The Last Wicked Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 5)(4) by Lorraine Heath
He knew the correct answer, the safe answer. Instead he heard himself uttering neither. “I would, very much.”
Then he did something equally stupid: he offered her his arm. She placed her small hand on the crook of his elbow, and while he wore a shirt and jacket, he could still feel the indentation of each finger through the cloth until he would swear that she was burning a brand onto his skin. Her head was a good six inches below his shoulder. She was such a tiny thing, which made him even angrier when he thought of her brute of a husband taking his fists to her, before holding her down and forcing himself on her. He’d gotten what he deserved, and William had no regrets about it. If it added the weight of guilt to his own conscience so be it. It wasn’t the first time.
A cool breeze wafted through the lovely summer evening, holding the fog at bay. A few other couples were walking about. The whisperings of some who had strayed from the path mingled with the chirping of insects. The darkness created an intimacy that made it easy to believe that secrets could be kept there.
“Why does Victoria require so many physicians?” the duchess asked.
Because she suffers greatly from hypochondria. Not that he was about to share that information. He did not discuss the ailments of those he attended. “She’s the queen and wants to ensure she stays healthy for her subjects. Sometimes it helps to have more than one opinion on a matter. Medicine is not an exact science, and we still have much to learn.”
“It must be fascinating, though, to see all that you do.”
“Fascinating, heartbreaking. I prefer the days when my patients recover to the days when they don’t.”
“Strange, but I never consider that you lose patients. I suppose I was so near death when you brought me around that I believe you can accomplish miracles,” she said.
“Hardly. I am but a man, not a miracle worker.”
They were farther into the garden now, away from the lights, but his eyes had adjusted and he could see clearly where they were going. No other couples seemed to be about. They should turn around. But then he didn’t always do the things he should.
“Do you know much about the workings of the brain?” she asked.
“I’ve managed to remove a tumor or two, quite successfully. Are you experiencing headaches?” He didn’t like the notion of her suffering further. She’d experience enough pain at the hands of her husband to last a lifetime, but he was well acquainted with the fact that people didn’t always get the carefree existence they deserved.
“No, not at all. It’s forgetfulness mostly. It’s silly really. I have a sapphire necklace that I’d planned to wear with this gown but when I went to retrieve it from the safe in my bedchamber, it was gone.”
“That’s the thing. I don’t know. The safe was closed up tight. Who would steal it? The servants have been in my employ for years. Why would they suddenly begin pilfering? Although to be honest, it’s more than that single incident. There have been other things happening that have given me cause for concern.”
“It seems that I keep misplacing things. I don’t know why I’m so forgetful of late.”
He stopped walking, placed his hands on her shoulders, and turned her so she faced him directly. He’d removed his gloves when he’d left the salon in search of stronger drink. It took all his inner strength to not take his palms on a leisurely sojourn over her silken bared skin, not to peel off her gloves, not to toy with her hair, not to take advantage of this moment when she was gazing at him with such earnestness. Forcing his errant thoughts back to the matter at hand, he wished he had more light, had his instruments with him so he could examine her eyes more closely. From caring for her before, he was quite familiar with the brown depths, the darker circle around her iris, the small golden flecks that caught the light. “You took quite a blow to the head three years ago. What you’re experiencing could be a result of an injury that I failed to properly diagnose.”
“But why only now?”
“When did it start?”
She shook her head, and he found himself wishing that her movements would loosen the pins, until her hair escaped its bonds and he could tunnel his fingers through it. Why was it always so hard with her to be the impersonal physician he had been trained to be? He was supposed to look at her as an object to be analyzed, not a woman to be explored.
“Two, three months ago,” she said lightly, completely unaware of the turmoil wreaking havoc with him. “Right after I came back to London for the Season. Would damage to my brain take that long to manifest itself?”
He didn’t think so, but as he’d told her, the medical community was still learning things about the human condition. “Have you had any other blow to the head recently? Any accident? Have you fallen?”
“No, nothing. And I’m sorry.” She laughed lightly, a tinkling of bells that caused his gut to tighten with the memory of the first time he’d heard the sweet sound. She was watching her young son play with Frannie in William’s garden, and her delight had given him his first sprig of hope that she would indeed recover, that he had managed to discover every injury that needed tending. But now he had to wonder if he had overlooked something, something vital that might plague her for the remainder of her years. “I didn’t mean to cause you undue worry. Tonight is supposed to be for merriment.”
But he was concerned. People could appear perfectly fine, but something dark and sinister could be lurking, waiting to snatch away life. In his youth, he’d been far too familiar with dark and sinister, and his fears had led to disaster. No matter how many lives he saved, he could not make amends for the life that had been forfeit because of his weakness. “I want you to come to my office tomorrow for an examination.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online