Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(71) by Lorraine Heath
Even as he thought that he cursed his narrow-minded attitude. He’d considered Catherine to be marrying beneath herself—and instead she’d married a man willing to deliver retribution regardless of personal cost. He’d considered Claybourne’s three friends to be little more than thieves, and he was discovering what Catherine knew: they were loyal to each other to a fault. Would Wexford do whatever necessary to protect Sterling? Or would he only tend to matters if it was convenient?
He knew it was unfair to judge Wexford against the standard set by scoundrels. It wasn’t as though their lives would ever carry the same dangers. Sterling had toured the world seeking thrills, and his heart had never pounded as hard as it did right now.
He lifted his gaze to the blond-haired man standing before him. Blond. Not Sykes.
“An associate of Mr. Sykes.” The man pulled out a chair and sat.
“Ye’ve wasted yer time taking a seat. I don’t deal with associates.”
“’n Mr. Sykes don’t deal with blokes ’e don’t know.”
“’e will if ’e’s interested in earning ten thousand quid.”
“That’s a lot o’ money.”
Sterling gave him a cocky grin and took a sip of ale.
“Wot’s the job?”
“Is yer name Mr. Sykes?”
The man glanced around. “Come back tomor—”
The man looked at him as though he’d suddenly pulled the pistol on him. Sterling shrugged. “I need the boy tonight. I’m on a schedule.”
“Don’t sound loike ye’ve planned it well.”
“I’ve planned it very well. I’m doing it very fast. Less chance of discovery that way.”
“Yer a cautious man, Mr. Knight.”
“And about to become a wealthy one.”
Nodding, the fellow grinned and scratched his scraggly beard. “Awright. Meet me out in the alley behind the pub in ten minutes. I’ll take ye to Mr. Sykes.”
After the bloke left, Sterling downed the remainder of his ale. Out of habit he reached for his timepiece to check the time and remembered that he’d not brought it. The coat of arms might have given him away. He supposed that he could have claimed that he had stolen it, but had decided it was better not to risk it. If he survived, he wanted to hand it down to his son, and if he didn’t…he’d left it on his desk along with a note to Frannie.
Strange that only with his death would she learn how much he’d come to love her.
When he decided ten minutes had passed, he walked out the front door. Standing for a moment as though gathering his bearings, he turned up his collar against the chill of the night. It was the signal that contact had been made and that a meeting was arranged.
He walked around the corner and between the buildings to the alley. He’d barely stepped into it before he was grabbed and slammed face first against the brick.
“Easy, Mr. Knight,” a voice he recognized from ten minutes ago said. “We’re jest checking for weapons.”
“’n ’e’ got one.”
They turned him around and he found himself glaring at a giant. Wasn’t this just lovely?
“Surely ye don’t think I’m coming to this part of London unarmed. Ye struck me as being smarter than that,” Sterling said.
The man who’d approached him inside jerked his head. “This way.”
He followed him down the alley to some stairs where an ominously large man was sitting hunched over. He was dressed all in black, his black hair falling into his eyes. The likeness in Sterling’s art room wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough. Here at last was the dastardly Mr. Sykes.
“Hand it over, Tiny.”
The man who’d searched Sterling gave the pistol to Sykes.
Tiny? Sterling thought there had to be a joke between them, although Sykes didn’t strike him as the humorous sort.
In the dim light of the lantern hanging over his head, Sykes studied the pistol, turning it one way and then the other. “Nice.”
He looked up at Sterling and grinned an evil grin. “Take off yer hat, Mr. Knight.”
Sterling narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“Cuz I loike to see a man’s face clearly when I’m doing business with ’im.”
Sterling shrugged as though it mattered little to him. He took off the hat.
“Jimmy!” Sykes yelled.
Out of the shadows beneath the stairs came a small, skinny boy. Jimmy, otherwise known as Peter.
So much for Sterling’s belief that he was the best choice for this ruse.
When Jimmy got near enough, Sykes put his arm around him and pulled him up against his knee. “Ever seen ’im before, boy?”
Jimmy looked up at Sterling and tilted his head from side to side as though looking for the perfect angle by which to view him. “No, sir.”
Sterling fought not to show relief. He knew he didn’t look the same, but did he look different enough that the boy didn’t recognize him?
“Can I go now?” Jimmy asked.
“Yeah,” Sykes said as though he wasn’t quite happy with Jimmy’s answer.
Jimmy ran past Sterling, who hoped to God that Swindler would see him and snatch him up.
“Me boy. I call ’im Jimmy. ’is mum named ’im Peter. Knew I didn’t loike the name. Did it anyway. Wot you gonna do with a woman who don’t do wot ye want?”
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