Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(68) by Lorraine Heath
Was Eleanor all right? Was James? How much danger were they in? She stood up, then immediately sat back down.
“The waiting is always the most difficult,” the duchess said quietly. “I remember whenever Feagan would take a couple of the lads out for a burglary or a swindle, time seemed to move so slowly before they ever returned safely.”
Emma appreciated that the duchess was trying to distract her from her own painful musings, but they were running rampant. “I’m afraid I’m not very good company.”
“You don’t have to entertain me, Emma. I know you’re worried about your sister and Jim, but Jim knows what he’s doing. And the lads will keep watch over your sister.”
Emma almost smiled at the duchess’s reference to the lads. She’d come to realize that it was how she referred to any of the men who’d been part of Feagan’s den of thieves. James. Claybourne. Jack Dodger.
“You’re very close to them all.”
The duchess smiled in fond memory. “They’re the brothers of my heart, if not my blood.”
“They’re very fortunate.”
“On the contrary, I’m the one who is fortunate. Now, tell me. Have you a place in your heart for Jim?”
With a deep sigh, Emma shook her head. “I’m so angry at him right now that I’m not sure. I know I should be flattered that he’d not risk me running about Cremorne Gardens, but if I lose another sister…I might very well lose my mind.”
“You must trust him.”
“I do, I just worry that he may have misread things.”
“He is the very best at what he does.”
“But he is not invincible. I fooled him.”
“I suspect because his heart was involved.” The duchess looked past her to the doorway.
“Lord Rockberry has come to call,” the butler announced.
“Please show him in, then.”
With her stomach quivering, Emma rose to her feet, along with the duchess. Lord Rockberry strode in, his brow furrowed, his eyes showing concern. He bowed slightly. “Your Grace, Miss Watkins. Has there been any news?”
Offering him an encouraging smile, Emma shook her head. “Not yet.”
“I didn’t mean to intrude on your evening, I just…I could hardly sit still at home.”
“You’re more than welcome to wait here with us,” the duchess said. “Surely we’ll have word soon.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your kindness.”
The duchess indicated a chair.
Rockberry suddenly seemed nonplussed. “Now that I’m here, I’m not certain I can sit still for more than five minutes. I think a turn about the garden would serve me better. Miss Watkins, would you be so kind as to join me? I was quite taken with your sister. I would very much like to speak with you about her.”
She smiled warmly. “I would so enjoy talking about Eleanor.”
“Would you excuse us, Duchess?” Rockberry asked.
“Certainly. Here, Emma, you may borrow my wrap.”
Emma was grateful for the shawl as she drew it over her shoulders once she and Rockberry stepped outside.
“It’s almost midnight,” she said quietly as they reached the hyacinths. “I would think the plan would be well under way by now.”
“Yes, I quite agree. Midnight seems to be the magical hour. I’m anticipating hearing the outcome of tonight’s adventure.”
Adventure. A tingle of unease skittered up Emma’s spine. She thought about turning back, then silently chastised herself for being silly, so she continued on. “You said you wished to talk about Eleanor.”
She peered over at him. His gaze was locked on her. If Eleanor had not sung his praises, told her how he’d wept knowing what his brother had done, Emma might have been frightened. Instead, she was certain it was worry over Eleanor that had her seeing danger in the shadows of his face. “But in the parlor, you said you wished to talk to me about my sister.”
“Yes. But not Eleanor. Elisabeth. I was quite taken with her, and I’m wondering if you’ll be as satisfying.”
Before she could react, he had his hand covering her mouth, while his arm held her against him. She could sense his determination. Then suddenly two more men were grabbing her, lifting her, carting her toward the alleyway. In spite of her valiant struggles, she couldn’t break free of their hold and her muffled screams mocked her.
No one would hear her. No one would save her. She had little doubt she was about to suffer the same fate as Elisabeth.
Growing weary, Eleanor headed toward the entrance to the pleasure gardens. It was long past midnight. No one had approached her. No one had called her Elisabeth. No one had commented on the silver filigree. She felt as though she’d failed a good many people, but she wasn’t certain what more she could do.
The gentleman to whom she’d been introduced on the way to Cremorne, the one who followed her as she took her leisurely strolls along one path and then the other, came to stand beside her. He smelled of rich pipe tobacco.
“Do you think Mr. Swindler had the right of it?” Eleanor asked.
“I’m afraid so, yes,” Sir David said.
“It seems I’m as poor a judge of a man’s character as my older sister was.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. Men like Rockberry—both the previous marquess and the present one—learn to hide what they are.”
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