Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(66) by Lorraine Heath
“Even if you don’t.” He grimaced. “I’ve always loved you, Frannie. You’re the reason I stayed with Feagan, but I knew you loved Luke and Jack ahead of me.”
“Don’t be silly. I love you all the same…like brothers.”
“I don’t think of you like a sister. I’m sorry for that, too, but I don’t think we can help what the heart feels. Do you love him?”
She didn’t have to ask to whom he was referring. She pressed her hand to her mouth, felt the tears sting her eyes. “God help me, Jim. Yes, I think I do. I know he won’t marry me. You had the right of that. And please, for God’s sake don’t go deliver a message. I wouldn’t marry him even if he asked. He’s a damned duke and I’d be a damned duchess. But please remain my friend. I’ve a feeling I’m going to need my friends.”
“I could never abandon you. I’m insulted you’d think I would.”
She walked over to him, stood up on her toes, and bussed a soft kiss against his cheek. “Thank you.”
They stood awkwardly for a moment and she realized they’d never again share the easy camaraderie they’d once had. “Well, it’s getting late. I should probably go.”
“Yeah. See you ’round.”
He turned to leave and she reached for her cloak.
“Oh,” he said, coming back into the doorway. “Do you remember Nancy, from when we were growing up?”
Frannie stilled, clutching her cloak against her stomach. “Nancy who lived with Sykes?”
“That’s her. We found her floating in the Thames.”
He nodded gravely. “Judging by the bruising around her neck, I’d say someone choked the very life out of her.”
Jack Dodger was drifting off to sleep after just having made passionate love with his wife when he heard the whistle. Because Livy was snuggled against him, her reddish-brown hair spread out over his chest, she stirred when he stiffened at the sound.
“What is it?” she murmured.
“Just something I need to check on.” Kissing the top of her head, he eased out from beneath her. “Go back to sleep.”
“Shh,” he whispered near her ear. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
He padded across the room and quickly drew on his trousers and a shirt before heading downstairs. Even now, a few months after he’d inherited this grand residence in St. James, he had a difficult time believing that he was fortunate enough to have Livy as his wife. As he reached the grand foyer, he considered opening the front door and checking outside for the source of the whistle, but Jack suspected the culprit was already inside somewhere.
Locks had never stopped Feagan.
And if Jack knew Feagan at all, and he knew him very well indeed, he suspected he’d find him in the library, where Jack kept most of his liquor. He wasn’t disappointed.
In his topcoat that had seen better days and his felted beaver hat that seldom came off, even indoors, Feagan was pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
“Ah, me Dodger. That didn’t take long. ’ope I didn’t disturb wot would have otherwise been a pleasant night.” He glanced around. “Ye got a fancy place ’ere.”
“Which I’ve no doubt you’ve already visited when I wasn’t about. So, you crafty old blighter, what are you doing here?” he asked as he took the glass of whiskey Feagan offered him.
“I’m worried about me darling Frannie.” He downed the whiskey and poured himself another. “Sykes ’as put out word that ’e’ll pay well anybody who snuffs ’er out.”
“Sykes wants her killed? Whatever the hell for?”
“She’s interfering with his business, taking his boys off the street.”
“Yes, well, you put out word that if anyone touches so much as a hair on her pretty little head—damnation, she was attacked the other night. I thought it was random, some blighter wanting a toss. She led us to thinking that.”
“Probably. She always felt guilty about Luke killing a lord and all. Wouldn’t want you lads doing something that might get ye hanged.”
Jack cursed again. They should have known. She wanted to protect everyone except herself. “Put out word that your lads will bring hell into the rookeries if she’s hurt.”
“Already did. Afraid it won’t do no good. Yer not in the rookeries anymore, Sykes is. These new lads know wot kind of devil ’e is. They don’t know the kind ye be.”
Jack cursed soundly again. No matter what they did, how far they climbed, what levels of success they achieved, the rookeries were always dragging them back. “Very well then. I’ll get the others. We’ll show up at your favorite gin palace tomorrow night and make sure the new lads get a taste of what we’re capable of.”
“Truth be told, I’m afraid it’ll be too late by then.”
Jack felt his gut clench. “Feagan, what have you heard?”
“They mean to snuff ’er out tonight.”
Frannie knew she should have confessed everything to Jim, told him why she thought Sykes might have murdered Nancy—because she had no doubt that Sykes had killed her—but it was all simply gut feelings and she had more pressing concerns. She needed to get Peter and possibly the other children out of London. Jim couldn’t help her with that, but Sterling could.
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