Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(15) by Lorraine Heath
She smiled, hoping to touch that place inside him where she knew a heart had once resided. “Oh, you have no idea.”
“More reason for me not to honor your request and designate that your money be diverted elsewhere. Claybourne will no doubt grow weary of you in short order.”
She laughed lightly at that. “He appreciates that I’m headstrong and determined. I would like for you to get to know him better.”
“The Devil Earl? He’s a murderer, Catherine.”
“Yes, he killed a man—”
“—for good reason. There is nothing about my husband that I do not admire. I think the two of you would get along splendidly if you’d give him half a chance.”
“On the contrary, I suspect he’d dislike me as much as his friends do.”
She furrowed her brow in confusion. “When did you gather that impression from his friends?”
With no comment, Sterling walked back to the window, his snifter once again full.
“If you need me for anything, please send word,” Catherine said as she retrieved her reticule from the table beside the chair in which she’d been sitting.
“Get on with your life, Catherine. I shan’t need you.”
“We all need someone, Sterling.”
“I bloody well hope not.”
Yes, her brother definitely needed something—or someone.
The moment Catherine had mentioned the woman’s name, Sterling wanted her to leave. He relished the images that came to his mind with thoughts of Miss Darling, and in spite of the dire threats he’d received, he wasn’t quite ready to give up the notion of being intimate with her.
After Catherine left—thank goodness she’d not taken it upon herself to visit him before all evidence of his nasty encounter with Swindler had disappeared—Sterling traded his refined brandy for a bottle of whiskey, his study for the garden.
Frannie Darling. He gave the name leave to roll through his mind and stir the few memories of her he’d hoarded away.
Sterling wanted one night with her, damn it all. What was this madness that had possessed him ever since he’d met her? Her hair was as wild as he imagined she would be in bed. Her eyes were the green of spring. Her lips were plump and ripe. The taste of her was fading from his mind, replaced with all the brandy he’d been drinking in an effort to tamp down his impatience while she considered his proposition.
A missive from her had arrived recently, and the anticipation that had burst through him was unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Until he opened it.
My Lord Duke,
Your membership at Dodger’s has been restored.
So damned formal. Not even a hint as to her leanings regarding his proposal. And he’d been unable to stop thinking about her since.
He dropped onto the bench at the far end of the garden and brought the bottle to his lips. Hardly a civilized way to drink spirits, but of late, he wasn’t feeling very civilized.
He’d spent the past two weeks in residence, waiting for the bruising around his eye and over his cheek to fade completely. With his position, he had no desire to raise questions or start rumors that he’d been involved in some sort of brawl—especially as he’d looked as though he came out the loser. Good Lord, he’d nearly been attacked by a gorilla in Africa and had been attacked by a tiger in India—but neither of those creatures had seemed as deadly dangerous as Swindler.
If only he’d seen the blow coming, he could have deflected it or countered it with one of his own. But devil take it! Late in his adolescence his sight had taken a dreadful turn. It had seemed innocent at first. He’d had difficulty seeing at night. Spectacles hadn’t offered any help. Then his peripheral vision had begun slowly eroding until now it was as though he wore permanent blinders. He’d tested his limits during his travels in ways that he couldn’t in London or at his estates. Now, he had a difficult time admitting that he could no longer control some aspects of his life.
Perhaps that was the reason he was opposed to arranging for Catherine’s money to find its way to Miss Darling each month. Sterling didn’t want the lovely lady to gain financial independence at this juncture because it might lessen her likelihood of accepting his offer. He needed to provide her with a reason to want to be with him as desperately as he wanted to be with her. Money was an incredible motivator. Perhaps he would go around to the orphanage tomorrow, take the opportunity to remind her of his proposal. Perhaps even suggest that he’d provide for her orphans…
Or would she likely take insult at that tack? Would she see it as beneath her to accept a gift from him in exchange for providing a night of pleasure in her arms? He might have to take a little more time than he’d planned with this seduction, but seduce her he would. A time would come when things he wanted would be denied him, but the time had not yet arrived.
Immensely satisfied with the direction of his plan, he drained the last few drops from the bottle and sat back. A moment of panic surged through him when he realized darkness had fallen. Damnation. He had been foolish to come out here so near to dusk and to be so absorbed with thoughts of Miss Darling that he hadn’t noticed the dimming light.
Standing, he focused on the lights spilling out from the windows of his residence. They were muted, difficult to see. It was always more difficult at night to make out his surroundings—but if he just went slowly…
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