Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(28) by Lorraine Heath
“Attend the opera with me this evening. We’ll have dinner afterward. Otherwise, I might have to send a constable around to your orphanage to arrest Mr. Charley Byerly.”
He shrugged. “Are you willing to risk that you’ve properly ascertained the nature of my character?”
“And here I was beginning to like you.” She spun on her heel—
“I’ll send my coach ’round to Dodger’s at seven.”
Oh, the unheralded arrogance of the man. With her hand in the footman’s and her foot on the step, she glanced over her shoulder. “Half past seven.”
He gave her a victorious smile that left her almost giddy with anticipation. As she settled back against the plush seat, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so joyous.
“Why ye grinnin’ loike a fool, Miss Frannie?” Charley asked.
Because she was discovering that she enjoyed having a man’s attentions. Especially when they came from the Duke of Greystone.
Her clothing was simple enough that she didn’t normally require the services of a maid. But for tonight Frannie had sought the help of one of Jack’s girls.
Sitting in a chair holding the silver-backed looking glass—a gift from Luke—she watched as Prudence worked to tame Frannie’s wild red hair. Pulling it back into a tight bun simply wasn’t what she wanted tonight.
Frannie had no misconceptions regarding where this encounter would lead: to absolutely nowhere. He was after all a duke, while she was quite simply…Frannie Darling. But she couldn’t deny an attraction existed between them that she’d never before experienced with any other man. And the way he looked at her—as though he’d gobble her up if he could—had once frightened her, but now she rather liked it. She enjoyed listening to his stories, was fascinated with his kind regard toward the boys, was charmed by the devil that danced in his eyes whenever he touched her in ways they both knew he shouldn’t. The picnic had been one of the most sensual experiences of her life, and all he’d done was give attention to her palm. She wanted it everywhere.
It was liberating to find herself craving a man’s attentions. Even if things between them went no further than a kiss, for the first time she wanted a man sharing the intimacies of her life. How odd that she’d grown up surrounded by Feagan’s lads yet never felt this deep, womanly stirring. Their laughter, their teasing, their gazes incited none of the riotous emotions that Greystone’s did. Even when he wasn’t touching her, it felt as though he were. She didn’t understand why he was so different from every other man in her life, why she yearned for his attention.
Every dress Frannie had ever purchased was done with one goal in mind: to make her appear common. She was comfortable in those clothes. But blast her soul to perdition, tonight she didn’t want to appear common.
A year earlier, Jack—who loved bright, bold colors—had purchased her an emerald-green gown. Once, in the privacy of her room, she’d even put it on and waltzed around, pretending that she was what she had no hope of ever being: a lady of true quality. So she knew it followed every curve perfectly. She grew warm imagining Greystone’s large hands and slender fingers following every line.
“So who is the gent who’s caught your fancy?” Prudence asked.
Startled from her fantasy—when had Frannie ever fantasized about men?—she hesitated to answer because she didn’t want to hear Prudence say, “Oh, I know ’im. ’e’s ever so good in bed. ’ad ’im just last week, as a matter of fact.”
“Come on, gel, yer secret’s safe with me.”
Frannie lowered the mirror to her lap and traced her fingers over the intricate design along its back. “Greystone.”
Relief swamped her. Prudence oversaw all the girls. If she didn’t know him it was unlikely that he’d availed himself of any of the other girls either.
“ ’e a customer?”
“He’s a customer, yes.” Frannie spun around in the chair and looked up at Prudence. “Don’t say anything to Jack.”
Prudence pouted with full lips that had probably kissed several hundred gents. “Already told ye I wouldn’t.”
With a nod, Frannie turned back around. “I know you did. It’s just that it needed emphasizing. Jack wouldn’t approve.”
“ ’e must be titled then. Jack don’t loike the titled gents.”
Frannie didn’t know why she felt compelled to confess, “He’s a duke.”
Shooting out of the chair, Frannie began to pace agitatedly. She felt as though she was on the verge of coming out of her skin. “God, Pru, am I making a dreadful mistake here?”
“Depends what yer expecting. It’s like I tell my girls. ’e won’t marry ye, ye know.”
She took a deep breath, trying to calm the erratic beating of her heart. “I know.”
Leaning against the vanity, she studied Prudence. She was two years younger than Frannie, but her face revealed the harshness of the life she’d lived before she came to Dodger’s. Her blond hair trailed down her back, and she always wore silk that flowed around her and could easily slide down her body with a shrug of her shoulders. “Have you ever been with a man who didn’t pay you?”
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