Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(12) by Lorraine Heath
He exited with a quickness that astonished her. She didn’t know why he was sometimes awkward around her when he wasn’t with the others. Perhaps because he was two years younger, and she’d mothered him more than most. She remembered the day Luke and Jack had brought him to Feagan’s. It was immediately following the hanging of Jim’s father. He’d been so quiet that she’d feared he’d never again speak. The shock of it all, she supposed. That night, after they’d all gone to bed, she’d heard his quiet whimpers and she’d left the comfort of Luke’s embrace and gone to hold Jim while he wept. Even then she understood the pain of loss.
And among Feagan’s brood, they’d all lost something valuable. Some, she suspected, were still searching for it. Not Luke. She gave a slight smile. She’d never known him to be quite so happy since he’d taken a wife. And thinking of Catherine led Frannie to thinking about her brother.
It had been a little over a week since the wedding, and to her everlasting irritation, Greystone often occupied her thoughts. Through a back stairway, not accessible to customers, she and Jack had access to a few shadowy balconies that allowed them, without being seen, to look out over various areas where their customers were entertained. Twice she’d searched for Greystone and not seen him. Not that she was certain what she’d do if she did see him, but she couldn’t deny the disappointment that she’d not caught a glimpse of him. Was he as handsome as she remembered? Was he as darkly dangerous?
Was he anxiously waiting for her to respond to his proposal? Would he know that the answer was no if he never heard from her? Should she tell him when he was here one night? Should she send him a letter? Should she simply remain silent?
She debated the methods as often as she debated her answer. She knew Jack was correct, knew the answer she should give was a resounding no, but Greystone intrigued her. She had no logical explanation for that. They couldn’t be more opposite. But why, with everyone else in Luke’s drawing room, was he the one who had drawn her attention, and more important—in spite of her best efforts not to be noticed—why had she drawn his?
And why was it acceptable for men to seek the pleasures of numerous women, while women were to know only one? Certainly in the area of London where they’d grown up, girls attached themselves to one boy for a while and then moved on to another. Her friend Nancy had done just that and no one ostracized her for it. But Frannie supposed the price for being accepted by polite society was to embrace their rules for proper behavior, and ladies were supposed to value their chastity. A bit difficult for her to accomplish when she no longer possessed it.
It had been nearly eighteen years. Over the years, the nightmares regarding that night had faded, although she knew they would never leave her completely. But she didn’t fear men. She knew the passion and the tenderness that could pass between a man and a woman.
Several years ago, Jim had shown her. Dodger’s had a viewing room where the lords who wished to demonstrate their prowess would perform with a lady of their choice while the patrons observed from darkened corners and through discreet peepholes. Jim had invited her to watch while he made love to one of the girls. Made love. The precise words he’d used. He wanted her to know what it could be like. That night he’d given her an amazing gift. The encounter had been sensual, erotic.
Frannie had always known that what she’d experienced at the age of twelve was not the way it should have been—and that night, watching Jim with Prudence, she’d lost some of her hesitancy at the thought of being with a man. But still, she’d never known a man she wanted to be with in that way…not until she’d crossed paths with Greystone, a duke, the very last man she should want.
Perhaps it was a touch of the forbidden that drew her to him. Or was it something more?
She might very well drive herself insane thinking about all of this. She had records to verify, memberships coming due—
Her gaze fell on a notation scribbled in Jack’s almost indecipherable handwriting. Blast him!
Snatching up the ledger, she charged out of her office and into his. He, too, kept late hours. He was sitting behind his desk, studying a ledger.
“What’s the meaning of this?” she asked tartly, holding up her own ledger.
With brow furrowed, his dark eyes serious, he looked up. “Of what?”
She slapped the book down on top of his. “It says here that Greystone’s membership has been terminated.”
Reaching back, Jack grabbed one of several bottles he kept within easy reach and refilled the glass on his desk. “I decided I didn’t like him.”
“Frannie.” He downed his whiskey and started to pour again. She snatched the glass away.
“Dammit, Frannie!” He scooted back, grabbed a piece of paper, and tried to blot up the spill. “That’s my best liquor. Why waste it?”
“All your spirits are your best. I’m going to reestablish his membership.”
He stopped his frantic movements, looked up at her, and glared. “I’ll just undo it.”
“You can’t cancel the membership of every man who expresses an interest in me.” Not that anyone had ever expressed an interest in her before, but she was striving to make a point.
“He did more than express an interest.”
“I know you’re trying to protect me—and I love you for it. But this isn’t right. I can handle myself.”
He studied her for a moment, and she knew he wanted to argue further. Instead, he snapped his fingers. “Give me back my glass.”
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