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Authors: Lorraine Heath

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Surrender to the Devil

BOOK: Surrender to the Devil
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Surrender to the Devil
Lorraine Heath

For Eileen,
one of the classiest ladies I know.

Contents

Prologue

My earliest memory is of Feagan saying, with his heavy…

Chapter 1

Sterling Mabry, the eighth Duke of Greystone, wasn’t certain why…

Chapter 2

The encounter with Greystone had left Frannie unsettled. Feagan’s lads—although…

Chapter 3

“Are you all right?”

Chapter 4

After making the last needed notation in the ledger, Frannie…

Chapter 5

As Catherine sat in what had been her father’s—and was…

Chapter 6

Sterling had not expected the long line of wagons that…

Chapter 7

Since Frannie had disappointed him with her answer, Sterling had…

Chapter 8

Sterling had mistakenly believed—since the last ball of the Season…

Chapter 9

Her clothing was simple enough that she didn’t normally require…

Chapter 10

That Sterling had been able to walk straight to the…

Chapter 11

Halfway through the opera, Frannie decided to be merciful and…

Chapter 12

“Your Grace, how splendid of you to visit,” Lord Millbank…

Chapter 13

Sterling sat in his library, no lamps lit, only the…

Chapter 14

As his coach rumbled toward the outskirts of London, Sterling…

Chapter 15

Standing in the darkened alleyway, Sterling reached into his waistcoat…

Chapter 16

It was nearly two in the morning, but Greystone’s butler…

Chapter 17

While Greystone rested, Frannie retired to the morning room. Jutting…

Chapter 18

Within his bedchamber, Sterling sat in a chair near the…

Chapter 19

With a sigh, Frannie placed her elbow on the desk…

Chapter 20

As the sun began to peer through a part in…

Chapter 21

Jack Dodger was drifting off to sleep after just having…

Chapter 22

Sterling had to admit that he looked every bit the…

Chapter 23

When Sterling awoke with his shoulder aching and his head…

Chapter 24

The Little Season occurred in December, when the lords returned…

Chapter 25

The following day, Sterling received a request for a meeting…

Epilogue

My most precious memory is of Sterling, with tears glistening…

About the Author

Other Books by Lorraine Heath

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

From the Journal of Frannie Darling

My earliest memory is of Feagan saying, with his heavy cockney accent, “Frannie darling, come sit on me lap.”

To him, I was always “Frannie darling.” “Frannie darling, fetch me gin.” “Frannie darling, rub me aching feet.” “Frannie darling, let me tell you a story.”

And so it was that when anyone asked me my name, I would say it was Frannie Darling.

I lived in a single room with Feagan and his notorious band of children who were known for their thieving ways. I cannot remember a time when Feagan was not in my life. Sometimes I imagined he was my true father. His hair was as bright a red and as uncontrollable as mine. But he never claimed me as his daughter. I was always simply one of his kids. The one who sat on his lap and helped him count the handkerchiefs and coins that the others brought in.

I was the one who carefully removed from the silk the thread that formed the monograms. I learned many of my letters from this tedious task because the intricate swirls fascinated me, and I’d always ask Feagan what they meant before I began working to erase all evidence they’d ever existed. Looking back on that time, I am often astonished to realize that a bit of cloth held such value. And yet it did.

I think Feagan may have been a teacher in an earlier life. In a school where he taught letters and numbers and was admired by his students. Or perhaps it was simply that, if he was my father, I wanted him to be more than a criminal.

He never spoke of his past, and I never asked him about mine.

I simply accepted my life in the dreary rookeries as my due. Feagan’s lads always treated me as though I were special. Perhaps because instinctively I mothered the lot of them. I mended their clothes. I snuggled against them when I went to sleep at night. As I grew older, I cooked their meals and tended their hurts. And sometimes I helped them to steal.

But none of this prepared me for the horror or the fear that gripped me when I was abducted and sold to a brothel at the age of twelve. Luke and Jack—the eldest of Feagan’s lads at the time—rescued me from the waking nightmare.

But not soon enough. Luke killed the man who so cruelly stole my innocence.

While awaiting trial, he was visited by the man’s father—the Earl of Claybourne. In Luke, Claybourne saw his long lost grandson and our lives took a drastic turn. The Crown forgave Luke his sins and returned him to his grandfather’s keeping. The earl made a place for me as well.

He was determined to give us advantages we’d never had. When he hired tutors, I was quick to learn how to read and write and master calculations more intricate than I’d ever encountered. I learned etiquette and proper comportment. But I was never comfortable in the great house in St. James.

And as Luke began to move into the world of an aristocrat, so I began to become awkward around him. I was much more at ease with Jack. When fortune smiled on him and he opened a gentlemen’s club, he offered to pay me a very handsome salary to keep his books. I thanked the earl for all he’d done for me. I acknowledged that my life was richer because of his efforts and interest in my welfare, but it was with a measure of relief that I walked away from the residence in St. James.

Deep down, I knew it was far better than I deserved. I was not of the aristocracy and a place among them was rarely gained through effort or accomplishment. It was usually determined by bloodline, and I had no doubt that mine was tainted beyond all imagining. I was glad I no longer had to bear their stares, their gossip, or their whispered speculations.

I convinced myself that my happiness was dependent upon never again associating intimately with the lords and ladies of the aristocracy.

So I banished them from my life. I worked very hard to create a safe haven where I was happy and content. I knew what I possessed was exactly what I wanted, that I desired no more than what I had.

And then he strode into my safe, little world…and once again, it became a very dangerous place indeed.

Chapter 1

London
1851

Sterling Mabry, the eighth Duke of Greystone, wasn’t certain why he took such notice of her.

Later, he would reflect on the moment and wonder if it was the vibrant red of her hair that had first captured his attention. Or perhaps it was the fact that she had stood beside his sister, Catherine, at the altar while she married Lucian Langdon, the Earl of Claybourne. Or maybe it was the way—during the reception held at his newly acquired brother-in-law’s residence—that three men migrated toward her, circled around her, each in his own way claiming his territory, much in the same manner as Sterling had witnessed lions in Africa behaving. He was surprised none of them roared.

Standing by the window in the drawing room, holding his flute of champagne, waiting to make the obligatory toast so he could go the hell home, Sterling watched the almost shy smile she gave each of the men, the way she spoke with a slight inclining of her head as though imparting a scandalous secret, and he longed to know what it was. She was much too far away for him to hear her voice, yet he imagined it carried the sweet dulcet tone of an angel—or perhaps she offered the wicked song of a siren, because it was apparent each man stood as mesmerized by her mere presence as he.

Obviously, they shared something exceedingly special. Even from this distance, he could see the affection she held for each of the men mirrored on her lovely expressive face. He wondered if at one time or another she had been lover to each of them, for there was a familiarity between them that went far deeper than friendship.

The three men were of little interest to him, except as to how they might view their role in her life. The first he knew well enough. Jack Dodger, owner of the notorious gentlemen’s club that Sterling frequently visited since his return to London. The second, taller and broader than the others, wasn’t someone Sterling wished to meet alone in an alley at night—or even during the day, for that matter. The third gentleman was William Graves, the physician Claybourne had sent for when Catherine swooned during their father’s recent wake.

Sterling watched with interest as Claybourne now approached the small group and they welcomed him as one might a brother, with broad smiles and claps on the shoulder, handshakes and a bit of ribbing perhaps. No hug from the lady, simply a warm smile that spoke volumes. She admired him, she was overjoyed for him, she wished him well. But most of all, she loved him.

They were together then, the five of them. All products of the street, no doubt. Thieves, pickpockets, murderers, and only God knew what else bound them together. That realization should have quelled Sterling’s interest in the lady. Instead it only served to further captivate him.

Hearing the light, familiar footsteps, he mentally marked their approach, turning toward his sister only when she was near and it was obvious he was her destination. Her blond hair was swept up, her cheeks carried a slight flush from the joy of her wedding ceremony, and her blue eyes sparkled like the finest of jewels.

“Fascinated by them, are you?” she chided gently, and he realized his staring may have been not only rude, but also obvious, although he was fairly certain the other guests were taking note of the group as well.

He shouldn’t be surprised that so many of the aristocracy had made an appearance. News of the hastily arranged wedding between the “Devil Earl” and Catherine was the talk of London. The curious among the elite had filled the small chapel where the ceremony took place, and now they had been welcomed into Claybourne’s home. Even Marcus Langdon—who it was once believed would inherit the Claybourne title—was in attendance. It seemed that he had accepted his fate as the successor who would never be. Without a doubt, everyone was intrigued and scandal was certainly a whispered rumor away.

“I possess a mild curiosity, that’s all,” Sterling said laconically. “They’re not the sort who usually attend our functions. The woman. She stood with you at the altar.”

“Frannie. Yes, we’ve become very close. Had you bothered to attend the celebratory dinner we hosted last night or arrived at the church early enough this morning, I’d have made introductions.”

Ignoring her chastisement—he’d have not been comfortable at the dinner and she’d have not been comfortable having him there, when all was said and done—he turned over the name she’d given him. Frannie. He’d expected—or perhaps he’d only hoped for—something a bit more exotic, and yet it seemed to suit. “She dresses rather plainly.”

The drab blue dress she wore seemed almost as out of place as she did. He envisioned her in violet or scarlet, the silk sliding over her skin to pool at her bare feet.

“I’ve learned of late not to judge by appearances,” Catherine said.

He heard the censure in her voice because she was aware that he did judge by appearances and a person’s station in life. He recognized the elite—and then the others with whom he didn’t associate unless absolutely necessary. He’d never had a reason or a desire to associate with former criminals.

“Do they provide for her?” he asked.

“Pardon?”

“The gentlemen circling her. Are they related? How does she make her way?”

“Those are hardly appropriate inquiries.”

He gave her an intense stare. “Is she someone’s mistress, then?”

Although he couldn’t imagine Catherine associating with, much less including a woman of questionable morals in her wedding party, but if the woman was a friend of Claybourne’s from the streets—

Catherine scoffed. “Whatever gave you that notion? She’s a bookkeeper at Dodger’s Drawing Room.”

A polite name for an impolite place. It made the gentlemen’s club almost sound respectable, which Sterling assumed was the whole point. “Unusual.”

“I find it admirable. Not every woman is fortunate enough to have a father who provides for her.”

“Put away your claws, Catherine. I wasn’t insulting her, but you must admit that occupations for women are usually found within households, not within businesses.”

She touched his arm. “I’m sorry. I suppose I’m a bit protective of Claybourne’s friends. While you were away, they helped me out on occasion.”

So Sterling’s absence had forced her to turn to known reprobates. That must have pleased their father no end and provided him with yet one more reason to be disappointed in his heir—whom he viewed as a wastrel.

BOOK: Surrender to the Devil
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