Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(79) by Lorraine Heath
Frannie and Sterling had followed all the proper etiquette, waiting for June to arrive for their wedding to take place. No special license needed, nothing hastily arranged for them. No whisper of scandal. No child of theirs to arrive early, although if Frannie had her way, he would arrive nine months to the day after they were married. It had been absolute torture not to lie in the circle of Sterling’s arms these many months. She knew he’d suffered as well, and she suspected neither of them would sleep tonight.
“You look beautiful, Frannie,” Luke said.
She had no father to give her away, so he was doing the honors. It seemed oddly appropriate, even though he had been the first to ask for her hand in marriage. It was difficult to believe that the reason she’d given him for refusing was because she feared the loneliness of moving around in the world of the aristocracy.
“You look rather handsome yourself. A bit tired perhaps,” she teased.
“I awake every time my son does, bless him, and he’s not one for sleeping through the night.”
“I suspect in a few years his nightly doings will continue to keep you awake.”
“I fear you’re correct there. Catherine warns me that he has the look of a scoundrel about him.”
“Jack has told me that he’s not going to let his daughter out of the house until she’s forty.” Emily, named after his mother, had been born in the late spring, on the cusp of summer, and within a few moments of her birth, she’d effectively wrapped her father around her tiny finger.
Luke laughed. “God, have you ever seen him so besotted? You’d think he thought he was the only man to ever have a daughter.”
She refrained on commenting that Luke acted as though he thought he was the only man to ever have a son.
“He’s letting all the girls at Dodger’s go,” Frannie said. “While he’s always paid them well enough that they didn’t need to earn coins on their back, he’s decided the expectation was there. They’re going to come to work at the orphanage, but he’ll still pay them their wages.”
“For a man who once cared for nothing except the next coin, he’s certainly spending freely these days.”
“He can well afford to. We can all afford to. We’ve had a good life, all in all.”
“You’ll hear no arguments from me there.”
But as good as her life had been, she was anticipating how much better, how much more enjoyable, it would be sharing it all with Sterling. Being with him every day and every night. Talking with him. Making love with him. Taking long walks, viewing the world through his eyes, learning how to help him see it through hers so when the time came, nothing would be diminished.
As they neared the church, she squeezed Luke’s hand and took a deep breath. So many carriages in the street and people standing around on the lawn.
“The church must be filled already,” Luke said.
The law didn’t allow for private church ceremonies. Even those who weren’t invited could attend if they wished. It seemed the wedding of a duke brought out a good many of the uninvited.
“You don’t have to do this, Frannie,” Luke said quietly. “We’ll just drive on. You can get married in the country.”
With tears in her eyes, she looked at him and smiled. “He’d invite the world if he could. It’s his way of confirming that he has no doubts that I’m the wife he wants. He’s a duke, Luke, and he has chosen me. I love him beyond all measure. I’d walk through hell for him.” She took a deep breath. “What are a few hundred people when compared with that?”
He held her close and said quietly, “It’s nothing at all.”
Partially hidden behind an elm, Feagan grinned his wicked grin. The elite always drew a crowd. His fingers ached to slip into nearby pockets, but he wrapped them tightly around his walking stick, leaned forward, and damned his rheumy eyes. He didn’t want to acknowledge that the dampness might have been brought on by the sight of Frannie confidently greeting people as she strolled beside Luke.
As Frannie got nearer to the church steps, he could see that at her throat she wore the pearls that had once belonged to the love of Feagan’s life.
He glanced up briefly at the clear, cloudless sky. “Do ye see ’er, Mags? Do ye see our gel? Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Going to be a bloody duchess.” He shook his head at the wonder of that. “I promised ye I’d take care of ’er. Maybe I done all right by ’er, after all.”
Once the couple disappeared into the church, Feagan tottered away, heading back to the rookeries. “Miss ye, Mags, m’dear, I surely do. I’m a-thinking it won’t be much longer now afore I be seeing ye.”
But until then…well, there was always a pocket somewhere begging to be picked.
Frannie stood at the bow of the ship as it sliced through the water, the wind whipping through her hair. Sterling was taking her to the South of France for a few days. On a ship. She was on a ship on the water!
He’d unpinned her hair and it was flying wildly around her. Every now and then she’d grab it and hold it in place, then release it.
“Like it?” he asked, nuzzling her neck.
Following the wedding ceremony they’d gone to Luke’s, where a reception had been held. So many people had been there, including Lady Charlotte—although apparently Marcus Langdon was no longer calling on her.
The hardest moment had come when Jim had walked up to offer his best wishes. His green eyes had held a wistfulness.
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