Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(5) by Lorraine Heath
She gave him credit for recognizing Luke by his title. At least that was something. And it was obvious he cared for his sister. “Immeasurably so.”
He gave a brusque nod. “Then that’s all that matters. If you’ll excuse me—”
He was three steps away when she called after him, “Your Grace?”
He turned back to her, and she smiled mischievously, not certain why she was determined to vex him. He just seemed to be a man who needed to be vexed. Besides, she wasn’t about to let his insult to her friends go unanswered, and she had her own statement to make: they weren’t the only thieves in attendance. She held up her hand. Dangling from it by its heavy chain was a gold pocket watch. “You left your timepiece behind.”
He looked at his waistcoat, patted it as though his eyes might be deceiving him, then slowly lifted his gaze back to her. With a dangerous glimmer in his eyes, he held out his hand. She dropped the watch into his palm, and before she could withdraw her gloved hand, he closed his strong fingers around it and leaned near. “Careful, Miss Darling,” he said, his voice a low rasp that sent shivers through her, “I’ve been away for a while and I’m not quite as civilized as I was when I left.”
That aspect of him became so incredibly apparent that her heart thudded against her ribs and her legs weakened. He gazed at her as though he was contemplating devouring her.
With an abrupt bow, he released her, turned on his heel, and strode away. She watched until he disappeared through the doorway, obviously taking his leave. Amazing how quickly the tables had turned and she’d lost the upper hand. She certainly hadn’t expected to be left breathless by the encounter, although more than that had her bothered. She’d felt an unfamiliar, powerful pull that had desperately not wanted him to leave.
Sterling wanted nothing more than to storm from the room, but he kept his pace measured, concentrating as he wended his way around people so he didn’t bump into anyone. Leaving wasn’t nearly as difficult as he’d imagined it would be. Perhaps because whatever his expression communicated caused people to quickly step out of the way rather than try to engage him in conversation.
He knew his behavior toward Miss Darling had been abhorrent, but he’d been unprepared for his reaction to her nearness. She didn’t have the voice of an angel. Hers was a voice that stirred passions within bedchambers. Sultry, sensual, and breathless, as though they’d already shared pleasure and she was eager for another round.
Her eyes…he almost groaned with the memory. They were a magnificent green, but it was what they hadn’t contained that enthralled him. No innocence. None at all. Life had seasoned her. She was unlike any of the young ladies of his acquaintance. She’d seen things—in all likelihood done things—that would have caused them to swoon.
He was not a man in the habit of losing control, but he had known that if he didn’t take himself out of her presence, he was likely to take her in his arms, and the devil take anyone who objected.
Then blast her, she’d pilfered his watch and he’d not felt her touch. Damn it all, he wanted to know her touch, and as his long strides carried him away from her, he wanted her all the more.
The encounter with Greystone had left Frannie unsettled. Feagan’s lads—although they were men, she would always think of them as his lads—knew better than to hound her with questions, but she needed some time alone to regain her composure. Normally she’d have taken a walk in the garden but the heavy rain made that an unpleasant proposition. So Claybourne’s massive residence would have to suffice. Because the servants knew her, they weren’t likely to object to her walking through the hallways and rooms where guests were not invited. Since she’d moved out of the grand house, she’d visited on occasion. While she wasn’t entirely comfortable here, one room did hold fond memories.
Without hesitating, she opened the door to the immense library and walked inside. Closing her eyes briefly, she inhaled deeply the wondrous fragrance of books. Ledgers never carried quite the same scent. After shutting the door to ensure her privacy, she wended her way among the various chairs and small tables that comprised individual sitting areas and walked along the shelf-lined wall, running her fingers across the spines of the many volumes that the old gent had collected over the years. He’d been a voracious reader. He’d introduced her to the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, among others. Within this room, she’d traveled the world.
That thought brought Greystone to mind. Through Catherine, Frannie knew he’d explored the world and the many wonders it had to offer. She couldn’t imagine the boldness of character that particular endeavor would require: to step upon a ship and float out onto the wide expanse of ocean and trust that it would carry him to his destination. What had he done that had caused him to be a bit less civilized? And why, even now, could she not stop thinking about him? His callousness should have effectively ended any interest she might have had in him. Instead she found herself wondering what it was that he feared, because he most certainly was afraid of something.
When he realized she’d taken his watch, fear had hovered for a heartbeat within the depths of his eyes before they’d glinted dangerously. In her world, she’d known too many frightened souls, herself included. She could have understood him reacting with anger, but why had it bothered him to realize that he’d not seen her taking his watch? Or was she misreading the entire situation? It wasn’t as though he were a book.
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