Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(19) by Lorraine Heath
“Is it so obvious what Greystone wants, or did Jack give you a hint?” she asked.
The muscle in his jaw jerked and his cheeks flamed red. She thought of the animosity that she’d sensed between the two men.
“Have you spoken to Greystone?” she prodded again.
“I delivered a message.”
“From both of us.”
She loved them, she truly did, but they had to understand that she was a woman fully capable of making her own decisions. “And what, pray tell, was the message?”
“To stay away from you.”
And he had stayed away until today. A suspicion niggled at the back of her mind. “What did you do to him?”
His jaw tightening, he slid his gaze over her head.
Dread mixed with anger and disappointment roiled through her stomach. “How badly did you hurt him?”
He brought his gaze back to her. She knew he’d never lie to her. “Not as badly as I could have, not as badly as I wanted to.”
They came from such rough beginnings, but sometimes she grew weary of them.
“Do you trust me?” she asked.
“With my life.”
“Then trust me to know how best to handle this matter.”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
She gave him a soft smile. “I don’t want that either.”
“He won’t appreciate what you’re doing here. One of the lads I’ll be bringing you is serving three months in prison for stealing a crown. Hell of it is, he doesn’t know the difference between a shilling and a crown. Those I work with think they’re putting an end to crime when they arrest these children for petty offenses like stealing an apple. You should ask your duke how many apples he’s stolen.”
“He’s not my duke, and why would you think he’d stolen?”
“Just ask him.”
She pointed back toward the chair. “The library.”
He nodded when she knew it was the very last thing he wanted to do. “Thank you. And thank you for caring, Jim.”
She found Greystone in the garden, intently watching the gardeners working. She had the distinct impression that he wanted to offer them advice. Could men never leave well enough alone?
She came to stand beside him, but he was so engrossed in studying the gardeners digging up the soil that he didn’t notice her, giving her an opportunity to observe him. His profile was sharp edges, dominated by an aquiline nose and a strong jaw, a sturdy chin. He had a tiny scar on his cheek. Strange. She hadn’t remembered that from their first encounter, but then the glaring sunlight had been absent. Or was it a remnant of Jim’s visit?
His eyelashes were dark, darker than his hair, and she wondered if his hair would eventually match their shade as he grew older. Or would it simply fade to silver, gray, or white? Silver, she decided. More distinguished. After all, he’d traveled the world. He would take his place in the House of Lords. He was a man who could make a difference if he put his mind to it. His determination was evident by the intensity with which he scrutinized so simple a task as digging dirt—to the exclusion of everything else.
“I don’t believe those flowers will smell nearly as enticing as you,” he said quietly.
Her heart hammered. How was it that he had such power over her without even touching her? “And here I didn’t think you were aware of my presence.”
Turning toward her slightly, he smiled. “I’m always aware of your nearness.”
She wished she had more experience with flirtatious games. She needed to get them back on even ground. “Our little garden must pale when compared with all the exotic plants you saw during your travels.”
“I find nothing more beautiful than an English garden…unless it is the woman standing within it.”
The heat of pleasure warmed her cheeks, but she’d grown up in a world where every word, action, and deed was a ruse to gain something to which one wasn’t entitled. “I fear I’m never impressed with false flattery, Your Grace.”
“I’m saddened that you would think it false, that you’re unaware of your own attractiveness. Let me assure you, Miss Darling, that I find you incredibly lovely.” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “I’m not in the habit of kissing hags.”
She bit back her laughter, fought not to be charmed, and knew that she blushed ever more deeply.
As though suddenly aware of the gardeners’ proximity and ability to hear what they said, Greystone glanced around and brought them back to safer ground. “You have quite a bit of land here.”
“I have need of it and plans for it,” she said, much more comfortable discussing her good works than herself. “Shall we take a turn about the area?”
She wanted to get away from the gardeners, from anyone who might overhear what was certain to become a very personal conversation. He offered his arm. She wasn’t at all surprised by the firmness and strength she felt in it when she placed her hand on his. His arms had drawn her up against him, and she had the fleeting thought she’d like for him to do so again.
As they began walking she said, “You’re quite fit, Your Grace.”
“I have scaled a mountain, Miss Darling.”
He grinned. “At the very least an extremely tall hill.”
“I can’t imagine the things you’ve seen.”
“They were all quite remarkable. But again, not as remarkable as you.”
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