Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(75) by Lorraine Heath
“Didn’t trust me to see to matters, Swindler?” Sir David asked.
“No offense, sir, but I learned long ago to never let an opportunity pass for gaining what I wanted.”
“No offense taken, Swindler. Now, what’s your plan for dealing with the lords?”
“They make a lovely couple, don’t you think?” Emma asked.
She and Swindler were strolling in Hyde Park, following only a short distance behind Eleanor and Sir David. During the past week, Emma had begun to gain weight, and she’d lost the dark circles beneath her eyes. She looked calm, content, almost happy.
“Sir David is a good man,” Swindler said. He hadn’t quite gotten accustomed to the idea that Sir David had an interest in Eleanor, yet it appeared his superior was quite smitten.
“He told Eleanor that we wouldn’t be arrested.”
“There’s no reason. As we see it, and will testify, Rockberry murdered his brother. The fact that Eleanor stabbed him first is incidental.” He could feel her gaze on him, but he stared ahead, not wanting her to see anything in his eyes that might indicate compromises had been made.
“I suppose then that we can return to the cottage at any time.”
The thought caused a profound emptiness to sweep through him. During the past week, he’d visited with her every afternoon and had dined with her twice at Frannie’s. He couldn’t deny that their reasons for being with each other in the beginning had not been pure—they’d both been guilty of deception. But neither could he deny that he cared deeply for Emma. That in spite of his reason for pursuing her, her reason for allowing herself to be caught, something very precious existed between them.
“I’m certain that Frannie would be pleased to give both you and Eleanor a Season if you wish it,” he said, part of him hoping she’d accept so she would be in London longer and he might have the opportunity to see her again; part of him hoping she had no desire to be courted.
“I don’t wish to have a Season,” she said quietly. “I don’t think any ball could ever compare to the last one I attended.”
He stopped walking. So did she. She was looking at him now, her blue eyes locked onto his.
“I will never be a man of wealth and means, Emma. I make a respectable income. Claybourne and Dodger both offered me the opportunity to go into business ventures with them, but the risk was too high. I could have ended up with nothing. They are wealthy beyond imagining and I have enough to keep me content.”
“I don’t care about money,” she said.
“It is quite possible that I will be knighted. It has been mentioned, but—”
“I don’t give a fig about rank.”
Good God, the woman was impossible to please. What did she want? What could he offer her?
She stepped nearer to him. “You once told me I owned your heart.”
“Are you going to allow me to leave, then? To return to my cottage by the sea?”
“I want you to be happy.”
“Then ask me to marry you.”
It was a beautiful day in the spring in the village near the small cottage by the sea. They said that the sky had never been as blue, the breeze as gentle. Everyone who lived in the village or nearby, sat in the church, quivering with excitement and anticipation. Their small community had never had such a gathering of prominent persons.
The Duke and Duchess of Greystone, the Earl and Countess of Claybourne. In addition, there was a man who held no title, but everyone knew by the way Jack Dodger dressed and held himself that he was a man of immense wealth. At his side was a lady who was obviously nobility. It was rumored that the last newcomer, Dr. William Graves, was a personal physician to the queen herself.
All the whisperings about the illustrious guests settled into silence when the brides strolled side by side down the aisle. No father accompanied them, no ladies waited on them. The sisters were as they’d been throughout their lives: the truest of friends. But where they’d once needed no more than each other, now they needed—wanted—the two men who waited for them at the altar.
While Eleanor took her place beside Sir David, Emma smiled warmly and took the arm that Sir James offered her. She could scarcely believe that this wonderful gentleman was going to marry her.
As the vicar began talking about love, she barely listened because there was nothing he could say that she didn’t already know, nothing he could describe that was more wonderful than what she saw reflected in James’s eyes.
Within the green depths was the truest of adoration and pride. This man wanted her as his wife forever. And she wanted him as her husband. She never wanted to look away from him, never wanted to be without him. He stood so tall and handsome, so confident and sure. A boy with regrets who had grown into a man determined to atone for childish mistakes, a man who accepted her as she was, flaws and all.
Against his waistcoat, she could see the gold chain attached to the watch that he’d tucked into his pocket. It had been her wedding gift to him. On the back she’d had inscribed, NO
“To honor your father,” she’d told him. “Because of his sacrifice, I have you.”
Tears had welled in James’s eyes. He’d not spoken—she thought because his throat had tightened with emotion. But he had closed his strong fingers around it. And now he wore it for the first time—as she became his wife.
Emma listened as Eleanor and Sir David exchanged vows. She and Eleanor would be living in London, in residences not too far from each other. Emma wasn’t certain how James and Sir David had managed it, but she was beginning to realize that there was nothing James couldn’t accomplish if he thought it was the way things should be.
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