Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(30) by Lorraine Heath
His grin flashed white in the dim light of the alley, as though he understood she was so nervous she might expire on the spot. “My coach awaits.”
She took the last step and would have walked on but his hold on her hand stayed her. She lifted her gaze to his.
“Relax, Miss Darling. Tonight it is merely the opera and dinner.”
“I’m well aware of that. I had no plans for anything more.”
This time his grin seemed to be calling her a liar, but she didn’t challenge him. Although she had mixed feelings about the condom Prudence had given her, the one she’d tucked in her reticule…just in case.
She didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed that it would not be used.
Once they were in the coach, sitting opposite each other as they traveled through the London streets, his gaze never wavered from hers, and to her disappointment, she was the first to look away. Whenever he watched her, she grew uncomfortably warm. She’d never experienced this inexplicable change in her body around any of Feagan’s lads, even when they were all younger and slept on the same pallet. This awareness of the male allure had never visited her as it did now whenever she was in Greystone’s presence.
It was intriguing and terrifying. To distract them both from where this journey might lead, she said, “Did you know that Luke asked me to marry him? It was how he and Catherine came to know each other. She was supposed to teach me how to be an aristocratic lady.”
“I wasn’t aware of that. So how is it that you didn’t marry Claybourne?”
“I’m well aware that I do not belong with the aristocracy.”
“Yet here you are with an aristocrat.”
“You and I both know, Your Grace, that marriage is not what you have in mind.”
His eyes darkened as his gaze traveled from her upswept hair to the toes of her recently polished shoes. “No. Marriage is not what I have in mind.”
Of its own accord, her head gave a little bob. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was acknowledging. She knew only that she wasn’t offended by his candor. Rather she was quite relieved by it. She preferred knowing exactly what she was getting herself into.
Yet even with his acknowledgement she feared she truly had no clue.
That Sterling had been able to walk straight to the coach, without stumbling, after having the breath knocked out of him at the sight of Frannie descending the stairs was a miracle. Only on his way home, after he’d issued his invitation, had it occurred to him that she might not possess anything appropriate to wear to the theater. He’d been debating having Catherine send a gown over to her—they were near the same size—but that carried with it the danger of Claybourne discovering their little tryst, which might then result in Sterling acquiring another black eye. He’d decided that no matter what she wore, he would be delighted to have her on his arm.
Instead, he’d arrived to discover that she was stunningly beautiful. Fortunately, he had an oil lamp in the coach so he could feast his eyes on her as they journeyed through the London streets. She’d grown quiet after he’d confirmed that marriage was not in the offering, and although he wanted her in his bed, he wanted her there as honestly as possible. He’d never used false promises to lure a lady into his arms, and he wasn’t about to start with Frannie. She deserved that much consideration at least. In truth, she deserved a great deal more.
“The way you’re staring, I’d think you’ve never seen a woman dressed in an evening gown,” she finally said.
“I’m not staring. I’m admiring. I’ve never seen you dressed so provocatively. Why didn’t you wear that gown to my sister’s wedding?”
“It was her day, nothing should detract from her. Besides, it’s a bit bold for such an occasion.”
“I like bold in a woman.”
She laughed lightly, an amazing sound that was far lovelier than the most skilled orchestra he’d ever heard perform. “You should watch your words, Your Grace. I shall take them to heart.”
“I should like that, Miss Darling.”
“You seem to be flirting with me, Your Grace, but I don’t think you should lose sight of the fact that I’m with you tonight only because of your threat to have one of my orphans arrested.”
“I only seem to be flirting? Then I must put forth greater effort so I leave no doubt.”
“I’d rather you didn’t. Put forth more effort, I mean.”
“You do realize that a good many women would be flattered to have a duke escort them to the opera.”
“Perhaps you should have invited one of them.”
“None of them intrigue me as you do, Miss Darling.”
“We both know the infatuation will be short-lived.”
“On the contrary, I know men who have had the same lover for years.”
She gazed out the window, giving him the opportunity to study her profile and the elegant sweep of her neck. He wanted to cross over and sit beside her, kiss his way from her shoulder to the sensitive spot just behind her ear, feel the rapid flutter of her heart against his lips as he neared his destination, but he feared if he went too fast, took too much too soon, that he’d be in danger of losing his ultimate reward, that she would seek to evade him as quickly as Charley Byerly had.
Besides, strangely, he wanted to sit through the opera with her, wanted to enjoy dinner. He yearned to have her in his bed, without question, but he longed for a good deal more. He wanted, with her, memories he’d never sought with any other woman.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online