Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(6) by Lorraine Heath
With a mental shake, she chastised herself for lifting his pocket watch. She’d risen above her origins. It irritated her that he’d brought her back down to them. Why had she felt the need to prove herself a very skilled thief?
Why had she even cared about his opinion of her friends or her? Rude and arrogant, he represented everything about the aristocracy that she despised. Even Luke’s grandfather, for all the good works he’d done for them, had looked down his nose at the urchins his grandson called friends. Still on occasion Frannie couldn’t help but think of him fondly.
She crossed over to the desk and sat down. Running her hand over the fine, polished wood grain, she remembered how imposing Luke’s grandfather had appeared sitting there. Until the day she discovered his weakness for lemon drops. Then he’d become human in her eyes, especially as on occasion he shared one with her. She opened the drawer where he’d kept his sweets.
“Planning to pilfer something?”
With a small shriek, Frannie pressed her hand to her chest, her heart thudding against her ribs as she spun around in the chair to face her accuser.
Arms crossed over his chest, Greystone was leaning against the wall in the darkened corner, effectively avoiding what little daylight made its way through the window and into the room. Thunder boomed and the rain seemed to increase in intensity. She didn’t know why she hadn’t noticed him before, because he filled the corner with his presence. “You startled me, Your Grace.”
She’d always thought that Luke and Jack possessed a commanding presence, but theirs paled when compared with that of the Duke of Greystone. He was not a man accustomed to being denied, and the attraction she’d felt bubbling up within her while in the drawing room began to make its presence known once again. She refused to give into it. She’d not allow him to mock her tender regard or her friends. Still, she wasn’t childish enough to flounce out. She swallowed hard, determined to hold her own against him.
“He used to keep sweets hidden here,” she said inanely in response to the thickening silence. Greystone merely stared at her. “The previous earl,” she went on to explain. “Luke’s grandfather.”
Still he held his tongue. She closed the drawer and rose from the chair, refusing to be cowed by him. With her heart thundering almost as loudly as the storm, she strolled over to the window and gazed out on the gray rain. “I used to live here. The old gent would sit in that chair right there”—she pointed to a hunter-green upholstered chair near the window—“and have me read to him each afternoon. It’s strange. In my youth I lived with a kidsman who I’m quite certain at some point in his life killed someone, yet I never feared him. But the old gent terrified me.”
Ah, a word at last. She faced him, surprised to discover that they were standing much nearer to each other than she’d realized, and she suspected his inquiry was little more than a ruse to stop her from leaving. Why did the thought of him wishing her to stay thrill her?
“Because he was so…large.” She shook her head, frustrated by her inability to adequately describe Luke’s grandfather. She was much more skilled with the use of numbers than words. “Not physically, of course. He was tall, like Luke—but with more bone than flesh and a bit bent in his old age—but he had such a fierce presence. Everything about him was incredibly grand. The homes in which he lived—here and in the country. The coach in which he traveled. Sometimes he would take me about London with him when he needed to visit with someone, and the deference that he was given assured me that he was a very powerful man indeed. Much like you, Your Grace.”
“And powerful men frighten you?”
“They give me pause, but I am no longer a child to be intimidated by them. I daresay with age comes the inclination not to care much what others think.”
A corner of his mouth lifted slightly, and she suddenly had an insane urge to make him smile fully, even as she feared that he’d heard the lie in her words. She couldn’t deny that the aristocracy’s low opinion of her—and her friends—hurt. Each of them, in their own way, did a good deal for others less fortunate, and all of them were fiercely loyal. They would die for each other. That others overlooked the goodness in them and always expected the worst rubbed raw after a while.
“You say that as though you’re ancient,” he told her.
“I’m quickly approaching the age of thirty.” She didn’t know why she felt obligated to reveal her age. Possibly to ensure he was aware that he wasn’t dealing with an innocent young miss, but rather a woman who knew her own mind—or at least she had until she’d approached him. At that precise moment she wasn’t sure whether she wanted him to stay and entice her nearer or leave before the situation escalated beyond her control. Because with him she wasn’t certain she had complete control. She wanted to muss his hair, unveil the uncivilized aspect he’d referred to earlier.
“Quite old not to be married, not to have children tugging at your skirts,” he said.
“Oh, I have children.” She saw the condemnation flash in his deep blue eyes. It irritated her that he’d think the worst. She almost didn’t explain herself, but she felt compelled. On the one hand, she wanted him to think the very worst of her and on the other she wanted him to think her worthy of…something she couldn’t explain. “I take in orphans. Or I will once my children’s home is completed.”
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