Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(73) by Lorraine Heath
“He’s fine, Frannie. He’s escorted the blighters to gaol. He should be home shortly,”
James told her.
“Oh, thank God.”
“Then I suppose I should be off to see to them,” a deep voice said. Eleanor smiled, looked up, then refocused her attention on Emma. “This is Sir David. He was with me in the gardens.”
A very distinguished-looking gentleman with dark hair and eyes, he bowed slightly. “Miss Watkins, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I’m sorry you had to go through so much tonight, but we appreciate your help in bringing these blackguards to justice.”
“You’re welcome.” The words seemed silly once she’d said them. Everything she’d done was further retribution for Elisabeth. Her mind, however, was slow in thinking, and she didn’t know what else she could have said.
“Emma,” Eleanor said with a tinge of excitement laced in her voice, “Sir David doesn’t believe I killed Lord Rockberry.”
“That’s good.” The fewer people—
“No, no. He truly doesn’t believe I did it! He said it appears that Rockberry was alive when I left and someone came along afterward and dug the dagger further in.”
“Oh, my God! You didn’t murder him?”
“Exactly. His brother most likely is the culprit. It all makes sense, doesn’t it?”
Even though Emma was still groggy, she heard the desperation in Eleanor’s voice that it could be as Sir David described, that she could be innocent of killing the man. Emma nodded.
“Oh, yes, it makes perfect sense.”
Leaning in, Eleanor hugged her tightly. “Oh, Emma, everything might turn out all right after all.”
Looking over Eleanor’s shoulder to the two men standing there with unreadable faces, Emma thought perhaps her sister was right.
“Miss Watkins, I must be off,” Sir David said. “I hope you will favor me by allowing me to call on you tomorrow afternoon, to make certain you’ve recovered from the ordeal of this night.”
Eleanor twisted around and looked up at him. “Oh, yes, sir. I would be most pleased to have you call.”
“Very good, then. Swindler, I’ll be waiting for you outside. Five minutes, man. We need to see to getting everything in order with these miscreants.”
“I’ll escort you out, Sir David,” Eleanor said, coming to her feet. James took her place, kneeling in front of Emma. “Will you be all right?”
She thought she nodded. She wondered how much longer before she had full use of her faculties again. “I’m just so very weary.” She touched his face. He turned his face into her palm and placed a kiss at its center.
“I wish I didn’t have to leave you,” he said.
She wished he didn’t either, but she knew the choice was not his. She also realized that she needed to reassure him. “I want them punished. I want them to pay for what they did.”
“I’ll see to it, I promise you.”
“I know you will.”
She heard a door opening, followed by rapid footsteps. Then Frannie was dashing across the room.
Emma looked over to see the duchess wrapping her arms around the duke, holding him close, while he buried his face in the curve of her neck. James glanced back over his shoulder at the reunited couple, just as the duke began leading his wife out of the room.
“Are they seeking privacy?” Emma whispered.
“Perhaps they’re giving it to us,” James responded, his voice low. He gently cradled her chin, leaned in and placed the softest of kisses on one corner of her mouth and then the other, as though she were somehow more fragile than she’d ever been, when in an odd sort of way, she felt stronger.
Before he could pull back completely, she pressed her lips to his, kissing him deeply, making certain that he understood that she didn’t consider any of tonight’s horrors his fault and that she believed him—there would be no more deceptions or secrets between them.
Frannie insisted that Swindler and Sir David take Greystone’s carriage to complete their night’s work. As the carriage moved at a steady clip through the streets, Swindler studied Sir David’s silhouette as the man sat across from him.
“Do you really believe that Eleanor didn’t kill Rockberry?”
With a sigh, Sir David turned his head to gaze out the window. “She’s a slight of a woman, Swindler. I don’t believe she’d have had the strength to plunge the dagger deeply enough.”
Swindler thought of Emma bringing the new Lord Rockberry to his knees. “Revenge for a sister you dearly love is a powerful motivator. Could give you strength that you might not normally have.”
“Sorry, Swindler. Can’t see it. I think it more likely that she stabbed him, the shock of it caused unconsciousness, then his brother came in for his nightly brandy and decided he wouldn’t mind having the title after all. Finished what Miss Watkins began. You’re my best man. I’m surprised you didn’t draw the same conclusion. Think about it.”
Swindler felt Sir David’s gaze fall heavily on him. “The new Rockberry is cut from the same cloth as his brother.”
“There you are,” Sir David said.
“A knife to the chest is not something from which one easily recovers. Even if his brother had not come in and finished the deed, it’s quite possible Rockberry would have died of the wound eventually. And if she caught his lung—”
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