Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(55) by Lorraine Heath
“We have some time before dinner,” she said. “Shall I read to you?”
“Only if we sit on a sofa together and I can rub your feet while you read.”
She smiled. “Sterling, I do believe we have a trade.”
Dinner was served in the same intimate setting as before, although no one was there to surround them with music. Fewer candles flickered. Fewer words were spoken. Fewer breaths were taken.
Or so it seemed to Frannie.
She considered that perhaps her corset was too snug or maybe Catherine’s gown was a little too small for her, but she suspected the true reason for her difficulty rested in the way that Sterling looked at her, as though he fully intended to have her for dessert.
He was dressed as formally as he had been for the opera and he struck her as being as wickedly handsome. Over the rim of his wineglass he perused her with a leisurely wandering of his gaze, which caused pleasure to light and darken the blue of his eyes. It was a strange and heady combination to know that she affected him so.
She had bathed earlier and sampled all the bottles of perfume that adorned Catherine’s vanity until she found one that brought forth images of nymphs cavorting in a garden. She preferred light scents, perhaps because in her youth she’d favored heavier fragrances that masked the stench of the rookeries. Everything in her life now she weighed against what her life had been then.
Yet she felt ill prepared for this moment.
“Relax, Frannie,” he said in a voice so calm that it had the power to calm her thundering heart. “Nothing will happen tonight that you don’t wish to happen.”
“And what if things you wish to happen don’t?”
“Then they don’t. I’ll be disappointed, to be sure, but I can live with disappointment. You shouldn’t have to live with the feeling that you were forced into doing something you didn’t want.”
He seemed to realize the significance of what he’d said. “It won’t be like before,” he added.
“I wouldn’t be here if that was my expectation.”
He tapped his wineglass against hers where it rested near her plate. “Thank you for seeing to my recovery.”
“I’m just grateful your wound wasn’t as severe as I thought.”
“I’m doubly grateful. I suppose Swindler will be searching for the culprit.”
“Probably. Even without a description, I suspect he could find the offender. He’s very skilled that way.”
“You admire him.”
She scowled at him. “I admire all of Feagan’s lads.”
“It seems to me they’re as much Claybourne’s lads as Feagan’s. Claybourne took you all in, didn’t he?”
“Yes. But Feagan taught us himself while Claybourne hired tutors. It’s very easy to accomplish something when you have the means with which to purchase it.”
“You admire this Feagan fellow.”
“I’m not sure admire is the correct word.” She thought about it for a moment. Some aspects of him disappointed her, but she couldn’t deny that he’d provided well for the children he took in. “I suppose it is. Yes, he taught us questionable skills, but he gave us a home of sorts. I’ve been thinking of naming my children’s home after him, actually.”
“Feagan’s Children’s Home? Is that an honor he deserves?”
She took a sip of wine, and then another. She knew that Greystone wanted nothing more from her than a night in his bed, but still she felt obligated to ask, “Would you think less of me if you knew that I believe he might be my father?”
Swirling the wine in his wineglass, he seemed to ruminate the implications. “I may give credence to a person’s elevation in society based on his ancestors, but of late I’ve learned to judge the individual on his own accomplishments and merits.”
She smiled at him. “Then I find you to be rare indeed.”
“If he were your father, wouldn’t he claim so?”
“I would have thought. I asked Jack once. Jack knows so many secrets.”
“What did he say?”
“He avoided answering. I’m not sure if it’s because whatever the answer, he thought I’d find it disappointing or if he was trying to protect me.”
“Secrets have a way of always coming out.”
“Have you secrets, Sterling?”
“We all have secrets.”
But she couldn’t imagine that his were nearly as dark as hers.
Dressed in one of Catherine’s nightgowns, Frannie sat at the vanity brushing out her hair. A hundred strokes. It had been one of Feagan’s rules. She’d often wondered if a lady in his life had brushed out her hair for him. Had he loved her? Had she loved him? He was so secretive about his past. But tonight she didn’t want to reflect on where she’d come from. She was interested in only where she might be going.
Sterling had said good night to her at the bedchamber door, giving the impression that he truly meant good night. He would not come to this room. He wouldn’t come for her.
The choice as to whether or not they’d ever lie together was hers—because he would never marry her, and so he was leaving the decision to her. She met her gaze in the reflection in the mirror. To willingly go to a man who would not make an honest woman of her…
But was it more dishonest to deny herself the pleasure of his bed when she wanted it so desperately? Following the opera, he’d given her a taste of the pleasure she’d find in his arms.
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