Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(26) by Lorraine Heath
Charley shook his head. To Sterling’s surprise, he didn’t take off when his feet landed on the floor. Miss Darling held out her hand again. “Give it over, Charley.”
He brought out what had once been a crisply ironed handkerchief and was now a wrinkled, balled bit of cloth. Sterling hoped he’d have no reason to need it before he returned home.
Miss Darling seemed to recognize his disgust with the object because she said, “I shall wash and press it before having it returned to you.”
“I believe that’s acceptable.” He studied the boys brushing up against her skirts. One towheaded lad, two with hair as black as coal, and the brown-haired imp who’d picked his pocket. “Are these your children, then?”
“Yes, from my orphanage. I’ve been bringing a few when I have time in hopes of giving them all a chance to at least see some of the exhibits. We were about to have our lunch, before I lost sight of Charley. I’m grateful to you for herding him back toward me.” She glanced around as though about to ask him to steal the Koh-i-noor diamond, which was on exhibit. “We’re going to enjoy a small picnic. I feel I owe you because of the trouble with Charley. Would you care to join us?”
He gave a low bow. “Miss Darling, I would be truly delighted.”
Sitting on the blanket she’d placed over the grass, Frannie could hardly believe that Greystone had accepted her invitation and was lounging beside her, stretched out on his side. He’d loosened the buttons on his beige jacket to reveal his pale yellow waistcoat. His green cravat went so perfectly with his weathered complexion.
Mr. Donner, the driver of Luke’s carriage, and the footman were keeping an eye on the boys as they ran around the park, working off some excess energy. She knew it was difficult for them to be on such good behavior within the confines of the Exhibition. They were only newly off the street and accustomed to scampering about London with no adult supervision, far too old for their years.
“I must apologize again. I’m terribly sorry that Charley took your handkerchief.”
Greystone nibbled on a bit of cheese. “I’m not. Do you have any idea how much money I’ve gambled away at Dodger’s, hoping to catch a glimpse of you?”
“Five thousand pounds.”
His eyes widened and she gave him a teasing smile. “I am, after all, the bookkeeper.”
His deep laughter echoed between them, circling around her, and capturing her as effectively as if he’d used his arms.
He grew serious, his blue gaze holding hers of green. “So, now I’m intrigued, Miss Darling. You must have some interest in me; otherwise why remember how much money I’ve handed over?”
“I’ve never claimed not to have interest in you, Your Grace. As a matter of fact, considering our encounters, I believe it fair to state that I’ve undoubtedly expressed an interest in you.”
He rose up on his elbow and leaned nearer to her. “Tell me, Miss Darling, have you been spying on me while I’ve been at Dodger’s?”
She wanted to cradle his face between her hands and kiss him. Was it proper for a lady to initiate such an action? Would he think her wanton or would he welcome her as she had welcomed him? She swallowed hard. “Why ever would you think that?”
He trailed his bare finger along the palm of her hand as a fortune teller might and then up to the pulse at her wrist. She wondered if he could feel her heart picking up its tempo.
“Sometimes, it’s as though I can feel you watching me,” he said quietly.
Dragging in a breath was suddenly very difficult, as though she’d laced her corset too tightly. “I was simply curious, wondering whether you’d returned to Dodger’s after the unfortunate incident of your membership being terminated. Nothing more.”
Lifting her hand, he pressed a kiss to the center of her palm. “I would have thought a child of the streets would have been an excellent liar.”
Normally, she was when she could concentrate. The man was decidedly skilled at distracting her. “It’s not very gentlemanly to call a woman a liar to her face.”
He ran his tongue over her skin, as though she were part of the meal. “You strike me as someone who wouldn’t care to be talked about behind her back, would prefer the slight come from the front.”
She thought she might burst into flames. To get herself back on an even keel, she worked her hand free of his hold, heard his dark laughter, and watched as the boys ran past, chortling with wild abandon. She’d done that. Brought back their joy. She had the means to do so because of things she’d suffered.
“You’re not being a gentleman,” she chided.
“Did you truly want me to be?” He sat up until his shoulder was almost touching hers. “Was that what you wanted when you watched me through the peephole?”
“It wasn’t a peephole. It was through curtains.”
“From a hidden balcony?”
“Not so very hidden if you know about it. We use it to watch cheaters and troublemakers.”
“Which category do I fall into?”
As hard as it was, she met his gaze, surprised to find that he appeared amused. “Are you teasing me?”
Leaning across her, he plucked a small yellow flower and brushed the petals along her chin. “I’m flattered that you would think me worth watching. I now have hope that perhaps you’re reconsidering my proposition.”
She took the flower before he drove her mad with wanting, as she imagined his fingers creating the gentle stroking. “I’m not reconsidering your proposition.”
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