Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(66) by Lorraine Heath
Grabbing her wrists, he pressed them to his chest. In spite of her own agitation, she could feel the rapid thudding of his heart.
“I know exactly what he did, and probably in considerably more detail than you. My brother did not want for particulars in his writing.”
All the fight left her. She hated that others knew exactly what fate had befallen her sister.
“Thank you for burning the journal.”
“It was not as though it was difficult. It can’t compare with the dangers you’ll face tomorrow night.”
“I can’t bear the thought of anyone else enduring what Elisabeth did.”
“I didn’t think you were as heartless as you pretended.”
She didn’t realize that he’d released his grip on her wrists until his hand was at the back of her head, leading her into the curve of his shoulder. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t stop the tears from falling, large hot drops that scalded her cheeks. “I’m sorry if you loved him,” she said.
“I didn’t. Not after I read…how could anyone? I’m glad he’s dead, Miss Watkins. I’m only sorry that you had to be the one to see to the matter.”
His voice was strangled, as though he’d had to push the words out, and she wondered if he, too, was crying.
“I shall take solace in those sentiments, my lord, when my sentence is handed down.”
He drew back, and in the low lamplights of the garden, she could see the dampness of sorrow glistening on his cheeks, even as he glided his thumbs over her face to capture her tears.
“Don’t be so quick to see yourself hanged, Miss Watson. Many murders go unsolved. I suspect this shall be one of them.”
Emma had not spoken a single word when James announced that it would be Eleanor who would be used in the ruse. She possessed far too much dignity to engage in a fit of screaming in front of people she barely knew, especially when so many of those people were nobility. As she prepared herself for bed, however, she was restless. James had left with little more than a good-night. As much as she wanted to talk with him, she was certain she couldn’t sway him from his decision. She’d used her wiles on him once. The delicate balance of their relationship would topple over if she sought to seduce him into giving her what she wanted. Still, she couldn’t deny the disappointment that he’d care so little for her wants as to disregard them completely.
The light rap on her door surprised her. Probably Eleanor, unable to sleep, or wanting to discuss how she thought tomorrow night might go. Or maybe Eleanor wanted her opinion of the new Lord Rockberry. Emma had not missed how the two of them watched each other, or how much her sister had blushed after returning from a stroll through the garden with him. He didn’t resemble his brother overly much, but she couldn’t quite overlook the fact that he’d meant Eleanor ill that first night at Cremorne Gardens. She didn’t like that her sister could so easily excuse the offense.
Her breath backed up in her lungs when she opened her door and saw James.
“I know you’re angry at me, but—”
“I will only be angry at you if you don’t bring her back safely.”
“I promise you I’ll do all in my power—”
“And if your power isn’t enough?”
“Please trust me, Emma. I grew up doing these sorts of things, arranging swindles and ruses. Even after I went to live with Luke’s grandfather, I’d often slip out to help Feagan with one thing or another.”
“I do trust you, but I just…I can’t lose her, James.”
He nodded, as though it was all he could provide, a silent acknowledgment of what she asked of him.
“And I don’t want to lose you either, I don’t want anything to happen to you,” she said.
“That, too, I’ll do all in my power to prevent.”
They stood there for a moment. She heard the chiming of the clock down the hallway. Two gongs.
“I thought everyone had gone to bed,” she finally said.
He gave her his familiar grin. “They have.”
She gave him a look of chastisement. “I don’t suppose they gave you a key to this residence.”
“No, but then I’ve never needed one.” He touched her cheek. “I know what I’m asking of you and your sister, Emma. I would like very much to hold you tonight.”
With a demure smile, she invited him into her bedchamber and her bed. It was long minutes later as she lay replete in his arms that she said, “Last night, there was talk of sending us away. I had the impression it was something you’d done before.”
Lazily, he stroked her arm. “On occasion we’ve helped deserving people start a new life, sometimes getting them out of prison before they’ve served their time.”
She rose up on her elbow to look down on him. His hair was mussed, his face in need of a shave. He smelled musky from their lovemaking. She quite simply wanted him again. “Before, you’ve mentioned your influence.”
He shrugged. “I have access to records, documents, gaols, and prisons. If I think someone has been sentenced unfairly, if I think intervention is justified, I might remove them from prison or replace them with someone who is deserving of the crime. Pentonville Prison is lovely for that, as the prisoners are not allowed to speak and they must wear hoods over their heads anytime they leave their cells. And of course, transportation always provides possibilities for switching one person with another.”
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