Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(70) by Lorraine Heath
“No, that’s to emphasize that you don’t need to kill him as soon as you see him. We don’t need to be brash and careless.”
“You’re one to talk. If it was your wife—”
“He’d already be dead. But unlike you, I don’t give a bloody damn about any justice except my own. You’ve always wanted to save the world.”
Not any longer. All he wanted was to save Emma.
Emma’s head lolled back against the carriage seat. She thought she was still in the carriage. It was so hard to be certain. Everything was blurred. She was aware of a rocking motion. She supposed she could be on a train by now.
She remembered them forcing her into the carriage and climbing in after her. She remembered them holding her down, pinching her nose until she had to open her mouth to breathe, and when she did, they’d poured some sweet wine down her throat. At least she thought it was wine. But it made her grow dizzy so quickly, made her lethargic, made it so difficult to concentrate.
“I don’t understand.” Her words were slurred and came from a far distance. “You can’t think you’ll get away with this.”
“It’s all about the thrill, my dear,” Rockberry said. “The excitement that we might get caught. And if we do”—he shrugged—“we have power and influence. Someone might slap our hand, but no one cares about the daughter of a viscount whose title died with him.”
He snorted. “The son of a thief? Do you really think his word will carry any weight?
Especially after I explain that during our stroll through Greystone’s garden, you suggested we slip away for something a little more intimate. That you wanted to experience a night with the society. That you begged me…”
She tried to shake her head but it sat so heavy on her shoulders. “James will know you’re lying.”
“But what of my peers? I’m a lord now. I’ll be tried by my peers. And that, too, my dear, is part of the fun, the pleasure, the excitement. Fooling people into believing me.” He released a harsh laugh. “Like your sister, Eleanor. I do believe she expected me to drop down on bended knee last night. And Elisabeth. When my brother brought her to us, it added a new element to our fun. She tried to fight, as I’m sure you will as well. But in the end…” He drew in a deep breath that sounded like satisfaction.
She wanted to claw out his eyes, tear away his mouth so he couldn’t continue saying these ugly things. “James will kill you.”
“Mmm. Yes. He might try, but right now he’s still following Eleanor through Cremorne Gardens. Did he really think we’d rendezvous there and go elsewhere? No. We always meet at the same place on the outskirts of London, where no one will bother us. And your Inspector Swindler will never find us.”
“You misjudge how good he is.”
Sitting beside her, he removed the pins from her hair. She wanted to move away from him, but her body wouldn’t listen to her commands.
“No, my dear, you misjudge how skilled he is.”
He buried his face in her hair and sniffed, while the other two gents sitting across from them chuckled. She could see their smiles like some sort of obscene painting. She hated it, despised them.
“I don’t know why my brother went to Scotland Yard when he discovered you following him. Or was it Eleanor? Doesn’t matter. I think his conscience was beginning to eat at him. Stupid clod.”
It occurred to Emma, in the back of her mind where she was struggling to stay clearheaded, that he was telling her too much. As though it didn’t matter what she knew. Did he think she’d forget?
Then she remembered that his brother had killed a woman. Or so he’d claimed. Perhaps it was the man holding her who’d done the deed. Perhaps he meant to see her dead as well. Somehow, she found the strength to break away and reach for the door, but they grabbed her, wrestled her to the floor, pinched her nose—
As she choked on the too sweet liquid they were pouring into her again, she snatched at her memories of James. If she was going to die, she wanted her last thought to be of him.
As they traveled into a less populated area, Swindler was aware of the carriage slowing, the driver increasing the distance between the two vehicles. Where the bloody hell were they going?
The carriage suddenly came to a stop. Swindler didn’t wait for the footman to open the door. He did it himself, leaped to the ground and glanced around at a good deal of nothingness. The others joined him.
“They passed through a gate a short distance back, Your Grace,” the driver said as he climbed down and joined the footman who’d already disembarked and was relighting the lantern they’d extinguished in hopes of not being noticed as they followed Rockberry.
“Let’s go, then,” Swindler said.
Claybourne grabbed his arm, stopping his forward movement. “Do we have a plan?”
“Get Emma out alive and I don’t care who the hell dies in the bloody process.” Breaking free of the hold, Swindler began running toward the gate.
“I do hope he’s not including us in the ‘who the hell dies’ arena,” he heard Greystone mutter.
“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you,” Dodger responded. “I do believe the man’s in love.”
Love didn’t seem a strong enough word for what Swindler felt for Emma. He only knew that if she was harmed, he’d never forgive himself, and if she died, his entire life would be meaningless.
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