Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(45) by Lorraine Heath
She wasn’t aware of falling asleep, but she awoke with her neck aching and sunlight filtering into the room. Jimmy was still asleep.
With a smile, she looked to the doorway, where Mrs. Prosser, the headmistress of the orphanage, stood. “Good morning.”
Mrs. Prosser gave a quick curtsy. Frannie couldn’t convince her that she wasn’t deserving of one. “I’m sorry to bother you, ma’am, but a gentleman is here to see you.”
She felt her smile grow. Greystone had wasted no time in returning to reclaim his watch. Perhaps he’d join her for a bit of breakfast. But when she stepped into the foyer, it wasn’t Greystone who waited for her, but a small man with a ruddy complexion and a balding pate that was only visible because he’d removed his hat and was squeezing it between his chapped hands.
“May I help you, sir?” she asked.
“I’m here to help you, ma’am. I’m a cobbler. His Grace, the Duke of Greystone, has hired me to see that all the lads here have proper fitting shoes.”
Frannie felt the tears sting her eyes at yet another example of Greystone’s generosity. “He did, did he?”
“Yes, ma’am. Whenever a lad needs new shoes, you just send word to me and I’ll be by to take measurements. His Grace will pay for all the shoes you need.”
“That’s very generous of him.”
“Aye, ma’am. I’ve brought plenty of paper with me. If you’ll line the boys up, I’ll start taking their measurements, so I can get to work back at my shop.”
After setting some of the staff to work gathering up the boys, she returned to the bedroom where Jimmy had been sleeping to discover he wasn’t there.
Mrs. Prosser hurried into the room. “Yes, ma’am.”
“The boy who was sleeping here, did you do something with him? Send him for a bath perhaps?”
“No, ma’am. When I left he was sleeping.”
Frannie was fairly certain it was futile, but she had everyone search the building and grounds for more than an hour. No one caught sight of a scraggly boy who answered to the name of Jimmy. She felt that she’d not only let Jimmy down, but Greystone as well.
Standing in the darkened alleyway, Sterling reached into his waistcoat pocket for his watch before remembering that its absence was the very reason he was here now. It was habit to take out his watch, flip it open, and look at the time—even though he’d not be able to see its face in the darkness. He’d instructed his driver to park his coach on the street at the end of the alleyway. If Swindler or Dodger was about, he didn’t want either of them to know that he was. There was also the possibility that he’d misread Frannie’s taking of his watch. Perhaps she intended to pawn it in order to acquire the few coins needed to feed the little urchin who’d stolen into his residence.
Or as he hoped, perhaps it was an invitation. He’d gone into Dodger’s briefly and cornered one of the lads who ran errands. He’d confirmed that Miss Frannie was seeing to the books. With any luck, she’d be finished shortly and Sterling would approach her and invite her to join him for a late-night repast in his residence or a late-night ride in his coach. She’d initiated this encounter and he was content to let her dictate the pace of things. Since Claybourne’s visit, Sterling wasn’t quite sure what he wanted of her any longer. Considering her past, seducing her for his own pleasure seemed inherently wrong. He couldn’t deny that he still wanted her, but he recognized that he wanted her for more than one night. He wanted to undo the harshness of her past, he wanted to introduce her to the sensual pleasures that she should have known all along.
He could make her his mistress, provide for her orphanage, get her out of Dodger’s. For years. They could find a satisfying happiness. Yes, eventually he would have to marry some lord’s daughter, but he knew many men who had a wife and a mistress. It was the way of things. Of course, there was still the problem of saddling her with a blind man, denying her marriage, which she deserved, and her own children, who deserved her. No, making her his mistress was not the way to go. It was dreadfully selfish, and while he’d always seen to his own pleasures first, where she was concerned, he was more interested in hers.
The back door opened and she stepped out onto the stoop. After she locked the door, she brought the hood of her cloak up over her head. A strange thing to do when her apartment was so near. It was certainly chilly out tonight, but…
She hurried down the alleyway, passing by the stairs that led up to her apartment. Where was she going?
By nature he was not in the habit of sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. But her movements were those of someone not wishing to be discovered. He told himself it was none of his business as he began walking briskly yet quietly in her direction. Coincidence, on his part. His coach was just around the corner, after all.
Frannie had finished with her books as quickly as possible. She wanted to get to the rookeries while children were still out and about, while men were not completely foxed, while women hadn’t taken their last customer to bed. She’d spent most of the day prowling the area for Jimmy with no luck. But the atmosphere was different at night. Sometimes Feagan also haunted the streets. If she could find him, she was fairly certain she could persuade him to help her. He knew every nook and cranny. He might be bent with age now, but he was still clever.
As she drew near the end of the alley, her heart picked up its tempo. She would find a hansom—
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