Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(14) by Lorraine Heath
Of all the changes he’d undoubtedly undergone during the years he’d been away, the last one tore painfully at her heart.
“So will you see to it?” she asked her brother.
He’d risen from his chair behind his desk, poured himself a spot of brandy, and walked to the window as soon as she’d made her request. His reaction had seemed disturbingly odd.
He turned slightly, his sapphire eyes homing in on her, as though he now wished to study her because he suspected she was not completely sane. “Let me make certain that I have the right of it. You want me to arrange for the two hundred pounds Father stipulated in his will that I pay you each month to be handed over instead to Miss Frannie Darling.”
“Is she blackmailing you?”
“Don’t be silly. It’s for her orphanage. I realize that I could simply give her the money myself, but this seems more efficient, and she’ll be assured that she can always depend on it arriving at the first of the month.” And her request served as an excuse to visit with Sterling, and perhaps to lure him back into Society. The fact that Catherine needed an excuse said more about the strained state of their relationship than anything else. He was her brother, for God’s sake, yet in the two weeks since her marriage, she’d seen him not once. But then, as far as she knew, neither had anyone else.
“Father wanted you to have the funds so you’d have a measure of independence,” Sterling told her.
“I’m married to one of the wealthiest lords in England—”
“That does not guarantee your independence.”
She knew the truth of that well enough. Her desire to help the Duchess of Avendale escape from her horrendous marriage had first led Catherine to Claybourne’s door.
“I’m sorry, Catherine, but I don’t feel that I can alter Father’s terms, even at your request. A time may arrive when you wish you had your own means of support. Until then, send Miss Darling the money yourself if you have no need of it.”
“Why are you being so stubborn about this request?” she asked. “It’s my money to do with as I please.”
“I don’t consider this a wise move. As your brother, I’m charged with looking after your welfare and preventing you from making ghastly misjudgments.”
“Not any longer. I’m married. And what about loving me, Sterling? Loving anyone? It has come to my attention that you’ve been in London for at least four months. Why did you not visit Father? You must have known he’d taken ill. It was no secret.”
“Checking up on me, are you?”
Not intentionally. But since her friends had recently become those who occasionally flirted with the darker side of London, she sometimes picked up little tidbits of information. “I’m trying to understand what happened to the brother who gave me a magical rock to protect me from nightmares when I woke up crying as a child after Mother passed. I’m not certain I know you any longer.”
“What the devil does that mean?”
He walked over to a table of decanters and refilled his snifter. “Are we done here?”
Not by half.
Rising gracefully from the chair, she decided to take a different tack. While he was her brother, his title was one of the most powerful in England. It carried weight and influence. Her father would be vastly disappointed if Sterling didn’t live up to his potential. “Perhaps you should consider joining us tomorrow. Claybourne and I are going to the orphanage to assist Frannie with the arrival of the furniture. We could use an extra pair of hands.”
“Surely you’re not suggesting I lower myself to engaging in manual labor.”
“I’m suggesting that you might want to be involved in something that touches so many. Frannie intends to provide a home for a hundred children.”
“I still fail to see why I should care.”
“If you don’t understand, then I certainly can’t explain it to you.” Refusing to allow his bored tone to dissuade her, she walked around the desk, opened a drawer, and removed a sheaf of stationery.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Ah, a bit of interest at last. Perhaps all was not lost.
“Writing down the address in the hope you’ll change your mind and join us. I’ve discovered, Sterling, that being involved in something like this tends to change one’s perspective on life.”
“I don’t need my perspective on life changed.”
But he needed something, of that she was certain. She set the pen aside and walked over to him. “I do wish you would tell me what you and Father argued about.”
She couldn’t help but believe his present attitude related in some way to what had happened before he left. He and their father had engaged in a heated row one night. She heard the anger reverberating through the walls, but not the words. The next morning she received a missive from Sterling begging her not to worry, but he had decided to travel the world. She’d not seen him again until after their father died.
Sterling averted his gaze. “As I’ve told you before, Catherine, it didn’t concern you.”
“What did it concern?” She watched the muscle in his jaw flex. She touched his arm and felt him stiffen. “I love you, Sterling. If there is anything I can do—”
“Leave me in peace.”
“Are you not at peace, then?”
He heaved a sigh. “You’ve become quite the annoying young woman.”
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