Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(27) by Lorraine Heath
But he didn’t sound disappointed. Rather he sounded as though he didn’t believe her. She remembered a time when she could lie with the best of them. Were her skills suddenly lacking, or was he simply very good at reading her? He draped a wrist over an upturned knee. “So, the carriage? Yours?”
A change in topic was most welcomed. “Claybourne’s. He loans it to me whenever I have a need. I don’t use it enough to invest in one…and then of course there’s the matter of the horses.”
“Do you not like horses?”
“I don’t like paying for their care. I’d rather put the money toward children.”
“You should have some of your own.”
She laughed, working to ignore the disappointment she’d felt for years now. It was silly, because she knew one of Feagan’s lads would be happy to provide her with children. But she desired more. She wanted a family built on love, surrounded by it. “I believe I’m well past the age when a man would consider me for marriage.” The boys loped by again, playing some game that seemed to involve one of them trying to tag the others. “Besides, London has enough children. I mentioned the school to you before, but I want to do more than teach them to read and write. I want to give them the skills to find good employment. Poverty brings us all down.” She shook her head. “My apologies. I vehemently believe social reform is needed. I fear I get a bit impassioned and carry on about my plans, which can’t possibly interest you.”
“Everything about you interests me, Miss Darling.”
“I should warn you that I’m not a woman easily enticed by words. I prefer action.”
His eyes darkened, and she realized she’d used a poor choice of expression when he said in a low sensual voice, “I’m in total agreement. Perhaps later—”
“You are a lord, Your Grace, and I am a commoner. I’m not even certain friendship between us is allowed.”
“You’re friends with Claybourne.”
“That’s different. He was once one of us. You don’t turn away those to whom you owe so very much.”
“It seems then that I must find a way for you to owe me…so very much.”
Frannie had expected them to part ways after their luncheon, but he stayed with her, helping her corral the boys when they became impatient with the pace of things. He had patience with the lads that she’d not expected.
When they got to the exhibit of a stuffed elephant, Greystone crouched in front of the boys and told them that he’d ridden a real one. Their eyes popped and their mouths dropped.
“Were you scared?” Charley asked.
“Not in the least. He’s a large beast, but you see in the jungle, it’s not always the largest beast that’s the most dangerous. It’s the one who is the craftiest, the most intelligent. The one most cunning.”
“Which ’un would that be?”
Greystone grinned. “Why, me of course.”
The boys guffawed, and Frannie laughed. When he unfolded his body and extended his arm, she didn’t hesitate to entwine her arm around his. “So you were the most dangerous beast in the jungle?”
“Indeed. Didn’t hurt that I also carried a rifle.”
As they strolled along, she asked, “Were you really not frightened?”
“Sometimes I was terrified, but that was the whole point.”
“You wanted to be afraid?” She couldn’t imagine deliberately putting herself in a position of fear.
“I wanted to test my courage, my determination. It was a journey of discovery, but it was more about what I discovered within myself. What I discovered about the world was simply a bonus.”
“And what did you discover—about yourself, I mean?”
“That I’m not nearly as weak as I thought, nor nearly as strong as I’d hoped. I rode the elephant but shied away from facing the tiger.”
He sounded disappointed in himself.
“Which proved you were indeed the most intelligent, and thus, the most dangerous beast in the jungle.”
He grinned. “I don’t suppose I ever thought of it exactly in those terms. I suppose it would have been silly to end up as his dinner.”
She smiled at him. “I’m glad you didn’t.”
“As am I, Miss Darling. Otherwise I’d have missed out on these moments with you.”
When they strolled through the exhibits from Egypt, he told them about the pyramids and the sphinxes. His voice held excitement as he recounted his memories of his travels. She was fascinated with all he’d seen, all he’d done.
“You’ve had quite an intriguing life, Your Grace,” she said as they left the Great Exhibition and she ushered the boys to where Mr. Donner waited with the carriage.
“Is there any point in having any other kind?” he asked.
“I’d always heard you were a man who saw to his own pleasures first.”
“It’s good to know the gossips are sometimes accurate. And speaking of my own pleasures…while the picnic was terribly lovely, I fear it doesn’t quite make amends for the little scoundrel stealing my handkerchief.”
They’d arrived at the carriage. While the boys scrambled inside, Frannie faced Greystone, surprised to discover that she was anticipating what she was certain would be another inappropriate proposal. “And what, pray tell, Your Grace, would make amends for the taking of a bit of silk?”
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