Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(10) by Lorraine Heath
But a time would come when even his title would gain him nothing. She would have no interest in him, then. No woman would want him. Hadn’t his father shouted the truth of that loudly enough?
It was the reason his father had opposed Sterling traveling the world, had insisted that Sterling see to the matter of taking a wife first. But he couldn’t explore the world—and women—as he wanted with a wife in hand. He had every intention of remaining faithful to his wife, although he doubted she would grant him the same consideration when she learned the truth of his circumstance. And he had learned the hard way that it was best to keep his failings a secret as long as possible. Lady Angelina had scorned him, had taught him that love was an illusion easily shattered by the truth.
He’d not make that mistake again. He’d hold his secrets until after he had a wife. But before he began to seriously pursue marriage, he wanted one last night of unbridled passion. And for that, only one woman would do.
He could still taste her on his lips. He longed to release every button that denied him a view of her skin. Based on the smooth complexion of her face, he had little doubt that she was exquisite perfection beneath her clothes. Her breasts would fit nicely in the palm of his hand; her nipples would harden beneath the slow stroke of his tongue. He wanted to trail his mouth along—
“More brandy, sir?”
The unexpected voice should have startled him, but lost in thoughts of Miss Darling along with the abundance of brandy he’d swallowed had made him lethargic. He was almost floating, knew he should refuse, because he hadn’t even heard his servant enter the room, but that wasn’t unusual. His servants always exhibited the utmost in decorum and glided along without a sound, as though their feet never touched the floor.
In answer to the question, Sterling held the glass up slightly, in the mood to get completely foxed. Maybe then he would be able to shut Miss Darling out of his mind so that he could sleep. Or maybe it would be better to entice her into his dreams, where she would desire him as much as he—
The brandy spilled over the rim of his glass, onto his thigh, and splashed onto his shirt. “Dammit, man!”
Unsteadily, he lurched out of the chair and spun around—
To discover a servant hadn’t entered his sanctuary. No indeed. It had been violated by Jack Dodger and James Swindler. He supposed he should count his blessings that only two and not four of the ruffians had sneaked in on him.
Swindler set the decanter back on the table with incredible delicacy for a man so large.
“How did you get in here?” Sterling asked, wishing his words didn’t sound quite so slurred. He was having more difficulty than usual bringing his shadowed world into focus. Damnation, why hadn’t he lit more lamps or poured himself fewer snifters of brandy?
“Not important,” Jack Dodger said. “What is important is for you to realize that you can do nothing to keep us out if we decide we want in.”
“I would threaten to call around for a constable, but I suppose that would do me little good considering an inspector has broken into my residence.”
“It’ll do you no good at all, Your Grace.” Swindler’s sneer left no doubt as to where he stood regarding Sterling’s title. He apparently considered it as worthless as he did Sterling.
“Could I offer you gentlemen a drink?”
“You’re to stay away from Frannie,” Swindler stated succinctly.
No, then, to the drink.
“Or what?” Sterling asked.
“I can make you disappear.”
Ah, nothing like an unveiled threat to make matters perfectly clear. Unfortunately, Sterling didn’t appreciate threats. If anything, they only served to make him more stubborn and determined to have his way. “Indeed? And are your superiors aware of this unusual skill you’ve apparently honed?”
“Frannie is special to us, Greystone,” Jack Dodger said. “We have no intention of seeing her hurt.”
“Well, that makes three of us, as I have no intentions of harming her.”
“You may not intend it, but if you make her your mistress, that’ll be the result.”
As a muscle in his jaw tightened, Sterling narrowed his eyes. Had he been that obvious?
“She told us,” Dodger said, as though a question had been asked. “She’s that innocent.”
“She doesn’t kiss as though she’s innocent.”
His meaty hands balled into fists, Swindler took a step toward him. Dodger grabbed him by the back of his jacket. “Hold up, Swindler.”
The delivery of the words carried enough authority to halt Swindler, but it was obvious he didn’t appreciate the interference. Sterling, on the other hand, did appreciate it. If it came to fisticuffs, Sterling knew he would give it his best, but he wouldn’t stand a chance. Not that he was in the habit of fighting, but Swindler looked as though he was. It also appeared he was in the habit of winning.
Dodger stepped in front of him, putting himself between Swindler and Sterling, but Swindler was tall enough that Sterling could still see the fury in his green eyes. Of the two, he was undoubtedly the more dangerous, although Sterling wasn’t stupid enough to underestimate Jack Dodger.
“The thing of it is, Greystone,” Dodger began, “Swindler, Graves, Claybourne, and I consider ourselves to be her brothers. Each of us would willingly go to the gallows for her.”
“I’ve heard you’re protective of what’s yours.”
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