of their little expedition. It seemed to Emma that the farther from the cottage they traveled, the more he distanced himself from her. She knew he did it because hard choices needed to be made, but it didn’t make the loneliness any easier to bear.
Emma glanced toward the hallway and saw the duchess hurrying toward them. Emma had been terrified that she’d give away that she had not met the duchess until the night of the ball. It was Eleanor who’d spoken with her in the parlor at the lodgings. Afterward, Eleanor described her in excruciating detail, but even without so fine a description, Emma would have known the duchess by the softness that appeared in James’s eyes when he greeted her. The same gladness that he showed now as the duchess patted his shoulder, before walking past him to study her and Eleanor.
“I see you found there were two after all,” she said. “They’re almost indistinguishable. Imagine what Feagan could have done with them.”
“You don’t have to talk about us as though we’re not here,” Eleanor said.
“And which one would you be?” the duchess asked.
When Eleanor took on her mulish expression and remained silent, Emma said, “She’s Eleanor. I’m Emma.”
The duchess scrutinized Emma as though searching for something upon which her life depended. Then she smiled. “You’re the one who attended my ball, the one who struck Jim’s fancy. But it was Eleanor I met in the parlor.”
“No one can tell us apart,” Eleanor snapped.
“Except Mr. Swindler,” Emma reminded her quietly.
“I was raised to read the subtle nuances in people,” the duchess said. “How else was I to determine who best to fleece?” She turned her attention to James. “So what do you require?”
“A place for them to stay,” he said.
Based on the certainty in his voice that he knew he’d not be denied, Emma thought he and the duchess might as well be related by blood.
“Here, should suffice for that purpose. What else?” the duchess asked.
After settling into her room, Emma crossed the wide expanse of hallway to the bedchamber Eleanor had been given. It was much the same as hers, with a large four-poster canopied bed, a dresser, a bureau, a vanity, and a small sitting area near the window. Extending from the window itself was a seat covered in pillows. Eleanor was sitting there, gazing out into the garden.
“What have we gotten ourselves into, Emma?” she asked without turning around. Emma sat beside her. “Into the thick of things I’d say.”
“I thought the duchess had only recently married the duke. If that’s the case, who is the boy?”
Looking out, Emma saw the duke and a young boy standing in front of easels, pallets in their hands as they each painted a section of flowers in the garden. “James mentioned that she’d taken in one of her orphans. Peter, I think he said his name was.”
“I always wanted children.”
“You may have them yet.”
“Yes, I’m certain a gentleman would be delighted to take to wife a woman who has no qualms about plunging a dagger into a man’s heart.” Eleanor began rubbing her hands, and Emma stilled her actions by placing hers over them.
“A man would be most fortunate to have you.”
Her sister gave her a small smile. “I don’t regret what I did, Emma. It’s simply that it’s a bit more difficult to live with than I’d anticipated.”
“What we did, Eleanor. You must never forget that we did it together.”
Eleanor nodded reluctantly and gazed back out the window. “The duke is a handsome fellow.”
“And to think he married a thief.”
“What of you, Emma? Will you marry a thief?”
“In a heartbeat,” she whispered. “But I seriously doubt he’ll ask.”
— J. S.
The missive was sent to five, but only four answered.
“Graves sends his regrets, but he’s attending to the queen,” Claybourne said. “She seems to think she has some ailment that only he can cure. If we can’t do this without him, we’re to send word, and he’ll do what he can.”
William Graves was another of Feagan’s brood. A former grave robber who was quickly becoming one of London’s most noted physicians.
The others in the duke’s library included Claybourne’s wife, Catherine, Jack Dodger, Frannie, Greystone, Emma, and Eleanor. Swindler hadn’t considered when he sent word that he would find himself surrounded by men of incredible wealth and power. His own was not lacking, but he didn’t flaunt it. Two of them possessed the one thing he didn’t: a title. He wondered if Emma would be content with a man who would never ascend into the aristocracy. Was she even now looking at Greystone and Claybourne and thinking that they were the type of men she deserved to wed?
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