Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(51) by Lorraine Heath
Throwing back the covers, she got up, lifted the lamp from the bedside table, and went into the hallway. She laid her hand flat against his door. She thought of him entertaining the lads with his stories at the Great Exhibition, thought of him sending for her instead of a constable when he’d discovered a thief in his residence. She thought of him putting himself in harm’s way tonight. She thought of the pleasure he’d brought her the night of the opera.
He’d given her confidence that she was a woman a man might desire. While he would never marry her, perhaps another would. But life was precarious and opportunities were never guaranteed. Here was a man for whom she cared a great deal. Whatever they could share, it would be enough.
As she opened the door and walked in, she felt Greystone’s gaze come to bear on her so quickly that she was fairly certain she hadn’t awakened him. She glided over to the bed. “I wanted to check in on you. Are you in much pain?”
He shook his head. “My valet spooned me up some laudanum.”
“You should have no trouble sleeping, then.”
“What about you?”
“I should be fine now that I know you’re all right.”
“You told me once that you took comfort in sleeping—just sleeping—with someone. I’m wearing trousers if you want to—” He lifted the covers in invitation.
“You knew I’d come.”
“I hoped you would.”
She set the lamp on the table, slipped into bed beside him, and laid her head on his shoulder. His arm came around her, cocooning her in comfort.
“You see? I told you we’d find more comfort here,” he said slowly as though he had to push the words through the fog of drowsiness brought on by the medication. “I want to know how you truly are, Frannie. You act as though what happened earlier affected only me, but you must have been terrified.”
She skimmed her finger over his chest. “I think I was furious, more than anything else. I’ve been so careful when I go about the rookeries, yet there I was caught by surprise. When he mentioned Sykes I wanted to tear into him with everything I had.”
“These trips you make to the rookeries—do you make them at night?”
She had yet to lie to him. He nudged her arm. “Frannie?”
“Dammit, Frannie, do you know how foolish that is?”
“Children won’t approach me if I’m not alone.”
“They are not more important than you. Hire someone, for God’s sake, who can skulk about without being seen, but can keep an eye on you.”
“You’re getting as bossy as Feagan’s lads.”
“Because you’ve become very precious to me.” He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Please don’t go there alone anymore.”
She nodded. It was easier to break promises when they weren’t voiced.
“What’s that creature on your back?” she asked quietly, hoping to turn the subject away from her.
“Did you see one in your travels? Does it exist?”
“As far as I know, only in legend. Are you not familiar with Saint George? He slew one, you know.”
“I don’t know him.”
“Perhaps I’ll tell you the story some day.”
“Will it fade? The tattoo?”
“Why would you want it on your shoulder like that, something that will forever be there?”
“As I recall, I was quite drunk at the time and thought it a good idea.”
“Why a dragon?”
“Symbolic. We all face dragons in one way or another, at one time or another.”
“So it’s not a good thing.”
“Depends whether or not we slay them. It all made perfect sense when I was drunk.”
“Did you slay yours?”
“I thought so at the time.”
His hand was gently strolling up and down her arm, and she found herself wishing that the gown had no sleeves. Lying with him was nothing at all like lying with the boys when she was a young girl. His scent, his body, the length of him was that of a man. “I could have killed you.”
His hand stilled, his arm tightened around her. “But you didn’t, and if you had it would have hardly been your fault.”
“They might have hanged me anyway—for killing a lord.”
“Swindler wouldn’t have let that happen.”
He was right, there. Jim would have protected her. He did it for so many others.
“I shouldn’t have liked it if you’d have died,” she said quietly.
“I wouldn’t have liked it much either.” She felt his chest rise beneath her cheek as though he were in the midst of a sigh that stopped abruptly as his wound protested. “I’m not certain I could have said the same a year ago.”
Rising up on an elbow, she gazed down on his heavy-lidded expression. “That’s an odd thing to say. At the worst times of my life, I’ve never wished for death.”
“You’ve no doubt seen worse things than I have. How can you remain so optimistic?”
“Feagan used to say, ‘No matter how bad things get, Frannie darling, they can always get worse and they can always get better. Expect worse and you’ll never be disappointed. Expect better and you’ll always have something to look forward to.’ I prefer living in anticipation of the better.”
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