Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(48) by Lorraine Heath
“Never seen anything like that.”
“Go to Japan.” He arched a brow as though Jack wouldn’t know where Japan was. “Far side of the world.”
“Bring the light a little closer, Frannie,” Bill said, snapping everyone’s attention back to the matter at hand.
“Oh, yes, sorry.”
She knelt beside the bed, holding the lamp so it provided adequate illumination for Bill to properly handle his task, but her stomach went all squeamish at the sight of him working. She averted her gaze and found herself staring into Greystone’s pain-filled eyes. She wanted to apologize again, but apologies after a while became irritants. She wanted to take his hand, but she’d have to move around Bill or go to the other side of the bed, and with Jim and Jack both watching, she was suddenly very self-conscious, wondering what she might be giving away. She couldn’t overlook the fact that he was a duke. She’d not wanted to marry Luke because he was an earl, and a duke was so much more. Greystone especially, because he’d been bred and led toward the position. The manner in which he held himself. His every stance, movement, his complete bearing spoke of noble blood. Even now, he bore his pain with an occasional grimace but nothing more.
“All right, Your Grace, let’s try to sit you up. I want to wrap your ribs, simply as a precaution,” Bill said.
Frannie veered slightly away so he could swing his legs over. Her bed seemed so small with him in it. As soon as he was situated, his gaze came back to hers, as though she had the power to ease his suffering.
When Bill was finished, he gave Greystone some laudanum. “I’m sure you’re experiencing a great deal of discomfort. This should ease your pain on the journey home.”
“Are you saying he’s fit to leave?” Frannie asked.
“I’m sure he has a well-sprung coach. The journey shouldn’t be too unbearable.”
“I’d rather he stay here so I can look after him.”
“He’s not in danger of dying. Granted, the wound could get infected, but—”
“It’s my doing. I should tend to him, at least for a few hours.”
“I’ve no objections,” Greystone said, and Frannie nearly leaped out of her skin. His deep voice still harbored an undercurrent of pain.
“Then it’s settled,” she said.
“I’m not certain that’s a good idea,” Jim said. “Your reputation—”
“Dear God, my reputation? Are you going to run about London spreading rumors?”
“No, but, Frannie—”
“Oh, God, Jim, not now,” Frannie said. “Help me change the bedding.”
When they were finished, Greystone lay back down and closed his eyes. His breathing wasn’t as harsh, but he was still pale. It took a bit of arguing, persuading, and insisting, but she finally convinced Jack and Bill to leave. They were worried about her and she appreciated it, but she didn’t need them hovering around like mother hens. Jim was a bit more hardheaded.
“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” he asked, his gaze running the length of her.
Looking down, she realized her dress sported almost as much blood as Greystone’s clothes. “I’m going to freshen up. Keep an eye on him.”
She wasn’t at all uncomfortable with the notion of going behind her screen in order to change into clean clothes after washing away the blood with Jim near. They’d slept in the same room, taken their yearly bath in the same tub. And Greystone was asleep.
Sterling didn’t remember drifting off to sleep, but when he opened his eyes, he didn’t see any of the men about and was certain they were gone, because what he did see was a silhouette of Frannie behind a screen. She raised an arm high over her head and stroked her other hand along it. She was washing up, he deduced. He could see only the shadow of her, but it was enough for him to realize she no longer wore a dress. His body tightened painfully—nowhere in the vicinity of his wound—as her hands moved along her shoulders, lowered—
“I’d close those eyes again if I were you.”
Sterling jerked his head to the side to discover his worst nightmare sitting there. Swindler’s gaze bore into him.
“It would be unfortunate if Graves misjudged the seriousness of your injury, and you were to suddenly expire on the spot. Frannie would be terribly disappointed,” Swindler said.
“And you don’t like to see her disappointed.”
“It’s the only reason you’re still breathing.”
“For someone who is supposed to uphold the law, you threaten an inordinate amount.”
“When it comes to matters involving Frannie, I have my own laws.”
“As I’ve mentioned before, I have no intentions of harming her. Tonight I might have very well saved her life. I’d expect a bit of appreciation for that.”
“That’s the difference between us, Your Grace. If I’d saved her life, I’d have expected no thanks whatsoever. Wouldn’t have even wanted them.”
Sterling shook his head in frustration. “Doesn’t matter what I do, Swindler, you’ll find fault with it. Rot in hell.”
Swindler chuckled low. “I’ll be taking you with me.”
“I’m already there, man.”
Swindler seemed taken aback by that, his eyes narrowing. “I didn’t think the wound was that serious.”
“This”—he glanced at the bandages wrapped around his chest—“is nothing. You flatter yourself into thinking the devil only visits the impoverished and destitute. Quite honestly, Inspector, you’re beginning to bore me with your self-righteous view that only you can know what hell truly is.”
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